Tesla’s career gets a jolt

By John Benson


Exactly 30 years have passed since Tesla released its debut, “Mechanical Resonance.”

The timing of the album and its lead single, “Modern Day Cowboy,” wasn’t the best considering months later Bon Jovi rode a steel horse to the top of the pop charts with “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Still, the hard-rocking Tesla did catch a break when it was handpicked to open for Def Leppard on its massive 1987 and 1988 “Hysteria” tour. The notion of supporting the “Pour Some Sugar on Me” band was beyond comprehension.

“Back when we were in the club days, one of our favorite bands was Def Leppard,” said Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon, calling from his Northern California home. “We used to cover ‘High ‘n’ Dry [Saturday Night]’ and ‘Let it Go.’ It was like a dream come true for us to finally meet them.

“We were on tour for our first album in Europe. Our manager sent us to Amsterdam and we were jamming in this club called The Paradiso. In walked Steve Clark, Rick Allen and Phil Collen. We were blown away that our heroes were there.”

Those heroes were there to pick Tesla as opener, which decades later is still the case. The two ’80s acts hit the road last year. Hannon said reconnecting with Def Leppard led its guitarist Collen to take an interest in Tesla.

Not only did he suggest the “Little Suzi” band should revisit its debut effort, leading up to the concert recording and recent release of “Mechanical Resonance, Live!,” but he also wrote the album’s new track “Save That Goodness.”

Fans can expect to hear new and old tunes when the outfit returns to Northeast Ohio for a Feb. 16 show at Warren’s Packard Music Hall.

Hannon said the entire experience of revisiting the band’s first album was like a shot in the arm.

“Going back and listening to what we were doing then was really just an eye-opener and a reminder of our youth and the energy of the decade,” Hannon said. “As a guitar player, back then you just really had to try to prove yourself.

“The song ‘We’re No Good Together’ is one I forgot about that I really loved. It’s so bluesy and soulful. It shows the maturity of our band even though we were young. I was only 18 when I wrote ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ and those songs. To hear a song like ‘We’re No Good Together’ or ‘Changes,’ that had such a maturity for our age.”

Hoping to capitalize on the momentum, Hannon said Tesla is recording a new album with Collen as producer. Still, band member hopes are tempered about a record going platinum like their previous albums “The Great Radio Controversy,” “Five Man Acoustical Jam” and “Psychotic Supper.”

Looking back, Hannon said he always viewed Tesla as the underdog. That hasn’t changed.

I’m grateful for that in a way because we’re a hardworking band,” Hannon said. “We’ve never been in the league of Bon Jovi or that kind of thing, but at the same time, our fans are super loyal. So I’m very thankful to have the career that I have. The word career means longevity.

“I don’t mind that we were not like some super-megastars that just crashed and burned. We just cruised along.”

For “Modern Day Cowboy” Hannon, cruising nowadays does involve a horse.

“Last December, I took second place in a cutting horse competition in Dallas,” Hannon laughed. “Afterwards, Bill Riddle, an honorary Hall of Fame cowboy, came up to me. He gave me a big hug and called me a cowboy, so I can actually call myself a cowboy for real.”

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