by Fred Phillips
I don’t like White Lion. Not even a little bit. During my teen years I got so sick of “When the Children Cry” that I felt like puking every time I heard it. Mike Tramp’s vocal inflections — “I never had a chance to laaaave you” — often annoyed me. And while I respected Vito Bratta’s abilities as a guitarist, I never found his licks overly inspiring.
Add to that the fact that covers rarely come anywhere close to matching the original, and it would have been a safe bet that White Lion’s version of the Golden Earring classic “Radar Love,” from their 1989 album Big Game, would never get anywhere near my stereo.
Surprise. It’s the only reason I actually own a White Lion CD today.
Sometimes things that shouldn’t work just do, and this is one of those times.
I still enjoy the original Golden Earring version of “Radar Love,” but it’s always seemed a little stiff to me. The band, known to sometimes jam for 45 minutes or so on one song live, was serious about its music, and I just don’t think they quite found the fun in the song. White Lion, on the other hand, came from the decade of excess, where the primary goal of a hard rock band was to get paid, drunk and laid — not necessarily in that order. They got it, and the result is a much looser and smoother rock ‘n’ roll song than the original.
For some reason, Tramp’s voice isn’t as nerve-grating to me on this track, though I will admit it lacks the tough coolness of Golden Earring’s Barry Hay, whose vocal line on the original evokes the image of greased-back hair and black leather motorcycle jackets. But it’s the smooth lead fills by Bratta between the lines of the verse that make the song. They’re some of the few licks he produced that would make me give a good guitar face when I’m playing air guitar along with the song.
The White Lion rendition of the song, like the band itself, has all but been forgotten over the past 20 years or so. After the demise of the late 1980s glam scene, radio reverted back to the original. To me, the cover remains the best version of the song. In any form, though, “Radar Love” is a near perfect rock ‘n’ roll song.