80′s Metal: Hair, Scare And Women’s Underwear
It was the era of tiger-stiped guitars and spikey Aquanet helmets. Oh, and skin-tight suits and falsetto singing. And while there were some songs worth having on your Walkman, all that ‘style’ was pretty tough to get past at times.
Some bands went for ‘hair’. Like big-haired predecessors like Led Zeppelin and Boston, bands like Poison, Britney Foxx and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion carried truckloads of hair-spray that was as valuable as any guitar, amp or stomp-box. And while a lot of the overly-haired bands, frankly, flat-out sucked (sorry, but Poison just flat-out couldn’t write their way out of a wet song paper bag 90% of the time), you have to give them props for showmanship. And actually, there was some danger involved as shown by KISS’ Gene Simmons in the previous decade. In KISS’s amazing show, Gene actually set his hair-sprayed mane ablaze during his fire-breathing act. In all fairness, Vinnie Vincent’s huge hair gave us singer, Mark Slaughter, who went on to front his own self-named band and cranked out some amazing vocals on killer songs like ‘Fly to the Angels’ and ‘Up All Night (Sleep All Day)’.
But there was much more to 80′s metal. Hair was a big deal, sure, but ‘scare’ was a big calling-card for bands like early Motley Crue, WASP and the mighty GWAR. Taking cues from the aforementioned KISS and Alice Cooper nearly a decade earlier, these bands were about leather, blood, saw-blades and generally girly songwriting (except for GWAR, who is awesome). I’ve pretty much hated every version of Motley Crue because they never really amounted to much more than Van Halen Lite, but they did craft the cool ‘Kickstart My Heart’. WASP probably was a decent attempt at scary shock-rock, but wrote and played like a 7th grade garage band.
Any great live photo from the 80′s has about 3.5 tons of lingerie on the stage, hanging from microphones or tied around the lead singer’s neck like a bandanna. To their credit, Poison managed to combined the hair and the underwear (and gobs of lip-gloss), and even Crue (was their much difference between these two bands by 1986?) had the formula down. Let’s face it though, Van Halen gave Victoria’s Secret a run for their money on inventory from about 1982 on. And while Twisted Sister sort of went for hair, scare and…uh…Dee Snider, there just wasn’t much by way of songwriting to turn that band into a powerhouse. Underwear band slike Dokken and Ratt had a couple cool songs too, and would have been better if the awesome guitar players (George Lynch and Warren DeMartini, respectively) would have kicked their singers to the curb and hooked up with, well, Mark Slaughter!
In the end, what really mattered was the song. Yeah, you could have a great show in 80′s metal. Hair, scare and underwear were great components, but unless you could write phenomenal tunes like Def Leppard, Metallica or Van Halen (and having a guitar-god like Eddie Van Halen didn’t hurt either), you were a wannbe. Plain and simple. It’s not like there weren’t great songs in the 80′s, but just like every other decade, 90% of the acts in the spotlight didn’t focus on great songs, or didn’t have what it took to produce them in the first place. The very best of 80′s metal would have to include the aforementioned Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Def Leppard and Metallica. While there were others and there was a hit here or there, most other bands were trying to hard (and failing) to be David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen or Rob Halford.
A lesson for the ages: The song makes or breaks your place in 80′s metal history!
If you like big 80′s music, you’ll love Pickett. Check out Pickett’s FREE download single, ‘Beautiful One’ at: http://www.m-overdrive.com/beautifulone