Alright, alright, alriiiight…Y’all know what day it is. Classic Albums Day!! This week I thought we’d get into one of the greatest debuts a band could ever put out: Mechanical Resonance from Tesla. This one is special to me because I got the cassette on Friday October 16, 1987 in anticipation of my very first concert, Def Leppard/Tesla on that Sunday October 18. Actually I flipped back and forth between this and Hysteria all that weekend, but I was soaking this album up like a sponge. So let’s go:
“EZ Come EZ Go” starts off with a little drum and bass before the twin guitars of Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch swoop in and take over the song, bowing out slightly on the verses as Jeff Keith quietly sings in his lower register. When everything collides on the choruses it makes for one hell of a noise! Up next is perennial show-opener “Cumin’ Atcha Live” featuring the guitar guys dueling it out for a full minute before drummer Troy Luccketta ushers in the madness with his rat-a-tat-a-tat snare hits and the band is off and running at full throttle. Never mind all that “Love Song” and “Signs” stuff; THIS is real Tesla, case closed! The solos are top-notch, too, especially when they harmonize. The soft intro to “Gettin’ Better” belies the fact that this song is a rocker through and through, dedicated to the working man, and it sounds even better coming out of a pickup truck after the day is done.
A steady marching beat, and Brian Wheat’s bass line are the anchors of “2 Late 4 Love”, something Tesla would repeat with great success on their next record with “Hang Tough”. The riffs, up-tempo pacing, and hooks of “Rock Me To the Top” make it one of my favorites on the album as well. Jeezus, we’re five songs in, and each one of them is completely different from the others! One of THE most underrated ballads of the decade is next in “We’re No Good Together”, a tragic song about a relationship falling further and further into a state of disrepair, and the background synth adds just the right amount of longing to Jeff’s impassioned pleas to just end this already. A beautiful way to close out side one.
Flipping the tape over I was NOT prepared for the smack in the face of “Modern Day Cowboy” that hit me as I pressed PLAY. Another live staple, this tune has teeth for days, and always brings the house down. In fact, at my concert in ’87, this happened quite literally. A roadie spilled water into the fog machine and shorted out Nassau Coliseum for a good five minutes. Joey and I were like, “What the hell?!?” A piano intro with a little bit of blues to it takes us into “Changes”, a melancholy song about the things we all face as we get older. Time’s makin’ changes indeed… By now “Little Suzi” needs no introduction. As soon as you hear that strumming, you know damn well what it is, and no matter where you are: home, car, or work, you’re turning it up, don’t even try to lie!
Another of my favorite riffs on this album kicks off “Love Me”. Tesla just had a guitar tone on this one that I fell in love with right away, even though it’s not one of the more popular tracks. The talk box didn’t hurt either, since I was obsessed with them at the time. Speaking of riffs, “Cover Queen”, anyone? Everything about this tune just kills, and fits perfectly together. Tight rhythms, stellar guitar work, and big vocals make this one of the best songs found on the disc. “Before My Eyes” ends things on a rather sullen and moody note, and not at all what you’d expect, which is what makes it so great.
I got Mechanical Resonance on a chilly day in October, but I didn’t care how cold it was. There was nothing like riding home from the record store knowing you were holding a piece of GOLD in your hands, no matter if you had to navigate a blizzard to get there. Since that fateful concert I’ve gone on to see Tesla live many times, and they never disappoint. Whether or not later albums were any good is irrelevant. The songs on this masterpiece stack up to, and in many ways, surpass the debuts of many of their contemporaries, and when they are played live, even now, it’s pure magic. ~dc