327. Rock of Offense – First Strike

ROCK OF OFFENSE (1984)

First Strike

In 1984 there was quite a bit of heavy metal, new wave and punk, but very little “hard rock.” In fact, hard rock has always been generally lacking as a genre in Christian music. The fringe and most popular styles always seem to be represented, but very little in regards to just good old fashioned hard rock.

Sounding like 38 Special after discovering a heavier rhythm and longer guitar solos, First Strike’s debut release, Rock of Offense was a breath of fresh air in the stagnant world of rock music in CCM. Produced by The 77’s Mike Roe, First Strike struck at the heart of fans of Triumph, the Scorpions and Journey. Wall of sound backing vocals supporting loud drums (with actual fills), pounding bass and extra crispy and crunchy guitars.

Lyrically the band branched out into topical fair that would later be the norm for Christian alternative and heavy bands, but at the time were considered risque and controversial. There was no secret as to the content of the songs as the titles pretty much told the story. Loneliness Kills, Hurt By Love and Dirty Loving are self-explanatory. The latter caused several Christian Bookstores to ban the sale of the album.

The band would later release a four song cassette that was no where near the quality. Like too many other bands of the era there was never a real follow up project or supporting tour and the band just disappeared. This always seems to result in the lack of presence on CD which is real shame given the quality of Roe’s production on the album.

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  1. James
    November 1, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Definitely a classic of 80’s rock and roll, both Christian and mainstream! Exit Records was sure a hub for cutting edge rock and roll back in the 1980’s and it is a shame that so few people ever got to hear those artists that should have easily appealed to both Christian and non-Christian music fans. Charlie Peacock and The 77s should easily be household names among classic rock fans today!

    Another example of a band that Exit signed that should have blown up the music world was Robert Vaughn & The Shadows whom they signed in 1987 and released their album “Love & War” (I am sure this album will be on your list!!) through the Island Records distribution deal which of course went south when U2’s “The Joshua Tree” blew up big!

  2. Sundog
    February 17, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Personally, I hated this album. Yeah, I still have the LP in a safe place, and I even have the album on my iPod, but it serves (for me) as a reminder of how bad some Christian music really was back in the day.

    “You don’t need no dirty lovin, you don’t need no dirty lies
    I’m not sayin you should give up livin
    Well I just think there’s a better way of life”

    OK, I guess I’m being too harsh on these guys. It’s probably not as bad as I make it out to be, but it’s certainly not one of my favorite albums.

  3. Pat
    May 27, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    This is awesome… Tim Larkin, the other guitar player in First Strike (I’m Pat Boylan) shared this with me. Thanks for the kind comments, and the not so kind ones… I will agree with them to a certain extent. Some of that stuff was pretty sappy… lol. But then again we did rock on some of the tunes as well.

    As part of the “Exit Family” of artists, we all attended Warehouse ministries and it was a great place to be as a young Christian in those days, and a real trip if you were a musician. So many talented people all around us. We were the kids though and that LP was the big time for us. Its funny, the 4 song ep we released on tape after that LP actually had better material and would be a glimpse into what we were going to become more than the Rock of Offence LP.

    Like many bands, we had some challenges with lead singers through the years and that was one of the reasons we eventually got dropped from Exit. Tim and I started the band and by the time the LP came out we felt we needed a better singer so we quietly parted ways. We did get a new singer and had actually recorded some demos for the 2nd LP but that singer turned out to be a huge mistake personality wise and when we let him go the label said…”ok, that’s enough” and we were on our own.

    We wound up with a great singer names Dave and the video I will attach here really shows what we were on track to become….. Ahh, but then life happens and young men do what young men do and there were some things that happened behind the scenes that would not make the light of day. (Wait for the book release on that one). All through it though, we loved what we were doing and felt that God was moving in the process. Today’s Christian music market is nothing like it was back then. The focus now is on playing too Christians and part of the labels vibe back in the day was to avoid that… thus some of the lyrics and venues we played were not very typical.

