Skippy Loves Bon JoviBy Skippy
Skippy with you once again. I really wish I had a witty insult for you to get this month started, but I've got nothing. No cutting remarks about your parentage, your IQ or the fact that you actually read this column. In fact I have nothing whatsoever to say. You would think that this would be the perfect month to take some time off and leave you to your own devices, but that would be less than professional and I am after all, a professional.
So we will muddle through this together and hopefully attain some sort of enlightenment by the time we are through. All we need now is a topic. I could go after Dubya, but what would be the point really? The media seems to have decided to give him a free ride. They don't appear to what to point out the glaring inconsistencies between his campaign promises and his actions in office. I will only point out that if Dubya had told the folks that his idea of a compassionate conservative attorney general was John Ashcroft, well a few votes may not have gone his way. But enough of that, we have real issues to discuss, real problems to solve. We need to talk about hair metal.
I was recently watching VH1's top forty hair metal bands countdown and a couple of thoughts struck me. First, those bands put out some pretty good, albeit lightweight, music. Second, for the most part they had some really bad timing.
The first point is simple enough. Think back to the late eighties, it was for the most part a happy time. The economy was good, communism was dying and with it went the cold war. Most Americans were doing OK and the music reflected it. Musically it was the time of the Hair Metal band. Huge manes, tight pants, loud guitars and mostly mindless rock and roll was the order of the day. These bands had taken the seventies rock star cliche and had turned it up to eleven. Not only did they have all of the booze, sex and drugs they wanted, they sang songs about it. There was no navel gazing here, aside from the obligatory "isn't life on the road a bitch" song. Even the bands didn't take those too seriously though. No, these were guys that had grabbed the brass ring and they weren't afraid to be seen enjoying the living hell out of it. Instead of resenting them, we loved them for it and always asked for more.
Now I have to admit, I was not a hair metal fan the first time around. To be more precise, I was not a hair metal music fan. I was a huge hair metal video fan, though. The chicks, the parties, the chicks, the clothes, the chicks, the pyro, and - did I mention the chicks? I could sit and watch that music for hours back then. Of course, in my car I listened to proper bands like The Cure and REM and so on, but let's face it, those guys were boring to watch at best. No, for video entertainment, give me a Motley Crue over a U2 any day of the week.
It wasn't until very recently that I even owned any hair metal music. Now that I do, I have to admit that some of it is quite bad. Motley Crue, Poison, and a bunch of others are barely listenable, but on the other hand, some of it is quite good. Skid Row, Def Leppard, even (God help me) Bon Jovi as well as a few others put out some really solid albums that still hold up today.
Which leads us to our second point, timing. A case in point is Skid Row. They were best known for "Eighteen and Life" and "I'll Remember You" and those are a couple of the better songs recorded by anybody of the hair metal era. They had the musical chops and Sebastian Bach could flat out wail on lead vocals. So what happened? Simply put, Nirvana happened. Once that mop topped freak came out of the Pacific Northwest with his ungodly talent and distinctly punk ethic, Sebastian and crew may as well have been Lawrence Welk. This was not a changing of the musical guard, this was a freaking neutron bomb. Within a year of Nirvana you couldn't find a hair metal band on the radio or anywhere else. Suddenly they were cartoonish buffoons out of touch with reality. Suddenly they were worse than out of style. Collectively, the hair metal bands were a sad joke that no one wanted to see anymore.
Times had changed and we wanted serious musicians, not party bands. We wanted guys who got up on stage in jeans and a T-shirt and told us how it was without flash or dash. We wanted Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the Counting Crows. We wanted artists with some weight, dammit! No more of that feel-good, get-laid and get-drunk music. No it was a serious world and we were serious people and those big-haired buffoons were anything but serious.
I remember when Metallica cut their hair. They said all the right things about growing up and it not having anything to do with their music. Of course no one believed them. We all laughed at these out-of-touch rock stars who thought a haircut make them relevant again. But it was sad that even a band like Metallica, who are about as far from hair metal as a band can get and still play guitars, felt they had to change their look to get anyone to give their music a listen. Sad but not surprising. Americans are remorseless when it comes to our pop culture tastes and God help anyone caught on the wrong side of the fence.
I suppose it was all for the best. Lord knows I was thrilled to tears when
Nirvana finally came along and destroyed everything before them. I loved grunge
and I like a lot of the music out today. But there are times, kids... Oh there
are times when I miss those days of faux cycle jackets and ripped jeans. Because
at least in those days the bands had the good sense to know how unimportant they
really were and to their credit, they made the most of the ride. If you'll excuse
me, I'm going to go crank up Enuff Znuff and get high on the new thing.