Deep down, every artist is just a creative person looking for love, attention, and the feeling that they are appreciated. They conjure vibrations from the ether and give them bodily waveform. No matter how bad, at least they are brave enough to get up in front of the world and try, to risk something, to aspire.
Probably they started early in the family living room and they were a prodigy of the couple blocks around their childhood home. By high school they were already the people forming bands or feathering their hair. They practiced for days in their bedrooms listening to records, went through a thousand hours of forming bands in garages, and then fell out of them on local stages and in the backs of beerhalls. They've paid their dues, at least some.
So you want to give them encouragement and a participation trophy even if they don't make it past playing somewhere in Hollywood, or even if they're a one hit wonder inexplicably pushed as the real deal like the Ramones were. And if they do make it, and they then start to tailor their work to the demands of the marketplace as professionals making a living at their craft, and if they make album after album with the hopes of hitting the 1980s rock music tour circuit (which was incredibly robust at every market point from small clubs to stadiums at that time), or if they yearned for the chance of getting big reaching the people on radio with the help of a big label? Then I say God Bless Em.
And if paying those dues means that by the late 70s and early 80s they could flaunt their ridiculous rock and roll wealth or sexually profligate lifestyle or sell the lifestyle as their brand, why not? It worked for the Stones.
Heck, god bless even Sammy Hagar!
And if they grow their hair some ridiculous kind of a way to be all rebellious or flashy or gender bent, so be it, let the peacocks spread and hairspray their feathers. (Some guys have great hair, too, let's admit that, especially that guy that almost sang for Van Halen). Thus, I don’t want to be too hard on 80's rock bands, their high maintenance locks and cock rock attitudes, rhinestone studded spandex circus tights and dumb headgear. Everybody was doing it. Everybody wanted some.
Meanwhile, when I was a teenager I admit that I listened to KMET in Los Angeles and KLOS every waking hour I could and often even when I wasn't awake. They played this stuff non-stop. I heard it all. From Dokken to even forgettable outfits like Y&T that barely dented the US market. (I think my buddy Jim bought that one based on the single, wonder if he still has the vinyl?)
There was nothing wrong with it at the time. Just like a funny punk rock song from the Dead Milkmen or alternative pop from Ween, it's just a lark and the cool kids don't want all that serious parental dowdy dowager frowning over some bathroom stall jingle, they just want to get down and stick their fingers somewhere fun or doodle on the walls. You will tolerate a lot more immaturity from your music when you are immature, sure. This was the music of my times, and I was an avid music fan and serious album collector/historian documenting the power of the youth culture zeitgeist to change the world, after all.
So when the second Quiet Riot album came out you had to ask yourself… is this going to be one of the classic great albums of all time, a monster million seller that will make history like the first one? Will I be the hero for being the first on the block to own it? Shouldn't I buy it now just in case, so that I can have it in my ever expanding collection, one that will make history one day? Why not take a chance? Will it be a lasting trend, wearing flashy bedazzled sweatbands and taping your mic stand up in zebra stripes? Could be. Only time will tell.
I get it. We are all victims of our times.
Then times change. Two years later you can't even sell it back to the record store in town that buys used LPs. My friend down the street Dave Whedbee took all his Kiss albums and we threw them around in the street like Frisbees until they all shattered.
Now, I realize I can't be too nice. People will flame you hard when you talk shit about the Ramones, for example, but cry me a river. No doubt they will, too, because that band's lowbrow audience is exactly the kind that can't countenance criticism and will respond with knee-jerk threats of violence and ad homs. This is why their brand of punk evolved into Republicanism in the end, natch. So who cares what the haters think? They've got to defend their little plot of land where they planted their flag regardless if the land below them is eroding or liquefying. They are happy to wallow in their slop, how dare you suggest slop is just mud. It must be you that just don’t get it.
Still, in the end, it's clear what will stand the test of time and what won't, bar a few exceptions that prove the rules. Part of the reason I am writing these reviews is to make sense of it all and separate the wheat from the chavs before I die. I'm a food critic of human sounds and songs, and tasters gonna taste. I like to eat ambrosia in the end, not reheated cornballs and rubber chicken.
Sadly, someone has to fall on the other side of the razor's edge or the wooden plank, if it's a swanky place. Someone has to have some accountability in this day and age where the rule of law and respect for education is eroding all around us in many ways. Someone has to push back on the tidal wave of crap that gets pumped in our skies and dumped in our rivers and rep for clean energy solutions and music fed by the sun instead of the black soul coal of the haters.
Naturally, if we spend time raising one underappreciated gem up, it has to be at the expense of someone else who had previously felt entitled to grab the airtime and mine the attention. In the case of modern popular music, our first murder victims are easy to find: the rock bands of the 1980s.The metalheads. The cockrockers. The pretty boys. The stadium-touring too many scarves and mascara set focused on image over substance, with a vapidity that approached and then surpassed even country music. (And for country music fans, vapid means dumbass).
In order to understand my life and times, I am going to have to understand why it is that music which now makes me physically retch when I hear it. Why did 80's metal and rock not meet the test of time? Why did I waste so much of my precious youth listening to it and so much money on C grade purchases?
For me, it's like gin, the alcohol I wound up drinking in high school (when I could get a chance to drink) because it was tolerable mixed with something sweet. One night I naturally drank too much and got the spins and threw up multiple times and suffered the next day from a pounding headache. Now, thirty three years later, at the age of 50… I still can't even bear the smell.
Don't let this stuff allow you to miss the Slick Rick gig.
A few weeks ago I saw gin was on sale at the store. I said, we don't have any gin in the house, what if we throw a party or have company? Not that anyone will come, but just in case there is divine intervention or something, we can have some cocktail fixins for them. So I bought it. I opened it. I sniffed and literally retched. Physically, even just the smell of gin makes my throat tighten and my stomach involuntarily contract.
And so it is with 80s rock and rool.
Simply put, there was a lot of bad music in the 80s, more than other recent decades in fact. Bad pop like Cyndi Lauper, bad techno like Berlin, bad pop rock like later period Genesis and Jefferson Starship, bad RnB like Cameo and Milli Vanilli, bad roots rock like Hootie and the Blowfish, bad punk like the Ramones and Social Distortion, bad electro pop like Bananarama and bad new romantic gender benders like Boy George. Then there were bad college alternatives like GG Allin or others not even worth mentioning.
Each category of dreck and dismay has its own particular sins to confess, doubtlessly, though each also has those who bucked the trend or outlasted and out-competed their rivals. Naturally, the underground was still flourishing, as it does. Yet amidst that parade of simpletons and tribute-floats in the parade to bad taste, overall we can render judgment easily and swiftly (within mere moments after the catered sandwiches are delivered, but not before) by stating unequivocally that none is worse than bad 80s hair metal and rock.
None. Nada. Zilch.
Some of it may be better than the worst of other genres, but let's be honest, the median is hella low when you group it. The highlights of other genres, even the bad Euro pop milieu, make up for some of their laggards. With hair metal, it's almost all turtles all the way down. This stuff makes us puke like high school gin. Thus, it's a dirty job to clean out the dustbin of history, but someone's gotta do it.
Heck, it's not even a paid position, ha ha, if my blog stats are any measure. Actually, I'm only doing it so we can make room for the bad music of the 20-teens (which we might suspect is giving the 80s a run for its yuppie money, but we'll get to that when we get to that, which might be years from now).
First, let's put a few sacred cows on the BBQ and get this party started right!