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Be True to Your School

For many, glam metal was just a flash-in-the pan fad that quietly died a slow, painful death.

For others, glam serves as a reminder of bad clothes, big hair, loud make-up and the hey-day of MTV.

Still, many of us consider 80s glam metal to be more than just a fad and a significant part of music history.

While critics will point to glam Metal as soulless rock with a corporate edge, true fans understand the core principals related to rock's funnest roll.

From the first Black Sabbath record to the dawn of 1980, Metal was largely an underground phenomenon. Bands were slowly chipping away at labels, accumulating fans, channeling hits that would eventually become staples of classic rock radio. The Brits knew how to rock, and their heavier style eventually crept around the globe and into the homes - and minds - of angst filled teens.

Fast forward to the Sunset Strip and the late 1970s when Van Halen begins to capitalized on Metal's new found glory.  Their 1978 self-titled release changed the lives of many music fans and working musicians. Def Leppard cashed in as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was becoming popular and MTV was still in its infancy.

As Def  Leppard and Van Halen amassed fans with innovative guitar work and slick production, other musicians took notice and the glam craze was born.

Despite the evil tentacles of hip-hop, country, and yes  - grunge -  glam Metal has retained a significant following more than 20 years later.

Other posters will point to the Beatles as the standard for quality music. I'm sure not sure this is a fair or equitable comparison. It's highly doubtful that any band will surpass The Beatles in inventiveness or album sales. I think it's pretty safe to say The Beatles were a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon that's crossed many generations and genders. Concert tickets these days are sky-high and teenagers download partial albums on iTunes, giving the single a second-chance comeback.  

Neither was the case during the height of Beatlemania.

As glam grew in popularity, so seemed America's fascination with all things Metal. True, it wasn't just the music that fueled the hysteria. Media coverage of the new "trend" helped fuel album sales, as did the P.M.R.C. and their waste of taxpayers dollars to censor "inappropriate" bands, lyrics and albums.

For many to say that glam Metal hasn't made a broad impact on music or culture is at once a base and naive statement. While Quiet Riot might not be able to headline Madison Square Garden these days, that doesn't mean the band's music isn't known or appreciated. In fact, even modern "headline" acts have difficulty selling seats, again because ticket prices are too high, kids are over scheduled and parents don't have time to shuttle a car pool to the weekly Metal show.

As the hey day of glam goes deeper into the past, music fans will continue to revel in the classic era of Metal. The point isn't how many Grammy awards an artist won or how an album was reviewed in the New York Times. What matters most is what matters to the fans.

 Every glam fan I know is Metal to the core.






Reader Comments (24)

Well said Allyson. Great job, it was very interesting.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenteraXe mAn
All I can say to this, is AMEN!

Rob Rockitt
Hard Rock Hideout

I think you miss one important point. How much influence did hair metal have outside of the genre itself? Corporate rock existed before the hair metal phenomenon of the 80s, so I don't think you could even say the current batch of stale corporate bands owe as much of a debt to Dokken or Poison as they do to Foreigner or Journey or any number of other arena rock acts. To the extent that hair metal opened the eyes of the world to what Black Sabbath started the previous decade is a silly assertion. If hair metal has any real attachment to Black Sabbath it is that they watered down their heaviness into something palatable to the general public, but even that is a stretch. Tying your argument to Van Halen is less of a stretch, because they certainly influenced a lot of the arena acts that followed and countless hair metal guitarists tried in vain to be Eddie Van Halen, but Van Halen did something fresh and new and were lucky enough to be able to sell it. To some extent, your early 80s bands, though not as musically creative as VH, did amalgamate what VH did with the glam styles of the early 70s and that was a new direction. But even these bands became stale shells of themselves by the mid 80s and their small contibution to the big picture was in the past. The second wave of bands (I'm thinking Poison might be the first big band of that wave, but there might be a better choice) were really jumping on a bandwagon who's creative days had already gone by even if its commercial success had yet to peek. As I've said before, there are exceptions to this, a few bands who were somewhat creative, but even they didn't have broad impact other than commercially. None of what I've said discredits the number of records these bands, good and bad alike, sold. It also doesn't discredit their ability to tap into my generation's sense of nostalgia which has given them some sort of second wind. However, none of this, not even their tenacity in holding on to the past, can bring the past back. So, you have to ask, who did these bands influence? I think the answer is that they haven't influenced any new direction in music. Sure, there seems to be a new crop of bands popping up, but I have only heard one (Gypsy Pistoleros) out of all those you've posted about that is anything but a revivalist. That doesn't bode well for hair metal's importance at all. I know that you harbor some resentment of the grunge and alt rock of the early 90s and you like to ask where those bands are today, but I think you miss the point. The bands knew when to call it quits or to evolve for the most part. While they are doing something new, their influence is all over contemporary music. Even what is essentially the closest thing to the real GnR (Velvet Revolver) has updated their sound, for better or worse, based not on the last Posion record, but on grunge and alt rock.

