Sister Christian

Album: Midnight Madness (1983)
Charted: 5
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Songfacts®:

  • Night Ranger's drummer, Kelly Keagy, wrote this song about his sister Kristy (this is the correct spelling, he tells us), who is 10 years younger than him and was growing up fast. "It's the big brother looking after his little sister when she's growing up – a simple, almost naïve kind of lyric," he said in a Songfacts interview. "I wanted her to be able to see what I was talking about, that I was protecting her."
  • The vocalist on most Night Ranger songs is Jack Blades, but Keagy sang lead on this one, singing from his drum kit at shows.
  • The original title was "Sister Kristy," but the rest of the band thought Keagy was singing "Sister Christian," so that became the title.
  • Keagy grew up in Eugene, Oregon, where "Motoring" was a term for driving around with your friends, often trying to pick up girls. He told Songfacts how he came up with this very memorable part of the song: "That was the first section that I wrote. I wanted something that sounded like it had some teeth to it, and movement. But at the same time, a little left of center so it wasn't so obvious. The first thing I started writing was the chorus, and the second line was, 'What's your price for flight?' Which is kind of weird. But if you understand that it's coming from a brother to a sister, it was like, 'What's the price for making a bad decision now with your life going forward?'"
  • This ballad isn't typical of Night Ranger's sound - they're more guitar rock exemplified by the singles from their first album, Dawn Patrol: "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Sing Me Away."

    When they released their second album, Midnight Madness, the uptempo "(You Can Still) Rock in America" was the lead single, then the band's record company surprised them by putting out "Sister Christian." They didn't think a ballad could be a hit for them, but it sure was, crossing them over to a pop audience. This was a double-edge sword: It expanded their audience, but now the record company wanted a ballad on every album. They delivered one on their next album (7 Wishes) with "Sentimental Street," and on the one after that (Big Life) with "Hearts Away," but turned defiant for their 1988 album Man In Motion, turning it in without a ballad. The record company had them record "I Did It For Love," which was not just a ballad, but a song written by someone else (Russ Ballard). By this time, Night Ranger had fallen off in popularity and had to do as they were told.

    "We did it but we were hesitant about it because we did all the writing in our career and they wanted us to put out this song that didn't even sound like us," Keagy told Songfacts. "What you do when your career is on the line, you compromise and go with it. But I'm glad we did, because that song is still out there getting played. It's been a blessing for the band."
  • The song got a big boost from MTV, which played the video constantly. The network went on the air in 1981, and in its first few years didn't have many well-produced videos to choose from. They favored American rock acts, which worked out well for Night Ranger; MTV played their 1982 and 1983 videos for songs like "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Sing Me Away."

    The "Sister Christian" proved very popular in part because it's set in high school, making it relatable to the average MTV viewer. It stars the actress/model Macha Bennet-Shephard, who was 19 at the time, and was shot at San Rafael High School in California with many real students as extras. The video was directed by Mary Guido, who also did Quiet Riot's "Cum On Feel The Noize." Macha Bennet-Shephard also appeared in the next Night Ranger video, which was for "When You Close Your Eyes."
  • "Sister Christian" was used in the 1997 movie Boogie Nights in a memorable scene where three characters enter a fancy house to make a drug deal, and the song is playing. The drug dealer who owns the place, dressed in a bathrobe, is about to check out the cocaine but stops as the song builds to its chorus. He plays some air drums and sings along - Motorin' - before saying, "I love that song" and continuing the deal.

    This friendly, unhinged drug dealer archetype is familiar to many, including Kelly Keagy, who recalled watching the scene in his Songfacts interview: "I went to the movies and saw it firsthand... and I started sweating! Not because I didn't like it, but because I thought I'd been in that position in Hollywood at one point, at some drug dealer's house!

    Not selling of course, but just sitting there with some nutty guy looking at us like [assumes a deranged voice], 'How ya doing? What do ya want?' And I'm like, 'Get me out of here!' Meanwhile, all that chaos in the background. It was like, 'Holy crap, man. This is too close!'"
  • In addition to Boogie Nights, the song has been used in these movies:

    Superstar (1999)
    Summerhood (2008)
    Friday the 13th (2009)
    The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)

    And in these TV shows:

