Hair Metal: The Best Worst Thing To Happen To Metal.

Motley Crue

Everything has its pros and cons, and metal is no exception. The music movement that we all know and love has one key limitation, a virus that will make you envy the deaf.

The early 1980s was a weird time indeed. An actor became the 40th President of the United States, Islamist wars gripped the Middle East, Africa was hit by widespread famine, HIV/AIDS became a global health issue, and the grotesque audible sounds of hair metal rose to popularity. Meanwhile, the mixing of heavy metal and pop music in the early 80s gave rise to a sound as generic as an ice addict in a country town, and fashion that would make a drag queen blush. There was something about men looking like Cyndi Lauper that became popular, and Maybelline saw a boost in sales as these bands tried to out-make up Boy George.

What started In Birmingham as something good and new, turned into something decadent, sleazy and poisonous. The legacy created by Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Van Halen eventually degenerated into the likes of Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Poison. Never in the history of music has there been a bigger corruption of a genre of music in the name of making record companies money. They didn't sign bands for the music. They signed bands for an image that they could exploit, and a generation they could squeeze dollars out of.

The best way to see if music is actually good, and not just a fad, is look at it in retrospect. How many people do you see walking around these days wearing a Def Leppard tank-top, or cranking a Motley Crue power ballad in a carpark? Zero... and on the rare occasion they do, it's usually done with irony levels over nine-thousand.

Even hair metal bands don't like hair metal. The story of Warrant's Cherry Pie can be used as a metaphor for the entire hair metal movement. Don Ienner, the president of Columbia Records, asked Warrant frontman, Jani Lane, to write a song in the similar vein to Love In An Elevator by Aerosmith. After writing the song on a pizza box in fifteen minutes, the record company put a marketing campaign on it bigger than a presidential candidacy rally. It became the band's biggest song, and one they didn't even like. It wasn't their song, it was the record company's song. They were just the muppets that towed the party line. Lane later said, "I could shoot myself in the fucking head for writing that song."

There is a growing opinion of falsity that Guns N Roses were not a hair metal band. They most definitely were, and the only difference between them and any other glam outfit is no glitter and a lack of personal hygiene. Hair metal without showers. They'd probably be on par with Bon Jovi as one of the most overrated bands of the 1980s, especially when you compare them to the thrash metal bands of the same era.

MTV is cited as one of the leading factors to the rise in popularity of this shitty sub-genre, however, this is not necessarily a bad thing. First airing in 1987, the Headbangers Ball focused primarily on mainstream friendly hair metal but also showed many other bands that would be otherwise obscure outside of their own scene. This opened the wider world to actual metal, which would retain its fans after hair metal faded into black.

If MTV wasn't the best thing hair metal did, the classification of music surely would be. In 1985, a bunch of congressmen's wives, who had nothing better to do, started the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC) in a bid to combat the distasteful lyrics destroying American youth. The argument was raised with the US Senate and after a bitter battle with many artists, including Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, the warning label "Explicit Lyrics: Parental Advisory" was affixed. Little did the PMRC know, but the label boosted record sales, as rebellious kids bought en masse, anything their parents didn't like. Up yours, parents.

As a collective, we can all look back on hair metal for what it was: a ruse that went for a decade too long, making record companies, leopard print manufacturers and heroin dealers rich. It's not appealing, nor did it withstand the test of time, but whether we like it or not hair metal brought metal to the mainstream, boosted the music video industry and gave us the "Parental Advisory" label which has changed the face of music forever.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to perm my hair and steal my sister's clothes and shout at the devil.

Ed Howson