The Decline of Western Civilization – Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
I’ve been on a huge Metal kick lately. Well, classic metal anyway, or as it’s commonly called—Glam Metal or as what history perfunctory calls it Hair Metal. I was recently on a family cruise over spring break and the cruise ship offered a free musical show that happened to be Rock of Ages. I never heard anything good about Rock of Ages and to me, it just seemed kitschy and overly-nostalgic and at its worst, part of the recent Broadway cliché of making a musical around a band’s (or genre) collection of work and work it into a stage show story like ABBA’s Momma Mia and Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. But me and the missus had nothing better to do one night without the kiddies so we checked out the show. To no one’s surprise it was as sappy and clichéd as expected. However, I will say that the acting was decent for a stage show on a boat. But the tunes were as timeless as ever and that made me want to check out the film adaptation that I (and the rest of the world) completely forgot about that came out in 2012 starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. I’ll save that piece of work for another post.
Since then I dusted off my old leather pants and I would’ve aqua-netted my hair if I had any and started to listen to those old rocking good tunes of my youth. Looking back, I would have to say that the first genre of music that I got into was glam metal. Which isn’t saying much since I never really “got” into it as much as those other devoted fans with the long hair, ripped jeans, leather articles of clothing and so on. But Glam Metal, you have to admit was the crowning achievement of music in the mid to late 80s. Pop music is always pop no matter what but every decade has its defining genre—60s was psychedelia, 70s was disco and 90s was grunge. The new millennium is Hip-Hop. But in the 80s it was all hard rock and heavy metal and its ilk. It sure was fun at the time but looking back, it was absolutely bonkers.
I also just finished Chuck Klosterman’s hilarious biographical history of 80s metal, “Fargo Rock City” for the second time and again, that solidified my most recent obsession with the genre. It was very hard to take metal seriously back in its prime but its even harder now. Most musical genres age gracefully and I would think most fans would feel all warm and nostalgic revisiting the tunes of their youth but I doubt old metal fans will be all that comfortable telling people that they loved Twisted Sister and Cinderella back in the day. I’m sure, deep down, they still love those songs since they do provide a soundtrack to their youth, but I highly doubt they still listen to them all too much these days. I was in elementary school when glam metal was in its prime but grunge and alternative was all the rage by the time I was in high school and thus, that is the soundtrack I most identify with. And I’m perfectly OK with that and would rather admit to my kids that I wore a lot of flannel than had 2 pounds of aqua-net in my hair and wore ass-less chaps.
Speaking of ass-less chaps, that brings me to today’s post. I just finished Penelope Spheeris’ documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization–Part 2: The Metal Years and now I’m super-duper depressed. And it’s not just because the 80s glam metal music was super goofy and schlocky. No, it was the mega-fans and musicians interviews that totally shit in my cereal. Talk about sad sacks. The musicians were incredibly optimistic and delusional about their lifestyle, values and music but the wannabe’s and fans that Spheeris interviewed were even worse with how they perceived their worlds. I often say that 98.999% of all documentaries are depressing and this one is of no exception. All these aspiring musicians think that they are going to “make it” as “rock stars” and there’s no way they will ever fail. Of course, every one of these unknowns stayed completely unknown and never amounted to anything except fry cook or movie usher—maybe. But the one aspiring band in the film that raised my eye-brow the most was a band called Odin.
I cannot find too much information on Odin (and frankly, I don’t give a damn to) but some old geezer club promotor named Bill Gazzarri said that the lead singer will be the next “David Lee Roth” and that the band is going to be “…very, very big in the rock and roll world.” Now you can ask over a 1,000,000 people if they ever heard of Odin and you’ll just get a blank stare. There’s a very good reason for that—they sucked and they sucked hard. One look at lead singer Randy “O”‘s ass-less chaps and you know they were destined for mediocrity. They never got signed to a major record label and after a few failing EPs fizzled away by the beginning of the 90s never to be heard from again.
In between the concert clips to two of their songs “Gypsy” and “12 O’Clock High” Spheeris interviews the band while they decadently lounge in a hot tub with about half dozen groupies and drink Budweiser. Listening to how nuts these kids are about the industry and their music, you have to feel sorry for them. Even back in 1988 when metal was in its prime, you’d have to pity them for answering Spheeris’ question of when Odin will get signed: “4 to 6 months…and then superstardom! You can take me serious or you don’t have to but this face, people are going to fucking remember it, OK? And its gonna go down in history, I know that.” I’ll let the clip speak for itself.
It’s inevitable, watching an old documentary, to see recent has-beens talk about their glory days while it’s current at the time of the documentary but it’s especially disheartening to see aspiring wanna-be’s talk a big deal about how great they are and then never amounting to anything. I said disheartening but really it’s more or less comical since Randy “O” thinks Odin could be as good as the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin or the Beatles (he seriously mentioned those musical titans) but looks like every other glam metal band from the sunset strip. David Lee Roth may have wore ass-less chaps too but he was already “Diamond” Dave and could do anything he wanted. Roth could’ve wore a dead wombat on his crotch and get away with it. Randy “O” didn’t earn the right to go out to a dinky L.A. club and terribly sing terrible songs with his ass hanging out. Sorry Randy, but that’s just a cold hard fact.