This, dear friends, is the exact moment that a frontman in a hair band locked eyes with me for the very first time. (Please note the super boss Metal Edge magazine t-shirt.)
This particular frontman is CJ Snare from Firehouse. A great triumph of mine in recent years was finding a karaoke list that included Firehouse “Don’t Treat Me Bad”, and I sang the shit out of that song.
I’ve drifted apart from many things of my youth – things that I thought I’d love forever. Winn-Dixie Superbrand individually wrapped cheese slices, white Fayva high-top sneakers, respect for Corey Feldman as a dancer, but the one thing I’ve never parted ways with is hair bands.
If you’re wearing red and black tiger-striped spandex leggings and suspenders with no shirt and preening around a stage singing songs about (a) strip clubs, (b) the Sunset Strip, or (c) strip clubs located on the Sunset Strip, then hell yes. Count me in.
If your band name is filled with deliberate misspellings and needless accent marks, names of cities in east Asia even though you’re from Scandanavia, or is simply the last name of the person who has the coolest last name in the band – I’m all about it.
I was thinking about it last month when Anne and I went to see Poison for the tenth time, or as most of my “cool” musician friends refer to them, “Do you seriously like those bands? I have lost all respect for you. Don’t ever talk to me again. Ever.”
Fact: The only reason I ever took my Poison door poster down was to put up a Skid Row one, that I promptly covered with red lipstick kisses. The Skid Row door poster was surrounded by posters of Kip Winger. I bear no shame, and I shame no bears. Related, Kip Winger is an unapologetically hairy man.
My cool friends will often accuse me of just trying to be “ironic” by liking these bands, even after I assure them that I’m not, and pull out my collection of Winger t-shirts, much to their horror, as proof. My love for all things hair band runs as deep as the swimming pool in the L.A. Guns video for “The Ballad of Jayne”.
It blasts forth from my heart like a fire hydrant in the Slaughter “Up All Night” video.
It is as pure and platinum as Matthew and Gunnar Nelson’s long, blonde locks.
That’s right. I’m at Nelson level hair band fandom.
I feel like you really need to know the depths to which my feelings lie, or else this entire conversation will be for naught. I don’t want you walking away from this thinking I’m talking about rock bands like Van Halen, a band that managed to be the perfect hybrid of wicked fun and incomparable talent. I don’t want you to think, “Hey, that Maggie sure does like AC/DC! What a cool lady!” and then call it a day.
Motley Crue is, in fact, the most cerebral band I like from the 80s.
I want you to know what you’re getting into here. If you put on an Enuff Z’Nuff video, my eyes will glaze over and I will sing along.
Hair bands came along at a time in my life when things really couldn’t have been worse. Poison, in particular, came around when I was in middle school, the literal worst. The god awful, miserable, worst of the worst. The onset of the hideousness that was puberty, living in a house with caved-in bathroom walls and falling-down ceilings, carpets blackened with ground-in cigarette ashes, and piles of old furniture rotting in the yard. Where when you flipped on the kitchen light, you could be assured that at least 200 cockroaches would scatter for cover, and at least one of them would stand there, defiantly, like “Fuck you, kid. This is my house,” and you’d know that, deep down, they were right. Getting shipped off to live with out-of-state relatives when the shit really hit the fan at home. Getting groped in school nearly every day when the going attitude was, “Ignore it. Maybe all these guys with their hands all over your body just like you!”
Having a goddamned perm at the exact same time as 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner became popular.
Mr. Belvedere being cancelled.
Middle school in the mid-to-late 80’s: It was a real crap festival.
No matter how shitty things got, when I turned on the television, I could be assured that Bret Michaels would be there wearing leather chaps, fingerless gloves and a bandanna, literally humping his way up a microphone stand while singing about bops that were unskinny and dancing with laser beams in the shape of ladies. You could always count on fun times with those bands. And as a matter of fact, as a singer my entire vocal affectation can be directly attributed to the thousands of hours I spent singing Poison songs as a tween/teen. I wanted to be Bret Michaels.
Fun was always part of the package with hair bands. They were like a candy necklace around the bag of garbage that was my life.
I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy for my troubles. I’m telling you this to get your sympathy for hair bands.
Hair bands provided me with an escape from the misery of my life, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I know it because I can see it on the faces of the thousands of people who still show up for the reunion tours, who still scream like it’s Beatlemania when Kip Winger walks out onto a stage in his leather pants, and to women like me who feel proud to see Lita Ford still tearing that shit UP.
It’s the pageantry. The wink-winkiness of it all. The pointy guitars and choreographed moves while ripping out scales at nearly supersonic speeds. The men in frosted pink lipstick and thigh-high red boots and the women in flamey leather jumpsuits pouting for the photographer in Circus magazine. The frontman wearing a pair of cow-print chaps and doing high-kicks onstage. My god, how could you not love it? How could you not love every single second of it?
I mean, it’s just rock ‘n roll. Why you “cool people” gotta be so uptight about it?
And I’ll tell you this much, smartypants, the fact that I love hair bands doesn’t detract from my love for “ooh serious bands” like Wilco and Dinosaur Jr even one little bit. Just because you love sumo wrestling doesn’t mean you can’t also love greco-roman wrestling, or professional wrestling, or mud wrestling. The love for one thing doesn’t detract from the love for all the other things.
That being said, if Jeff Tweedy from Wilco and CC DeVille from Poison were both tied to train tracks and I could only save one of them…
I’m just saying the guy doing the high-kicks in the leather pants is probably not going to be the one who ends up becoming train meat.