Heavy Metal – The Dondero Way

By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)

If you’ve never heard of Royal Oak Dondero High School from Royal Oak, Michigan then know that they’ve produced two greats: Glenn Frey of the Eagles and an enthused cover of Sweet’s song “Fox on the Run.”

When it comes to this tune, I love both versions. While Sweet’s version is considered mainstream, Dondero’s cover is considered outsider music. That means it’s either an oddity that exists or no one wants to admit that Dondero’s cover stands on its own merits.

Every year Dondero’s A capella group would put on the annual Pop Concert for friends and family. Aided by pyrotechnics, coloured lights and a smoke machine or two, it was up to the budding artists on stage to wow the crowd using a selection of songs both old and new.

In this concert from 1982, Dondero’s students perform their own version of the title track from the Gerald Potterton directed film, Heavy Metal. At the time of this concert the film was still playing.

I love Dondero’s version of the Sammy Hagar song and one of the reasons is the number of guitars used. It gave this song a harder, grittier, feel. I’m sure you could bang your head to Hagar’s original tune, but this version has so much power behind it that it would be like banging your head against a wall. To some this would be considered bliss.

On guitars (from left to right) are Paul Prange, Jim Zagone, Jon Houghton, Andy Rosenzweig and Jon Synnestvedt.

I only wish I could’ve seen just one performance by Dondero’s talented students. If Dondero High School still existed, then a trip to see their annual concert is needed. Sadly this institution is now Royal Oak Middle School. For the A capella alumni, there is no revisiting the past but with the body of work they created people can praise them for it.