How did I earn the right to listen to 80’s hair metal bands?
Glad you asked. I spent years watching MTV and listening to rock radio stations, making and trading tapes with friends and family.
Unlike Pants, I weaned myself on the lyrical majesty of Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child (a name you (probably) don’t know, but should). I warmed my hands on the sparkling hot fire that was Van Halen. And, I mourned the loss of Steve Clark like a blood Uncle.
Unlike Pants, I didn’t have some half-rate Randy Stoklos tongue-lashing me about the horrors of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll (or cocoa puffs) like a self-righteous boarding school paladin.
Actually, it’s a good thing Coach Osbourne wasn’t all-pro Beach Volleyball hero Randy Stoklos, he would have had a hard time accepting his partner, Sinjin Smith on name alone. And let’s be honest, Sinjin is a total metal name. It even sounds like a power chord The Crüe would play when you say it aloud.
Unlike Pants, I WAS ready for this.
What did I do?
I studied the music videos. So, it was no surprise to me when Def Leppard came out with In The Round (Live: In The Round, In Your Face), because that was how Pour Some Sugar On Me and Armageddon It were filmed.
I also noticed that Joe Elliot wore a Def Leppard tank top. Was that even allowed? I’m not sure if, “Don’t wear the shirt of the band you are going to see” applies to fronting said band. Whatever, Joe Elliot was a boss.
I’m not sure what you should wear to a Def Leppard concert, but I’m sure that you should not wear a white Def Leppard tank, cause that’s Joe’s thing.
Really though, do yourself a favor and watch the Hysteria: The Def Leppard story. When you do, pay attention at the part where they convince Joe that he can hit the high notes. Confidence is 90% of singing. The other 10% is breath control, phonation, projection, posture, vibrato, flexibility, strength, stamina, and practice, and a thousand other things. But mainly confidence.
Some videos featured the band in front of a real concert audience, and some were just on a sound stage. Some music videos even told the story of the song, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and 18 and Life. This level of analysis is how I came to my belief that Warrant was positioned as the “white leather” band. With Jani Lane’s (occasionally) insightful lyrics on Heaven, Blind Faith, and I Saw Red, Warrant needed their rock toughness to appear a bit more muted – hence the white leather.
You might be asking, why occasionally insightful? See Pie, Cherry.
I studied album artwork. I knew names beyond the lead singer, looking at you, Snake Sabo, Bruno Ravel, and Jerry Dixon.
I made mixtapes. I spent countless hours camped in front of my off-brand dual cassette tape deck, churning out 60 and 90 minute compilations filled with Firehouse, Trixter, and other 80’s hair metal bands that really came out in the earliest of the 90’s. I should have purchased stock in TDK.
Like Pants, I too enrolled in the BMG/Columbia marketing scheme. My mid-30’s self would like to imagine that those ads were written by famed advertising copywriter Gary Halbert. You could not pass up that deal. And if you are reading this, you know exactly what I mean.
The truth to it all is that I simply studied my ass off. I’m sure my junior year Chemistry teacher would disagree with this curricula. But if we are being honest with ourselves, and I think we are, 80’s hair metal bands are WAY more important than Chemistry.
Let’s compare the facts.
MacGuyver used chemistry to defeat the Phoenix Corporation. He also probably listened to Motley Crüe. Probably a tie, but only cause MacGuyver kicks so much ass. Then again, so does the Crüe.
In chemistry, you can buy a set. In metal, you can buy a collection. Point, Metal.
Chemistry gave us bombs. Metal gave us dive bombs. Point, Metal. And if you disagree, close your browser now and don’t come back you war-mongering jerk.
Chemistry created planes, trains, and automobiles. Air guitar cures smog. Fact. Overwhelming Point for Metal. If only air guitar could cure the socio-economic and geo-political ails of 2017 …
So, it’s no contest Mrs. Brown. In the real world, Chemistry loses to 80’s hair metal bands 100% of the time, it is Avogadro’s Number more important. In fact, we can consider it a law: Fizz’s First Immutable Law.
You might be wondering, how could one boy ingest so many hair metal bands alone? The answer is, like any good 80’s movie, I got help. I needed my family and friends.