While the Beatles are the best example of broad influence (followed not so closely by U2, perhaps), I agree that is unfair to hold everyone else to that standard. However, I don't think the importance of influence can be ignored, nor can it be superceded by how much money the band made. Hair metal's commercial role is certainly significant in rock history, but I think their overall role is severely curtailed by their creative dead-end.

I remember watching the Decline of Western Civ Part 2 a number of years ago and there was aguy they interviewed from some band that I don't think ever went anywhere. He said something like, "I'm a businessman. I'm not gonna do this forever. I'm gonna retire and have my stocks working for me." Now, what would Pete Townshend say about that?
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbob_vinyl
Wow, another anti-glam rant from Bob. I didn't feel like taking the time to read that one. I am tired of you putting down Glam/Hair Metal. Lighten up. This is suppost to be fun.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenteraXe mAn
aXe mAn - Actually, I think it's a lot of fun. I've said before that this is one of my favorite blogs. Besides, this post was practically an invitation for me to post another installment of my tirade.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbob_vinyl
Actually, I would have said that the tide turned on grunge far faster than it did on hair metal, and in ways that simply ended their careers. I don't think any of those bands said 'lets go back to poverty, so we can have our integrity'. Had grunge lived long enough, it would have become as corporate as rock did in the early 90s.

What killed it is Kurt Cobain. After he shot himself, every other token grunge action became less than that, and it had reached it's obvious conclusion.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Graus
Oh - and everyone on 'metal years' is a tosser. Just like Borat, if someone interviews a bunch of people and wants to make them look bad, they'll find people they can use. Stocks and bonds, my ass. I wonder why HE didn't make it ?
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Graus

I'm not missing any points here considering I wrote the article and formed the thesis.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of glam metal are the band's ability to truly PLAY their instruments. There is no denying the technical skill of Eddie Van Halen, Tommy Lee or the pipes of Sebastian Bach.

This is not to say that all grunge musicians were crap, quite the contrary. Kurt Cobain was a brilliant song writer, still, calling him the voice of a generation (MY generation) is a load of hogwash. Looking back on my high school years, I remember a lot people wearing flannel shirts but I don't remember everyone ready to off themselves because the world was just too much to handle. While glam may be corporate, so is grunge. Look at the most recent list of Forbes richest musicians...Kurt Cobain still secures a top spot. Sell out or success? You decide.

For years, Metallica stayed true to the thrash roots and refused to make a video for MTV. They eventually gave in and sold about a gazillion records. Nothing was stopping Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains from churning out videos to sell records.

Is it better to be underground and unheard; or aboveground, successful and influential?

For you - and other critics - to say glam metal hasn't influenced other forms of music is a completely ridiculous statement.

For every generation, there is a major influence and in the 1980s, Metal was king. This doesn't mean that Metal fans back in the day were so closed-minded that they wouldn't listen to other forms of music. Fans of grunge seemed to change the supportive nature of music. No longer was it cool for fans to enjoy various types of bands or see live music. Nope. The only thing that was acceptable was to stand around and mope.

It seems when you want to mock glam, you always turn to Poison. No one here says that Poison is the next Who or even Rolling Stones, but that doesn't mean they haven't secured their place in glam Metal history. Bands like Badlands and Extreme are highly talented, lesser known glam bands. Critics love them and so do I. Still, these excellent musicians just didn't get as famous as Bon Jovi, for whatever reason. Still, mention "Motley Crue" or "Poison" to any person on the street and I guarantee that person will smile, nod their head, and name a song from the band.

Finally, glam metal has influenced other forms of music. Ashamed as I am to admit, the late 90s boy band phenomenon is probably a throwback to the beautiful male rockstars of the 1980s.

Through glam, rockers realized it was ok to add harmony and groove to Metal. 90s era pop acts added electric guitars and heavy drums (performed by studio musicians) to their acts to beef up muscial credibility because these new "stars" really weren't (are not) musicians.

Finally, some journalists (myself excluded) are comparing emo and glam. While there are a few simularities, I'd say this is an unequal comparision. While 13 year old girls might enjoy Fall Out Boy, there just aren't a lot of 30 year old guys lining up for front row seats to the emo shows.

