Eighties-Rocker Renaissance: Once Relegated to the Dustbin of Music History, the Big-Hair Rock `N' Roll Bands of the 1980s Now Are on a National Tour. (Trends)

Article excerpt

While most people thought that the big-hair rock bands of the 1980s were long gone, never to return to the music scene, eighties rock fans are detecting signs of a potential comeback of that genre. What many people also don't know is that behind their favorite recording artists--be they country stars Shania Twain and Faith Hill, or teenybopper favorites Britney Spears and 'N-Sync--stand some of the same creative people who used to make the eighties-rock sound.

INSIGHT decided to investigate this phenomenon at the Nissan Pavilion, a stop in the Washington metro area for the Hollyweird World Tour now sweeping across America with four once very successful so-called "eighties-rock" bands: Poison, Winger, Cinderella, and Faster Pussycat.

This reporter knew immediately it was an eighties-rock show when the singers used the f-word every 10 to 15 seconds as they spoke and female members of the audience lifted up their T-shirts to expose R-rated material. The bands on stage played songs such as "Nothin' But a Good Time," "Talk Dirty to Me," and "Rock `n' Roll All Nite."

While many outsiders put most eighties-rock and metal bands into the "hair/metal" category, referring to the all-important big hair of those playing this type of music, there are several subgenres to consider: melodic hard rock, glam rock and heavy metal, to name but a few. Regardless of these differences, however, the whole genre went down in flames in the early nineties with the advent of the alternative/grunge-music wave, which mostly originated in Seattle and relied heavily on cable's MTV channel to build its audience. Just as MTV built up eighties rock, it tore it down when it started playing Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and other similar bands whose dictionary didn't include words such as "fun," but did use words such as "depression" and "suicide." Many eighties-rock fans criticized the new Seattle wave of music as boring, depressive and "whiny."

When record sales of eighties-rock bands plummeted, the major record labels started dropping the bands. With grunge becoming the "cool" kind of music, eighties bands found themselves at a crossroads. Many now long-forgotten groups split up. Others, such as Motley Crue and Dokken, jumped on the alternative/grunge bandwagon, hoping that by changing their music to fit the depressed, dark, but very trendy music of the times, they could stay afloat. Invariably, these bands realized that they were mistaken. Later, they would try to "get back to their roots."

Other once multiplatinum-selling artists didn't alter their music so radically, though change they most definitely did. The band Nelson, led by the blond heartthrob rocker twins of the same name, after a very successful and MTV-supported first album, recorded a follow-up album titled Because They Can--which was surprisingly good despite the fact that it hardly featured any electric guitars, a trademark of eighties rock. That album, coming out in the middle of the Seattle-sound craze, didn't do nearly as well commercially as the first one.

One of the most successful eighties-rock/hair bands, Bon Jovi, started experimenting with blues, soul and even Elvis-imitating rock `n' roll. British rockers Def Leppard came out with the bizarre nineties-wannabe Slang album.

Only a very small number of bands decided to stick it out in the inhospitable environment of the early nineties without changing their music much. These bands mostly belong in the adult-oriented rock (AOR) category, the most sophisticated kind of eighties rock--the rock equivalent of adult-contemporary music. These bands that stuck with their music, come what may, included Journey, Foreigner and Asia. Some of them, such as Asia, had to sign with small record labels--which inevitably meant lower record sales but, at the same time, the undying support of their fans.

Many people who were involved in eighties rock had interesting career paths from the nineties onward. …