100 Essential Albums of All Time – Metallica, …And Justice for All (1988)

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The 1980s were arguably the greatest time in the history of hard rock/heavy metal. A genre that spans back to the late 1960s, hard rock/heavy metal’s onslaught in the 80s was mainly highlighted by the sub-genre known as “hair metal,” or bands that brought the flashy look of glam rock (think David Bowie and T. Rex) to the “leather and chains” look of metal (Judas Priest). While bands such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and others seemingly claimed the crown of hard rock/heavy metal, there was another more diverse and deeper group of bands that were under-recognized for their work.

Behind the “hair metal” bands were a quartet of hardcore bands that delivered raw, aggressive and powerful hard rock/metal for their devoted fans. Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth formed three quarters of that foursome, with Metallica rounding out the group. The San Francisco-based band was in a bit of flux come 1987, however, with several issues facing the band and their future.

In 1987, the band was coming off the untimely death of their bassist, Cliff Burton, who was killed in a bus crash while the band toured Europe in 1986. Burton’s replacement, Jason Newstead, was unproven – he had only played on The $5.98 EP:  Garage Days Re-Revisited recordings and wasn’t considered a “member” of the band – and singer/guitarist James Hetfield was recovering from an arm injury from a skateboarding accident. Toss into the mix that the group was looking for a new record company and it seemed that Metallica’s next move was going to be one of the most important of their careers.

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At the start of 1988, Metallica headed to the studios to record the new album and were once again beset with problems. Early mixes of the records weren’t up to their satisfaction, resulting in two different producers being used for the album. Hetfield, the lyricist for much of Metallica’s work, was also writing the words while the album was being recorded. Finally, Newstead wasn’t happy with the lack of “presence” of his bass riffs on the record; depending on who is to be believed, that error fell on the shoulders of the sound mixer or drummer Lars Ulrich, who was also involved in the mixing process.

When the album was released in August 1988, …And Justice for All was recognized as a masterful change in the band, one for the good in many ways. First, the band eschewed the blitzkrieg pace of “speed metal” that had become the hallmark of their earlier work (such as Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets). Instead, they opted to crafting longer and more complex works. Metallica also worked in many tempo and mood changes, making their compositions more nuanced.

Then there were the lyrics, the words that Hetfield put to these new compositions. The stories told on …And Justice for All weren’t “happy go lucky” ones, delving into such subjects as political malfeasance, legal injustice and other wrongs through such human activities as war and censorship. By far the simmering track “One” became THE song of the album and it has etched its place into rock, metal and Metallica history.

The song itself is a masterpiece, starting off with the sounds of war before quietly moving into the chords of lead guitarist’s Kirk Hammett’s notes of dread to introduce the song. The song slowly builds in intensity, with Hetfield’s snarl commanding attention from the start, while Ulrich and Newstead provide the solid foundation for the song. By the time the double-bass kickers of Ulrich drive the end of the song, Hetfield and Hammett are releasing the hounds of their guitars and Newstead drives the bass line home, the listener is left in awe of the entirety of the song.

The subject of “One” – the return of a soldier, crippled and disposed of by the military and, seemingly, the nation – was one that hammered into many minds (and served as a callback to Vietnam and a precursor to Iraq). At over seven minutes, it was one of Metallica’s longer songs and, at the same time, most poignant and powerful. It, along with the video, was what drove …And Justice for All and Metallica into the stratosphere.

The video for “One” was arguably just as big as the song. Splicing together snippets of the film Johnny Got His Gun (about a soldier who is basically a prisoner of his body after being injured in battle) along with a video-staple band “performance” shot, the video was one of the most popular videos in the history of MTV (you know, back when they actually DID play videos). But with all this critical success the band, the album and the song were dismissed by those who SHOULD have known what they were talking about.

In 1989, Metallica was nominated for a Grammy in the inaugural year of a new category, Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. Along with Jane’s Addiction, AC/DC and Iggy Pop, the members of Metallica (who had performed “One” just prior to rockers Lita Ford and Alice Cooper awarding the first Grammy in the category) stood in disbelief as Jethro Tull was awarded the statue for their album Crest of a Knave. It is widely considered one of the biggest blunders in the history of the Grammy Awards (even bigger than the Milli Vanilli fiasco) and demonstrated just how “out of touch” Grammy voters were when it came to a genre that many had no clue about (in 1990, Metallica was nominated for “One” in the newly created category of Best Metal Performance).