The influence of family on the music I listened to
My father listens to everything but Rap and Opera, a quote I literally got from him yesterday. It’s true though. For his part, he thought that Van Halen “wasn’t half bad”, which is just about the best compliment he gives out, a hard fact I remember from my younger, sportsball playing days.
Even better, my mother, bless her Richard Marx/Phil Collins soul, allowed me to wander some of Tampa’s finest beaches, crooning David Lee Roth’s (solo) cover of “I ain’t got nobody” to anyone within earshot. I was 5. Definitely too young to be the gigolo I was professing to be.
My cousins immediately placed me on a steady diet of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. Like Pants, I too received a Beastie Boys tape, but that’s another story. We pretended couches were stage risers and jumped off them straight into power moves. We purposefully dragged ourselves around the carpet, army-crawl style, just to wear down the integrity of our jeans, accelerating the ripping process. We used so much Aquanet that it hurt to touch our hair.
I revered Diamond Dave jumpkicks. He was the consummate frontman. Speaking of the band Van Halen, DLR and EVH were unparalleled.
Eschewing the traditional rock band Hero-Sidekick archetype, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen were straight up Hero-Hero. Don’t believe me? Write to me and tell me which one is the sidekick – firstname.lastname@example.org
For real, if you can truly articulate why one of them is The Sidekick, and convince me to adopt your position, I will buy you three albums of your choice. Why your choice? Because having the chops to convince me means that you probably already celebrate the entire VH catalog.
EVEN BETTER … if you can convince me AND don’t own the entire catalog (with proof), I will buy every Van Halen album for you that you do not already own.
Back to the point, even Sambora, an amazing, near-generational talent, played second fiddle to Jovi. Don’t believe that either? Name a song off of a Sambora album. You might be thinking, “He had (more than) one?” Exactly!
He had three …
Really. Take two minutes out of your day to refresh your memory on how amazing Sambora really was. Listen to Jovi sing, then Sambora. The Scottie Pippen of 80’s hair metal bands. Dude kills it. Blood on Blood!!!
Little did I know then that this musical education, the kind you certainly don’t receive in grade school, would produce protracted arguments with my future brother-in-law around Y&T, Autograph, and White Lion. He is a decade older.
Mrs. Brown, if you are still reading, I tested into AP 80’s Hair Metal instead of your worthless “chemistry”.
How friends influence the music you listen to
In a few of my neighborhood friends, I had what I like to call the “influence double-stack”. These brothers were 3 & 4 years older than me, but their older brother had 4 on them. These 4 year gaps double-stacked my exposure to the culture of the time, most notably music. Armed with a proclivity for disobedience and a rogue-ish wit, Han Solo’s to be precise, he was the (face) melting snow at the top of metal mountain that cascaded down to hydrate our raised fists.
Bands you’ve never heard of, like Kane Roberts and Lillian Axe (True Believer was a bitchin’ tune), were cranked up to 12 from behind his closed door, which might as well have been the portal to Metal Narnia. You might be wondering, “Why 12?” Because 11 is cliche. And because he rocked harder.
These brothers, still good friends, compiled a list of must-listen material including Skid Row, Danger Danger, and La Guns to fill in all of the gaps that family and school couldn’t provide.
Speaking of family, my parents are parlor game sharks. They are both excellent at all leisure activities like darts, billiards, and bowling. So, I spent plenty of time at the local bowling alley, just clowning around with all of the other kids. Similarly to my neighborhood friends, these three boys were my age and up. They were knee deep into Poison and Motley Crüe. And now so was I.
Finally, my cohort, my foil, my largest lifelong musical competitor/companion/contemporary …
You know, you never know who you are going to meet, and you never know when. You also never know how long those friends will last. I met BG on day 1 of Kindergarten at the bus stop. Over 30 years, he has reliably proven to know everything I know about music and more. If I had to challenge the god of musical wisdom, Mark McGrath be thy name, I would hope BG would stand at arms with me, so deep is his knowledge.
In fairness, I am not sure that even we together could vanquish such a mighty beast, so strong is mighty Mark McGrath across genres.
How radio influences the music you listen to
107.3 FM WAAF, Boston’s rock radio was the guiding wind of all hair metal voyages in the 80’s and very early 90’s. The varying DJ’s: Bob Rivers. Greg Hill. John Osterlind. Liz Wilde, who went by the moniker The Cream Cheese Bitch.
