Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Genre exploration: Glam and hair metal


I talked briefly about genres and sub-genres in metal and hard rock a few weeks ago. All I did was just scratch the surface because in order to figure this out we have to dive in quite a bit deeper. If we think about when did heavy metal start most people will point to the early 1970's and bands like Sabbath, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and others. Bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest might very well be direct descendants of those pioneers, but what about bands like Motley Crue and Ratt? Okay, here's where the guy in the denim jacket with the Slayer backpatch jumps up and says "hey, those aren't metal bands". Alright, then what kind of music are they playing? You could play it safe and use the term that makes these bands seem like safer, less rebellious cousins of metal and call them "hard rock". I may not argue using that term, but it is kind of general. So what if you call them glam? Well, then the classic rock/70's fan shakes their finger and says "no way, glam is bands like the New York Dolls, Slade and the Sweet not the MTV generation 80's bands". So what if I switch gears and say okay then the 80's bands like the Crue, Dokken, Poison and the like are hair metal. Okay, so now the 40 year old guy wearing his 1988 KIX tour shirt his swinging his arms around and cursing me for me putting down his music. It wasn't called hair metal in the 80's so why is it called that now? Fair point maybe. So if we accept that 70's bands like the New York Dolls and the like are glam then are they the only ones who can use that label? Now someone like Hanoi Rocks really did have a heavy early 70's glam sound despite the fact that their prime was in the 80's. Members of Motley Crue, G-n-R and others claimed influences from the likes of Sweet and early Alice Cooper even if the influences were not that apparent. So can there be a 70's and 80's glam? Would adding the decade to the label be too confusing? I don't think so, but you still get the 70's fans who think the 80's stuff was too fluffy and the 80's fans who think their music wasn't strongly linked to an older sound. Now to further confuse things you get 70's acts like Aerosmith and KISS who were glam in appearance for sure and both bands were hot again popularity-wise in the 80's. So were those two bands always glam or were they one thing in the 70's and did they onto a slightly different fad in the 80's? Your decision might be based on how much you like those bands. Now I really don't mean to muddy the waters on this topic and provide more questions than answers. However I think this one of those genres that's a little harder to define. I think hard rock works fine in describing those 80's bands although I am not opposed to glam if it is defined as 80's glam because I think it is separate enough from 70's glam which is different. I am not big on the hair metal label and don't think it works as well as the above labels. A few years ago I was involved a big discussion on a blog when someone called Roth-era Van Halen hair metal so I think that label has some holes to it as well. Feel free to add your thoughts on the topic or tell me to quit rambling and get back to doing reviews.

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Blogger bob_vinyl said...

The one thing with genres and subgenres is that many bands fit into more than one, especially over the course of their career.

So, Def Leppard was a hard rock band on High n Dry, but an AOR band on Hysteria. Pyromania brought the best of both worlds in a way.

As far as the term hair metal goes, I think it's fair game, because it emphasizes that image took precedence over music. Some of those bands still made good records, but they were the exception. It is a derogatory term, but a well-deserved one. Mötley Crüe gtes that label, it applies even though solid songwriting and a harder edge mitigated its effects on their first two albums (both of which could also be labeled as hard rock and glam).

I guess the bottom line is that there is a lot of gray area if you want to pigeonhole any band into just one genre. If you can do that easily, there's a good chance (though not an absolute rule) that they weren't a very good band, because their focus was so narrow.

7:56 AM  
Blogger BeckEye said...

Ah, the stuff I grew up with. But weren't those bands called hair bands, even in the '80s? I'm sure I heard that term back then...but then again all the years have started to run together for me.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like all of the bands you mentioned (some more than others).

I always thought of Alice Cooper and KISS as part of the "Shock Rock" genre.

I always thought bands with that "shock value" were cool...
KISS, Alice, Ozzy, Twisted Sister, GWAR, W.A.S.P., Marilyn Manson, Lordi, etc...

8:06 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Bob-There are definitely grey areas. You choice of terms may depend on your fondness of the band.

Beckeye-I kind of thought the term popped up later in the 90's.

Tokyo5-I forgot about shock rock. I remember first hearing used maybe in the mid-80's refering to bands like WASP and Twisted Sister bringing back what 70's acts like KISS and Alice Cooper did. It would be a more general term maybe because it applies to the look or stage show more than the sound.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Mighty High said...

No mention of Mott The Hoople? Bob's cousin is gonna be pissed!

9:04 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Yeah, especially since Sweet got a mention instead!

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we can call it glam metal, because they combine a glam look with a metal sound. But personnally, I always use the label "Hair Metal" for those bands, but don't get me wrong, this is one of my favorite metal subgenre, so to me that's not an insult.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Never heard Mott the people. Am I actually missing out?

5:37 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Yes! Mott did some great stuff!

5:43 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

I always they were more just dry classic rock instead of 70's glam.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard Rock has always been, to me, bands such as: Bad Company, (most of) The Rolling Stones, Queen, and (most of) Foreigner, as examples. A rock band has always been to me, bands such as Steve Miller Band, Steely Dan or Dave Matthews Band. I could never, ever, call Poison, Ratt or especially Motley Crue... Hard Rock. I would then be putting these bands in the same circle with Bad Company or Yes.

I live by the the credo... Metal is Metal. Despite that, I do however, believe in the "main" genres of Thrash, Death, Black and Hair Metal. It's all about the "sound" that a band is creating in becoming a "member" of that specific genre. Speed Metal basically became absorbed by Thrash... IMO.

I have what I consider "Traditional Heavy Metal" bands... being Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and many others. I now feel, that the tag "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" went a tad too far. Why? Because there never was a popular tag of "New Wave of American Heavy Metal"! There sure as heck could be that genre too. For example, all the American "Hair Metal" bands from the 80's, could be called that. Just the same, the Thrash Metal movement from the early 80's can be considered a "New Wave of American Heavy Metal"!

Where does the madness end? I don't know.

I tend to just put my arms up in the air and let people call whatever bands whatever they want now. If you look at the hapless Grammys, those non-geniuses over there don't know Rock from Hard Rock from Heavy Metal anyways... (hello Jethro Tull), it's like they set the standard for this genre free for all.

You have really brought up a great question that I can never, ever, answer in a million Metal years, due to so many fans and Rock historians having their own "personal preferences". Excellent post... let the Metal deliberations commence!


3:24 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

So what does a band like Poison or Warrant or Ratt have in common with Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden? It's true that bands like Motley Crue (early on anyway) might have straddled the space between actual metal and the hair bands, but the pure hair stuff where it was all about image, can't really be lumped in with stuff that falls from the Sabbath tree.

4:04 PM  
Blogger BeckEye said...

Mark, you'll probably remember "All The Way From Memphis." It's originally a Mott the Hoople song, but some "supergroup" covered it in the '80s. I think Bobby Blotzer was in it, and the one chick from Vixen and maybe a dude from Dokken. Don't recall who the singer was. It was a pretty faithful cover, so if you liked that, you'd like the original.

And definitely check out some of Ian Hunter's solo work. "Irene Wilde" is one of the best songs about young love and becoming famous and all that good shit. :)

1:31 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Beckeye-That band would be Contraband.

I think Joe Elliot gushed about Mott the Hoople around the time of Hysteria so I think that connection made me avoid them.

4:33 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mott the Hoople and Hysteria have next to nothing in common.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

I thought the link would be that you defend both of them.

5:46 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

For an AOR record, Hysteria isn't that bad, but Mott the Hoople is much better than AOR.

6:01 PM  

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