So, Darling Ones,
Recently, I read Nöthin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion by Tom Beaujour & Richard Bienstock. When they include the word “uncensored” in that subtitle, they’re not kidding. This book is a heapin’ helpin’ of homophobic, transphobic, fatphobic, and misgoynistic bullshit, which I expected going in. I was around for the 80s hair metal phenomenon, it was that way back then I wouldn’t expect anything to change.
This book is what I like to call awfulmazing. It’s awful and amazing in equal parts. What made it so amazing is that after forty years a lot of these dudes have zero self-awareness. At all. At one point one of the dudes (and this is an oral history that is like 99.9% dudes) said something, sincerely about how “diverse” the Sunset Strip scene was. And I was all. . . “uhh, because some of you were blondes and some of you were brunettes?
I read this entire book that included quotes from dudes in Stryper, Warrant, Cinderella, Twisted Sister, Poison, Skid Row, White Lion, Ozzy Osbourne, and so on and so on and basically they became on monolithic metal dude.
The best fun facts I learned were
- Slash’s mom had an affair with David Bowie when he was a child.
- Slash almost played guitar for Poison.
- Nobody liked Don Dokken, because he’s kind of a dick.
- When it came time for CC Deville to pick up that guitar and talk to me, it took hours because apparently ol’ CC not so good with the guitar at first.
While the content of this book is pretty gross, I finally understand why grunge replaced hair metal so swiftly and decisively. First of all this is how the men are frequently refer to women throughout the book:
- ugly fat chicks
They referred to their ballads as “panty wetters” and just typing that phrase makes me gag. They also used a lot of transphobic and homophobic language throughout the book, which again not surprised. I was there for the 80s. I watched the videos. I knew women were nothing but sex objects.
What did surprise me was how so many of these hair metal dudes were shocked when fans moved on to music that was moderately more inclusive. I’m not saying grunge was some kind of feminist rock & roll revolution (obviously), but at least those dudes were singing about something other than trying to and/or getting laid.
The thing that really crystalized it for me was a story about how Axl Rose was super pissed Kurt Cobain wanted nothing to do with him because of his racist and homophobic lyrics. Axl wasn’t the only one, all the metal dudes wanted to hitch their wagon to Nirvana’s star and were puzzled by Cobain’s disinterest. One of the monolithic dudes even said something to the effect of I guess he found our sexist and homophobic songs offensive and didn’t want to tour with us.
It makes me think of the tweet that pops up every month or so about how anything that only guys like is not that cool, and all forms of metal were mostly a dude’s game. I know lots of women loved hair metal. I lived with a female teenage metalhead. I was not one of them. The music never did much for me, and to be honest neither did a lot of grunge. At least grunge didn’t make me feel actively bad about myself, which hair metal always kind of did. The 80s in general were bad for teenage girls, I think.
Next up I’ll be dissecting Chuck Klosterman’s book about the 90s where apparently only four women exist: Winona Ryder, Kathleen Hanna, Liz Phair, and Alanis Morissette (at least thus far).
Once bitten, twice shy,
P.S. I almost signed off with the line my best friend told me you’re the best lick in town.