Through it all, Metallica and …And Justice for All has weathered the standards of time. In time for the 30th anniversary of the album (and if that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will), the band is remastering the album, with some mentioning that they will be fixing the Newstead bass lines so that they are more prominent (and including some gems to make the reissue worth getting). If you missed the record the first time around, you’d be well advised to grab the reissue and relive the era when hard rock/heavy metal was a vibrant part of the music industry.

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Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Second Round Part 2

HardRockMetal

Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on simply from this last weekend alone, such as his foray into international diplomacy at the end of a Tomahawk missile), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – you don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary” if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?

The first round of the four “regions” – the 1960s/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s/2010s – is complete and there were some big surprises. It’s now time to move into the second round of two of the regions who will match up in the Final Four of Hard Rock/Metal – the 1980s and the 1990s – and work them down to one half of the Sweet Sixteen. As always, cast your vote and/or opinion on who should win each battle by commenting here or on one of the many social media outlets where you might read this.

Without further ado, here’s the 1980s second round:

BON JOVI

Bon Jovi (1) vs. Mötley Crüe (8)

Part of me would like to see this be a real battle, but that’s not the case. Longevity is on the side of Bon Jovi in this case, as is virtually every other category that might be tallied. Sales, award recognition, fan support – all those things flow in the direction of the boys from New Jersey over the gang off the Sunset Strip. Although they might be “lightweights,” Bon Jovi for many WAS the 1980s and, as such, they will be moving on.

Guns ‘N Roses (4) vs. Iron Maiden (5)

This is going to be too close to call. The Gunners breathed new life into hard rock/metal in the late 1980s with their “take no prisoners” approach and bawdy behavior, but Iron Maiden’s throng of loyal supporters and longevity in the business can’t be overlooked. Even though GNR came back last year for a few concert appearances (and Axl Rose did some great work with AC/DC after the questionable circumstances regarding Brian Johnson’s departure), Iron Maiden almost always has seemed to “been there” since the early 1980s. The voters will have to make the call here.

Metallica (2) vs. Anthrax (10)

Anthrax, with their highly influential style of speed metal mixed with social commentary, emerged with an upset victory against Queensrÿche, but that may be where the train ends with running up against Metallica. If there were a group that could play just as fast as Anthrax, just as loud and have similar things to say, it would be Metallica. What puts it over the top? The 2009 induction of Metallica into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which says it best on their website when they comment, “Heavy metal went mainstream thanks to Metallica.”

Slayer

Def Leppard (3) vs. Slayer (6)

Opposites go to war in this matchup, with the poppier hard rock from Def Leppard running headlong into the death metal stylings of Slayer. Don’t be so quick to hand this battle to Def Leppard; Slayer, while a polarizing entity because of the style that they play, has been tremendously influential over ALL forms of music. They have influenced everyone from Pantera to Hatebreed and even reached to Italy to inspire Lacuna Coil. When you’ve got that type of power, it has an impact…but will the voters accept it?

And now, let’s look at the 1990s:

Nirvana (1) vs. Nine Inch Nails (9)

Although I’ve long had a fondness for Nirvana and the late Kurt Cobain, there is plenty of room for argument that Nine Inch Nails and front man Trent Reznor were more influential on hard rock/metal. Reznor’s influence runs the gamut from pop to industrial, dance to rock, and he’s also been a highly successful scorer of films (along with his partner Atticus Ross, they won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Social Network). While that may not be hardcore, it still shows tremendous talent, making this matchup not the slam dunk that many might have thought.

"Gone Girl" Special Screening

Pearl Jam (4) vs. Foo Fighters (5)

Another tough battle in the 4/5 seedings. You would think that Pearl Jam, coming off their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and nearly 30-year career (not to mention leading the “Grunge Revolution”), would be able to handle the Foo men easily. But Dave Grohl and Co. aren’t that easy to knock off. They’ve been getting raves over one of their recent efforts, Sonic Highways, which saw the band travel to eight different cities to “get a feel for” the cities as they recorded it (the production was followed by HBO for a miniseries of the same name). Grohl also carries some gravitas from his days with Nirvana. Is it possible that Grohl’s two bands could face off against each other in the Sweet Sixteen?