    Glee ("The New Rachel" - 2012)
    The Goldbergs ("Stop Arguing & Start Thanking" - 2013)
    Parks and Recreation ("Moving Up: Part 1" - 2014)
    Family Guy ("Follow the Money" - 2017)
  • While some groups can't stand the sound of their signature song, Night Ranger isn't one of them. Jack Blades told Songfacts: "To me, it's a highlight to every one of our shows, instead of it being a curse. Maybe a lot of bands think of their big hit as, 'Ugh, we don't want to play that.' But that's not the way it is for Night Ranger. We really do love that song."
  • In 2021, Kelly Keagy gave us this update on his sister Kristy, who inspired the song. "She lives up in a small town in Oregon – the same place she's always lived," he said. "She is in a great mental state and very happy. She's up there with my two brothers and I see her and talk to her all the time. She's doing great."
  • "Sister Christian" has been used in a few different commercials. Some of the more entertaining include a spot for Dr. Pepper cream soda where Justin Guarini, who came in second to Kelly Clarkson on the first season of American Idol, sings it in character as Lil' Sweet, and another for Foster Farms where chickens cluck out the song.

Comments: 38

  • Arnold from Bigfoot, Texas Now that I have Googled this song's lyrics,
    I love it even more... I have three sisters...
    Thanks for listening and bless you all in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior... Amen and Amen...
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaI'd've liked to hear Kristy's take on the meaning/purpose of this song. . .
  • Donald Shepherd from KentuckyI've always loved Sister Christian. The new Dr Pepper commercials song sounds so much like Sister Christian. I think Kelly Keagy should look into a possibility of a lawsuit. Have a great day.
  • Havok211 from Vancouver, WaI really just wanted to know what it meant to be “motoring”
  • Anita from Miami, FlApparently she changed her name. See link below on "girls from 80's music videos then & now"
    https://bit.ly/3e37fCq
  • Mike from OhioI loved this song from the first time I heard it back in 83 or so. In fact, I loved it so much that my little garage band and I learned to play it at my baby sisters high school graduation party in the mid 90s. She's 8 years younger than I am and even though her name is Jennifer, she's MY Sister Christy (Christian) to this day! She loves this song too! I graduated high school in 1986 and our class song was Goodbye. I guess the whole class really liked Night Ranger!
  • Jolie Bourgeois from Denton, TxI graduated high school in '86 and was something of a wild child. This song encapsulates my Father's concerns during my adolescence and young adulthood. He took me to see the Midnight Madness tour in 1984 and danced with me as Kelly Keagy sang.
  • Jef from Passaic, Nj UsaI dated a gal who thought the lyrics to this song were "you're motorhead" instead of "you're motorin'".
    There were many Born Again Christians at my high school. This song became a popular anthem for the non-Christians.
    Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy wrote and sang this song. Keagy resembled comic actor Will Ferrell.
  • Marc from MdFirst-ever interview with the woman in the video - "Sister Christian" herself: http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-girl-in-video-sister-christian-1984.html. Plus never-published photos.
  • Lisa from California, CaHey Macha! We were roommates on Argyle St. in LA when you were in art school. Look me up on facebook or LinkedIn - I'd love to find out how you're doing. Lisa Gehman Thorne
  • Shawn from Green Bay, WiGreat song that is a true 80's anthem.

    It is actually ironic that one of the main 80's rock anthems is in many ways an anti-rock song because it is about a girl NOT having sex, which is the opposite ot what most rock songs say.

    As cool as the lyrics are, I went the entire 80's without knowing what this song was talking about and I think that added to the hook of the song.
  • Hannah from Ottawa, OnLove this song. It was one of my favourites when I was in high school.
  • Jake from Houston, TxIf the actress who played SIster Christian is Annie Hubbard as someone mentioned earlier, I think I might have found her working for a plastic surgeon in Arkansas. I found her as "Anne Hubbard" and it sure looks like an older version of the girl from the video. See for yourself. http://www.robertlovemd.com/about_the_practice/
  • Cheryl from Westland,mi, MiThe actress that was "Sister Christian" was Annie Hubbard from Cupertino, CA.
    The band was from her home town, and she was trying to become an actress. She moved to LA, and auditioned to be on General Hospital. She supported herself working as a hostess at the "Ritz Cafe" on Pico Blvd. in Beverly Hills, while living on Sunset Blvd. in the early/mid 80's. I know because I was her roommate and coworerkr for a year or so, she was such a beautiful, thoughtful, and loving girl. I am bummed that we lost touch over the years.
  • Mary from Chandler, AzMacha, in L.A....there are questions all over the internet about who played Sister Christian in the video. No one seems to know. Do you have a last name? An IMDb profile? We're all curious. And whatchoo been up to, lately?
  • Aaron from Detroit, MiMacha, Los Angeles, CA

    If that is true... you were hot! I just watched that video on youtube and was honestly just thinking how hot the girl was for an '80's video (no big skanky teased hair and all that).

