Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hair Metal or maybe not

I have never been accused of talking about the most meaningful of topics here on my blog and this one will probably continue that tradition. The term "hair metal" is not a term that was used when these bands were around in the 80's and early 90's. I don't even remember when I first heard the term. I would guess it was in the late 90's when bands like Poison, Ratt, Cinderella and the like started doing summer tours. Now it's commonplace to use this term. I use it here because I know that people know what it means however I am not sure that I truly like or agree with the term. Do I disagree with the term just because I do not have hair? No, it's more because I think that it often gives a negative connotation, it doesn't truly define the bands it's referring to and it's a very broad category. Yes, guys trying to look like women and poofing their up while wearing spandex does make it hard for people to take them serious. Other sub-genre terms in metal like speed or thrash are fitting because they refer to the sound. Other labels like doom, black and death metal refer to the lyrics. So do hair metal bands sing about their hair? Well, no so why use that label then? Now sites devoted to the music and fans may break it down and use categories like sleaze rock that would refer to bands that sing about sex and such, but the term hair metal is used way more. When I said that the term hair metal is used for a broad category I mean that it seems like hair metal is used to refer to someone like Poison who were referred to as glam back in the 80's and it could also be used to refer to someone like Cinderella who played blues based hard rock and it could be used to describe someone like Firehouse who are more just hard rock. Then again maybe I would be complicating matters by doing away with the term hair metal because I would be adding more categories. I don't actually want to do away with the term "hair metal", I won't be protesting it and I will continue to use it here. I just wanted to state my opinion for what it's worth.

So what do you think on the matter?

***In case you missed this, there was a somewhat related topic the other day about defining what is heavy metal over at:


Blogger José Carlos Santos said...

i'd just like to nitpick a bit and say that the doom, black and death categorizations are not really (or not only, at most) about the lyrics. :)

1:37 AM  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

I used to call it Glam too, but you're right about using Hair as a widely accepted term, although it might not be accurate. (also, I don't remember the hairstyle being known as the mullet either back then, but I could be wrong.)

I lost track of categories after the term 'alternative' was used.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Jose-They aren't only about those topics, but I think a lot of the bands were when the labels were first used and a number of bands still use those topics.

Onmywatch-I don't think that I heard the term mullet until the 90's.

4:31 AM  
Blogger José Carlos Santos said...

mark - yeah, i guess that is true, for the origins of the genres. like venom, for example - paradoxically, they're not really black metal at all musically, and the term and lots of inspiration originated from them. :)

7:12 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Jose-Then again a lot of sub-genre terms didn't start up until say the early 90's so Venom were not referred to as black metal until well after their prime. Even Bathory who really took what Venom did and layed much of the foundation of black metal were well into their prime before they got that label.

7:21 AM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I'm with you -- "hair metal" is a horrible term, especially because some of the bands usually thrown in there (I'm thinking of Tesla, among others) weren't doing the hair spray and spandex thing.

I like to call it all hard rock, or metal. Subcategories confuse as much as they enlighten.


7:47 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I also agree with you Mark. I just refer to it as 80's Rock and people understand what I mean. I agree that there are too many bands that were around in the 80's that are under that "hair band" label when they shouldn't be.

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Rhodeislandrock said...

I use the term "Hard Rock" or "80s Rock". I think the Hair Metal name makes fun of the whole scene.

Sometime around 1998/1999 when Portrait started signing all the old bands and those bands started reforming, the term started to get used in the mainstream. I remember reading it in Rolling Stone and hearing it here on local radio. All the Poison shows here in New England have been billed as "Hair Balls" since the reunion.

It's sad actually because most people who enjoyed this music back in the day are too afraid to admit it today. These are the same people that dismiss the '80s Hard Rock/Metal scene but secretly still like the music.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Theodore said...

'Hair metal' may have a derogatory connotation now, but I wonder if one day it will become a badge of pride.

Is it any better or worse than 'cock rock,' which I think describes the same music?

10:20 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

David-I try to compare a band to other specific band's rather than hair metal, but sometimes I use the term.

Mike-I have never used the term 80's rock, but it sounds better than hair metal.

Steve-I think you are right that no one wants to admit to liking these bands. Yet a lot of people went to see Motley Crue on their last tour, someone goes to see Poison every summer and someone in New York paid a good bit to see
G-n-R when they played those few shows in the spring. So fans of the music are out there.

Theo-I think cock rock might be even worse.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I've never used the term Hair metal and I wouldn't know what constitutes being a hair metal band.(other than the obvious).

2:48 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

OK, here's something I held off on before, but I'll mention it now (and probably cross-post this comment on the Layla's classic rock blog, which raised a similar question about metal vs. hard rock).

A term that my local cable provider uses for the 24-hour music channel for this music is "arena rock." First, here's why I don't like the phrase:

1. Many bands play in arenas and are considered rock, even crap like Nickelback, yet aren't what I would put in this category.

2. Many great bands in this category never got popular enough to play in arenas.

3. In the 1980s, I remember "arena rock" being used as a near synonym for "corporate rock" to describe bands like Journey. And Journey is by no means in the category we're trying to label.

But part of me really likes using "arena rock" for these bands;

1. Unlike "hair metal," it doesn't include the term "metal," which some "arena rock" bands cross over into but whcih most do not.

2. Nobody better characterizes or takes advantage of the arena environment than these bands. Fun music, slutty girls flashing the band (and, often, the crowd), anthems with cheesy choruses ... these things are what the arena show is all about. KISS kicked it off, and bands like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Ratt, Poison, and the Crue made the arenas shake.

So I leave this where most of us have left "hair metal:" undecided. But I think I like it better than "hair metal."

-- david

3:29 PM  
Blogger Layla said...

Thanks Mark! If anyone stops by be sure to check out the pics I have over there of 80's "hair bands" :)

4:03 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

David - I totally agree with you on the arena rock think. I have that station also. To me Arena Rock is Styx & Journey.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Arena rock has a better sound to it, but it seems more general than hair metal.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

We have a really good thread here, friends... Quite funny considering I just did a Bulletboys entry to my blog today, and they'd be considered a "hair band."

Mark is totally right; there was no connotation known as "hair metal" or "hair band." It was just heavy metal, even when MTV tried to pass off Firehouse, Slaughter and Warrant as heavy metal, yeesh. Considering Mark and I both had long hair in the day (his was cooler than mine), we were called "grits" by the preppies, not even "metalheads" or "headbangers." The whole "hair" thing came with the term "hairball" not too long ago.

I have a DJ friend in Michigan, Hairball John, who does a weekly radio show, The Sunday Night Hairball, and he plays that element up, but the term "hair band" is just something for the "normal" people to categorize it as such since many of them are closet Poison fans that don't want to admit it anymore, not until you catch them jamming to the 12:00 "Hair Lunch Hour" at their desks...

8:18 PM  
Blogger Strutter71 said...

Sirius Satellite has a channel called "Hair Nation" that I listen to most of the time. I'm not sure exactly what their definition of hair metal is, though, because alongside stuff like Poison and Motley Crue they also play Tesla, AC/DC, and Hagar-era Van Halen.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Ray-People still call in to request this stuff on the radio so some people still like, but don't want to admit to it.

Strutter-It can be a pretty general label and that's part of the problem

4:46 AM  
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