Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Defenders of the Faith

I was sitting at a traffic light blasting "Living on a Prayer," singing a bit, playing guitar on my steering wheel, oblivious to 92 degrees outside, when I looked to my left.
A dude in his 20, his back window thumping bass, gave me a sardonic grin, shook his head and hit the gas.
I gave him the devil horns.
I find myself in these situations more than I'd like these days. Lately, I find myself defending 80s metal.
Fans of A Flock of Seagulls, Asia or the Alan Parsons Project - if they're still out there - probably go through the same thing. But let's be honest. Most of that music sucked, and most everyone realizes it today. 
But the strange thing is 80s metal, especially hair metal, in some ways is more popular than ever. It's in regular rotation on classic rock stations, including those JACK-FM stations that also play the occasional song from Bread. This makes me feel incredibly old, but it's also gratifying and ironic at the same time, given that popular radio at the time wouldn't touch even the more popular groups like Motley Crue. You'd hear Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and "The Final Countdown," but that's about it.
Still, I find myself having to defend the wonders of "Living on a Prayer" to the younger generation, or explain that, yes, Twisted Sister looked pretty stupid, but Dee Snider not only wrote some pretty catchy songs, he could sing, too. 
Even a couple friends of mine who prefer today's demon growlers - music I listen to and enjoy as well - sneer at all 80s metal, save for Metallica and maybe Iron Maiden.
I realize that a lot of 80s metal, most of it hair metal, screams to be parodied. Just look at the pants, the hair and the lyrics. And the sappy ballads. Yeah, those sucked. And, yeah, some of bands sucked as well. Maybe more than some. For every Ratt, Crue and Cinderella, there was a Britney Fox, Bang Tango and Danger Danger. 
But a band like Steel Panther makes fun of hair metal and gets it so right because the guys appreciate the music. That's why I loved their show. They played and sang the songs so well - nailed them, actually - that only a fool would say they were ripping it. True parody, the best kind, comes from a love of the source.
I wouldn't want to bring it back, I don't think. I mean, I did buy Motley Crue's new album this year, and it was great, really great, but I can't see me buying anyone else's. I think Twisted Sister's new one, if there was a new one, would stay on the shelf. 
But that music has its place, just like Men at Work, or many of those 80s bands that were actually pretty good but would probably be horrible today. It has its time. And it influenced more bands than you might think. The music's better than many think.
Though I'm worried. The other day I was playing Whitesnake in the car, and Andie looked at me and said, "ewww."
She also does that when she has a poopy diaper. I'm pretty sure that's what it was. 


The Wife said...

You will never need to defend 80s hair metal to me, my friend.

They just don't understand, is all.

My 11 year old son rocks out with me . . . Andie still has time.

And besides . . . what do kids of today have to define their generation? American Idol? At least hair bands had to make it on their own . . . without Simon Cowell parading them around and humiliating them before a million teenagers texted their votes.

Rock on!

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Am not familiar with Steel Panther, but when you mention parody that comes from love of the source, I think of the Darkness. Whaddya think of them? Have to admit I dig 'em as a guilty pleasure.... Not quite Tenacious D-silly, but over the top in cool way (imho). And straight outta the 80s, fer sure.

pokerpeaker said...

Shamus, I love the Darkness. Very funny in an unintentional sort of way, but also good music. Check out Steel Panther at the Green Valley Ranch in Vegas when you're out there. It's a free show and you won't regret it.

Mike G said...

I think Guitar Hero and Rock Band really gave a shot in the arm to a lot of this sort of music, too. It exposed a lot of teens and twenty somethings to that music, and especially to the guitar instrumentals that are usually pretty good.

Steel Panther is good, another great Vegas cover band is the Spazmatics who do an odd sort of dorky Weezer 90s alternative tribute show that is way better than it has any right to be.