    This song is a bit before my time... I think it was Boogie Nights and Grand Theft Auto that made this a classic for me.
  • Joel from Kentville, NsI am driving myself crazy looking for the name of a recent movie, for which 'Sister Christian' was used in the trailer. I saw a preview on a DVD not long ago (maybe 2008), and I think it was a straight-to-DVD movie. The only things I remember about it is that the trailer featured the song 'Sister Christian' by Night Ranger, and it was about a group of thirtysomethings who kind of lost their way in life (kind of a reflection on how messed up life can get).

    If ANYBODY can help me, I would be so grateful.
  • Craig from Manitowoc, WiAwesome song. I still like listening to it.
  • Matt from Nashville , TnThis song is my Wedding Song!!! No here come the bride for us!
  • Eric from Bend, OrUntil recently, I had thought this was a religious song due to the title, and I misheard the lyric "You've got him in your sights" as "And God gave you your sight". :)
  • Jena from Leavenworth, KsI was in 6th grade when this came out. I loved this song. The group "Duran, Duran" was popular at the time, and some of the Duran fans would ruin this song by singing "More Duran" instead of "Motorin'". This song remains a classic. On the other hand, where is Duran Duran now? Bwa-ha-ha...
  • Jeanine from Philadelphia, Pai was in my early teens when this song hit the airwaves (and everything else). i always took it as 'what is a less-than-popular girl willing to do to be among the "elite"?'. some teen-agers in the 'lower echelons' can be so easily swayed. 'what's your price for flight?' what's the price to fit in? we all have a price, haven't we?
  • Randy from Colerain Twp., OhI could have sworn that Kelly Keagy was shown singing this song on the video. But I haven't watched MTV since the late 1980's, so I don't know if there is more than one video for this song. Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw did release a CD entitled "Hallucination" after their tenture with Damn Yankees, and they still do collaberate on occasions. I had read several months ago that they were working together on another project- presumably another Shaw/Blades CD.
  • Michelle from Maplewood, Mnthis song is my favorite night ranger song ever i love this song so much
  • Patrick from St Paul, MnTo User Macha from LA: are you the same girl who plays Jack Blades girlfriendwife in the video for When You Close Your Eyes?

    Patrick Dempsey
    Minnesota
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlIf this song doesn't get your blood pumping then you are dead.
  • Josef from Corpus Christi, TxDude, I loved how they used this song in the movie "Boogie Nights" It was spectacular...Especially when the dealer guy says "Shhh here comes my favorite part" Then the part just before "Motoring" where he play s that toms part ... You know what I'm talking about...
    Yeahhhh.....
  • Tim from Indianapolis, InOriginally, I thought Kelly was singing "Motorhead ...." haha
  • Tim from Indianapolis, InThis info has probably been covered already: The drummer was a singer in Night Ranger as well as Jack. The drummer IS the lead singer on Sister Christian. If you watch the video, Jack isn't singing, although, you can't see Kelly singing either. But the drummer is the lead singer on this one.
  • Quintin from Norwalk, CtI thought the drummer sang on this song?
  • Paul from Knoxville, TnPT Anderson knew what he was doing in 'Boogie Nights!' If people didn't catch this 'gem' the first time around in the 80's, they got it 'between the eyebrows' with his movie! Great song, either way!
  • Macha from Los Angeles, CaI just came across this site; I played 'Sister Christian' in the video. It's a blast to me that people are talking about it!
  • Matthew from East Brunswick, NjExcellent song, and the lyrics are so touching. On GTA Vice City Soundtrack! Good find!
  • Billy from Gloucester, MaThe lead guitarist Brad Gillis played lead guitar for Ozzy Osbourne on the Speak of the Devil Tour.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InA staple of the true rock that was put out during the 80's era of great music.
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandGTA:VICE CITY ... Sountrack!!
  • Tom from New York, Nycan't think of this song without thinking of that bizarre scene in Boogie Nights.
  • Paul from Greenwood, ScBass player and lead singer Jack Blades went on to form Damn Yankees with Tommy Shaw from Styx and Motor City Madman Ted Nugent.
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