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Rock the Mullet

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A tiny sidebar to the story of the catastrophic death of nearly 100 people in the Rhode Island club disaster, was the fact that the great majority of the population had no idea that Great White was still a band. Big, chunky, ’80s hair metal refuses to go away:

    Bands such as Poison, Def Leppard and Great White may not be heard on the radio or seen on MTV the way they used to be, but that doesn’t mean the musicians or their fans packed it in when their beloved era faded.

    A widespread circuit of metal-friendly nightclubs, supported by loyal fans across the USA, keeps the genre going more than a decade after it lost media prominence.

    ….In the mid- to late-’80s, bands such as Van Halen, Ratt, Motley Crue and Quiet Riot not only launched new trends in clothing and hair but also came to define irresponsible, hands-in-the-air fun. By the early ’90s, however, the party was over, done in by the gloomy and angry stylings of grunge bands such as Nirvana, who were more about angst than girls-girls-girls.

    ….The venues may be smaller for many bands on the circuit, but that produces a new intimacy with fans, whose loyalty is rewarded by the gratitude of the musicians.

    ”In the old days we’d drive off in the bus after the show. Now we do more one-on-one, slapping backs and shaking hands,” [singer Phil] Lewis [of L.A. Guns] says.

    ….”Record sales are dramatically lower than the peak years. Bands survive because of touring, merchandise and licensing,” says Tom Lipsky, president of Sanctuary Records Group North America. Sanctuary recently bought CMC International, a label that has released albums by such ’80s mainstays as Dokken, L.A. Guns and Warrant.

    Collections of metal hits sell quite well, however. Monsters of Rock and Monster Ballads, two ’80s compilations released by Razor & Tie Entertainment that feature the likes of Ratt, Warrant, Cinderella and Europe, went platinum.

    ….But David Konow, author of Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, has a simpler explanation for the perpetuation of the scene. ”A lot of the musicians don’t have job skills or work regular jobs. A lot were hoping that at this stage in their lives they could just rest and enjoy their money, but for many, touring is how they make their money. They got stuck.” [USA Today]

For the bands the motivation is simple: what else are they going to do? For the fans it’s a combination of nostalgia for those who were there at the time, and for the broader audience, melodic, stomping hard rock never goes completely out of style – it’s too elemental, and combined with the appeal to head banging hedonism, the pull is pretty strong.

The reason the compilations do so well is that a hundred bands had at least one killer riff and a sing-along chorus – after that, most of the bands’ material drops off precipitously. Skim off the cream and you have a romp for the whole family.

Rock on.

Released yesterday was Sony’s Mullets Rock, a killer 2-CD collection of ’70s and ’80s hard rock, hair metal, Southern rock, and arena rock including:

1. Mississippi Queen – Mountain
2. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
3. Hot Blooded – Foreigner
4. Slow Ride – Foghat
5. The Stroke – Billy Squier
6. Free-For-All – Ted Nugent
7. Smokin’ In The Boys Room – Brownsville Station
8. Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo – Rick Derringer
9. Surrender – Cheap Trick
10. Working For The Weekend – Loverboy
11. Any Way You Want It – Journey
12. Two Tickets To Paradise – Eddie Money
13. Hold The Line – Toto
14. Roll With The Changes – Reo Speedwagon
15. No One To Run With – Allman Brothers Band
16. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
17. Bad To The Bone – George Thorogood & The Destroyers
18. Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd

1. Smokin’ – Boston
2. Flirtin’ With Disaster – Molly Hatchet
3. Living After Midnight – Judas Priest
4. I Wanna Rock – Twisted Sister
5. Metal Health (Bang Your Head) – Quiet Riot
6. Godzilla – Blue VYster Cult
7. Frankenstein – The Edgar Winter Group
8. Carry On Wayward Son – Kansas
9. We’re An American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
10. Don’t Bring Me Down – Electric Light Orchestra
11. Takin’ Care Of Business – Bachman-Turner Overdrive
12. Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress) – The Hollies
13. Rockin’ Down The Highway – The Doobie Brothers
14. Black Betty – Ram Jam
15. School’s Out – Alice Cooper
16. Bat Out Of Hell – Meat Loaf
17. Hold Your Head Up – Argent

That CD alone could topple the government of Iraq.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    I can’t help feeling that 80s Hair Metal is to America what Prog Rock is to Britain; while there aren’t many direct musical comparisons, both are very much the styles of music that ‘cool’ people love to sneer at.

  • The Theory

    mmm… prog rock.

    peace.

  • Rob

    As the article says, hair metal was about irresponsible fun. Today’s music has so much whiny introspection. I don’t listen to music to hear about some guys problems, I got problems of my own, let’s get in the Camaro, crank up the tunes and go lookin’ for big hair girls in spandex! BTW, that Sony list is about a decade too far back.

  • Eric Olsen

    You’re right that the Sony collectio nis more ’70s than ’80s – that’s why I gave the track listing and described it a bit.

  • http://www.greeblie.com/jimspot Jim S

    That’s not “hair-band” metal! Where is Poison, Def Leppard, G’nR, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Damn Yankees, Winger, etc? (dare I mention Great White??)

    THOSE are the hair bands of the ’80’s… a “collection of ’70s and ’80s hard rock, hair metal, Southern rock, and arena rock..” yes, and a pretty killer one at that, but hair band metal, no.

  • Eric Olsen

    Clearly Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot are “hair metal,” and yes that is only two, but two is more than none. The reason I mentioned this here is more timing than anything – it came out on Tuesday and is not dissimilar to the original theme: mullets. The connection is tenuous, however, I will agree.

  • Sunny

    What an awesome collection! But it’s missing one thing. Metallica. I mean, those guys STILL have mullets!