While the guy who runs this binary rag is out fingering and picking on the wrong side of the tracks with Bow Thayer, it’s time for this inmate to step out n take a look around the asylum. Time to ditch the guards, lose focus and just let the mind wander. Strolling down lifer row, what’s that I see? A Mexican guy dressed up like he’s in Iron Maiden? Whoa, it’s one of the guys from Armored Saint! And he’s got a one day pass to play a show in the City of Devils this week, with Holy Grail? Wow, five seconds of freedom and past and future meld into some weird time warp where hair metal never happened.
Gather round to hear a tale of the time just before Motley Crue, when the City of Devils was quite heavy indeed. The days of the first Metal Massacre comps. Remember the start of that series? To a Nor. Cal. hick 40 minutes from Sacramento, Metal Massacre I was a reverbed-out mystical Judas Priest soundcheck done by guys who cleaned pools to support beer habits, sponging off their secretary girlfriends to pay the real bills. The disc started off with a “sure fire” supergroup of also-rans, Steeler, doing “Cold Day In Hell.” Ron Keel and Yngwie in the same band… not enough room on stage for those two egos. Ratt’s “Tell The World” could have come off of “Stained Class.” Demon Flight’s “Dead of the Night” featured an unintelligible, whiny attempt at Ozzy over a “chugga chugga” guitar chorus precursor to Metallica. Priest clones Malice had two songs. Bitch introduced young boys to the idea of girls almost as old as their moms making them do things mightn’t oughta do…unless of course they are forced. And Cirith Ungol? What the fuck was that? It was like Axl Rose gargling gravel and playing with Manowar while singing about hobbits and nuclear war. The disc finished off with the unintelligible din “Hit The Lights” by some mid-rangey garage banned calling themselves “Metallica.” I was drawn to that track in particular, because it sounded so BAD. It was a ninth generation cassette of someone in the shower singing over a Savage song. In an unintended nod to the punk ethos, I thought “even I could pull that off.”
Ahh, but then Motley Crue got signed – which in itself wouldn’t be so bad if what came after was as raw and overcranked as the recording of Too Fast For Love. Things took a bad turn, and it was like the only song anyone paid attention to on that disc was “Merry Go Round”. Except the band was thinking “this is mellow, but come on, we can do WAY WORSE than this, so let’s get crackin’!”
Then we entered the fuckin dark ages of hair metal.
I am coming around a little wee bit to the glory of hair metal, having looked through Steven Blush’s American Hair Metal. Nowhere near as great as American Hardcore, Blush makes a decent argument that those years were a time of hedonistic excess worthy of our admiration, not our derision. However, an alternative theory gaining momentum a lot faster in my brain is that hair metal was a good time to be in a band, and not much more. I mean, there was a lot of sex to be had. I can’t really argue against the dream of a kid coming to LA to get some blow jobs and genital warts. As a first person experience, I won’t pontificate AGAINST that; it would undermine a basic premise of this page. (I don’t know our mission statement, but I’m pretty sure part of what we’re doing here is trying to avoid hypocrisy and dogma and get down to some serious enjoyment of this short trip on Earth.) But that doesn’t mean that guys living that life made music that was any good and certainly not that they made anything we need to listen to now. To be sure, there were some good hair metal songs, and that’s a tale for another article. But let’s think about the reality of what was going on. For every willing bridge and tunnel community college honey being hand picked out of the crowd for a boy in the band, there was also an awkward exchange between a sweaty, hairy dude in his early 30’s trying to get his spandex off so he can nail a drunk 17 year old. Lemmy with his pants down by his cowboy boots in the back of the tour bus just seems so much more NATURAL than the creepiness of a smelly guy with a stuck zipper on his camisole.
Anyway, I do digress, and I apologize for that (not really), but this has been one long way of saying we are pretty frickin lucky again here because the local hard rock scene is harkening back to those NWOBHM days of yore, back to a time when a little imagination was required. It’s like hair metal never happened. I already waxed poetic about Gypsyhawk, and Holy Grail is right there too. We got Huntress doing the Mercyful Fate thing. We got Black Math Horseman locked in sync like the best parts of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and with a girl singer playing bass. We got Hydra Head, Prosthetic and Southern Lord, some of the most revered doom round the world, desert rock, local black metal. Sailed off into the sunset of your nearest skin cancer ward are: pay to play, Gazzarri’s, fake tits, and too much of the wrong makeup on both men and women. I don’t know what caused the current embarrassment of music riches, b/c people here got more than enough reason to be jaded, ironic, too clever for their own good, doing what it takes to get by and dancing around like robots to this year’s take on MDMA. But whatever is happening, it is good, and we should enjoy it while it lasts. The demons of commerce are presently in a holding pattern, whirling around late lunches in the deluded circle jerked vortex existing to the left of La Brea Avenue. But that’s not forever. Soon enough they’ll be slumming round here to see what all the fuss is about.