Glam Metal is Metal that was acceptable to the massess...and every rock star to follow the era would kill for half the success enjoyed by Warrant, Cinderella, RATT...and yes, Poison.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson
Well, first metal in the 70's wasn't all underground. I mean come on Sabbath, Purple, KISS, Aerosmith, the Nuge and many others were playing arenas and sometimes stadiums. Metal and hard rock have always had an above ground scene and an underground scene at the same time. It's just that some times one might be bigger than the other. I think for the most part glam has just influenced glam. There are only a handful of hard rock and metal bands that have had an influence outside of their genres. That's not a bad thing, just the way it is. I think the reality is that most of metal's fans are the same people who were fans back in the 80's to early 90's. Unless some new scene arrives and gains popularity then the bands and their fans just get older and becomes part of the past.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMetal Mark
Yes, there were many major hard rock acts in the 70s.

I consider Aerosmith my favorite band so I'm quite familiar with their rise-fall-rise of success, thank you very much.

The point is that Metal enjoyed the height of popular appeal in the 1980s, and yes, most of these glam bands were influenced by 70s stadium acts like Aerosmith and KISS.

80s glam bands built on the success of 70s Metal stars, and yes, influenced acts of the 90s and today.

To say that musicians -of all genres- don't influence younger, up and coming acts is insanity.

What's more depressing is the thought that the glam genre isn't attracting any new "young" fans. I would think the growing popularity of sleaze bands like Vains of Jenna would dispel such horrific myths.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson
Some new glam bands are selling albums and that's great, but a lot of it is to older fans holding on to the past. I would like for there to be a new glam scene with a future. For that I think some of these bands have to grow in order to attract some younger fans and increase their popularity. I am all for that and hope some of these younger bands can acheive that. Yet I think we need to be realistic about about how much credit we give to these bands. I love this kind of music and have for over twenty years yet I realize the limitations of some bands. It's not a negative, but just the way it is.
I don't think all musicians have influence on players outside of their genre because not everyone is doing something new.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMetal Mark
Christian - Kurt Cobain's death killed Nirvana, not grunge. Grunge's lifespan was certainly shorter than hair metal's, yet grunge's influence has extended farther. I don't think the bands said, "Let's go back to poverty," so much as they said let's not hang onto something past its prime. Sure Pearl Jam has stuck around for a niche audience and Mudhoney is still recording, but the other major players CHOSE to not live beyond their relevance. As far as the Deline 2 film is concerned, Penelope Sheeris actually interviewed plenty of people who weren't "tossers." Granted this guy must have been, because a hair metal act that didn't find some kind of at least fleeting success was either incredibly bad or tremendously unlucky. My point was just to illustrate what happened when the floodgates opened and hair metal began to attract so many people who had no real love of the music. It's not meant to imply that everyone was like that, but I that was prevelent.

Allyson - I have to disagree to some extent about the general ability of hair metal bands to play. Your examples of EVH, Tommy Lee and Sebastian Bach are really exceptions. Unlike most of the genre, these guys brought more to the table than a lot of lessons and practice. As far as singers and guitarists are concerned, hair metal did have an inordinate number of people who could hit the high notes or fly up and down the scales. However, playing goes a lot farther than being able to rehash what you've been taught and that's where a lot of these guys failed. As far as rhythm sections go, other than Tommy Lee, I can't think of another exceptional player. I think the rhythm section was a glaring weakness of hair metal.

Your suggestion that grunge made for a more narrow musical base among fans is absurd. The early 90s was a creative explosion because it was so ECLECTIC. These were the days of Lolloapalooza when bands across the spectrum of popular music toured together, big and small alike, not the days when tours were put together based on the artists' similarity. While the early 90s didn't have the happy facade of the 80s, the absense of a "let's party no matter what's going on in the world" attitude doesn't mean we all stood around moping.

Hair metal's popularity in its day still doesn't show that it's had far reaching impact. The fact that people remember it, doesn't mean that it has influenced anything outside itself. I don't think I've said that it was entirely unimportant, just that it wasn't particularly important.

I suppose I do mention Poison a lot, but you could substitute any number of bands. I actually pick on them, because they're one of the better bands even if others had more technical skill. Really, I might just be using Poison as a buzzword of sorts. Pick just about any hair metal band from the mid to late 80s and plug them in and it probably makes sense anywhere I use Poison.

Your point about influencing the boy bands is something I hadn't considered. I'm not convinced, but I think it's worth considering. Even if it's true, I'm not sure it makes a better case for hair metal's greatness though.

