As a budding musician growing up in Bay Park, Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy pointed at the Sports Arena and said, “I’m gonna play there one day.” And he did.
Ratt’s frontman Stephen Pearcy, lately of Los Angeles but sometimes of San Diego, published his memoir Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll, in 2013. Gearing up to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ratt’s multiplatinum Out of the Cellar, he took some questions over the telephone.
What years did you live in San Diego?
“1971 to 1980.”
And you returned?
“I actually did. I’d see my Mom, my stepdad. I bought this huge castle house in La Costa and I decided, This is gonna be great, it’ll be copacetic and quiet. I was never there! I was always on the road. I ended up buying another place in L.A. and I ping-ponged back and forth. But I lived there in 1998. It’s ironic because the lead guitar player in my solo band, Erik Ferentinos, lived across the street from the La Costa house. So there’s a reason for everything.”
Impressions of San Diego as a kid?
“I came from Los Angeles and I really didn’t have anything to do with music. I was actually working with a race-car team and we were on the road. We went to Indianapolis and my mom had remarried. She said, ‘When you get back, we’re gonna be living in San Diego, here’s the address.’ And after I came back, I was just plopped down in this place called Bay Park. It was an amazing place at that time...it’s changed so much, but back then it was all peace and love, peace and love, you know...”
See any shows at the Sports Arena?
“You could literally see the Sports Arena from our house. We lived on this big ol’ hill... Alice Cooper, [when] he was using the snakes and the guillotine and the hanging, it was just amazing, that kind of act. And then another night there would be Aerosmith, with Foghat or Bad Company or whoever opening up. And Aerosmith was very powerful. Black Sabbath, another amazing show.
“And then the most memorable was Led Zeppelin, I saw them twice. I kinda knew these girls, and I didn’t know that they were groupies, per se, but I knew they’d always wait in the back area. I had that Almost Famous experience. A girl says, ‘Well, I’ll get you in.’ I didn’t get in, but they did!
“Led Zeppelin was just mind-altering. Three and a half hours of in-your-face. It was a Monday night and a Thursday night. Jimmy Page had two guitars stolen after the first show and the FBI ended up getting his guitars back. The first night was so loud, people were walking out of there spinning around, so they turned it down. It was general admission, so you’d just plant yourself somewhere, and without even knowing it your body would be pushed around the arena, several times. You’d end up in the back, in the front, in the back again. And [tickets] were $3.50, you know?
“When I started getting into music, I would be at the house, point at the Sports Arena, and say, ‘I’m gonna play there one day.’ And, lo and behold, our first time playing there was opening up for Ozzy, and the second time we headlined, Lita Ford opening. New Year’s Eve.
“[At the Sports Arena] you’re out in front of all these people, where you’re used to being in front of 1000, or 800. And here we were in front of 15,000. And it never stopped after that.”
How did San Diego change for you, over the years?
“It was [more] crowded, number one. Everything seemed smaller, since we were traveling the world. And I just wanted peace of mind. I’d have people following me, so I’d have to do the James Bond thing. Fly into the garage and shut the door. It just got crowded, you know? The whole sense, smell, taste. It was opening up, becoming a bigger and bigger city. The canyons were being closed down and they were building Sports Chalets and workout places, cutting the trees down. We used to have keg parties in the canyons...there was none of that. Houses were just ping-ponging all over. And if you go there now, it’s even more complicated and crowded. I look out of my parents’ window now and it’s just, ‘What happened to this place?’
“But it’s a beautiful town, a beautiful city. I visit Robbin’s [Crosby] parents in La Jolla. And I go to my parents’ place, stop by there. They’ve recently both passed. My stepdad finally went down. It’s the end of an era. When I first started playing music, we used to rehearse in every room in that house. The living room, the bedroom, the den, and we’d have these parties in the back. Anything, just to play. It’s like closing another chapter.”