Retro-rockers the Four Horsemen were one of many late-'80s groups that decided to look backward, not forward, for inspiration. Peddling no-frills hard rock in the image of Lynyrd Skynyrd and AC/DC, their bad-boy boogie anthems temporarily endeared them to media and fans alike, but internal and external forces soon conspired to derail the band's trajectory. Englishman Haggis (born Stephen Harris) first tasted fame in the mid-'80s when he was going by the handle of Kid Chaos, the bassist for flash-in-the-pan glam rockers Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. A brief stint as rhythm guitarist in the Cult followed, after which he moved to L.A. in 1988 and teamed up with singer Frank Starr, lead guitarist Dave Lizmi, bassist Ben Pape, and drummer Ken "Dimwit" Montgomery (ex of Canadian hardcore pioneers D.O.A.) to form the Four Horsemen.
The quintet may not have been able to count, but they sure knew how to rock, and their eponymous debut EP displayed a raunchy, no-nonsense, but irresistible AC/DC-like approach, spiced with twangs of Southern rock. Frequent touring followed and did much to streamline the group's live chops, and the Four Horsemen soon set to work on their full-length debut, Nobody Said It Was Easy, with producer Rick Rubin. Released by Rubin's Def American label, the record garnered mostly positive reviews and landed them opening slots on tours with Lynyrd Skynyrd and labelmates the Black Crowes, but didn't shift all that many units. In fact, other than enjoying rare MTV exposure for their "Tired Wings" video, the Four Horsemen's only major source of exposure seemed to emanate from the enthusiastic but unreliable British press, whose minions dedicated as many lines to exaggerating vocalist Frank Starr's bad-boy reputation as they did to lauding the band's music. Later dismissed by bandmembers as so much rock star myth-making, these unfounded stories about Starr cited numerous run-ins with the law, including drug arrests, parole violations, and even hard time as a guest of the California penal system, as key deterrents to the band's career. The truth was actually far less exciting: the Four Horsemen were simply not selling enough records.
Unceremoniously dropped by Def American a short time later, the Four Horsemen finally met with some all-too-true rock & roll tragedy when drummer Dimwit suffered a lethal heroin overdose on September 27, 1994. This proved too much to bear for a dismayed Haggis, who quit the band and was soon followed by bassist Pape; but the Four Horsemen would ride again, and now, ironically enough, they would actually be a foursome. A new album entitled Gettin' Pretty Good at Barely Gettin' By was completed in 1996 by Starr, Lizmi, new bass player Pharoah (sic), and Dimwit's baby brother, ex-Black Flag and Danzig drummer Chuck Biscuits (though one Randy Cooke was credited on the sleeve for contractual reasons). Sadly, cruel fate would intervene yet again, when Starr was hit by a drunk driver before the album's release and lapsed into a coma from which he would never recover, eventually expiring on June 18, 1999. Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen had briefly brought in former Little Caesar vocalist Ron Young to tour behind the record while hoping for Starr's recovery, but the band eventually broke up even before his untimely passing. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia