Tape Wyrm XLIII: In Defense of Glam Tape Wyrm XLIII: In Defense of Glam

43aIn Defense of Glam

Glam metal, hair metal, pop metal, or metal-lite is an umbrella term of popular hard rock/heavy metal bands that released albums to massive success during the 1980’s. Supposedly the bands were the heavier counterpart to the glam rock bands of the early to mid 70’s. That or they just took the look. Whatever. Glam metal was popular and came at a time where media was controlled by the few. For a few short years a fraction of bands became universal while legions tried to replicate their success. To some this was 80’s metal and just a continuation of the heavy metal’s a decade prior. Glam metal’s eventual infamy is now streaked across the 1980’s with more embarrassment than fond memories. The style nears its 30 year anniversary and is quite due for a re-elevation.

History favors the simple. In a reduced timeline, glam metal fits neatly after the decline of punk in the early 80’s and right before the rise of grunge in the early 90’s. Van Halen to Nirvana. This is, of course, incredibly simple if not factually psychotic. The history of heavy metal is vast and during glam metal’s rise, the underground splintered with not only more harsh extreme styles but also catchy and melodic ones. It isn’t even as simple as I once thought. For whatever reason, during this time, elements of mainstream punk, early 80’s heavy metal, and 70’s hard rock were married in what would be later known as glam metal — and since the close of the 1990’s has been on everyone’s shit list.

There are many reasons why glam is resented even to this day. First of all, the actual term “metal” is used very liberally when applied to a group of bands which embraced power ballads, acoustic guitars, and smooth hooks. Hard rock is usually the starting point with bands falling on either side. Secondly, the success of glam metal contrasted against the development of underground metal with the later being seen as “authentic” while the former being fabricated for mass appeal. While this opinion is mostly true it does not negate glam metal from having merit and being effective when executed correctly.

Aside from the merits of pop music being sturdy enough on their own, 80’s glam is a time artifact that preserves the attitudes of what people found important during the 1980’s. Glam came at a time when a large portion of the commercial market was wielded by music television, the radio, and music magazines. Music was still sold in malls and the idea of rock super stardom was still a tangible goal. It was sexy and commercially viable. The hegemony of the media elite combined with the perceived excesses of the music, and its members, led to one of the most bizarre moments in rock and roll. That is, of course, before it all came crashing down.

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Motley-Crue-Shout-At-The-Devil5Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil (1983)

I was reading about Motley Crue long before I started to appreciate their music. Tommyland, The Heroin Diaries, and The Dirt all provided fascinating glimpses into bedlam and excess for the supposedly most notorious rock band. Well notorious for the 80’s. Well, one of the most notorious. Motley Crue is a great fuck-up story and is interesting to read because no one will ever come close to that sort of privilege. Who complains about not being able to paint their jet black because of FAA regulations? Motley Crue fell harder and crashed longer than most bands. Though everything came crashing down for this band, there are a few pieces worth salvaging.

Shout at the Devil came before everything the band would become famous for. The girls, drugs, and rock star fame was born from Shout at the Devil. Shout at the Devil would birth a monster that would barrel its way through Theater of Pain (1985) Girls Girls Girls (1987) and finally equalize in 1989 with Dr. Feelgood. Shout at the Devil still has the band focused and not bludgeoned with fame and drugs. The additions of Mick Mars to this record (“God Bless the Children of the Beast,” “Red Hot,” “Danger”) are invaluable and still see Motley Crue as a functioning and semi-responsible glam metal band. I use responsible loosely.

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Dokken_-_Tooth_and_NailDokken – Tooth and Nail (1984)

Wait, hold on, I was tricked with the first track. Wait. This isn’t what I was expecting. It is true the title track from Dokken’s sophomore release sounds a lot like Judas Priest but then sets one up for something completely different. I like Dokken. I enjoyed Dokken’s 1981 debut Breaking The Chains for its under produced template of glam metal. While I was going to use Breaking the Chains, Tooth and Nail is just more fun to listen to. This record has three of Dokken’s most well known tracks. “Just got Lucky, “Into the Fire” and the gushy “Alone Again” were somewhat well received singles and hammered Dokken’s name into the wall of glam metal history. I mean nothing comes close to their work on the Nightmare on Elm Street Soundtrack but still. Tooth and Nail represents a well rounded record primed and groomed for massive success that made it halfway but no where near the level of the next entry. Its still fun. Come on, loosen up.

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Def-Leppard-Pyromania-Seale-325041Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

I was arguing with my wife over this record. “No, it’s not a bad record. It is actually really good in terms of production and even songwriting. Where are you going? I am not done talking!” Pyomania is no where near the level of Def Leppard’s next record Hysteria but it is pretty damn close. It is a massive glam metal record, which still has music spinning somewhere today. In some club in Russia, “Foolin” is still being played from an iPod before a show as background music. Compared to Dokken and Motley Crue, Def Leppard, who was a staple in the New Wave of British Heavy scene, changed the most. This was still 1983 and holy fuck this album is smoooooooth. But you know, everyone knows this and should enjoy it for what it is — A goddamn time capsule which got so many people through those tough 80’s breakups.

