Whenever I hear Quiet Riot, Ratt, Poison, Mötley Crüe, etc. on the radio I quickly change the station. The writing & execution of the music just seems so… formula. The time signature is always 4/4, and there’s always a 30 second guitar solo thrown in the middle.
In your opinion, did any of the Hair Bands in the 1980s make, well, good music? With good writing and good musicianship?
You had to be there man. I’ll concede the music hasn’t aged well.
OTOH: I was picking my son up from school the other day. I counted four kids all wearing concert shirts with 80’s or younger bands on them.
I seriously doubt children thirty years from now are going to be sporting Kanye West shirts. (Or anything from today’s “hip” bands)
Rolling Stone actually put out a list just a few weeks ago of the top hair metal albums of all time. I would have dropped a couple of the weaker obscure entries and put in spots for Y&T and Helix, but a mainstream publication that mostly hated hair metal back in the day, it’s a pretty reasonable list.
Tesla holds up well (they weren’t really all that glammy in their look or sound though), Cinderella were pretty good (they were kind of the Black Crowes of hair metal), and that Badlands record is really rated highly among guitarists. Enuff Z’Nuff has a more psychedelic/Cheap Trick-influenced sound that was different from what the other bands were doing.
If Hair Metal had come along right after Disco, I wonder if it would still be held in as low disdain. But because it overwhelmed Punk/New Wave, which had higher artistic cred than those two, it was seen as just an 80’s re-tread of a middle-age record producer’s 1950’s teen years: “wear leather, look cool. Girls.”
“Diversity and creativity” – are you sure you’re talking about the right genre?? Perhaps that was true in the pre-Headbanger’s Ball era, but once hair metal got popular, the drive was always towards becoming more homogenous and formulaic. Step One: Open with a hard-rockin’ anthem (for certain definitions of “hard-rockin’”) with a punchy title like “Down Boys”, “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room”, “Youth Gone Wild”, etc. Step Two: Follow that up with a treacly, overwrought power ballad. And so on. Oh, and don’t forget the spandex/hairspray look – if your band doesn’t look and sound like this, forget about it.
Queensryche was prog-metal. They tried to become hair metal later on, but failed miserably. MSG had become the McAauley-Schenker Group, a shadow of its former self. Tesla was okay, but…Kingdom Come?!? Their schtick was so unoriginal, they inspired the song “Led Clones” by Gary Moore.
What’s really sad about the hair metal era is how much talent was wasted. Extreme had one of the best set of musicians ever assembled, but you’d never know it from their music. Celtic Frost, the pioneers of early black metal, went from this to this overnight. Def Leppard wasn’t the greatest of the NWOBHM crowd but they did produce a few catchy, original tunes – until Hysteria and Animalize put an end to that.
At least with the second-tier bands – Ratt, Poison, Skid Row, Great White, Dokken – there wasn’t much talent there to begin with, so at least you didn’t feel like you were missing out on anything.
Van Halen both defined and transcended the genre. Nobody walked the guitar/pop line the way they did. Also, since their lead singer didn’t have a girl’s first name or attempt to glam up so much he could be mistaken for one, they weren’t fully in the club.
Were they “any good”? Well, even Winger had brilliant guitarist Reb Beach and (rock-fusion gods) the Dixie Dregs’ drummer Rod Morgenstern. There was a lot of technical virtuosity going on across guitar, bass (Billy Sheehan from Mr. Big), drums, etc. But most of it was empty rapidfire postering - EVH with all of the flash, but none of the phrasing, and tacked on to the most predictable of songs and topics.
Some songs have proven to be durable - even Motley Crue had Kickstart My Heart and Looks that Kill. But for the most part it was like most pop phases: 95% (minimum!) crap.
Here’s the metal writer Martin Popoff giving his definition of what hair metal is and listing his top ten hair metal bands. I think that quote at 15:40 is important to this discussion: “the best hair metal is the stuff that sounds the least like hair metal”.
I always had The Michael Schenker Group as a solid hard rock band. But I lost track of them and they may have morphed into Hair Metal.
Talk of morphing and I would suggest looking at Whitesnake as a prime example of confusing the issue. They started as a fairly serious blues based rock band - old school British. Moved into a more chart friendly hard rock / pop metal / NWOBHM type band searching for a few lucrative hit singles. Which they achieved in the UK.
Then they relaunched themselves in America with remixes of their British hits accompanied by what are now infamous videos featuring lots of back combed hair and that woman writhing on the bonnet (hood) of a car. Tawney Kittean is it? In that era you could call them hair metal but their roots (no pun intended) were as a much more substantial band.
Van Halen can’t be a hair metal band, because the band predated that craze. To call Van Halen a hair band is an insult to Eddie Van Halen. Also, they weren’t metal. For that reason I don’t think Whitesnake should be considered a hair metal band either.