The first I heard of what would come to be Hair Metal was 1981 or so when Tommy Vance played songs from an album called Too Fast For Love by some American band called Motley Crue on his Friday Rock Show. They had been getting mentions for a while in Kerrang! and this must have been one of the first times they were played on the radio in the UK. God almighty, I thought to myself, this’ll never catch on.
The thing is, I should have liked Hair Metal. After all, I was a fan of most of the genre’s major influences. I loved the 70s Alice Cooper and Kiss records (still do). I also liked Van Halen and Aerosmith. So I suppose I should have been a fan really. So why did I end up hating the bloody thing?
I think the main reason was the sound. Hair Metal records sounded really terrible with all that compression. Those dull, thudding snares. Those squawking lead guitars. Perhaps the records were mastered to sound effective on FM radio (or on MTV), but there’s something cold and shrill about them. And they don’t sound any better thirty years on either. I’ve become quite forgiving about a lot of 80s music that I never used to like(I even own a copy of Rio by Duran Duran), but Hair Metal leaves me as cold today as it did back in the day.
And isn’t that the case with everyone? My thesis is that Hair Metal is the unforgiveable genre, the one which time cannot redeem. It’s the genre whose records and cassettes will continue to be loft insulation until the day that they are eventually thrown out. Who will stand up and make a case for Poison, Cinderella or Ratt being underrated bands? Who will claim that Whitesnake’s 1987 is an overlooked masterpiece? No one, I think. Unless I’m wrong?