I think there may be some similarities between emo and hair metal in that both became hollow commerical shells of their roots, but I would agree that they don't go much farther. I remember reading an interview with Motley Crue from maybe 1983-84 and they said that the music drew male fans while their appearence drew female fans. Emo doesn't appeal to the same male testosterone overload that hair metal did even though it does have plenty of male fans. It just appeals to them in a different way.

I do agree that hair metal has attracted some young fans. For all of his inability to see both sides of the issue, axe man is proof of that. Likewise, when I was in high school, back when hair metal was "king," there were a lot of kids exclusively into classic rock. While most of those bands were very influential, it had nothing to do with the kids in my generation who wanted to live in someone else's past. I said in a comment long ago that hair metal has two types of fans: ones living in their own past and ones living in someone else's past. I think the same can be said of the newer bands with a few exceptions.

Allyson, I try not to waste time with those "great post" comments, but this post certainly was a fine one that generated a lot of discussion. While a few people like to whine about my comments, I really enjoy that you and some of your readers like to engage in thoughtful debate.
June 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbob_vinyl
As far as I can see, any movement that decides to hang it's hat up, abandon it's fans in order to be remembered as relevant, is plainly a bunch of wankers. But, I hated grunge then, and I hate it now.

There's no doubt that at the end, a lot of people got into it for the wrong reasons, precisely because it was so huge. I don't see how you can claim that grunge was any different, tho, it's always the case, once it's a success, people jump on the bandwagon. It's just that the glam bandwagon was about *fun* and the grunge one was about being miserable. Someone talking about having a good time, and not having the skills to back it up musically, obviously comes across as more of a tosser than someone who wrings their hands together in the name of art, and is found to suck.

My recollection is that grunge type bands were coming out of the woodwork in a surprisingly short time.
June 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Graus
Actualy Tommy Aldridge is an outstanding drummer, he played for Ozzy and Whitesnake. Then there is Eric Singer and Eric Carr r.i.p
who both played for Kiss.
June 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercarlos
Christian - I think you confuse grunge's less superficial view of the world with a desire to be miserable. Maybe something like goth or the current state of emo is about self-pity and misery, but grunge succeeded when it did, because the sheen of optimism that was so pervasive in the 80s (I'm not just talking about music) evaporated in a recession and a war. Gen X was the first generation in a long time faced with making less in real dollars than their parents and sudddenly some of them were being swept off to a war which was something we hadn't known in our lifetime (we were babies when Vietnam ended). It wasn't about misery, rather it was about dealing with a different world and some of the downsides that came with it. You could make the case that it was about anger, but under the circumstances, it was more realistic than just fun.

I don't think bands like Soundgarden abandoned their fans by breaking up. They chose to not rip off their fans by continuing past their prime. I can't think of any grunge band that released some half-baked album full of covers just to make money. These bands (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, etc) are now being viewed as classic rock by the latest generation, much as the Who and Zeppelin were by mine.

Of course, you are correct that grunge too had its fair share of hangers on. Stone Temple Pilots comes immediately to mind, but there were plenty to be sure. Perhaps because many of the main bands didn't milk it, it forced these bands to fade back into oblivion, I don't know. I do know that they aren't around trying to rip people off with nostalgia tours and cover albums.

If I understand you correctly, you're suggesting that hair metal is seen as more of a "tosser" (is that an Australian term, because I like it, but never heard it before you used it here), because it didn't have any pretense of being deep or serious. I think there's truth to that. There are many cases of bands being critical favorites, or "press darlings" as Adam and the Ants once sang, and that generates some buzz even if the band isn't very good. I suppose its the "Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome of being afraid to admit that you don't get it. A band like Yo La Tengo might fit into that category. The critics love them, but it never seems to translate into mass appeal. I happen to like them, but I also wonder if the hype is because they're good or because the critics are all patting themselves on the back for liking an obscure band. Nonetheless, I suspect that Yo La Tengo will be remembered in a better light by rock critics of the future than say Warrant or whoever. That doesn't amke them more important on its own for sure. But I don't think that applies to grunge, because it had critical success and commercial success and it's influence continues today (and likely on into the future). The fact that grunge has a little more depth to it will definitely help it's historical position versus hair metal, but I think it's the combination of art and commercial success that will set it apart.

