The band in the mid-1980s were a prominent target of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) led by Tipper Gore, wife of then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.), an organization that pushed for labels on recorded music. The band immortalized its fight with the PMRC on the song, "Harder, Faster," on their 1987 live album, Live...In the Raw.
In October 2007, W.A.S.P. embarked on The Crimson Idol Tour, to celebrate that album's 15th anniversary. It is the first time that the album, often regarded to be among the band's finest work, will be played in full from start to finish. The tour kicked off in Greece, in Thessaloniki at the Principal Club Theater on October 26 2007. It has also been announced that this tour will be W.A.S.P.'s last tour for a while to come.
There has been much speculation over the name of the band, and if indeed it stands for anything, since it is written as an acronym. In an interview in the 1980s the band claimed it stands for "We Are Sexual Perverts." It is not known whether this was a serious statement. It is believed by many they said it for shock value. "We Are Sexual Perverts" is inscribed on their first album into the runoff vinyl.
Alternatively some people believe the initials of W.A.S.P. stand for "We Are So Perfect" or even "We Are So Powerful". Another possible abbreviation is "White Anglo-Saxon Protestants", being the original meaning of the acronym. Although this is unlikely considering the fact that Blackie Lawless' mother is part Native American, it could be ironic, seeing as songs like 'Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)' hardly fits into the usual picture of White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. It has also been rumored that their name is an acronym for "We Are Satan's People" or even "We Are Satan's Preachers". When asked about the band's name, Lawless has avoided giving a straight answer; in one interview he answered "We ain't sure, pal".
Blackie Lawless has told another story on how W.A.S.P. got their name. He said he and a friend were walking in the backyard and while clueless as to what to call the band, saw a wasp nest on the ground under a tree and decided to go with that and call the band WASP. The band later decided to add a period (full stop) between each letter to make it stand out more when people saw it
The first lineup didn't last for long, as Rik Fox left the band to join the band Steeler with (then unknown) vocalist Ron Keel and guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. He was replaced by Don Costa. Shortly afterwards, Don Costa also left the band and his position on the bass was filled by Lawless. At the same time, guitarist Chris Holmes joined the band.
W.A.S.P. signed to Capitol Records for their debut album, W.A.S.P., released on August 17, 1984. The debut was at one time planned for release under the name "Winged Assassins". The idea was obviously forgotten though. The band's first single Animal (Fuck Like a Beast) was omitted from the album by the record company in the United States to prevent the album from being banned from major chain stores.
"L.O.V.E. Machine" and "I Wanna Be Somebody" helped the album sell well, and set the band up for "Blind in Texas", a song written in St. Paul, Minnesota, by Blackie Lawless. The song was released on the next album The Last Command on November 9, 1985. The Last Command is still W.A.S.P.'s highest charting album, peaking at #47 on the Billboard album chart. "Blind In Texas" is still perhaps their best known song, more than 20 years later. The Last Command Album was also the first album with new drummer Steve Riley. The former Keel drummer replaced Tony Richards at the beginning of the 1984-85 tour.
After The Last Command tour, guitarist Randy Piper quit the band. He auditioned for a spot in Alice Cooper's band and was accepted, but, according to Piper himself, left in a few weeks because Kane Roberts was going to be the lead guitarist, and Piper was not content with staying in the background once again. Former King Kobra bassist Johnny Rod joined the band as Blackie went back to rhythm guitar.
With the changes made, they recorded their 3rd album called Inside the Electric Circus. It was released on November 8, 1986. The album was a big hit with W.A.S.P. fans. Critics on the other hand dismissed it as "7th grader rock". Songs like "Shoot from the Hip" and the minor hit single "9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y." might have helped the band earn the reputation to match one of the possible meanings of the infamous band name, i.e. "We Are Sexual Perverts" – an idea that had been around since 1984. However, Blackie Lawless himself, known to be a harsh critic of his own work, cited Inside the Electric Circus in its re-release liner notes 'A tired record by a tired band'. Ultimately it was a critical review of the single "9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y." that convinced Lawless of the necessity to take some time off and reconsider the band's creative direction.
W.A.S.P. became a very prominent target of the Parents Music Resource Center, an organization led by Tipper Gore and dedicated to opposing music with lyrics deemed violent or sexual. This lowered the band's reputation to such a degree that concert halls were getting bomb threats, band members were getting written death threats by the hundreds, and singer Blackie Lawless was shot at twice (though not hit). Interestingly, the publicity this controversy generated ultimately improved album sales. Lawless sued and won a case against PMRC for copyright infringements.
In 1987 W.A.S.P. had their song "Scream Until You Like It" included on the soundtrack of the movie Ghoulies 2. The same year a few dates during the Inside The Electric Circus tour were recorded and on November 27, 1987, the Long Beach arena concert was released as the Live...In the Raw album. Unfortunately, by this time, Steve Riley had left W.A.S.P. to join L.A. Guns, a band that had just recorded their debut album, L.A. Guns, with drummer Nikki Alexander, who quit just after the recording of the LP.