Rage Against the Machine (2) vs. Korn (7)

Although Korn ably defeated Tool to reach the second round, I don’t see a way that they get past RATM. In all areas, Rage Against the Machine are the dominant forces – popularity, commercial and critical success, influence and many others. About the only thing that Korn may have is longevity, but that would change if Rage guitarist Tom Morello and singer Zack de la Rocha buried the hatchet and hit the studio again (if not, there’s always Morello leading the other men from the band in their new outlet, Prophets of Rage). A bit of a mismatch here, unfortunately.

GreenDay

Green Day (3) vs. White Zombie/Rob Zombie (11)

A bit of a surprise as White Zombie and front man Rob Zombie were able to upend Alice in Chains to reach the second round of the tournament. They’ve got a great chance to take out the three-seed in Green Day as their style of “nightmare metal” has been mimicked by many bands in the early 2000s, even though Rob Zombie still performs. Green Day, however, has their own legion of devotees and can even say that they’ve gone to Broadway (the musical American Idiot brought punk music to the Great White Way). It is another battle that will be decided by the voters.

That closes the second round for these two regions. Be sure to get your votes in on who deserves to move on to the Sweet Sixteen! Starting this week, we’ll cut the Sweet Sixteen down to only one band, who will walk off with the title of the greatest hard rock/metal band in history!

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Part 2 – The 1980s

HardRockMetal

Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on simply from this last weekend alone), I’ve decided to start something that will definitely be much more fun. Since college basketball is deciding the 64 teams (OK, 68 teams because of those simply idiotic play in games the NCAA conducts) that will compete for their championship, thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

As it is one of my personal fortes, hard rock/metal music is essentially celebrating its 50th Anniversary since the release of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” which contained the lines “Get your motor running/heavy metal thunder.” With this in mind, I’ve put together a compilation of the top 64 hard rock/metal bands from four different eras – the 1960s/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s/10s – and split them up in accordance with those eras into “regions.” We’ll break down the matchups in each bracket and, with hope, readers will make their own comments and vote on the matchups and perhaps they’ll be some sort of prize at the end – the management here (re:  me) is still trying to come up with that prize.

What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – you don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary” if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?

We talked about the 1960s/70s in Part 1, so now we’re ready to head into what was arguably the most diverse era of hard rock/metal over the past 50 years – the 1980s. From “hair metal” (basically pop-infused hard rock music that could be ballad intensive – something previously unheard of in the genre) to “death metal” and beyond, there were many candidates for this “regions” bracket. I am sure there will be some complaints as to the selections and, if so, please include those when you discuss the matchups in your reply!

BON JOVI

Bon Jovi (1) vs. Pantera (16)

As ugly as it is to admit, Bon Jovi was one of the most popular acts of the 1980s. Using enough Aquanet to put his own personal hole in the ozone layer over New Jersey, John Bongiovi – who would become the namesake of the group as Jon Bon Jovi – guitarist Richie Sambora and the rest of the group became the band that was OK with your parents to “rock out” to. They also brought the “power ballad” into its heyday, those songs that brought the girls out to the “rock shows” so the guys would come along.

Pantera, on the other hand, was everything that Bon Jovi wasn’t. Hard core, in your face – sometimes with a fist or a boot – fast and furious, guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell and Phil Anselmo mounted an offensive of thunderous rock that still resonates across the genre. While they were influential to many, they weren’t commercially successful – at least not on the level that Bon Jovi was. It will be an intriguing battle to see who emerges from this clash – but we know who would emerge if it were an actual fight!

Mötley Crüe (8) vs. Skid Row (9)

This is a typical battle of two bands that are closely matched. Strangely enough, though, most people are fans of one and not of the other, with those on the side of Skid Row and front man Sebastian Bach calling their opponents a rip-off of KISS and those taking up the fight for the Crüe and singer Vince Neil and Co. calling Skid Row a Guns ‘N Roses clone. What is true about both bands is they cranked out some memorable music over a short period; Skid Row’s heyday was roughly three years (1989-92), while the Crüe would be relevant for a longer period of time (1981-92). That may be the factor that weighs the winner of this matchup.

Guns ‘N Roses (4) vs. Ratt (13)

It is arguable that Guns ‘N Roses may be the top non-“hair metal” band in the 1980s region, setting them apart from Ratt, who firmly embraced their place in that subgenre. The Gunners captured the rebellious nature of rock and roll that was born in the 1960s and had been lost over the previous 20 years as rock became “corporate.” They also would serve as an inspiration to many bands, with such influence eventually leading to their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Ratt? Unfortunately, it looks like they ran into the “immovable object” here…but the votes will be what matters.

