Chapter 4 (1982-1983): Coup D'Etat, The School Bus, and Punk-Metal Fusion as 'High Priestess of Metal' is Born

By the spring of 1982 a worldwide deal was inked with Capitol Records and Dan Hartman offered to produce a demo of the album for Capitol with Rod at Electric Lady Studios, Jimmy Hendrix's old studio, in NY.  The whole album was arranged, recorded and mixed within a week.  In the meantime, Dieter Dierks who had just come off a number one album with the Scorpions also expressed interest in producing. Capitol felt the buzz around Dierks would be better and the chores went to him.  The Hartman demo was re-discovered and released 20 years later under the name "Coup De Grace" with the Capitol record released as "Coup D’Etat".  The rawness in Coup de Grace which took less than a tenth of the time and probably a 20th of the budget has been lauded by many, although Coup D'Etat was certainly a landmark album on its own.  Coup was a breakthrough album that "forced," in Chris Knowle's words, two groups together, namely punks and metalheads, who otherwise despised each other.  The political and Orwellian themes, which would become popular in avant metal later, although typically in a watered down form, were not being heard at that time.  In addition, there simply were no women singing hard and heavy the way Wendy did. In fact, she pushed her vocals so hard she had to make trips into Cologne (the album was recorded in Germany) each day for treatments to avoid permanent damage to her vocal chords.

The reviews made the point. The LA Times, at a time when AC/DC ruled hard rock, called Coup D'Etat the "best slice of...heavy metal since the last AC/DC album..." adding that "Williams makes Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar," the major female rock singers at the time,"sound like (the folk singer) Judy Collins". The newspaper's question about whether a 'male-dominated' heavy metal audience would "accept a female screecher" underscored how ground breaking what Wendy was doing was. This was previously entirely male territory. As a far as the sheer power of the vocals the Aberdeen Press from Janis Joplin's home state said that Wendy was "doing vocally what nobody since Janis Joplin" has done while the review in Creem Magazine called it a "breakthrough" record, "an agressive female," the review went on "kicking down traditional barriers".  Wendy's " (now) coming out of her voice." The Cream review, by Cyril Blight, attacked the sexism of those who "can't handle" or ‘“even resent the very idea of a woman like Wendy Williams singing rock and roll with ferocity-which is to say the same qualities they would applaud if they were coming from a man, providing there was a man around today with the balls to do that." Capitol had agreed to put up a very modest sum of money for Rod to produced and direct a video but the video Wendy and Rod had in mind would not be modest either in it's symbolism, logistics, or danger.  The video of "The Damned" would feature Wendy driving a school bus through a wall of TVs climbing onto the roof of the moving bus which had been loaded with explosives and then signing from the roof and jumping off the a few moments before the bus goes through a second wall of TVs and then blows sky high.

There was only one day allocated to do the run-throughs and then shoot the vid and this made it all the more challenging and dangerous.  And of course only one time the school bus could be blown up. During a run through of the jump off the bus Wendy sprained her ankle and it looked like the shoot might have to actually be cancelled, but the only time Wendy ever cancelled anything she was in jail or unconscious and canceling was not a choice from her point of view. "Put tape around it," she instructed one of the crew members, and with her ankle firmly taped with gaffer tape the shoot went on.  The A&R guy from the record company loved the video and so did the only-a-few-years-old MTV which ran a feature on it in their Rockbill Magazine where they were talking about how popular the video would become from being in heavy rotation on MTV.  Before the premiere, however, MTV's legal department was getting cold feet, and so was the record company.  They insisted Rod put a warning at the beginning of the video warning the audience not to try anything like this at home.  The warning was added, and the premiere, hardly now promoted at all went on, but the video was put instead in extremely light rotation and then pulled within weeks.  In the meantime, as the tour itself started it was clear that Capitol was running in the other direction. A fluff group like Duran Duran could generate ten times the sales with none of the political liability and fallout. What was clear at that time was that by the time the album was released the record company had effectively made up their mind to drop the group.