Sunday, 7 February 2010

The 80’s Blog

Glam Metal


Glam Metal describes a music genre which was successful throughout the 80’s and which developed mostly in America. Most of the bands came from the west coast, Los Angeles in particular. Some Bands were from the east coast like Twisted Sister from New York. The most popular European bands are Def Leppard from Sheffield in England and Europe from Sweden.

Important for the scene is the Sunset Strip. There are important clubs like the Rainbow Bar and Grill, Troubadour and the Whisky a Go Go. These were places where most of the important bands played in their early days.

Significant artists of the time were Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P, Whitesnake, Poison, Skid Row, Europe, Skid Row and Def Leppard.

Significant Records of the time were Too fast for love (Mötley Crüe, 1981), Pyromania (Def Leppard, 1983) as well as Stay Hungry (Twisted Sister, 1984) and Open up and say ... Ah (Poison, 1988).

The sound of Glam Metal was very polished. Polished distortion was common as well as high pitched male vocals. Often harmonies were added to the catchy riffs and sing along hooks. A good example for a catchy hook is Def Leppard’s “Pour some sugar on me”. The job of a guitarist wasn’t very technically complicated except for the lead guitarist, because at the time shred solos and virtuous licks were very common. The most common guitar effects were distortion or chorus. Typical for the drum were straight 4 rock beats and big rock fills.

The typical rock instrumentation was common, including a singer, a bass guitarist, a drummer and at least one guitarist, but mainly two. In the middle of the 80’s a change happened: the keyboard was introduced in the Glam Metal genre, which led to the “Power Ballad”. It has a slowed down tempo, the piano or keyboard is added to the instrumentation and the lyrical content is about love or sentimental content which shows that heavy metal musicians can be soft and sensitive, too. Good examples for a Power Ballad are “Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe or “Is This Love” by Whitesnake.

The lyrical content of the genre is basically about sex, alcohol and drugs and party, having a good time. The song “Kickstart my Heart” by Mötley Crüe as well as “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row are good examples for the lifestyle. An exception is Stryper, because they brought Christian lyrics in the Glam Metal scene.

The Lifestyle of Glam Metal is very exorbitant. It was all about parties, having a good time, drinking lots of alcohol, abuse drugs, having sex and fun. It was a very excessive scene. The shows became bigger and bigger, the outfits became more extreme etc.
“When I was a kid, everything that was expected of you was like, you go to school, you graduate, you get a job and you have some kids and you die. That’s not very much fun. You know what sounds a little better to me? I wanna rock and roll all night and party everyday” – Sebastian Bach

The excess claimed his tribute. At the end of the 80’s a lot of Bands split up and a lot of musicians were heavily drug addicted. The scene became a shadow of itself. The decline of the scene is seen in the movie “Decline Of The Western Civilization - Part 2 - The Metal Years” which featured the deterrent example of Chris Holmes.

This scene could be seen as the mirror of the society of the time, or in other words it was a reaction against the poor years of the democratic leadership in America and the cultural changes it brought with it. It wasn’t anything ground shaking new, it was about having a good time after a bad time.

It had a big impact on middle class societies. They felt offended by the lyrics of Metal bands which lead to the foundation of the PMRC (conservative, political group with Tipper Gore), because the general meaning was that Metal was too brutal and too sexist. Dee Snider, Frank Zappa and John Denver spoke in front of the PMRC to protect their music. “I was clean, I was sober and I speak English fluently.” – Dee Snider, they didn’t expect that. The result of the hearing is still seen today: the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrical Content” sticker.

Glam Metal was very popular for its fashion. A lot of Makeup was used as well as a lot of hairspray, which gave the genre the sobriquet “Hair Metal” in the early 90’s. Typical clothes were spandex or leather trousers, ripped shirts and kind of costumes. The style to dress reflects in the stage performance. Live shows have always been very extreme. There were a lot of pyrotechnics combined with costumes.

MTV was very important for Glam Metal, like it was for every Genre in the Eighties.. It changed a lot in the music business, because Music was seen on TV and not just heard on radio. Bands could develop creativity through videos. Also Glam Metal videos were on main time, which is a big difference to today.

Grunge had an influence on Glam Metal as well. Whilst Glam Metal was standing for an excessive lifestyle, including a lot of alcohol and parties, and extreme live shows, Grunge was the total opposite of it. This new kind of music and lifestyle suddenly attracted a lot of people, so that the main audience preferred to listen to Grunge than to Glam Metal.

Glam Metal was influenced by Artists like Kiss, Alice Cooper, T-Rex, or David Bowie. Kiss had extremely huge stage shows which were later adopted by Glam Metal as well as the spectacular live shows of Alice Cooper. Also these musicians had an influence in terms of outfit. They were popular for their use of Make Up and use of stage dresses. W.A.S.P. extreme and shocking live shows could definitely been influenced by Alice Cooper.

The Punk genre, particular the Sex Pistols, had also a musical influence on Glam Metal.Glam Metal uses typical Punk power chords, but slowed down. “Bang your head” by Quiet Riot is a good example for this.

Earlier Hard Rock bands influenced Glam Metal in terms of sound. Bands like AC/DC or Aerosmith. The heavy sound can be heard on tracks like “Kickstart my heart” by Mötley Crüe or “Blind in Texas” by W.A.S.P. 3

Glam Metal influenced bands like The Darkness, Buckcherry, Backyard Babies, Hardcore Superstar, and Red Star Rebels.

An influence can be seen by Hardcore Superstar. They have adopted several features of Glam Metal. They make use of catchy riffs and hooks, the drum part is straight forward without any difficult patterns or rhythms. Also the clothing is quite similar to today’s Mötley Crüe. They wear leather and studs which was typical for Glam Metal, too.

A good example is Hardcore Superstars “Wild Boys”:

Another good example are the Backyard Babies. They don’t use the high pitched vocal but they make use of the straight forward rock drums and the catchy riff guitar. They also make use of added harmonies and catchy riffs.

In “Minus Celsius” a definite influence of Mötley Crüe can be seen. This is because of the straight forward drum, the harmonies in the chorus and the way of guitar playing.

Lyrical examples:

Stryper – “To Hell with the Devil”:

Mötley Crüe –“Kickstart my Heart”:

Quiet Riot – “Bang your Head”:

Cinderella – “Nobody’s Fool”:


VH1's Heavy: The Story of Metal



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