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Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Part 2, 1986-1989

by Rich Catino

Hopefully you have, or will, read the first part to this topic here at the Metal Hall titled Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Part 1 1982-85. My article title inspired by a new book of the same name by Canadian guitarist Sean Kelly, currently from the Lee Aaron band and Cony Hatch. In part one I discuss his book, and include my thoughts on the term “Hair Metal”, and defend the music. I also include who I think should be inducted into the Metal Hall of Fame.

Now, in Part 2 I move on to the bands 1986-89.

Poison Yup, I said it, Poison. I know many, maybe most, would say no to Poison being inducted, but let me defend this choice and maybe change your mind. Poison may have been the most glam of everyone, but you can’t deny their place in metal, both in hits and success. Before them, Quiet Riot’s ‘Cum on Feel The Noise’, Twisted Sister with ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, and Def Leppard ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’ broke heavy metal into the mainstream on MTV and top 40 radio. Well, Poison took it to the next level opening the door even more. Same with Bon Jovi in 1986 with “Slippery When Wet” and those three monster singles. The debut “Look What The Cat Dragged In” is heavy metal, glitzy but still those riffs. Even the hits ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ and ‘I Want Action’ but with a pop hook. ‘Cry Tough’ was a single and missed opportunity to be a hit, a great heavy rocker about working to be successful in the business. But listen to those guitars on the title track, ‘Want Some Need Some, ’#1 Bad Boy’, and ‘Play Dirty’. Same with follow-up album ‘Open Up and Say Ah” – ‘Love On The Rocks’ and ‘Look But You Can’t Touch’. Don’t punish Poison on pop metal radio hits and ballads (although ‘Something To Believe In’ the exception with deep heartfelt lyrics), or the stupid ‘Unskinny Bop’. Still playing live to this day, many even said they were the best band on the stadium tour with peers Motley Crue and Def Leppard.

Europe ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Carrie’, ‘Rock The Night’, but Europe are more than that album and those songs. The debut in 1984, with “Wings of Tomorrow” are melodic neoclassical heavy metal albums. Look up the promo video for ‘In the Future to Come’ a metal riff carries the song not a keyboard, no hair spray, just long hair t-shirts and denim. Other standouts, ‘Seven Doors Hotel’, ‘Children of this Time’, and ‘Paradize Bay’. “Wings of Tomorrow” still my favorite album, it’s got the rawness and metal riffs from the debut, but with some keyboards and bigger melodies and chorus’ without being light or too polished. ‘Stormwind’, the aggressive ‘Scream of Anger’, ballad ‘Open Your Heart’ (which gets a great upgrade on the album “Out Of This World”), ‘Treated Bad Again’, beautiful neo classical guitars by Norum for instrumental ‘Aphasia’ sets up the rocking title track. Piano ballad ‘Dreamer’ is perfect and a nice addition to the rockers as ‘Dance The Night away’ closes the album hard. I’m not going to talk much about the 1986 multi-platinum “The Final Countdown” because the singles were rightfully hits to help sell so many copies of the album. It’s just more important to know where Europe started, and where they have been going since reforming in 2003. Singer Joey Tempest, guitarist John Norum, John Leven on bass, keyboardist Mic Michaeli, and Ian Haugland reformed in 2004 to this day, releasing six more albums and still playing live celebrating 40 years.

Tesla When you think of the band that defined the blue-collar jeans and t shirt hard rock metal of this genre, its Tesla. The 1986 debut “Mechanical Resonance” set them apart from the rest on MTV and Headbangers Ball, not glam or sleezy music like the LA bands, nor traditional or thrash metal. See the video for ‘Gettin Better’ with the band performing and footage of the average hard working man, or ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ with the band again jamming and shots of cowboy gun fights. But let’s talk about those other rockers on the album – ‘Ez Come Ez Go’, live opener ‘Cumin Atcha Live’, ‘Rock Me To The Top’. And the piano begun slower ‘Changes’. Follow-up album is as good if not better (I think), “The Great Radio Controversy” also rocks hard out the door with single/video ‘Hang Tough’, how’s that for a riff and divebomb for ‘Lady Luck’, slide guitar begun ‘Heaven’s Trail’, and ‘Be A Man’, four in a row. ballads ‘The Way It Is’ and monster hit ‘Love Song’ two deserved successes. But ‘Flight To Nowhere’ the best hard driving rocker on the album, ‘Making Magic’ too another great deep cut. And remember, the album “Five Man Acoustical Jam” in 1990 was done first before it became a trend. Singer Jeff Keith, guitarist Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, Brian Wheat (bass), and drummer Troy Luccetta carried on in 1991 during the emerging changing trends in music (grunge, alternative) with the “Psychotic Supper” (which reached #13 on the Billboard 200), and “Bust A Nut” in 94. The band broke up shortly after, everyone doing other musical projects, reforming in 2000, releasing the album “Into The Now” in 2004. Since then Skeoch has been replaced by Dave Rude since, and Troy leaving in 2021 replaced by once Dokken drummer Mick Brown’s brother Steve. Six more albums have followed, with a Vegas residency in 2023 and new live album Full Throttle Live.