    Loved those days and its nice to see people liked what we did. I still have the boxes of letters kids wrote after that release. Thanks for the write up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpTOuC_3ub4

    • Tony Gunn
      February 3, 2012 at 4:04 am

      Funny Pat, my firing was related to me by ad in paper looking for Singer with Chris Salmons #. Could have told me first. As far as better singers, I hear differently on most sites and from fan emails monthly. I could have asked for better background singers as we know the “wall of sound background ” was Mike Roe, Steve Griffiths and Jan Volz. We ALL had help on recording. I’ve seen concert videos and don’t feel Dave was much better live than me. You guys didn’t sound like the album on background vocals. I was teased, picked at and barely given a chance after numerous complaints about not being able to hear. As far as newer recordings, fan concensus was new music too soft. I want you and Dirty loving had no place on the album. Should all been hard. We both know album was killed by Exit pushing avant-garde bands that were cutting edge in 1979 or 80. 1984 WE were the genre that blew up. Exit was mislead and in over their heads. I always considered you a friend, Tim too. I’m just tired of my contribution being minimized. Or ignored. If Dave was viable, you would have stayed. But Exit was still not a contender. At least I was loyal to you and the band. My firing was done wrong. I feel vindicated when I still get mail saying original album lineup the best. God bless. Tony.

      • Tony Gunn
        February 3, 2012 at 4:34 am

        BTW..First Strike was never given much distribution, airplay, or ever concert support outside of occasionally playing Warehouse Ministries and youth prisons and some very small random shows at odd places. Anyone ever hear of Life Shuttle? My point exactly. Rock of offense was a good album made by sincere young men that should have grown by playing larger venues. That’s how you cut your teeth. Before I came to Warehouse I played on Sunset Strip at Whiskey and other Hollywood clubs(Roxy, Troubadour, Cathouse) and in my misspent youth, I played keg parties in the country for hundreds, played Fresno Selland arena for thousands. Did an Exit album and played for tens of people….LOL. ministry is paramount, but Jesus said the workman is worth the wages. I never understood waste and Rock of Offense got wasted. I have no good memories of the band. Just trying to fill expectations of founders and being confused and amused by record label.

  4. Tony Gunn
    February 23, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Pardon my bitterness about old wounds. Pat, Tim, Chris and John deserve better. I take responsibility for my mistakes and shortcomings. I still stand by my comments about Exit records. Too many strange choices. History bears out which type of music went big in 80s. I am proud Mike Roe is STILL HERE PLAYING. First Strike should still be playing and had a better future. If my fault. I take it. They can flat out Rock. BUT!!! We did rock the album. Thanks Mike Steve Led and my FS brothers. Forgive me. Tony.

  5. Scotty
    May 18, 2013 at 12:15 am

    No Tony….You are absolutely right! Perfect lineup and every song was (on a scale of 1-10) an 11! Sometimes people are blind to what they have and make the mistake of throwing away something that will most likely happen only once in a lifetime. Rare if it happens 2 or 3 times or more (Sammy Hagar).The new singer flat out doesn’t work. His voice is what I call Average at best. No distinctive qualities that grab attention and not original enough. But if average and or mediocre is what the current members want then God bless their unforgiving egos and all the best to their attempting that last Skydive. All the bands that make it big and or do better than average are unique and have that special sound and qualities that most of us know is what is needed in the music world. That’s why Journey hired 2 sound alike “Steve Perry’s” to keep that special sound that is part of their success. For anyone that does not agree with me you are in denial, lack experience or are delusional like the bad singers that audition on American Idol. Clueless. So as I shared before…shame on the rest of the band that couldn’t get over anything that would tear a good relationship or band apart. I am a self taught guitarist/songwriter custom guitar tech that ran into egos and just wasn’t Gods will to have the supergroup recipe happen. Not all actors make it big either. I am thankful to God that I am blessed with a wife and married 13 years still. We have our disagreements but let Nothing destroy what God has blessed us with….each other…and if there is one band out there that reads this and is helped by anything I have shared here, then glory to God! Mistakes we all make…No one is perfect just forgiven and this continues to happen till Christs return. Keeping commitments requires Love,and Sacrifice and not giving up. All the very best to all in whatever you do in this life. Oh…It’s not too late…Bands do reconcile and regroup…when they realize what they don’t have anymore…anyone listening?

    • Tony Gunn
      June 13, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks brother. Had a big talk with my wife about singing again after so long. She is adament that I do it! Perform what I know as a man that has changed and been hardened and tested by life after 30 years away from music. Egos ARE the problem that I KNOW face me. That part of the road is what has kept me out. I am my own worst critic. Pat Boylan made it clear that there would be no reunion. I wanted actually a simple lunch meeting to just have all of us talk and get closure. They all apparently still have contact but only Chris ever met with me and then no more contact and vague answers to questions of past. Asked him to pass on my contact info to others and got only short business like response from Pat. No others. I will give thought to my own projects. Be great to work with people that love straight ahead hard rock and check ego at the door. For a Christian label, Exit had waaaaay too much ego walking the halls. They needed more common sense business savvy. Why waste money and energy on albums only to have them die off? Use the money in a more direct route to minister and simply feed and clothe people. BTW, I was told by Chris during our one meeting that I was let go by label as I wasn’t good enough to “go to L.A.!” Funny as SoCal is where I cut my teeth. Started where they were trying to go? That was never told to me at the time. I played to much larger crowd s and had been in more groups than the rest of the band yet never played that card and was humble and loyal. The shame is that the album was viable and was wasted to a large degree. And most important, ministry chance was lost. Label had a great stable and cross over potential. All lost. IMHO Charlie Peacock should be a household name. Thanks for even listening after so long. If the music come, I will run it by you my friend. Love and respect. Blessings. Tony Gunn

