GUN’s ‘Taking on the World’ a Forgotten Hard Rock Gem

Like anyone, I have my own sense of style and appreciation. Not everyone likes the same music, and there’s no crime in that. Sure, I like many of the bands and solo artists that other people enjoy, but I also have some favorites that you might not recall, much less have in your collection.

I have been connected to the music industry much of my life. I’ve worked as an artist and songwriter, I’ve twisted the dials as a producer for other acts, and I’ve handled marketing, promotions, and public relations for record labels and international touring artists.

I’ve worked with such artists as pop sensation Janet Jackson, sludge metal pioneers Crowbar, heavy metal greats Extreme, blues pianist Ken Saydak, rock icon Sting, chart topper Bryan Adams, soap star/pop star Michael Damian, blues guitarist Robert Cray, and Rock n´ Roll Hall of Fame drummer Steven Adler. From death metal to Broadway to bubblegum pop – I’ve been exposed to a lot.

Over the course of my life, I have stumbled upon albums that never clicked with the mainstream but have lasted the test of time as person favorites. Recently it struck me that perhaps, some of these albums are worth reintroducing to the world for a second chance.

GUN is a Scottish rock band that I got turned onto while I was handling promotions and marketing for A&M Records. They reminded me a bit of Irish rock band U2 but with a harder edge. In fact, I personally liked them more than U2.

Back then, I was working to help turn Sting, Janet Jackson, and Bryan Adams into household names. And while we struck gold with those big-name acts, I always had a soft spot in my heart for GUN.

GUN’s debut album is their best album. Taking on the World was released in 1989. The album did well in the UK, including two UK Top 40 Singles (Better Days and Shame on You).

Although the band has seen some lineup changes since 1989, that original mix of musicians included Mark Rankin on vocals, Giuliano Gizzi and Baby Stafford on guitar, Dante Gizzi on bass, and Scott Shields on Drums. Additional musicians on Taking on the World include Sharleen Spiteri, Scott Fraser, Alan Thornton, David Aitken, and Jim McDermott.

Rankin’s raspy vocals are passionate, yet with a mellow flow – hence the U2 comparison. Like U2’s Bono, Rankin displays a capability of adding many different nuances to his vocal delivery.

On the success of Taking on the World, GUN toured with such bands as the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard. In terms of the overall sound of the band, I would also toss in some musical similarities to The Quireboys, Harem Scarem, The Commitments, and The Cult. Fans of The Black Crowes and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band will also probably dig this particular album.

Interestingly, the band’s most successful track was a cover of Word Up! off of their 1994 album Swagger. That cut made it to the Top 10 on the UK Singles Chart. The band’s other albums include Gallus, 0141 632 6326, Break the Silence, Frantic, Favourite Pleasures, and The Calton Songs.

However, it is the original lineup’s album Taking on the World that stands out above all the rest. The music is indicative of the era in which the album was released. Like U2, GUN’s lyrics also toyed with elements of fighting authority and the guitars were a spirited mix of diverse influences. In terms of theme, there are flourishes of angst, depression, and despair that touch the soul.

Better Days is the opening track on the album, and it perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the songs on the record. The guitar work of Guiiano Gizzi and Baby Stafford is funky and alive with energy. Other stand out tracks include the title track Taking on the World, Money (Everybody Loves Her), Shame on You, Can’t Get Any Lower, Girls in Love, and I Will Be Waiting. The album was produced by Kenny MacDonald.

This classic album is no longer in print, but you can still find used copies on Amazon and with other used cd retailers. Amazon also offers the album for purchase in MP3 format, and subscribers can stream the album’s songs with the free Amazon app.

If you dig crunchy guitars and haunting vocals, and you’re looking for a musical treat, give GUN’s Taking on the World a listen. You won’t be disappointed. Or if you are, you can blame me.

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta

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One comment

  1. Thanks for bringing GUN to our attention! The classic guitar work and haunting vocals sound rewarding and worth checking out! I’m a big RUNRIG fan…

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