W.A.S.P.'s fifth album, The Headless Children, was released on April 15, 1989 and was their first album without any overtly sexually explicit songs included. It was also the first one that sold rather poorly only reaching No. 48 on the Billboard 200 before quickly falling off the charts. However, it would be W.A.S.P.'s most critically acclaimed work up to that point and, according to a recent Lawless interview, it is now actually the highest selling W.A.S.P. album to date. The drumming duties for the album were handled by Lawless friend and current Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali. It featured two of the band's most highly acclaimed songs, the power ballad "Forever Free" and a cover of The Who's "The Real Me".
Chris Holmes left in August 1989, stating that he wanted to 'have fun, you know,' to which Lawless responded with a caustic remark about the fact that 'some guys want to stay at home and wear aprons,' hinting at the nature of Chris Holmes' relationship with his new wife Lita Ford. The band effectively disbanded a few months later with Blackie Lawless embarking on a short lived solo career. Lawless was originally slated to play T-1000 in the Terminator 2: Judgment Day movie, but was later replaced by Robert Patrick after Arnold Schwarzenegger deemed Lawless 'too tall'. Blackie commenced work on a solo project, but under pressure from both promoters and fans he released it as a W.A.S.P. album. Ironically, many critics feel that the resulting concept album, The Crimson Idol, has been the best W.A.S.P. output so far.
The follow up to The Crimson Idol was Still Not Black Enough, a collection of dark introspective tunes that extended the Crimson Idol mythology. This time, rather than 'hiding behind' alter ego Jonathan Steele, Lawless spoke directly to the audience about his own feelings (as stated in the liner notes). While the album lacked the cohesiveness of its predecessor, the lyrics still explored similar topics to Crimson Idol: being an outcast and misfit, the pressures of fame and society and the search for love. Still Not Black Enough included cover songs as 'bonus tracks'. The initial European edition included a different track listing from the American and a subsequent American re-issue featured yet a different track listing. No version to date includes all the various tracks on one disc.
Chris Holmes returned to W.A.S.P. in 1996 and together they released Kill.Fuck.Die (1997) and Helldorado (1999). They also recorded two live albums from these two tours, Double Live Assassins and The Sting, respectively. The Sting CD and DVD were taken directly from an experimental webcast that Blackie, apparently, had no control over. This release angered Blackie, especially since Lawless was unhappy with the final output; mainly its poor sound and picture quality.
The band continued with Unholy Terror in 2001 . Chris Holmes left the band once again in 2002, stating that he wanted to 'play the blues'. He hooked up with fellow ex-W.A.S.P. member Randy Piper's band Animal, but soon dropped out of that project also. It's interesting to note that Holmes has claimed he never played on Unholy Terror.
Dying for the World, released in 2002, was written and recorded in less than a year which is very fast by Lawless' perfectionist standards. Its liner notes feature one of Lawless' strongest statements about political correctness, inspired by the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
In April 2004, W.A.S.P. released the first part of The Neon God, subtitled The Rise, a conceptual album about an abused and orphaned boy who finds that he has the ability to read and manipulate people. The second part, The Demise, was released in September 2004.
In 2005, W.A.S.P. headlined American Metal Blast. A video shoot of a promo for the 'Never Say Die' track was planned with Ward Boult, a fetish photographer, as director. To this day there has been no news as to whether the shootings resulted in anything concrete. It would have been the first W.A.S.P. promo video in ten years, since 1995's "Black Forever".
Early 2006 saw the seemingly stable lineup fall apart. Long-time session and tour drummer Stet Howland left first, on amicable terms, promising more specific information about the reasons for the split to be posted on his website. Larry Howe of Vicious Rumors was considered as a replacement, yet in May the departure of Darrell Roberts hit the band, and as the new guitar player Mark Zavon was announced several days before the first tour date, the same press release confirmed Mike Dupke, and not Howe, as the new drummer. Still, two days later Zavon was out of the picture as well, seeing Doug Blair step in once again.
A new album, Dominator was planned for release October 2006, according to a statement made by Blackie Lawless at a tour stop in Kavarna. He then went on to play a new song from the album, entitled Mercy. A few weeks later the release of the album was postponed until April 2007, with the band recording two news songs and dropping two cover tracks, to be used as selective bonus tracks.
The release of the Dominator album was finalized for April 16th in the UK, April 20th in Scandinavia with the rest of mainland Europe following on April 27th. The release dates for South America and Russia followed in early May.
Dominator reached #72 on the charts in Germany.
W.A.S.P. recently cancelled their North American tour due to their record label losing distribution. They were going to finish up their shows in Europe and then reschedule their shows in the United States. They were unable to finish the shows in Europe because of a "family illness that needed immediate attention" which forced the band to return to Los Angeles right away. They were originally going to perform at Rocklahoma. As the tour was cancelled, W.A.S.P. was not able to perform at Rocklahoma and was replaced by Queensryche.
W.A.S.P. have recently announced a new tour of Europe which will include dates in Scotland, England and various places throughout Europe beginning in late October 2007. More information can be found on their official site.