The Hillman is still at WAAF, follow him on twitter: @GregHillWAAF.
To be honest, I had and still have no idea what that means. It’s like Snoop saying that he treats a girl like 7up, he never has, he never will. Some stories just aren’t meant to be explained I guess.
If you’re the first person to explain it to me, either of those sayings, I will buy you Tesla’s Greatest Hits. Speaking of … nah, that’s another story.
Way before Opie and Anthony and WOW came another acronym that we religiously believed in: TNT. The Top Nine Tonight. Only one person I knew ever made it onto the show, a neighborhood kid, and it sadly wasn’t me.
Anyway, the TNT was amazing for discovering (and recording) new tunes. My mixtapes always had a few words from the DJ. And the funny part was that they would become ingrained with how you expected the song to start or end when you actually heard it on the radio.
Truth be told, the sad part is that back then, it felt like the dj’s cared about the music. Business pragmatism suggests otherwise, but I always felt like WAAF dj’s were authentic with their taste(s).
How television influences the music you listen to
We could, and probably will at some point, talk about MTV and it’s influence on 80’s hair metal bands all day. But for now, I’d like to focus on one singular rock event. Something outlandishly amazing that despite video evidence to the contrary, I am not even sure happened. That event was the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
The Moscow Music Peace Festival was filled with plenty of hair metal bands from the 80’s. Here was the lineup
Brigada-S, Nuance, and Gorky Park (a place I’ve only heard of from the lyrics of Winds of Change). Ozzy Osbourne, Cinderella, Scorpions, Skid Row, Motley Crüe, Bon Jovi. They even trotted Jason Bonham out.
The show was stunning to a 9 year old. Sambora crushed a 3 neck guitar (one neck a mandolin). Sebastian Bach did his thing. Jovi sauntered down the aisle to the beginning of New Jersey’s Lay Your Hands On Me … I hadn’t seen so many Russians cheering on an American since Rocky IV, just 4 years earlier. Ok, maybe not so long a time.
To be honest, I had half considered that they filmed any old show and just edited in some old Russian propaganda footage, or, just set up a makeshift stadium in Brighton Beach, NY to get that many Russians on camera. To be super honest, there were just too many stars in Jovi’s backdrop to make thing think that this event actually happened in Mother Russia. Cause in Russia, you don’t play guitar, guitar plays you!
I’m convinced Sambora’s fiery licks melted the Cold War. Prove me wrong.
What about concerts?
I’ve had the fortune of seeing some old bands and even some hair metal bands. Hell, my aunt was at the same Jovi concert that I was back in 2003. I’ve had the misfortune of missing out on some shows as well (cousin had an extra ticket to Pink Floyd in the mid 90’s). I’ve seen a hair metal show on the Sunset Strip. And some reunion tours won’t ever happen (as I pour one out for Jani Lane). But, and I won’t get into much detail, there is one show I am glad to have missed. Great White in Rhode Island in 2003.
A few college acquaintances took off for the show. I didn’t join them. Fortunately, they made it out. For those that didn’t and their families, I am sorry.
What about the mega happy ending?
Right. Without my friends, cousins, and an easy-going father (laughs), I might never have been allowed to listen to all these bitchin’ tunes. Along with an unlimited curfew, I was allowed to listen to any music I chose, benefits to being the child of some halfway decent parents (my view, maybe not yours). For that, I thank them. I might never have known the glory of the Sunset Strip and it’s legendary music. In fact, the amazing thing about the Sunset Strip was just how massive its gravitational pull was. A supernova of a scene, you needed Corey Hart’s sunglasses just to look at it.
Corey Hart’s sunglasses … doesn’t that sound like an artifact you would find if there was a 80’s hair metal bands role-playing game?
“In the metal dragon’s lair, amongst the treasure, you spot Corey Hart’s sunglasses. As you put them on, you confidence rises, giving you protection from being messed with. However, the effects wear off in the daylight.”
Ok, that’s all folks. Back to Ed Sheeran youtube videos … he’s such a talent.
Eat it Pants, Fizz.
Next, we will discuss how my favorite band of all time helped drive a stake through the heart of glam metal and 80’s hair bands.