Deciding the 25 Best Hair Metal Bands is an exercise that provides a few laughs, some decent tunes, an appalling video here and there, and gets you kind comments from readers who feel a swelling in their hearts when they see their favorite overlooked band being acknowledged for their efforts.
Picking the 25 Worst Bands is an exercise that provides a few laughs, very few decent tunes, many appalling videos and angry comments from readers who feel a sudden need to beat my opinionated head into the ground. And for those who think I should stick to what I know: no one at Y! Music wanted my blog on the finest varieties of Irish Soda Bread or my expertise on bagpipe music (that's Scottish, by the way).
Wasn't it Spinal Tap who said it was a fine line between clever and stupid? Well, sometimes you can't even find the line. You just have to go with your gut and call it. Why one band sounds incredible and in command doing practically the exact same thing as another band who sound putrid and horrid is one of life's deep mysteries. It's just like how some people--like me--were born ugly and stupid and must spend the rest of eternity trying to make others feel bad about themselves and their accomplishments.
So with that little bit o' psychotherapy off my back, let's discuss the 25 Worst Hair Metal Bands of All-Time!
Mr. Big: One of the hard truths about a band is that no matter how many "stars" or "players" it has, it still has to deliver beyond an individual's reputation. Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert are two admirable musicians, experts on their instruments. But in order to be a commercial success, despite all their shredding, they had to strike--and you'll see this sad trend play out often in this genre--with an acoustic tune, "To Be With You," and that's plain wrong.
24) Y&T: These guys were around forever, putting out their debut album in the 1970s and somehow finding their groove during the '80s metal years. Granted, they named an album Ten, a full two years before Pearl Jam, so I guess we could call them influential. But staring at their oeuvre, the word "forgettable" seems to more easily apply.
Bang Tango: They tried. But L.A. had a lot of bands to choose from and while I could've advised the band not to sign to MCA, who even Lynyrd Skynyrd managed to write a song against, these earnest, eager, hungry boys gave it a shot with albums such as Psycho Café and Dancin' On Coals. They just couldn't get their hairspray to stick out of the crowd.
22) Shotgun Messiah: From Sweden, so maybe some things get lost in translation. Their singer sure could scream. I remember that. But they could never settle on a line-up or an identity, sounding like an imitation of RATT one album and then Guns n' Roses the next. Tim Skold turned the band towards industrial music before joining up with KMFDM and MDFMK and--tired of all the initials--then began playing bass for Marilyn Manson.
Lizzy Borden: In retrospect, these guys weren't so much bad as indistinguishable from the many other talents of their era. They didn't overplay any more than usual and they never had a singer who made you want to jump out of a moving vehicle. And that's what's really wrong here. Lizzy Borden evoke no reaction whatsoever. You might as well be listening to air.
20) Trixter: The glam metal band from New Jersey who weren't related to Bon Jovi. It might have helped. Word is they're coming back in 2008. I guess the Puppet Show at Six Flags is in need of an opening act this year. What Trixter lacked in originality--they had tunes named "Surrender" (not a Cheap Trick cover) and "One In A Million" (not the Guns n' Roses tune)--they made up for with, well, their lack of originality.
Danger Danger: While it's admirable that these hard rockers from Queens had a concept, I'm not sure that repeating everything twice is a good concept. But sure enough, songs like "Naughty Naughty" and "Bang Bang" do what they set out to do and fulfill the "legacy" of the band's name. They're another band threatening a comeback. To which we say "No No," "Stop Stop."
18) Autograph: One of the earlier L.A. hair metal bands, Autograph had their hit "Turn Up The Radio" featured in an episode of Miami Vice and the band made a cameo in a Dudley Moore-Kirk Cameron film called Like Father Like Son, which did about as well as it should have. Sometimes there is justice in the universe. Just not that often.
Dokken: Formed in the 1970s, these heavy metal lifers, after a few years of false starts, finally got to consistently make records in the 1980s just in time to be too late. Or is that too old? Youth culture can be cruel if you're not Ozzy Osbourne--then you're just grandpa. As for Don Dokken, no matter how many hits he has--and he's had quite a few--he still ends up being everyone else's opening act. And that tells us something.
16) Bulletboys: This Naples, Florida ensemble (crap, they originated in, what, a retirement village?) got compared to Van Halen because they used the same producer and their singer liked to whoop and holler like prime-time David Lee. So, great--why not just form a Van Halen tribute band and rake in some real money?
Lita Ford: The Runaways provided some great trashy rock 'n' roll, but Ford's '80s output just smacks of over-processed cheese. And why is it that when these hard rockers finally team up with other hard rockers, in Lita's case Ozzy Osbourne, it's for a freakin' ballad? (That would be "Close My Eyes Forever.") If you're going to duet on a ballad, call Barry Manilow!
