I Still Love My Hard Rock 'n Roll – Written by Paul Lee
I love catchy hard Rock ‘n Roll from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I love music that makes me want to roll down my car windows, hit the accelerator and belt out anthems to the world. Growing up with bands like Twisted Sister, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, and the Scorpions I developed a taste for the distorted guitar and catchy choruses that defined hard rock. Even though I listened to classic metal like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and thrash metal like Metallica and Slayer, I sometimes just crave simple and catchy Rock ‘n Roll that comes straight from the gut.
As I was browsing through the CDs here at Bookmans, I came upon an album by the band Winger from 1988 and I had a nostalgic flashback to my teen years. I played the CD and as I listened to the melodic and accessible hair metal, I was thrust back into the days of high-school keg parties, scantily clad women and wailing guitars. I thought to myself “Why not write a roundup of hard rock from this period of my youth?” and I grabbed some other hard Rock ‘n Roll discs to write this post.
Winger’s first album was a hedonistic rock fest. It had catchy hooks, songs about wild sex and contained no depth whatsoever. What put Winger above the usual hair metal ilk was guitarist Reb Beach who was a high calibre shredder. Upon revisiting this CD, I didn’t find it as engaging as it was years ago but I definitely found some songs that I enjoyed, especially the popular singles off the album “Madalaine” and “Seventeen” (a sleazy song about teenage lust).
A better band than Winger who was unfairly maligned was New Jersey’s Skid Row and their eponymous debut released in 1989. The quintet had more in common with punky glam bands of the 70’s than 80’s hair metal. I got to see them with Bon Jovi back in the day (don’t judge me, I had a free ticket) and they rocked the house. Even though heavier albums were to come like Slave To The Grind, Skid Row created some thick and meaty pop metal on their nominative debut that was a cut above the usual hard rock variety of the day.
Often lumped into the hair metal genre, Dokken was more metal than just hard rock with Don Dokken’s emotional vocals and George Lynch’s fiery and heavy guitar. They sang about broken relationships, loneliness and heartbreak and had only a few upbeat tunes during the Rock ‘n Roll age. Tooth and Nail was Dokken’s second album and their best and most consistent released in 1984. Song’s like “Tooth and Nail” and “When Heaven Comes Down” were hard and heavy tracks that exemplified what Dokken was all about. Dokken had a couple of good albums that followed Tooth and Nail but they weren’t quite up to the awesomeness of this classic.
Up there with the quality of Dokken were Pittsburg stalwarts Tesla who had more in common with the street-wise hard rock of AC/DC than any hair metal bands. Tesla were a true working mans hard rock band that weren’t worried about compromising their music just to appeal to the fairer sex that defined the self-conscious fashion of hair metal. They wrote two of my favorite hard rock albums, Mechanical Resonance (1987) and The Great Radio Controversy (1989). Even though Tesla’s debut came out at the height of hair metal, they stuck to their guns and unleashed no-nonsense heavy rock classics. Even their next few albums kept up the consistency and the band is still together to this day. That’s Rock ‘n Roll commitment.
I could go on and on with my looking back at some of these great bands but there’s only so much time in the day. I might come back to this topic in a future post as there’s plenty more to cover. In spite of what some people think about the decline of hard rock, there are still plenty of hard rock stalwarts like me out there. We are always buying and selling out of many of these great bands, proving that the market is alive and well even in the day of MP3s and streaming music.