  6. low5point
    June 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I am glad I listed this album, if for no other reason that to see the continuing conversation and get a glimpse of the history of the band I loved so much that disappeared so quickly.

    • Tony Gunn
      July 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      I loved it too brother and it is painful 30 years later. I wished in vain for just a meeting of all 5 members. Maybe an answer or two. Even a mention of the fact that we ALL made the album and some folks still listen and even care. Even a thought that we owe people closure. We could easily record a proper follow up on our terms and leave out the anchor called.EXIT RECORDS. Everyone can still, as pat put it, move on. But, we owe. Fans or each other. Tony.

  7. September 14, 2013 at 4:56 am

    anyone know where I can hear the song “rock of offense” ?? my pastor told me of a song that helped him to not let stuff get to him and I think your band is what he was talking about…so ever since he told me about it, I’ve been meaning to research & find it.

    • September 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      Yes Leslie…on YouTube! If you need further help, let me know. Search YouTube for > Donald Gordon Jr and go to his channel…then, click his Videos, then scroll through his selection and you will find “First Strike” “Loneliness Kills” and “Money” “I Want You” Also, Shine Glamm on YouTube Has a few…In Videos you will find “Out Of Control”…Really all you need to do is Google Search>First Strike Biography and find the album so you have all info…then search YouTube for every song, sometimes with the bands name. Hope this helps! First Strike was a GREAT band when Tony was singing. Now, Forget it. Every song on THAT album is Gold! Have fun!

  8. Tony Gunn
    January 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you for the kind words. Still dont know what i did wrong. I believe we could have gone on tours and did what was NEEDED. What EXIT claimed they were about. They had a pool of talent and distribution with major labels plus concert connections with Bill Graham. It does not get better than that. All squandered by, as i said before, very strange decisions. After many attempts, i got a call from Mary Neely and she asked me if i was the singer AFTER Rob Bray (who replaced me). Wow. I explained i was the album vocalist whose name appears on the album along with hers. Soooo, theres that. Guess i didn’t make a good impression. Its nice to know my work was remembered by ANYONE. I was just doing what i was signed to do. I should have spoke out more then but if anyone knew the band they would know the guitarists were founders and fully in charge. No democracy in FS. Supposedly my vocals were sub par. I was hired because the founders couldn’t sing lead well enough. Turns out, they couldn’t sing backgrounds either as the album vocals were done by Mike Roe Jan Volz Steve Griffiths. And live, the other members did not sound like the album. I had been in several bands and also knew that when you keep ignoring your vocalist requests to actually be HEARD in the monitors, that shows no concern for cohesion. And if, has was stated, the music with the last vocalist was what band wanted to play, then its best I was out. I was a hard rock/metal singer. And new songs were more soft rock. Still looking for that right combo of “old dudes” to play honest 70s style arena rock. Its what i do. May happen. God willing. Blessings to all. Thanks for even remembering. Love and respect. Tony Gunn.

    • January 17, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      Hi Tony…It was my birthday yesterday…the day you commented …hope your well. I think of you often and listen to you with First Strike. I’m on Facebook…been listening to Reverence lately. They have Bryan Holland and Pete Rossi on guitars. Check em out on Youtube and Facebook. Always around…God Bless you Tony!

      • Tony Gunn
        March 11, 2014 at 3:41 am

        Thanks brother and happy birthday. Dealing with health issues. But am waiting for chance to meet other 70-80s era rockers to test the waters and see if i got anything worth hearing left. Bless you. Let me know how you are. Tony.

  9. Brent Johnson
    May 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    This album is on the list of ones to pick up along with Barnabas as the cassettes wore out. Someone put all the Exit albums out for download at least.

  10. Brent Johnson
    May 11, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Crazyiness but I found this on LP today at some hole in the wall store in a little town in Wa. called Union Gap. This reminds me of the secular band Icon mixed with Thunder. Anyways, Tony, if you see this, great job on the vox, you were intense.

  1. October 27, 2011 at 4:05 am

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