Friday, August 12, 2005

Hair Today, Not Gone Tomorrow: The Revival of 80s Hair Metal

Why can’t we let go of 80s metal?

Slash and Duff from Guns N’ Roses are carrying Scott Weiland on their backs—and keeping him out of rehab—via Velvet Revolver, and selling millions of records. Rob Halford has rejoined Judas Priest, which is drawing bigger crowds than they have had in almost 20 years. Mötley Crüe collectively penned a best-selling book—and is selling out arenas as big as those in their heyday.

Correct me if I am wrong, but most of us who listened to this stuff fifteen years ago felt guilty about it, right? This was not “quality” music; we did not stay up late thinking about the time signatures and complex arrangements of Bon Jovi’s releases.

Misunderstand me not—yes, I am channeling Yoda tonight—but I do truly love the metal. Especially the hair metal.

There is the relatively good: Def Leppard, Dokken, Queensrÿche, Ratt, Tesla. Then there is the bad: Poison, Slaughter, Winger. And yes, the downright ugly: Europe, Faster Pussycat, Twisted Sister.

See, you can, how the “good” is truly relative.

But even as I love it—as I rock and I roll and I revel in it—I realize that it is not actually GOOD music.

Hence my surprise at the ongoing appeal, and the recent revival, of 80s metal. I thought it was a fad, a passing thing. I thought my CD rack would become something friends came over to marvel at, as if these discs were relics from a forgotten age … like a curio cabinet with Chinese fans or Native American arrowheads.

An auditory museum, this is. Angel Witch. Autograph. Blue Murder. Cinderella. Danger Danger. Firehouse. Frehley’s Comet. Hanoi Rocks. Keel. Krokus. L.A. Guns. Raven. Tora Tora. Trixter.

No, I am not making these up. We are talking multiple Quiet Riot albums here.

What I thought would become a novelty is now wicked cool. I have friends asking ME if I want to catch Priest’s show. If the Bret Michaels show has tickets. If I am free to go see the Crüe.

How much has 80s metal permeated our culture when Ozzy Osbourne helps kick off a national cultural trend, the reality show? When Tommy Lee follows him by enrolling at the University of Nebraska, with cameras rolling? When David Lee Roth is the leading candidate to take over Howard Stern’s radio show?

Kidding I am NOT, my Padawan learner.

My memory must be failing. I do not remember, when growing up in the 80s, experiencing a 60s revival. And the 90s did not bring back the 70s; grunge music made us feel like killing ourselves, but we could not work up the energy and wound up crashing on the couch—the decade did not spur us to dress in bad plaid and grow afros. Somehow now, in the new millennium, we are building new altars to the demigods that we barely admitting listening to twenty years ago.

Although it is nice to say, “I told you so,” and show off my Whitesnake cassettes, it feels kind of funny. Something about stunted growth … reliving the past … wanting to get with ex-girlfriends one more time. It is a slippery slope, better left to the dustbin of history.

Yet something inside me yearns. The boy inside the man beckons. I cannot help sliding a Whitesnake album in the CD changer. Appetite for Destruction ends up blaring in the car. I pop in the Poison, I crank the Crüe.

Feels good, it does. And is that not what the 80s were all about?


At August 12, 2005 10:22 AM, Blogger The Pagan Temple replied to my musings ...

Whoa, David, I gotta respectfully disagree with you on one tiny little thing. In my view, a whole lot of heavy metal is on a par with clasical music, and in fact might well go down as the classical music of our age. Okay, maybe not Def Lepard, or Motley Crue. But Ozzy, Manson, Metallica? If anybody takes the time to really, really listen to them, they would see what I mean.

And even if I'm just a little off base, you would have to admit that "Mr. Crowley-what went down in your head?" comes a heckuva lot closer than "Hey, hey, we're the Monkees."

At August 12, 2005 11:45 AM, Blogger Rebecca replied to my musings ...

