The greatest thing about the 80’s was Glam Metal…to a point.
For the most part, the rock & roll of the eighties, whether you call it Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, or whatnot, it was upbeat and positive. It was about sex, drugs, and rock & roll! Who didn’t like those three things? My drug of choice was beer by the way. Well, except for the two years that hottie in Pennsylvania made me quit drinking.
Towards the end of the decade, you could actually dance to most of it.
I think Van Halen was the genesis of the Glam Metal movement. Prior to that, we had heavy metal, some of it was visually appealing, Led Zeppelin, I think got the ball rolling. Then later versions of The Scorpions and Judas Priest may have pushed the snowball a little further down the hill. I will even give Queen and all their glitz some credit.
But David Lee Roth and his hair along with Eddie Van Halen’s unique guitar work made heavy metal about big hair and flashy guitar playing. Their success made all others want to be like them.
I was still in high school when freshly minted Glam Metal bands started to burst onto the scene. My parents moved from Minneapolis to Lakeville just before my sophomore year, then jumped to the completely opposite side of the metro area, and bought a house in Coon Rapids just before my Senior Year.
I left my future wife back in Lakeville, because my parents forced me to enroll in Coon Rapids. What this meant was, when I could scratch together enough gas money, I would drive down to Lakeville, spend some time with the girlfriend, then drive home.
What does this have to do with the emergence of Glam Metal in the early 80’s? Well, it was during that drive from Coon Rapids to Lakeville, then back that I started to hear the first songs of this new genre.
Ratts “Round and Round” blasted from the boom box in the back of that old Skylark. It didn’t have a radio, so I played music from a battery eating boom box that fell over every time I stopped to hard. Minneapolis was half way between the two, and I would often stop off on the way home to see the old gang.
I don’t remember whose garage it was, but most of them hung out in a loft in that garage. Instead of taking the quicker route, up I35 W. I would head up Cedar Ave, past Lake Nokomis, and detour to the garage everyone was hanging out in.
They would sit up there, smoke cigarettes and occasionally something else and bitch about what assholes their parents where. One day I poked my head up, and Chris, Jeff, and a few others were there, hanging out. Their own boom box blasting out the rock n roll, not so loud we couldn’t talk, but loud enough so we could call ourselves metal heads.
Chris looked at me as I settled in.
“What do you think of that new song from Dokken?”
The song was “Breaking the Chains” and showed up on the radio about the same time as Ratts “Round and Round”.
I wasn’t sure, if he was asking to judge me, or my tastes in music, or if he was genuinely curios. We were not much for friends at this point in our lives. I didn’t get high often enough for him.
“I like it, it’s pretty cool.” I replied not caring what he thought.
“It’s alright.” He retorted with a shrug and moved onto something else.
Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” was all over the radio during this time, but I was skeptical as to it being real heavy metal. After all, there was a lot of keyboards in that song. They opened for the Scorpions, and just rocked. I was impressed, but would later dismiss them as Journey with an edge.
When Mötley Crüe released Shout at the Devil in 1983, one of my buddies showed up at my work and said I had to come out to his car and hear this cassette he just picked up. Before he started the cassette player, he showed me the inside of the cassette sleeve, which displayed the members of the band.
“Isn’t the blonde hot?” He asked.
I looked at the makeup wearing members of the band and agreed, the platinum blonde was gorgeous.
“Hell yea!” I replied.
He laughed, “It’s a dude!”
“No way!” I said grabbing the cassette sleeve away from him to study the picture closer.
I would suffer the same confusion a few years later when Poison released their first album.
My first CD was Cinderella’s Long Cold Winter. I didn’t have a CD player. I bought that album in CD format in an attempt to motivate myself to plunk down the cash and get a CD player. I was huge on Cinderella at the time, and thought it would be the motivation I needed. It was a long time before I actually listened to that CD in my new CD player.
One thing we lost with the progression of music media from albums, to cassettes, then CD’s and now MP3’s…album art. I used to use those plastic push pins to display my favorite album art on the walls of my bedroom. Push the pin into the wall, then rest the album cover on the push pin. No harm no foul. With cassettes, the album art was pointless. CD’s were better, but still too small to display proudly as art.
I do miss album art.
As we moved into the late 80’s glam metal was hitting the mainstream. Bands like Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Tesla, and Whitesnake were all over the place. Van Halen was now Van Hagar, and there was a coast to coast heavy metal radio station called Z-Rock.
But aside from Queensrÿche and Guns N’ Roses, it was all starting to sound the same. A new song would catch your attention, and then quickly fade to obscurity as you realized it was just another catchy chorus with a guitar solo half way through that sounded no different from the thousands of other guitar solos. I was so sick of fast picking guitar solos that I would almost fast forward through them. If I was in a singing mood, then they were an opportunity to drink some water or coffee to sooth a tired voice box.
I went to the Whitesnake concert when they came to the Twin Cities. Great White opened for them, but we missed opening act. I forgot the tickets at home and we had to turn back and get them. Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell were the guitarist on that tour. Probably the biggest egos in heavy metal guitar at that time. Every song gave way to dual ten minute guitar solos.
It was fricken ridiculous!
Would have been great to see John Sykes up there instead of Adrian, but what do you do.
I was so craving something fresh by the time the worlds calendars rolled into the 90’s. GNR was self-destructing so anything new and fresh from them was hopeless. Those bands that were releasing new stuff was just doing more of the same.
Then Nirvana burst upon the scene!
The sound was so fresh! It was rock n roll without the guitar solo! And did it change things!
90’s music became dark and brooding. All these new bands did was whine about how unfair life was. The message was life sucks, accept it…get over it! No longer was it the one who dies with the most stuff wins, it was the one who dies, still dies. The music that now dominated the airwaves used to be called alternative, now it was main stream. Even though it refused to drop the moniker.
I almost went country. Listening to the radio was painful. I was quickly missing the 80’s and the never ending guitar solo. At least the message was upbeat.
One final point.
As I drove along one day doing my truck driving thing, I did as I always did. Reflect on life, the world around me, my family, yesterday, or whatever topic kept me from going insane from boredom.
For whatever reason I was pondering the fate of Glam Metal and its demise. That somehow led to the topic of Kurt Cobain and his suicide. Then it dawned on me. Kurt Cobain didn’t stick a shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger because he was depressed. He could no longer live with the knowledge that he single handedly killed Glam Metal. Killing an entire genre of music was too much to bear.
I think he ultimately felt the deaths of Kevin DuBrow and Jani Lane, would be on his hands. Both of these lead singers dying of depression because Nirvana killed their livelihoods. Took away their spot light. No, Cobain didn’t know these two men would die alone, but he knew the long term ramifications of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the world of music.
No matter how hard he tried, he could not wash the blood of Glam Metal off his hands.