Fight to Survive
After moving from Denmark to Spain and then New York City, vocalist Mike Tramp (formerly of the bands Mabel, Studs and Danish Lions) met Staten Island guitarist Vito Bratta (formerly of Dreamer) in 1983. They decided to put together a new band and recruited drummer Nicki Capozzi and bassist Felix Robinson (formerly of Angel) and named the group White Lion.
White Lion was signed by Elektra Records in 1984 and recorded their debut album Fight to Survive. Elektra was unhappy with the final recording, and after refusing to release the album, terminated the band's contract.
Both Capozzi and Robinson soon left the band. Nicki Capozzi was replaced by former Anthrax drummer Greg D'Angelo, and Felix Robinson was replaced by bassist Dave Spitz (brother of Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz). Within a month of joining, however, Dave Spitz left to play bass with Black Sabbath and was replaced by James LoMenzo.
The album Fight to Survive was eventually released by Victor Company of Japan, Ltd, (JVC Records) in Japan in 1985. Philadelphia-based Grand Slamm Records bought the album from Elektra and released it in America the following year, under licensed by Elektra/Asylum Records. A few months later, Grand Slam Records went bankrupt.
Fight to Survive charted at number 151 on The Billboard 200 and featured the band's debut single and music video, "Broken Heart".
In early 1986, White Lion, with a fictitious female member (portrayed by Louise Robey), had a brief part in the Tom Hanks/Shelley Long movie The Money Pit.
Early in 1987, the band was signed by Atlantic Records. The recording of the album took six weeks and on June 21, 1987 their album Pride was released. The first single, "Wait", was released on June 1, 1987, but did not reach the charts for nearly seven months.
The Pride tour started in July 1987 as White Lion opened for Ace Frehley's 80s band Frehley's Comet. The next year and a half was filled with constant touring, opening for such bands as Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Stryper and Kiss. In January 1988 White Lion landed the opening slot for AC/DC on their Blow Up Your Video American tour.
While touring with AC/DC, the Pride album and "Wait" single finally charted, due in no small part to MTV airing the "Wait" music video in regular rotation—nearly seven months after the single's release. "Wait" hit No. 8 on the singles chart, while Pride hit No. 11 on the album charts. Pride would remain on the Top 200 Billboard album charts for a full year, selling two million copies in the US alone and achieving double platinum status.
In August 1988, the album's second single, "Tell Me", reached No. 58. Around the time this single was released, White Lion played at the Ritz club in New York City. The show was filmed and later aired on MTV.
The Pride album's third single, a power ballad titled "When the Children Cry", made it to No. 3 on the charts with heavy MTV airplay.
The success of "When the Children Cry" would eventually push sales of Pride over the two million mark. In addition, Vito Bratta was recognized for his instrumental talents by racking up Best New Guitarist awards with both Guitar World magazine and Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine. All You Need Is Rock 'n' Roll was the final single released from the album.
In the spring of 1989, the Pride tour finally ended, and the band released their first video albums titled "Live at the Ritz" and "One Night in Tokyo" both of which featuring full concerts on VHS.
The band then immediately began work on their next album.
Big Game & Mane Attraction
In August 1989, White Lion released their third album, Big Game, a musically eclectic follow-up to Pride that featured the single "Little Fighter" (which peaked at No. 52), in Memory of The Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace boat which was destroyed by the French.
A cover of Golden Earring's "Radar Love" (which peaked at No. 59) was released as the second single and "Cry for Freedom" was released as the third single. "Going Home Tonight" was released as the album's final single. The album quickly went gold, with a peak of No. 19 on the album charts. The band's success continued with more constant touring.
After two years of writing and recording, White Lion released their fourth album Mane Attraction in the spring of 1991. More of a "back to basics" album, centering on strong hooks and melodic hard rock, the album was received well by the fans. Tramp also changed his singing style on this disc, as he was no longer comfortable singing high. Unfortunately, the album failed to reach the top 20 like the last two albums, charting at No. 61 on The Billboard 200. It received little or no airplay due to the recent Grunge explosion. The album featured the singles "Love Don't Come Easy" which peaked at number 24 on The Mainstream Rock Charts, "Lights and Thunder" and a re-recorded version of the band's debut single "Broken Heart", all of which featured music videos. "Out with the Boys" was released as a rare promo single and "Farewell to You" featured a music video montage. The album also contained White Lion's only instrumental song, "Blue Monday", a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had died while the band was writing for the album. The album's two ballads "You're All I Need" and "Till Death Do Us Part" gained popular airplay in the Philippines.
"I have always said that Grunge didn’t kill the hard rock / glam rock movement. The rock movement killed itself. Hard Rock in the Eighties started off with the first wave of L.A bands. Then the second wave of L.A bands came along with the Classic seventies rockers who started to rebrand themselves to fit the scene. Then the third wave came and the fourth and the fifth further diluting the pool. Every two years, new cities got identified as the next big hub. So the Record Labels swarmed and so many inferior derivative bands got signed, that in the end, it all imploded. The real good acts couldn’t be heard from all the noise of the crap acts."
Greg D'Angelo and James LoMenzo left the band soon after the album's release, citing "musical differences," but White Lion carried on with bassist
Tommy T-Bone Caradonna and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Suicidal Tendencies, Y&T, Fiona).
After briefly touring in support of Mane Attraction, Tramp and Bratta decided to fold the group, their last show being held in Boston at the Channel in September 1991. Exactly one year later, in September 1992, the band's first compilation album was released, titled The Best of White Lion.
A Video/DVD album featuring concert footage, behind the scenes interviews and all of the band's music videos was also released, titled Escape from Brooklyn.
When asked what the album would be like if he and Vito Bratta had released another album after Mane Attraction, Tramp said it would have hinted at their growth and evolution, and taken them further away from the 80s sound. He commented:
"I was kind of shocked cause to me it sounded like Vito and I weren't done working together and I was surprised that he never put up a fight when I said "No more White Lion." It was that he just lay down and gave up. I am not saying that White Lion would have continued if he and I had put up a fight. But I am sure that if we had sat down and talked and really looked at the picture and sorted out what had gone wrong and how much was our fault and how much was Kurt Cobain's, then there could possibly be a mature and musically serious band existing today, called White Lion."