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album-two-steps-from-the-moveHanoi Rocks – Two Steps from the Move (1984)

It is difficult to divorce Hanoi Rocks from Motley Crue because one was ended by the other. Following the death of Nicholas Dingley, AKA Razzle, Hanoi Rocks ended their blossoming career. Two Steps from the Move is the band’s last record, released a few months before Razzle’s death. Hanoi Rocks is always a good time. Mixing sneering 70’s punk with glam stompers, Two Steps from the Move is a fine place to end for a band who probably had all the energy in the world to go more places.

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43aaFrom the dressing room of Deathofthesun

While most of what got lumped in under the glam banner was pretty (or very) dire, there’s no question a handful of bands and albums were well worth the time. In some cases the categorization owed entirely to looks, in others it was more musically-based. But one common thread was that most of the bands fell entirely on the rock side of the divide – Hanoi Rocks, Jetboy, GNR on Appetite … basically the ones who sounded like they’d actually heard the New York Dolls rather than the ones who heard Poison and thought, “Well shit, that doesn’t sound too hard to ape.” But this isn’t about those bands – this is about the ones who had metal in their blood, and not the established bands like Loudness or Saxon who changed their style to try and take advantage of the style’s temporary popularity.

deathofthesun
Los Angeles
1986

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25960Seduce – Seduce (1985)

Don’t be fooled by the mile-high hair on the cover that screams Sunset Strip – on their debut Seduce had more than a little bite to their sound, to the point where they don’t sound out of place next to their neighbor Halloween’s classic Don’t Metal With Evil. Imagine early Mötley Crüe if 90% of their songs had been in the vein of “Red Hot” and you’re not far off. Naturally they’d wimp out on the follow-up album and appear in “The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years,” but at least they managed one killer album before doing so.

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Wasp-first-albumW.A.S.P. – W.A.S.P. (1984)

The second best L.A. band with songs named “Tormentor” and “Show No Mercy” in their arsenal around the time of their debut, W.A.S.P. managed to carve out a niche for themselves despite being a little too heavy for most glam fans and not heavy enough for most metalheads. Ultimately it comes down to songs, though, and on their debut W.A.S.P. had a bunch of great ones. (Well, along with a couple skippable ones like “School Daze.”) Along with the “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” single, this is them at their absolute peak, although everything up through 1992’s fairly overblown The Crimson Idol is worthy enough.

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Twister_Sister_-_Stay_HungryTwisted Sister – Stay Hungry (1984)

If their second album You Can’t Stop Rock & Roll flipped their debut Under the Blade’s ratio of Priest-to-AC/DC, Stay Hungry took an even farther step in that direction. And even though it launched the band into megastardom thanks to “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” (admittedly not one of their better moments), it still retained trace amounts of the gut-busting heaviness the band was always capable of. A little patchy in places and not on par with its predecessors, Stay Hungry has aged surprisingly well and is well worth your time. Besides, you won’t find a song like “Burn in Hell” on a Winger album, that’s for sure.

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RattepRatt – s/t (1983)

First things first: when Ratt signed to a major label, like with Twisted Sister’s debut, this got a brand new, shiny remix. Forget that version exists, since the added songs aren’t so hot and the remix neuters the material. Instead, the version on the band’s own Time Coast label is the one to get. Apart from the cover of Rufus Thomas via Aerosmith’s “Walkin’ the Dog,” it packs a surprising punch. Heavy enough early on to land on the original version of Metal Blade’s famous Metal Massacre comp, Ratt got a little less heavy with each successive release, although their first three albums all definitely have their moments. They never topped the EP, though.

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13678Lizzy Borden – Visual Lies (1987)

Like Seduce’s debut, Lizzy Borden mostly got lumped in via their look. Musically they were a bit heavier (and better) than, say, Armored Saint, but Armored Saint were at least smart enough to wear chain mail instead of makeup. Boasting a rock solid discography (minus the comeback albums), Lizzy Borden were like a ballsier, more theatrical W.A.S.P., and I mean that in the best way possible. Boasting an over the top stage show (captured on the excellent Murderess Metal Road Show video/live album), they had a level of songwriting much higher than most bands who rely on the visual element to carry their concerts, and they definitely fit in nicely alongside some of the lighter USPM bands like Fifth Angel and Heir Apparent.

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Cinderella_NightSongsCinderella – Night Songs (1986)

If you don’t like Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones, don’t bother with this one. That being said, even the ballads are solid on this one. With a different cover photo and a bit less sheen on the production, this wouldn’t be too far off from the self-titled Badlands album, also highly recommended (although not at all glammy).



2 Responses about “Tape Wyrm XLIII: In Defense of Glam”

  • Big D says:

    I will cheerfully admit to liking Glam Metal. Even the the bands that were 2nd generation clones of Crue usually had at least one decent song and a few nifty guitar solos.
    Pretty Boy Floyd sucked a fat dick though.

  • woodear says:

    Perhaps the Great White 1st album fits in this list. “Stick It,” is quite the metal vibe as I remember rocking out to it often. I remember wanting to hear their earlier E.P. “Out OF The Night,” and picked up a used copy at Wild Rags record store on Whittier Blvd. I was fascinated by anyone who’d wield a BC Rich Mocking Bird. Anyways, nice acoustic guitars on that work, IMO. Produced by Don Dokken. My bud, Frank D, would bring that Ratt EP into P. E. (physical education, class) weight lifting. “You Think You’re Tough,” yes, we 13 year olds did.