Well, people, I am going to compromise whatever musical integrity I ever had with the next two blog entries. I have been accused of not giving enough love to Eighties metal. Well, I have a real good reason for it. Basically, it sucked as bad as most country music produced since the Outlaw days of Willie, Waylon and the rest. Sure, Eighties metal gave us fantastic artists such as Metallic, Guns N’ Roses, Anthrax, Slayer and, to a certain extent, Megadeth, but the stuff that was all over MTV and radio from the mid-Eighties until Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, et al, rescued us at the dawn of the Nineties, primarily just made my skin crawled. This is the stuff that I call Hair Metal, while rock historians have given it a much kinder name, Glam Metal. I have even seen it referred to as Pop Metal. Regardless, it is not one of my favorite genres, and generally represents a time in music that I wish to forget. Yet, I have some very good friends who remain fans of this music to this day. And, I kind of get it, because it does represent a time when many of my age group were still sowing their wild oats.
Now, Hair Metal can be generally traced back to a couple of Seventies bands, one huge and one generally forgotten. KISS was the huge one, of course. They popularized this type of metal that was consumable to all of us who were middle school students when Alive! broke the band. For about three years, KISS was the center of my musical universe like most people my age. But, then I began to branch out to Rush, Queen, among others, until I heard the Ramones and Sex Pistols. When I caught wind of punk, I was generally done with KISS.
The other band who influenced Hair Metal was a relatively overlooked band called the New York Dolls. The Dolls were the first band to basically cop the whole genre-busting wardrobe as they actually dressed up like women for their performances. Now, their music had little to do with Hair Metal’s sound, as they were a proto-punk band. But, the whole makeup and teased hair on the musicians was totally out of The Dolls’ playbook.
Now, to me, a third band played a huge role in the development of Hair Metal’s sound and that was Cheap Trick. No band in the Seventies had really tapped into a sound that blurred the boundaries between metal and pop like Cheap Trick did. Why do you think so many Hair Metal artists held Cheap Trick in such high regard? They were stealing the Rockford, Illinois band’s sound. As a matter of fact, go listen to Poison’s first hit “Talk Dirty to Me.” When I first heard that song, I literally told my wife that the song sounded like a bad Cheap Trick tribute band. Then, I saw the video, and my suspicions were confirmed. Poison WAS a bad Cheap Trick tribute band, but that damn song was pure gold. I actually hated myself for liking it. But, then I remembered how much I loved the bubblegum music of my youth, so I felt justified in my fandom of the song.
So, what made me have such a negative visceral adverse reaction to Hair Metal? To me it typified everything I hated about the Eighties and how it capitulated to economic lies and always wanted to cater to society’s basic need to be true only to oneself, as if we were giving in the Ayn Rand view of the individual being glorified over everything else. Yet, I was going to work in a hospital where I was seeing young people dying from AIDS and drugs, drawing blood from babies addicted to crack and generally observing society turning their collective backs on each other for their own hedonism. So, I dove into College Rock and the message in that music in order to find some comfort and to help me make sense of what I was witnessing. To me, Hair Metal represents the ultimate outcome of the Seventies’ Me Decade and a last-gasp effort by the Baby Boom generation to hang onto their long-gone youth. That’s why I could never ever embrace Hair Metal. And that also means I have never sat through the whole Rock of Ages debacle. There’s nothing romantic about that era to me.
However, I do like some of the music that came from the era. Additionally, I do feel that Mötley Crüe should be the last of the Hair Metal bands to get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Basically, those guys perfected the genre and need to be recognized for taking what KISS, Van Halen and Aerosmith had given them and made something slightly interesting out of it.
So, for the next couple of days, I will give you my Top 50 Hair Metal Songs. Today, I am counting down numbers 50 to 21. Enjoy!
50. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” – Nelson
49. “I Remember” – Skid Row
48. “Patience” – Guns N’ Roses
47. “High Enough” – Damn Yankees
46. “I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister
45. “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” – Cinderella
44. “Metal Health” – Quiet Riot
43. “Something to Believe In” – Poison
42. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison
41. “18 and Life” – Skid Row
40. “The Final Countdown” – Europe
39. “Dr. Feelgood” – Mötley Crüe
38. “Sentimental Street” – Night Ranger
37. “Edge of a Broken Heart” – Vixen
36. “Fly High Michelle” – Enuff Z’Nuff
35. “Nobody’s Fool” – Cinderella
34. “Unskinny Bop” – Poison
33. “Home Sweet Home” – Mötley Crüe
32. “Rock You like a Hurricane” – Scorpions
31. “I’ll Wait” – Van Halen
30. “Paradise City” – Guns N’ Roses
29. “Bringing on the Heartache” – Def Leppard
28. Kickstart My Heart” – Mötley Crüe
27. “Why Can’t This Be Love” – Van Halen
26. “Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne
25. “Turn Up the Radio” – Autograph
24. “You Give Love a Bad Name” – Bon Jovi
23. “Love Bites” – Def Leppard
22. “Round and Round” – RATT
21. “Nothin’ but a Good Time” – Poison