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What is Success?

Why are 80s glam bands considered sell-outs just because they reached a certain level of success?

From an early age, we're told to go to school (and then a little more school!), get a ("good") job, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, pay taxes and die.

In "Heavy: The Story of Metal" made by and for Vh1, producers ask glam musicians "what is success?"

For many, success is simply getting on stage and playing with their friends. The fact that money, magazine covers and fame are all part of the package deal just makes the success a little sweeter.

In the documentary, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider blames the decline of glam rock on overexposure. Sebastian Bach of Skid Row says essentially the same thing. It's interesting since the two musicians were not interviewed at the same time.

But wasn't overexposure on MTV and radio what so many glam bands wanted?

In part 3 of "Heavy: The Story of Metal" Jani Lane of Warrant talks about using his social security card to buy peanut butter and bread. Members of W.A.S.P. remember living on 5 dollars a week and stealing wood to burn for heat.

As the glam movement continued through the 80s, bands looked for ways to reinvent their image and increase album sales.

These talented musicians went from using major pyro in their stage shows, to going unplugged, to relying on the power ballad to reach new audiences both in the states and across the globe.

So, are you a sell-out if you sell? If the power ballad helped an album sell an extra million copies, isn't this success?

Rock journalists and historians point to the explosion of grunge as what finally put the nail in the coffin on the glam movement. While grunge acts tried to be the anti-Poison, they still employed the same tactics as glam to sell albums. Groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam all signed with major labels, used double-tracking while producing their albums, made major budget videos for MTV and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. Isn't this selling-out? Or at least reaching a major level of success?

In the mid-nineties, I remember an anti-drug campaign featuring the voice track "No one ever says I want to be a junkie when I grow up." This may be true. But a lot of people say they want to be rock stars when they grow up.

To me, that's just another way of saying "I want to be successful when I grow up."

Comment on this article. Let me know your thoughts. Then, I'll tell you more of mine.




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