Rock n' roll was a helluva lot healthier in 1987.
Oh sure, it was also considerably goofier. And certainly more misogynistic. And probably less culturally important. But in terms of what rock music should truly represent, it was simply a better era. As far as I'm concerned, C.C. DeVille, Don Dokken, the losers in Danger Danger and the rest of the glam metal fraternity were infinitely more interesting than ninety-nine percent of the pseudo-intellectuals currently wallowing around Alternative Nation, trying to make thirteen-year-old girls believe they actually have enough balls to swallow a shotgun shell.
Don't get me wrong - I love a lot of contemporary music, and I'm not trying to imply that Cocked and Loaded was my generation's White Album. However, rock is about attitude, and - as Faster Pussycat's Taime Downe eloquently exclaimed - "I ain't got much but I got a lot of per-so-nal-i-ty, and that's all that counts." To me, that was what good hair spray metal was all about. I don't think there could have been a more accurate phrase to represent the coinciding Reagan administration.
What people forget, however (perhaps on purpose), is that 80s heavy metal was more than just a masculine persona beneath prostitutesque fashion. It demanded a guitar-god in the lead slot, and the lovemaking image of all those pretty-boy frontmen was always dependent on somebody with legitimately quick (albeit often uncreative) fingers. Glam rock wasn't complicated, but it was a lot easier to figure out conceptually then it was to replicate. That's probably the biggest difference between 1995 and 1985. Back then, everyone I knew wanted to be a rock star, but it appeared impossible. Living on a farm in rural North Dakota, my thirteen-year-old existence was painfully boring: I didn't drink, I didn't have sex, I'd never used drugs, and I'd never kicked anyone's ass. However, it sounded like that was all the guys in Motley Crue ever did! According to the lyrics and liner notes on 1983's Shout At The Devil, they were constantly getting loaded, beating up `bastards,' and having ten second love rides in the romantic atmosphere of an elevator (which-in retrospect-does seem like a rather strange thing to brag about).
There is really no benefit to being a rock star in 1995. I mean, what in the hell would be so about being one of the guys in Ween? Who wants to live the Tripping Daisy lifestyle? Even Eddie Vedder seems to hate his existence, and he's got the best freaking job in America.
When I saw Kiss perform in 1990, the typical garb for female audience members were stiletto heels, leather mini-skirts and push-up bras. When I attended Lollapalooza last year, the girls were wearing shawls and clogs. Anyone who feels this is a legitimate improvement should not be going to concerts. Go home and read Beowulf. Perhaps this just proves I'm an idiot, but I do want to rock and roll all nite, and I also have to qualms about partying every day. And there is nothing rock n' roll about a shawl.
Ironically, it's much easier to become a rock star these days, because nobody cares how well you play. You can just strum an acoustic guitar and be vaguely depressed (i.e. Beck), or you can simply beat on an untuned electric axe like a rabid sasquatch and Tabitha Soren will claim that you're part of the blossoming neo-punk movement (i.e. Rancid). Nobody ever looked at Yngwie Malmsteen and said, "Oh, that looks easy. Let's go out in the garage and see if we can make my guitar sound like a self-destructing fire engine." It may have been musical masturbation, but at least it took practice. And it also appeared somewhat painful.
Most importantly, glam rock gave us stuff no other musical genre could have (or would have wanted to) offer. For example...
-Bands Who Systematically Hated Each Other: Glam rock was much like professional boxing. It was very popular to attack rival bands, as long as you did not specifically mention who they were. Many classic articles in Hit Parader featured angry bass players saying abstract things such as, "We don't want to name any names, but there are some bands out there who rip off the fans with lame shows. If we get the chance, we might kick their ass on principle." Little headbangers everywhere would then spend the next month trying to figure out who they were talking about, which inevitably led to heated debates over who despised whom (usually, this just led to the age-old debate about which metal magazine was more accurate-Hit Parader or Circus). I can recall a lot of bands hating Poison and Guns N' Roses hating everybody, but that's about all.
-The Lingo: The metal years ushered in a lot of words and phrases that became the backbone of the glam lexicon. Probably the most essential aspect of this new vocabulary was "poser." Just about any band (except for Slayer) could potentially be called a poser, and wearing make-up was definitely the high road to poserville. No one really knows what this accusation was supposed to mean (in other words, no one seems to have an answer regarding who these bands were supposedly posing as), but it was a very safe way to be derogatory. The glam lexicon also changed the word "riff" into "lick" and constructed two phrases that will affect pre-album publicity for the rest of time:
1.) "Our next record is going to be a lot heavier."
2.) "Our next record is going to be a lot blusier."
- Vinnie Vincent Invasion: For pure glam weirdness, you don't have to look any further than Vinnie Vincent. Vinnie was musically insane and visually bizarre - but it was his personality that made him a glam legend. When Vinnie replaced Ace Frehley as Kiss guitarist in 1982, Paul Stanley decided his character should be the Egyptian Warrior. As far as I can tell, Egypt was never actually involved in any medieval wars. This was an omen for a career that was destined to make no sense.
Vinnie did a decent job on Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up, but he wanted out of Kiss-Gene Simmons was not especially responsive to thirteen minute guitar solos performed with a samurai sword. So the V-Man left Kiss to form Vinnie Vincent Invasion on Chrysalis Records. In my opinion, their debut was one of the better glam LPs of all time. With mindlessly horny tracks like "Do You Wanna Make Love" and the needless repetition of one annoying chord for seven minutes at the conclusion of the record, Vinnie proved he could play faster and act more unreasonable than any guitar player since the dawn of mankind (or at least Jeff Beck).
However, after the Invasion added Mark Slaughter on vocals, Vinnie proved just how self-destructive he truly was. Somehow, Vincent managed to get fired from his own band that was even named after himself. This would be comparable to Jimi Hendrix getting fired from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Everybody else got to keep their job with Chrysalis (and, obviously, this is why we were subjected to Slaughter), but Vinnie was forced to meander off alone and attempt another solo project called Guitar From Hell that was never completed. Our poor little Egyptian Warrior simply could not get a break. Perhaps Paul should have dubbed him The Pharaoh.
At this point, you're probably wondering why I think the world needed a guy like Vinnie Vincent (or Bang Tango, or Ratt, or Fastway). The truth is that the world did not. But no glamsters ever pretended that the world did, either. Sting thinks he's saving the planet, and the women in Bikini Kill talk like they're the modern day incarnations of Margaret Sanger-but they are still merely musicians with too much pretension and not enough charm. I don't need reality in pop music. I already live in reality. And that's why I miss David Lee Roth.
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