(You Can Still) Rock in America

Album: Midnight Madness (1983)
Charted: 51
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Songfacts®:

  • Think back to 1983: lots of keyboards, guys in makeup and Michael Jackson. Rock just wasn't trendy, but Night Ranger came to the rescue. In an interview with lead singer Jack Blades, he told Songfacts about writing this song: "I was just sitting around in my hotel room in Springfield, Illinois, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln's house, and we were on tour with Sammy Hagar. We were on tour behind our first album, doing the Dawn Patrol tour, and we were with Sammy, he was out playing his Three Lock Box tour.

    We were sitting in this bad little Travelodge, that motel that has that sleeping bear with the sleeping hat on top of it. And we had a day or two off, and I went and bought a bunch of rock magazines. And at that time all these magazines were saying, 'Rock is dead.' Because we were still coming out of the Cars, and Blondie, and A Flock of Seagulls, and Haircut 100, and Boy George, and all this kind of stuff. And all these magazines were saying that basically rock and roll as we know it – Deep Purple, all that kind of stuff – was dead, and all this new music was coming out. At least that's what they were trying to jam down everybody's throat to convince everybody that this is the music you should listen to; the Thompson Twins, the Cure, everything that wasn't like real rock and roll. But everywhere we were playing with Hagar, it was thousands of people out there and everybody was just rocking and rolling and screaming, and we were just jamming. And I'm like, Man, I don't get this. Everybody's saying rock is dead, but as far as I'm concerned, you can still rock in America. Because everywhere we're going we're f--king rocking in America. We're kicking ass.

    And I thought, that's kind of cool, 'you can still rock in America.' So I just sat down and I wrote the song. That line came first, the chorus came first. And I broke it down to the verses about how all these people would come to our shows and go, 'Yeah, I snuck out and my dad didn't know, I snuck out and I grabbed my boyfriend, and we got in his car and we peel out of there and my dad's running after us and we came to your show, and you guys just rock out! And I'm gonna catch hell when I get home, but I don't care, man. I don't care, because y'all sure know how to rock!' I mean, I'm down in Missouri and people are talking like that. So I just took this one girl's idea of what she was telling me, and I wrote that as a commentary on what I was seeing out there when everybody was saying rock was dead. And that ended up being sort of an anthem for Night Ranger, for sure."
  • "(You Can Still) Rock in America" was the first single from Night Ranger's second album, Midnight Madness. It was a pretty obvious choice, but the band was surprised by the label's pick for the next single: the power ballad "Sister Christian."

    Thanks to a nostalgic video that MTV put in hot rotation, that song took off and crossed Night Ranger to the pop charts. The band's drummer, Kelly Keagy, who wrote and sang "Sister Christian," told Songfacts: "But we were in the middle of a tour in hotels, on a bus, or on flights, so a lot of times we weren't even aware that there was all this activity and upward movement on the album and the single. Of course, we were very happy about it, but after that we started to get defiant, like, 'Do we have to go with a ballad first? Give us some teeth here!'"

    They did as expected and delivered a ballad on their next album: "Sentimental Street." Once again, that was the big hit from the set.

Comments: 2

  • Chris from ColoradoI have always felt Night Ranger was a little underrated - these guys kicked ass! Great songwriting and performing, amazing energy and musicianship. Just check out some of their live performance videos on YouTube, always gets me dancing.
  • Bill from Clinton, Il.I saw Night Ranger at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield Illinois back in 2013 and Jack Blades confirmed the above story. They can still rock period! It was one of the best shows I've seen in over a decade.
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