More Than Hair

– Words and Illustration by Jocelyn

Spandex, make-up and hair that rebelled against gravity with the assistance of crimping irons and hair spray is how many people define hair metal.  The idea that it constitutes of much more is merely a notion to them.  Upon closer examination, it has qualities to admire.  After reading this, you’ll see the neon stage light.

During the 80’s, hair metal was about enjoying life beyond the extent of fullness, it was a celebration of over-indulgence. The larger than life stage shows and tight bright clothing was meant to exhilarate the audience. Hair was about having a good time.  The stage show was a way for the musicians and the audience to forget about the troubles or boredom of life. For many listeners, hair was an escape.

Hair metal wasn’t just junk food. There is technique to be admired. With fast and heavy guitars and drums like rolling thunder, men who wore spandex and eye shadow made music with more testosterone than the a-symmetrical hair cut kids of today. Though the lyrical content can be similar (desperation to get laid) there’s a major gap as far as how they handle an instrument. Quite a few hair metal bands retained sonic aggression while creating something catchy. Many of today’s young “rock” bands have given themselves over to pop far too much. Motley Crue are a wildly successful example of a cross dressing, heavy rocking group. Guitarist Mick Mars didn’t play the guitar sweetly or politely. The band as a whole rocked just as hard as any true rock guys, except they had make up on.

Some scoff at hair metal because of their black mood, claiming that they’re lifestyle is far too serious for that type of music.  Contrary to their belief, hair wasn’t the product of shallow minds across the board.  Reading any hair metal veteran’s auto-biography is no walk in the park.  Nikki Sixx, Steven Adler and Tommy Lee’s books offer readers tales of hardship.  Nikki Sixx died and came back to life, and Steven Adler was repressing secrets about sexual abuse since childhood.  For many listeners with darkness in their lives, spandex clad men were the keepers of their musical happiness. 

Hair metal hit some serious notes too. Under the foundation and crimped hair, hair metal bands penned lyrics on serious subject matter, as well as light hearted party anthems. While Lion wrote about the emotional effects on divorce in “Broken Home,” and, like U2, covered political issue of Apartheid (“Cry for Freedom.”) Skid Row created an anthem for illustrating a youth’s spiral down the wrong path (“18 and Life.”) Motley Crue shows a serious side in tunes such as “Too Young to Fall in Love” that are in contrast to their living for the night anthems.

The bright lights, tight clothes and cosmetics can prove distracting, but hair metal was just as multi-dimensional as any other form of music.  Almost.