I am just now finishing my fourth Chuck Klosterman book. On the subject of music, he is an absolute genius. While his influences in the 80’s were mostly Heavy metal and hard rock, Steve and mine tended a little more toward punk/power pop/The Who influenced rock and an early form of alt-country that even fewer people know existed. The thing was that I just really liked rock songs that made me want to bounce my head up and down and put my fist in the air. We had some friends who were into the outer recesses of 80’s punk (the Misfits, Sub Humans, etc), friends who were into early 80’s Metal (Iron Maiden, early Motley Crue, Metallica), friends who were into British Punk (the Business, Stiff Little Fingers), friends that were into the KROQ alternative (the Smiths, the Cure, etc) and a select few friends who were into what was alternative ROCK of the time (The Cult, U2, Big Country, etc). We all seemed to hang out together on and off and Steve and I were able to digest some of what these these genres offered while finding an appreciation for our own niche of bands that none of them seemed to like or know about (the Nils, The Alarm, Hoodoo Gurus, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, All, the Gear Daddies and many more). I’m not saying that what any of us liked was BETTER than what anyone else liked or that being in one of these niches made us better than the people who listened to top 40 and loved it. Things are never that cut and dry, plus I know for a FACT that I was a complete idiot/nerd/geek/dork through most of the 80’s. But, looking back on that time now, I felt that I could have some fun by introducing (or re-introducing) myself and some readers to the bands that I like to call the The Punk – Grudge bridge.
This of course is by no means an exhaustive collection of every band and song that played a part in what I like to think of as the unappreciated bridge between the Punk Rock of the late 70’s, early 80’s and the grunge rock of the early 90’s (as well as the punk-pop and nu-metal that continues until today). While Steve and I lived in a place (Los Angeles) that had a collection of genre specific rock stations – 80’s Alternative, Rock, Metal, top 40 rock, etc, we were firmly mired in love of a collection of bands hardly any one has heard of (and were rarely played on any of the stations). My favorite bands of the time are a collection of pretty good rock bands that got little to no radio play, and while some got good reviews from rock journalists, some were absolutely slagged off for no good reason. To me, if a band ROCKED (either in a hard rock or even a medium rock sense) then the music should stand on its own. Too many of the music journalists of the 80’s (and even now) had no appreciation for actual music. The worse a band rocked, the better the review. If a band like The Alarm, the Cult, or even Guns and Roses put out a pretty rocking album, the reviews would be awful to middling at best (if the big magazines even bothered to review them). There were a handful of not so good 80’s alternative acts that always seem to get good reviews no matter how lame their albums were. The Teflon Decade was built purely on hype and fashion. It seemed if I liked a band or a record, than I was sure to open Spin or Rolling Stone (if they even bothered to cover it) and find a review centered more on the author’s hate of the genre, a discussion how unintelligent the bands fans must be, or how unfashionable the band’s clothes and hair were. Very little time was spent actually talking about how rocking the actual music was because I swear (from what I read) rock journalists (especially in the 80’s) actually HATED music (I might be exaggerating a little, but not much).
I consider there to be three main genres that existed in the 80’s that absolutely no one in the music industry or press) wanted to admit were alive and well – Hard Rock, Punk rock / Alternative rock (with guitars not synths) and Alternative Country. The only genre that was allowed to exist combined all three to various degrees of music success (and made shit loads of money) – late 80s’ Hair Metal. Like the wonderful Chuck Klosterman (buy and read all of his books NOW), I think think that the Metal / Hard rock of the 80’s was culturally significant if only that its excess allowed for the 90’s complete non-excess revolt of the Seattle scene to sprout up and take off as anti-Reagan/Bush era cultural landslide. What was absolutely looked upon as freakish when I was a senior in high school (music with guitars that wasn’t Def Leopard) became the norm in the 90’s – Guitar use was seen as trite and blaise in the 80’s, but some how was suddenly life altering in the 90’s? What the fuck? 80’s Metal / Hard rock also offered us some pretty rocking tunes. On the fringes of the Punk Rock scene were a collection of bands inspired by roots rock (the Long Ryders, Uncle Tupelo) that might have won a few music critics hearts, but were ignored by the vast quantity of major publications. Some of their songs would be absolute hits on CMT today, but were ignored in the 80s’. The same goes for the 100’s of local American Bands that were completely IGNORED by alternative radio/ magazines / MTV in the 80’s in favor of drugged up Manchester Boys (who made some good tunes, but got much more press than they deserved). There are 100’s of examples of bands that SPIN completely ignored. Some they go back and lament now, but most they still continue to pretend never existed.
The reason I want to point this out it because most 80’s rock music shows and compilations focus on two distinct genres – Early 80’s new Wave and late 80’s hair metal. They leave out all of the good stuff in between. I’ve never seen any one of these shows talk about how close some of the tunes on early 80’s Metal (Motley Crue), middle 80’s protest rock (The Alarm) or late 80’s kick ass rock (Guns and Roses) were very close to what became the Grunge/Pock Rock movements of he 90’s These are some of the bands that were flying the torch for rock/punk/etc in the 80’s. It’s a shame that most went un-noticed because many of the songs are just as good or better than rock hits of today.
Some Metal / Hard Rock tunes
Hollywood – By Junk Yard
My Michelle – By Guns and Roses (the album track played behind a static picture of the Album)
Live Wire – By Motley Crue
Bad Craziness -By D.A.D.
Some Alt Country Tunes
Looking for Lewis and Clark – By The long Ryders
Chickamauga – By Uncle Tupelo
Cut me off – The Gear Daddies (These are hard to find, but believe me on record, this song rocks in a cool country way)
Some Alt-Rock/Power Pop Punk like stuff
Tojo – By The Hoodoo Gurus (power pop)
Open Your Eyes – By Lords of the New Church (shlock rock)
Don’t want to know if your are lonely (speedy punky pop) – By Husker Du
Nice Guys Don’t get Paid – By Soul Asylum (glistening pre-grunge)
Third Light / Across The Border (live) – By The Alarm – very lo-fi but a great clip.(alt country / power pop combo)