I won't lie - i can get into some Def Leppard, some Bon Jovi, et al. (from the 80's, of course). I am only 25 and yet i revel in the ridiculousness of these songs. There's something inanely pleasurable in listening to lyrics as silly as "pour some sugar on me, oooh, in the name of love. im hot, sticky, sweet from my head to my feet, yeah" and "we got to hold on to what we've got. it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not. we've got each other, and that's a lot...for love. We'll give it a shot."

In a way, all that big hair and loud guitar riffing covers up simple rhymes and shallow lyrics. And, THAT'S why we love them! They don't elicit any real emotion from us, they don't require us to dive into our souls and face our deamons. No, they are just scratch the metal surface and make us sing along, loud and proud. Then, we can shut them off and go on with our lives, not realizing or revealing anything more about ourselves. And, sometimes, that's just the escape that we need.

My friend, i am glad you share my love for Jim Cantore and the rest of the weather channel. You should also visit the blogs of my 2 sisters:

(i think those are the links. if they aren't, find them on my blog)...have a super day...i enjoy your blog!

At August 12, 2005 9:49 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Patrick: I am the first to defend metal, even hair metal, from charges that it is not real music, or fun music, or less worthy of true appreciation than many detractors claim. That said, I cannot say with a straight virtual face that the best of even Ozzy--who I respect immensely as a musician, vocalist, and entertainer--matches the complexity and musical genius of Rush, for example, or classcial Genesis.

I will agree with you that Metallica, among "mainstream" metal bands, probably is rare in crossing over into truly great music. (At least until the Black Album, IMHO.)

Thanks for respectfully disagreeing, something all too few people in the world today take the effort to practice. -- d.a.

At August 12, 2005 10:07 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Rebecca: Thanks for the flattering comment. As for your sugar-pouring fetissh, you are so right .. and yet you missed the ultimate ridiculous line from your favorite Def Leppard guilty pleasure: "Living like a lover with a radar phone." It's been almost 20 years and I truly STILL have no clue what the boys were trying to say with that.

The simplicity of true hair metal was its glory--a few chords, some songs with shallow sexual innuendo, a few high notes on the axe, and a "look." That's about it! There are times for music that makes you think ... or challenges you to follow along. But more and more often, there are times for music to just relax and enjoy mindlessly.

I could not get menonanamuffin to open up, but I will try to get there from your blog.

Until next time ... -- d.a.

At August 13, 2005 8:20 AM, Blogger Digger Jones replied to my musings ...

While I did like some metal in the 1980's, I was one of those who had a hard time with most of the hair bands.

Actually, the 60's and 70'd music did make brief comebacks in subsequent years. I remember The Doors being quite popular in the '80's and there was a real fascination with Woodstock. So much so, that they tried to bring it back.

As for the 70's there was less of a return to disco, altho ABBA is really a happening outfit nowadays. And you simply can not have any meaningful discussion about rock and roll without mentioning Led Zeppelin.

In the 1980's there were lots of choices from new wave to metal to the pop of Air Supply.

I was always partial to AC/DC and everyone else were wannabes.


At August 14, 2005 3:51 PM, Blogger Tom replied to my musings ...

I'm sort of a child of the grunge era, but I was probably 16 the last time I listened to a Nirvana record, and I've been thinking for awhile that the hair metal that grunge supposedly "saved" us from is much better than its replacement. At the very least, there are a lot more pop hooks. Anyway, I was at the recent Live 8 show in Philly (only because I happen to live within walking distance of where it was held), and you know who I ended up liking the most (after Stevie Wonder, who was the sole reason I went)? Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. My taste in 80's music skews more toward XTC and all the new wave stuff, but there's no denying that there's fun to be had in the hair metal.

At August 14, 2005 6:29 PM, Blogger .: raven :. replied to my musings ...

i love the 80s hair metal bands: Def Leppard, Dokken, Queensrÿche, Ratt, Tesla. WhiteSnake. (i have all of this on vinyl....)

i actually have cassette tapes of: Blue Murder, Firehouse, Tora Tora, XYZ, MSG,

but you're very wrong about Winger. Kip Winger is an amazing musician and i have all of his post-80s hair band CDs .. he's classically trained and he's an incredible writer as well.


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