14) Stryper: Christian Metal is just wrong, and quite possibly an oxymoron. I suppose you could say it's more rebellious since it rebels against the traditional concept of rebellion. But then that would make activities such as mowing the lawn, doing the dishes and getting a haircut all part of a Satanic plot. I go with that King Of The Hill show that, when confronted with a Christian rock band, laid it out straight with something like this: you're not making Christianity better, you're making rock n' roll worse.
Great White: Even before the great fire in that small Rhode Island club that stained whatever legacy they'd aimed for, Great White were responsible for bland, routine glam metal that screwed up a perfectly good Ian Hunter song in "Once Bitten, Twice Shy." The band has also suffered enough line-up changes that even their founder Jack Russell has taken to calling different line-ups "Fake White."
12) Slaughter: Never trust bands that form after so many other bands have already succeeded with the same formula. You can't blame Mark Slaughter for starting his own band. Everyone knows that being the singer in a band means you're as important as the guitar player--even if that guitar player is Vinnie Vincent and you're part of his "Invasion"--and you should capitalize on it by maintaining ultimate lead singer dominance at all costs.
Giuffria: '70s goofy glam boys Angel were a sight to behold and if someone had to guess who from that band would succeed on their own, chances are the smart money would've been on Punky Meadows and not keyboardist Greg Giuffria. Yet, it was Greg who put together this unrocking set of dudes and a tune called "Call To The Heart" that was their only real hit. They stopped soon after. Merci!
10) White Lion: So this is what it sounds like "When the Children Cry." Their first label rejected their debut album. And now singer Mike Tramp is planning on a new record and tour with a completely new version of the band. I suppose somebody will notice this. Who does he think he is, Axl Rose?
Damn Yankees: Gee, Tommy Shaw of Styx and Ted Nugent of Ted Nugent form a band and it's not very good? How could that possibly happen? Who screwed this up? I mean, according to Ted Nugent, he's great. And who wouldn't believe Ted Nugent? After all, he had a hit in 1977, so he's right up there with Debby Boone and Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. Actually "High Enough" was a huge hit. Enough to make your head hurt. Where'd I put the Head-On?
8) Warrant: How many forms of wretched can one band deliver? Well, if "Heaven" isn't enough for you, there's always a little "Cherry Pie" to go along with it on the side. Power ballads! Crappy stadium anthems! And guest spots from the guys in Danger Danger and Poison! It's like a recipe straight from Rachael Ray.
Bad English: A "supergroup" with guys from Journey and John Waite! And a hit song--"When I See You Smile"--written by the ultimate "professional" songwriter Diane "Un-break My Heart" Warren. Well, then, who needs rock n' roll when you have true media professionals providing the entertainment? Even Waite admitted to not enjoying his time in this corporate rock monolith! Not really music, but an incredible simulation!
6) Europe: What does it tell you about a band when their most successful album, in Europe's case The Final Countdown, inspires its guitar player to leave? Millions buy the album. Radio and TV play the song and video and the people who create it question what the hell they're doing. The guitarist in question did eventually return--but only years later, when I guess he ran out of other things to do.
Whitesnake: Whitesnake were around for so long that we're ignoring their decade as a blues band to focus on their decade as a vehicle for the dissemination of once-upon-a-wife Tawny Kitaen videos. Singer David Coverdale got so tired of being compared to Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant that he signed up with Zep's Jimmy Page and formed the imaginatively titled Coverdale-Page. When that didn't go so well, Page re-found Robert Plant and Coverdale re-found Whitesnake. Reality TV re-found Tawny. This is starting to sound Biblical.
4) W.A.S.P.: "We Are Sexual Perverts"? "We Are So Perfect"? "We Ain't Sure, Pal"? "We Are (expletive deleted) Performers"? Coming from the same scene as Motley Crue, RATT and Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P. excelled at being the "least good" of the batch. For their efforts, they were razzed by the Parents Music Resource Center, a group of Washington Wives who would've made an even worse band had they picked up instruments. Tipper Gore, contrary to speculation, was no Tawny Kitaen.
Extreme: "More Than Words" may be the dullest song in the English language. And it's had plenty of competition. How uninspired a singer is Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone? Well, he joined Van Halen and made people miss Sammy Hagar.
2) Skid Row: The only advantage of listening to Sebastian Bach sing is that it means he isn't talking. If Ozzy wasn't Ozzy, he'd be on this list, too, since anyone who has ever been considered a "celebrity" of any kind who agrees to be on a reality TV show is telling the world their career is in the toilet. I mean, look at the company you're joining? Peter Brady? Dave Navarro? Emmanuel Lewis?
Poison: Why? Do you have to ask? For "Unskinny Bop." For "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." For "Nothin' But a Good Time." For a cover of "Your Mama Don't Dance," already one of the worst songs of all time, even before Poison touched it. Have you ever heard Rikki Rockett or C.C. DeVille speak? Have you listened to these albums? They've sold over 25 million albums? And Bret Michaels still needs to do a reality TV show? Great, he's no longer the singer of a band but an understudy for Flavor Flav.