Classic Albums: Dokken – Under Lock And Key

That’s right, it’s time once again for Classic Albums! This time around I thought we’d take a look at a band who some of you have been saying to me, “Maestro, why haven’t you done a piece on DOKKEN yet?” Well, today is the day, my friends. Recently I got inspired and fired up my favorite album from the band, Under Lock and Key, which made me realize just how overdue this article is. There are so many great songs on this disc, and also a lot of memories I have attached to it, which I will gladly share with you now.

The year was 1986 and my late friend Chris (R.I.P.) had loaned me her DOKKEN albums, the aforementioned Under Lock and Key and Tooth and Nail. I was instantly captivated by this band, especially George Lynch’s guitar playing. Don Dokken’s voice was high enough to be one of the elite vocalists of the time, but not so high that some of us didn’t spend hours in their bedrooms trying to hit those notes, know what I mean? And while I only liked half of Tooth and Nail, I became enthralled with the follow-up. Gone were the empty choruses that rang hollow, and here was something special.

As soon as Lynch started on “Unchain the Night” I knew I was in for something special. I was sitting in my kitchen at 113 Berkeley Place listening on my little radio to my Maxell XL-II 90 cassette, and when Dokken started singing I was like, “Man, I wanna be that guy.” Bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer “Wild” Mick Brown held it down perfectly, and this was a band that could one day be the stuff of legend. “The Hunter” is interesting because in 1989, my girlfriend and I were about to be intimate for the first time and she asked me to play this album, but not this song, because it made her think of me being a player (I wasn’t…I WAS!). Still, it’s a cool track.

Now we come to “In My Dreams” which is forever a favorite, and one that my old high school band MIDNIGHT ANGEL played at a couple of shows before I left. I won’t even pretend I did it justice vocally, but I tried, so there’s that. On this one Lynch’s solo is STILL amazing, and that riff where they come out of it can make your hair stand on end. After this is my absolute favorite track in “Slippin’ Away.” What I didn’t know is that my 9th grade girlfriend Jessica would break my heart in the summer of 1988 causing me to blast this one on REPEAT. I was always a sucker for love ballads, and this one painted a bullseye on my chest.

From here we come to one of THE best DOKKEN songs ever recorded with “Lightnin’ Strikes Again.” When that fucking riff kicks in and the band follows, Holy Hell, is it awesome!! At age 44 I am still JUST as enraptured with this track as I was back then. “It’s Not Love” was a pretty hot song for these boys back in the day, with a tasty riff, followed by the poignant quasi-ballad “Jaded Heart,” a tune that I still find myself singing out of nowhere some days. “Don’t Lie To Me” is one of those tracks that just sticks with you, musically and lyrically. Don Dokken was at the top of his game on this record, especially on this one.

“Will the Sun Rise” is a mid-tempo rocker that tells a good story, while closer “Til the Livin’ End” is all-out balls-to-the-wall speed and power; a track I found myself rewinding over and over on my many bike rides to my girlfriend’s house (You know, the one from earlier? Who didn’t wanna hear “The Hunter”? Pay attention!!). The famous Walkman got a workout on those rides, believe me! Anyway, when all is said and done DOKKEN caught lightning in a bottle with Under Lock and Key, and it is one of those records I can listen to from front to back and do nothing but smile at the memories me, my friends, and two girlfriends made together. So that’s why I am proud to add this one to the Classic Albums collection, and it is my fervent hope that you all love this disc, too!   ~dc

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