Whitesnake David Coverdale started Whitesnake in the late 70s after leaving Deep Purple, “Snakebite” released in 1978. But Coverdale’s snake started out as rock rhythm and blues influenced by the blues singers and musicians. They even covered the Bobby Bland song ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart of the City’. After several lineup changes, and five more albums Coverdale found his right band of snakes for the 1984 album “Slide It In” which includes the hit title track, ‘Slow and Easy’, and ‘Love Aint No Stranger’. The lineup of Whitesnake as we all know changes almost each album by one or more members, so I am not going to get into that. But, no denying the riffs, arrangements and melodies guitarists Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody played on the early albums and original recordings of ‘Here I Go Again’, ‘Fool For Your Lovin’, and ‘Crying In The Rain’, Mel Galley, bassist Neil Murray, Jon Lord and Ian Paice (Deep Purple), drummer Cozy Powel, and guitarist John Sykes (from Thin Lizzy, Tygers of Pan Tang) the lucky rabbits foot, and Adrian Vandenberg who plays the solo on the re-recorded version of ‘Here I Go Again’ on the 1987 self titled album which went multi platinum. And even though it’s a slick glam metal album different sonically than previous albums, Steve Vai sure added some spice to the songs on “Slip Of The Tongue” in 1989. Coverdale continued to make new music with other snakes since 2002 and release four more albums. As of 2023 a farewell tour has had a start and stop for a couple years with no final decisions on its status. In the meantime, Coverdale continues to revisit the Whitesnake catalogue and reissue them as expanded special editions.

Skid Row Skid Row maybe arrived a bit at the tail end of the 80s golden era for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, but you can’t deny the music and success of the debut and “Slave To The Grind” which landed at #1 on the Billboard top 200 chart in 1991. But Skid Row were coming more from the streets as you can see from the black and white photo on the cover of the first album, in style and sound. And single/MTV video ’18 & Life’ was very different with serious lyrics about guns violence. Not the typical sex, parties, and rock n roll like their peers. Yes, ballad ‘I Remember You’ and teen anthem ‘Youth Gone Wild’ did capture that, both well written. And opening up for Bon Jovi on the New Jersey tour just shows how quickly they rose to success after playing the New Jersey clubs for several years. This is without and with Sebastian Bach. By “Slave”, the gloves were off, the title track and ‘Monkey Business” heavier and aggressive. They even took out Pantera on tour. And more mature subjects in the lyrics for deep emotional ballads ‘In A Darkened Room’, ‘Quicksand Jesus’, and ’Wasted Time’ about drug abuse. But unfortunately by the mid 90s and the darker album “Subhuman Race” it was the last with the classic lineup. Founding members bassist Rachel Bolan and Snake Sabo carrying on with guitarist Scotti Hill since going through three more singers, two albums and E.Ps before finally finding a voice, Erik Gronwall, in 2022 that worked, releasing the album “The Gang’s All Here”. If, and hopefully when Skid Row are inducted into the Metal Hall of Fame, at this time Sebastian Bach would be going solo, and Bolan, Sabo and Hill representing Skid Row?? Could they come together for the sake of what they accomplished together, the name?? We’ll see.

Krokus

Putting Switzerland on the heavy metal map, Krokus go back as afar 1976 and the debut album. It took three albums to find their footing on the 1980 album “Metal Rendez-vous”, “Hardware” in 81, and “One Vice At A Time” very influenced by AC/DC. “Headhunter” in 83 changed gears to straight ahead heavy metal evident in the title track, ‘Eat The Rich’, ‘Ready To Burn’, ‘Night Wolf’, and hit ballad ‘Screaming In The Night’. But like others, Judas Priest – Turbo, Saxon – Destiny, Accept – Eat the Heat, Krokus also had a couple hair metal albums with slick production, keyboards and melodic guitars; “The Blitz” with hits ‘Midnight Maniac’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’, and “Change of Address”. A quick turnaround the 1988 album “Hard Attack” was back to their roots. 18 albums, four of the five members from the early 80s still in the band including singer Marc Storace and a final tour has been in progress on and off since 2020.

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