I was digging though my old bag of tapes recently, when I came upon a treat – a recording I’d made of two regional (Evansville-Owensboro area) radio metal shows, WVJC’s “Monday Night Metal” and WUEV’s “Heavy Metal Express.”
The shows are from the tail end of the 1980s – either 1987 or 1988 – so finding the tape was like digging up a heavy metal time capsule I’d buried for myself in high school. It’s funny, but even the lingo was different back then: The Monday Night Metal guys liked to say “killer” a lot – as is “here’s a killer tune from a killer band.” I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “killer” in that context since 1989.
About the same time, I dug out some old hair metal CDs of ’80s bands that I purchased or received as misbegotten gifts. The thing I learned from all that music was this – some bands have stood the test of time, and some most definitely have not.
So, for gits and shiggles, let’s use that “Monday Night Metal” playlist to look at some of the bands whose music didn’t quite stand the test of time.
Dokken – I admit I really liked this band back in the old days – and to be fair, Don Dokken, George Lynch and the boys really did write several really good songs. Don’t scoff: I’ll bet you never wrote a killer track like “It’s Not Love” or “In My Dreams” or “Just Got Lucky” or “Tooth And Nail.” Hell, “Alone Again” gets my vote for best power ballad ever … and if you’re rolling your eyes cuz I admitted to enjoying a power ballad, cut me some slack — at least I didn’t pick “Home Sweet Home” or something by Winger, Warrant or Whitesnake.
But aside from those few bright, shining moments, most of Dokken’s music is kind of on the forgettable side. “Under Lock and Key” has exactly four good songs, and “Tooth And Nail” has only about five. As for “Back For The Attack,” the only song I remember from that album is that tune they used for one of the “Friday The 13th” movies … and the song was about as exciting as the movie (not very). If you wanna see Dokken today, look for them here.
But here’s some good rokken with Dokken (cheesy video, however).
Loudness – I remember thinking Loudness was pretty cool back in the ’80s, mainly because; A) the singer couldn’t speak English and had to learn all the lyrics phonetically; B) they were from Japan and; C) Uh … well, I only had two reasons, I guess. Hearing those early Loudness tunes today is like seeing a picture of yourself with a permed mullet and sleeveless Judas Priest “Turbo” T-shirt and thinking, “wow, I was a doofus when I was 16.” Loudness tried and had a few solid riffs, but overall didn’t leave a lasting impression.
Stryper – Oh my. Where do I start? First of all, I confess I owned a Stryper tape in high school, but a kid at school stole it from me. Now that I think about it, that klepto kid was embodying the spirit of metal more than I was at the time. But wait: Did I mention I was also the biggest Metallica fan ever, even before the band released “Master of Puppets”? Didja know I gladly would have died defending “Ride The Lightning” to the Van Hagar obsessed preps in my class? That makes up for my unfortunate “Stryper Incident,” doesn’t it?
Anyway, my recent reacquaintance with Stryper through “Monday Night Metal” makes me wonder: How in the hell did I ever convince myself I liked Stryper? Michael Sweet’s voice is so freakin’ syrupy, chokingly sweet it hits me right in the gag reflex. And it’s perfectly fine that boys were/are “rockers for god,” but jeeze, could they have been more heavy handed about it? Talk about message overkill. See, I like my metal lyrically subtle, like, say Slayer’s “Altar of Sacrifice.”
I really wouldn’t play the following video if I were you.
Raven and Savatage – When these bands were good, they were awesome … but when they were bad, they were so, so bad.
Raven (really, really bad)
Way too freaky, weird Savatage (look out, little guy!)
L.A. Guns – Here’s an interesting question – if Axl Rose and Tracy Guns hadn’t split up (musically, that is), would Guns N Roses have been a forgettable blip in hair metal history?
After losing Tracy Guns, Axl let his dirty, Midwestern punk rage shine through on the brilliant “Appetite For Destruction.” Tracy, however, led L.A. Guns into second-rate Ratt land and eventually to the mopey, dopey “Ballad of Jayne.” When the highlight of your career is a saccharine power ballad, you’ll be lucky to even be mentioned by the dork “comedians” spitting snark on VH-1.
Guns N Roses – I’m gonna make more than a couple of my four readers angry on this one, but what I say is true: Guns N Roses released ONE good full-length album and a one solid EP during their career. That album, of course, is the aforementioned “Appetite For Destruction.” The following EP, “GNR Lies” was also quite a kick – although if you wanna argue the acoustic stuff wasn’t stellar, you have that right (but I’d disagree).
However, by the time the band released “Use Your Illusion” parts one and two, Rose, Slash and the boys had become so bloated with ego they’d lost any semblance of the edge that made “Appetite” such a riveting experience. Everything Slash and Axl have done since “Appetite” and “Lies” has been a disappointment. Velvet Revolver was boring and I can’t remember a note of anything I’d heard on “Chinese Democracy.” The only Guns member who thrived (although with limited commercial success) after leaving the band was Izzy Straddlin’, who embraced blues, punk, a bit of country and reggae on his solo albums.
Here’s Guns on “You Could Be Mine,” which – now that I hear it again – is actually a pretty decent song. OK, so they did one thing right during the “Use Your Illusion” days …
But at least Guns N Roses wasn’t Faster Pussycat, which brings me to …
Faster Pussycat – Wowie zowie, is this bad! These guys fell out of L.A. just about the same time Guns N Roses were beginning to break out with “Appetite.” Both bands are similar in the sense that there’s a bit of a blues influence in each. But while Guns N Roses had believable bile and anger, Faster Pussycat were about as dangerous as a teddy bear. There’s a reason we remember “Appetite For Destruction” today while we couldn’t identify a Faster Pussycat album if our lives depended on it — the reason being that “Appetite” era Guns was raw genius and Faster Pussycat was complete corporate crap.
Here’s “House of Pain.” Was a song every more aptly named?
Poison – They’re entertaining live after I’ve had a few drinks, but the closest the band ever came to a great song was the ballad “Something To Believe In,” which, grammatically, shouldn’t end with the word “in,” but grammar’s difficult, so cut them a break. With the exception of “Something,” all the rest of the band’s music was about as durable as cotton candy. Today, Bret Michaels is hanging out with skeezers on VH-1 and cutting tracks with Miley Cyrus, while C.C. and Bobby are whereabouts unknown and Rikki Rockett is probably an accountant.