Archive for Guns N Roses

The last years of 80s Hair Metal – Intro.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 10, 2022 by Mike

A look back at some albums you probably don’t remember…

I was a teenager through most of the ’80s and as such lived through the heyday of hair metal (otherwise known as glam metal, pop metal, or my favorite, “crotch rock”, as these bands’ lyrics often revolved around getting laid). I’d assume most people over 40 have some association with this music as bands like Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi and Poison tended to stick around the Billboard charts during the late 80s, competing with more traditional pop acts like Madonna, Phil Collins and Michael Jackson, though songs by all could be heard on any mainstream pop station then (I’m thinking back to Dallas’s 97.1 The Eagle right now).

Hair metal would culminate with Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction (1987), just a monstrous rock album without a loser of a song on it. This album gave us “Paradise City”, “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, all songs you’d hear in heavy rotation on any pop/rock radio station from 1987 onward but also songs you STILL listen to today (if you’re still reading this post you know you do). While Guns N’ Roses would continue to see a great deal of success with their Use Your Illusion follow up double album (and the multitude of film-like MTV videos it spawned). nothing GNR put out would ever match their first album, and after Illusion GNR ended up devolving into Axl Rose’s seemingly decades long Chinese Democracy vanity project.

Now, there is the argument that GNR wasn’t actually “hair metal” – that they were hard rock and I understand the objection: the songs off Appetite had a different feel to them when compared to, say, Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In from the year before or even Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls released the same year as Appetite. Still, GNR had pretty strong ties to the L.A. glam scene, and early on the band’s appearance reflected some of those influences. If anything, GNR’s emergence marked a need for bands to start moving away from the pop metal scene (not many did), but the sheer popularity of its music was similar to most other inarguable hair bands at the time. I doubt many contemporaries would make a huge distinction – even GNR deliberately competed to take away Crüe’s “bad boys” crown that first year.

I say Appetite was the culmination of the hair metal genre as after 1987, while a lot of hair metal was still to come (as this series of blogs I’m planning will illustrate), Appetite proved to be a cultural touchstone – nothing matched it. Sure, 1989 saw Mötley Crüe release the hugely popular Dr. Feelgood and Skid Row’s self-titled album debuted the same year, but the die had been cast – everything after felt “been there, done that.” Hair metal bands weren’t able to offer up anything actually new and then along came Nirvana and the rest of the grunge scene to put the genre down for good. I mean, Mötley Crüe released three albums after Feelgood, and Poison released at least four after Open Up and Say…Ahh – can you name any one of them?

In 1987 I turned 15 and by that point was cutting my teeth on established 80s rock acts: Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, The Cars, and other bands that filled the airwaves at the time. From 1987 through 1990 I bought A LOT of hair metal albums. These cassette tapes would end up littering the floor of my ’81 Buick Regal as I made my way through high school and filling up storage cases placed beside the boxes of comic books I collected. Posters of these bands would decorate the walls of my bedroom over the next few years (I never broke my mom of the habit of calling GNR “Blood and Guts” when she would enter my room) and I even made it to a few concerts at what was then Starplex Amphitheatre.

What I’m saying is, when I was 17, I LOVED those bands.

So, for a reason I’ll get into later, I’ve decided to take a look at some of those bands’ albums I was listening to as I was finishing high school. Not the albums everyone remembers – I don’t really feel the need to look back at Ratt’s Reach for the Sky and explain why “Way Cool Jr.” might still hold up (I’m not sure it does). But there are bands whose albums I bought for THAT ONE SONG that MTV played the video for that ONE WEEK in July in 1989, whose lyrics I for some reason STILL KNOW, and as I am close to turning 50 I guess I’m interested in reminiscing a bit with a part of my youth that occupied so much of my time 30+ years ago.

Now where to begin…?