While the 80s were about watering things down (metal, punk, dance, etc were all stripped of their souls for commerical success during that decade), the 90s were about rediscovering the essence of rock music in its many forms and creating something new out of it. The eclecticism of the 90s resulted in a creative explosion that I think is only rivaled by the late 60s. Of course, I'm talking about more than just grunge when I say this, because grunge alone did not embody the full eclectic nature of what happened in music even beginning in the late 80s with bands like Jane's Addiction.
June 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbob_vinyl
Carlos - True, those guys had technical skill, but they are largely nondescript, because they played everything by the book. Tommy Lee did not. He's one of the only drummers of the genre that has a "sound." While I don't think of Van Halen as really hair metal, I think Alex Van Halen also had a sound of his own even if he isn't quite as technically good as some of the other guys you mentioned.
June 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbob_vinyl miss a few hours, you miss a lot around here. I would love to engage in this debate, but I don't have a ton of time today.

I find new bands all of the time that have been influenced by the sound that came from the 80's hard rock era. Look at half of the newer bands, both signed and unsigned on myspace, and they will show you where their influences lie.

There are many that credit bands that gained their fame and popularity in the 80's.

Obviously, not all of the bands have been influential, but quite a few were, and still are today.

I consider myself a fan who has one foot in the past, and one who has another in the future.

I am constantly searching for good hard rock music, regardless of the era it came from. There is a lot of stuff from some of the newer bands that is notable, and worth checking out.

In 2007, I don't think anyone is going to break out with a revolutionary new sound. If it is rock music, it has probably been done and over done, and will probably be done again.

If it is good music, I will listen to it, and support the acts that play it. Bands from every era of rock have their fair share of talent from the 60's to 00's.

80's hard rock will always hold a firm place in my heart, and my interest. It gained its popularity at the time, I was becoming more interested in music. It is natural for me to like and support what I grew up with. I have supported these bands through the grunge years right up today.

I am happy that enough of these bands are still active today and depending on whose perspective you agree with, are regaining some popularity.

Without that, their would probably not be a Bring Back Glam, or a Hard Rock Hideout.

Either way, its a fun ride, and I am glad to be part of it.

Rob Rockitt
Hard Rock Hideout

Rob - You seem to be a voice of moderation which is nice at the end of a debate (even though I am admittedly one of the extremists). I would like to say one thing about your comment though. There are a lot of new sounds out there in rock music. TV on the Radio for instance has broken down a lot of rock conventions without abandoning rock altogether and their last album was on a major, garnering a fair amount of attention. The Mars Volta has fused punk energy, psyche trippiness and prog technical skill (and even a bit of free jazz on their most recent album). They're also making some inroads with mainstream listeners. Neither of these bands may have the big break-through, but they show that something is afoot and it's very new and very different. Other bands like Isis or Ostinato or Growing are doing things that appeal to many metal fans despite not being metal per se. I agree that the past is fine, because I like old bands too (the Beatles are my favorite and no one in my all-time top five is in their prime), but if rock is going to sustain continued groeth it lies with new directions and new angles. Thankfully, there are a lot of bands doing that.
June 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbob_vinyl
Tosser is an Aussie term, yes.

I never really regarded grunge as a sign of the times. I regarded it mostly as a sign that metal had been riding high for so long that the next generation needed their own music, and the over commercial aspects of hair metal had become so removed from the fans reality that the younger kids coming into music could not relate to it. You may have a point, they were still all pretty miserable in my book.

It's always better to go out while you're popular, personally, I think a lot of bands are over hyped because someone died, or the just stopped ( Nirvana for one, although they were overhyped from the start ). Either way, it's plain that Poison, for example, don't write records because they expect hits, and don't need the money they get from touring. Maybe I look through a fans eyes, but when I am in the third row, the show has ended, it's dark and Brett is on his knees, talking to fans, and when they do the meet and greet thing after, my thought is that they are playing because they have fun, and the fans want to see them. That makes more sense to me than 'let's quit so people remember our legacy', even if it's a little more low brow.

It's always interesting to discuss this stuff with you, I must say.
June 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Graus
Christian - I do agree that Nirvana was overhyped and overrated. I liked Nevermind, but it was more a matter of being the right thing at the right time.

I like your story about Poison. I don't know that it argues that they're important, but it does argue that they're probably pretty cool people. Part of rock n roll's charm is that it's a bit low-brow or that it has that "everyman" appeal, so real connections with fans do carry some weight. Actually I have a higher opinion of them now (not of their overall importance perhaps, but maybe of their reason to continue on which have attacked in the past). I actually do have the first two on LP and the next two on CD, so it's not like I absolutely hate them, but they haven't held up well for me over the years. Now, I feel like I definitely need a different example to illustrate my points! In a certain sense, I pick on Poison, because they one of the best outside of that first wave of hair metal. I guess it's a backhanded compliment of sorts. At any rate, I don;t mean to suggest that they've been a "tosser" from the start. (Love that term. I'm gonna try to popularize it here.)
June 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbobvinyl

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