When did the Eighties really begin for you? I like to think that, if you were alive then, you had a musical moment when you knew that decade was going to be different. Maybe there was some kind of herald, a psychopomp guiding the Seventies to its disco-dug grave, a ray of strange black light that entered your ears and dug into your soul. Maybe you had an epiphany.
New Wave seemed a natural progression of what I was already listening to when the decade started. It was organic. It didn’t matter where that genre headed, I was ready for it, completely aurally equipped. The metal, however. . . that sweet, delicious hair metal. . . that, my friends, was a whole ‘nother can of mousse.
The plucked guitar strings, ascending and descending like God winding up a friction-motor toy car. The horrific crunch —crunch crunch as every other instrument in the band stomps its way into the tune like a kaiju on a crowded beach. The sudden cohesion as the two separate musical lines blend like recombinant DNA and become this rush, this perfect hurtling thing.
It stops and simply hangs there, like a heavy cloud, ready to pour hot rain onto the busy streets below. The first line is sung, the words of a man in denial, and the keyboard sneaks up on him like whiskey memories of relationships gone more than sour. The guitars rush back in, an angry tide, pushing the singer to even further declarations of what he does not want.
By the time the chorus hits, you’ve been trapped on a para-sail and the boat’s driver has been knocked unconscious. You’re a little battered. A little bruised. When you hear the last line of that refrain and realize how self-protective and obviously emotionally injured that man is, your heart breaks a little, but not much. You don’t have time to grieve. This song won’t slow down.
The dueling guitars in the breakdown, featuring ex-Ozzy guitarist Brad Gillis, are a whirlwind of fingers and sweeps, technical prowess and virtuosity. It was a madness the mainstream hadn’t heard yet from hard rock, having grown used to the sleepy Soma from Foreigner and Kansas. By the time the song careens to the end, a runaway circus train filled with TNT and heartbreak, you’re drained. You’re kaput. Over and out.
Actually, your mileage may vary.
But that was certainly my experience, a twelve-year-old boy who was taught that it was bad to curse left shaking his head wondering what the hell had just happened to him.
That was where the Eighties started for me. The hair, the bandannas, the hammer-ons, I suddenly understood it all. It clicked into place like that last puzzle piece in Superfection.
The band was Night Ranger, a band I have continued to follow even now. While I got better at debauchery as the years went by, I had these guys to think for showing me the door.
For the longest time, my friends, this was The Metal.
What was your Eighties Metal Moment? Hit me up in the comments.