The Last Years of 80s Hair Metal: Coda

So is nostalgia all the genre has going for it?

A year or so ago I published a series of posts about the hair metal I listened to while in high school, looking back at some of the more obscure albums from bands who for the most part had their 15 minutes during the late 80s and are now relegated to SiriusXM’s Hair Nation, Rocklahoma, and some themed cruise ships.

I had planned on wrapping things up with a final entry, but grading and life and a laziness about actually committing to my writing all got in the way of doing so. But now that itch has struck again and I’m back here to close it out. So here we go.

I got inspired to write this series for two reasons: Cobra Kai‘s Johnny Lawrence (played by William Zabka) and James Gunn’s Peacemaker (played by John Cena) both being unrepentant 80s metalheads.

Tighty-whitey warning

Both of these shows’ soundtracks threw songs at me I hadn’t thought about in years, and the protagonists’ enthusiasm for the bands and the music echoed my own love for the music I had when I was 17 and making my way through my last years of high school. The shows, however, played it for laughs: the protagonists’ love for the music was mocked by other characters and the buffoonery of both Lawrence and The Peacemaker implied guilt by association: only 50 year old man-children still listen to this stuff. Hot Tub Time Machine’s Lou (Rob Corddry) is another example:

As my series of posts perhaps suggests, these bands certainly didn’t do much to encourage being taken seriously. When the extent of a band’s catalog is limited to songs about getting high, getting laid, and getting wild (and one or two songs saying, “No, really, I love you”), maybe that encourages such dismissiveness. Today you need some kind of subscription service (or a cassette player) to be able to deliberately listen to them. And even then, the stations that do play them play up the joke: they’re hair bands. They wore spandex. They wore makeup. They looked like women.

Hell, even this string of posts I’ve written about this stuff ends up mocking them a bit.

But I still love a lot of this music. Sure, a lot of it hasn’t aged well. A lot of it doesn’t hold up today and I have to be in a mood to switch over to Hair Nation from Liquid Metal or Ozzy’s Boneyard. And there I’ll hear “Still of the Night”, David Coverdale wailing so impressively, and then Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” followed by Kix’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and I’m 17 again in my ’81 Buick Regal driving home after a soccer game, or in my bedroom singing along as I write an English essay, or hanging out with my buddies just pissing time away. And then “Unskinny Bop” will come on and it’s over to Classic Rewind because screw that song, it’s terrible.

Maybe that’s why I took on this series of posts: if not to come to its defense, then to at least praise it for getting me through my high school years, which were largely miserable for me, socially. Being able to lose myself in some loud guitars and lyrics largely about crap I had no experience with (sex, drugs, parties) – I now recognize I was living vicariously through these guys. But instead of suggesting what I was missing, their music more often spoke to my loneliness, telling me it was independence instead. Assuring me that being an outsider was cool, that you just need a close group of friends and screw everyone else, and that someone for me was out there, waiting for me to find her.

Maybe I just wanted to say “thanks”. Y’all fucking rock. \m/

One Response to “The Last Years of 80s Hair Metal: Coda”

  1. Wow. After keeping up with this series since last year, I can say that this post is a great summary to the series; most definitely, an appropriate “coda.” I could not help but think about “The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.” Both this post and the movie subtly reminise on the story that they created, ultimately leading to the truth behind most endings, being the actual reflection of the story. Music has always been a big part of my life too and I relate with it the same way you do. I hope that the psychodelic rock vynil of King Gizzard and The Lizzard Wizard reminds you of that rambunctiousness that some of us hide in the music we listen to.

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