IronMaiden

Iron Maiden (5) vs. Faith No More (12)

This may look like a mauling, but you’ve got to look deep at the subject. Faith No More were one of the few practitioners of what became known as “rap metal,” or rapping the lyrics instead of singing them, setting them apart in the business and spawning bands that still employ Faith No More’s style today. Iron Maiden was one of the most ferocious bands in the genre who had a great longevity in the business. They also had their impact on future bands, but they weren’t the groundbreakers that Faith No More was in their short time. It will be another tough matchup for the voters to decide.

Metallica (2) vs. Whitesnake (15)

Even considering the ample success that Whitesnake and David Coverdale enjoyed during the 1980s, there’s simply no way that I can see voters taking them over a band that is still going strong today (and if you haven’t heard Metallica’s latest Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, you’re missing out on their best record since the Black Album). Metallica has inspired many a kid to become the next great James Hetfield or Lars Ulrich, consistently powering out epic albums and taking down accolades left and right for their work. They also – whether you agree with them or not – have fought against piracy in the industry, something that all should applaud them for. Whitesnake might have had a chance against anyone else on this list…but not Metallica.

Metallica

Queensrÿche (7) vs. Anthrax (10)

This is another difficult clash between two talented bands. Queensrÿche arguably introduced the “rock opera” concept into hard rock music in the 80s (OK, don’t remind me of Quadrophenia or other monumental albums) and served as a conduit for politically charged rhetoric (“Empire” delves into the effects of drug trafficking in the inner cities). But of course, their main claim to fame? “Silent Lucidity,” a Pink Floyd-esque power ballad that made the Billboard Magazine Top Ten in 1990.

Anthrax had their own political stances, talking about the plight of Native Americans (“Indians”) and dabbling with rap and classical music in creating their sound. They are one of the few bands to have had success with two different vocalists, Joey Belladonna and John Bush, and they have influenced thrash metal wannabes for over two decades. Do you take style over substance? Or do you award a long, healthy career that has spawned new generations? Tough vote here…

Def Leppard (3) vs. Cinderella (14)

Another matchup between two bands that, at first look, are mirror images. It is only in looking deeper do you see their differences.

The Leppard were a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) that came out in the late 70s/early 80s, but they weren’t content with staying in that category. They firmly embraced the “hair metal” groove of the decade and became one of the biggest acts of that time. They also demonstrated a great deal of craftsmanship to their records, taking lengthy amounts of time (in some cases, they had to, such as drummer’s Rick Allen’s unfortunate amputation of his arm after an auto accident that forced him to learn how to play drums on a specially created kit) to put out some of the best rock music of the era.

Cinderella was part of that “hair metal” act and even sucked into it a bit by going the power ballad route (“Nobody’s Fool”), but in essence they were a blues band looking for a groove. Singer/guitarist Tom Keifer is a tremendously underrated musician and the rest of the band provided the base for which Keifer could demonstrate his virtuosity. That their era of commercial success was short (1986-1990) was more a fact of the explosion of grunge and rap than any disqualifying factor from the group.

Slayer

Slayer (6) vs. Megadeth (11)

Man, the 1980s were a tough decade! It’s too bad that one of these bands has to depart in the first round as both, against the right competition, could go deep in this tournament. Slayer was the purveyor of “death metal” with their seminal album Seasons in the Abyss reaching their creative and critical high point. Megadeth, with singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine, have continued performing and releasing highly praised music for almost three decades now, including winning a Grammy Award this year for best metal performance for the title track from their album Dystopia. A knockdown, drag out fight is what to expect here.

That’s it for the second “region” of our tournament. We’ll look at the 1990s and the 2000s/10s (and be thinking of who could be the #1 seeds for those “regions” – would love to hear those opinions) later this week and get into the second round, hopefully by next Monday. Don’t forget to vote by replying here and I will compile the responses – and maybe award a prize once a champion is crowned to a reader!

The Top Ten Underrated Hard Rock Songs, Part Two

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A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the first five songs that made up this list (and they are in no particular order other than awesome!). In that discussion, such bands as Faith No More, Body Count, Motörhead, Extreme, Faster Pussycat and Dangerous Toys, among others, and how certain songs performed by these bands just missed rocketing them to metal immortality. But there was something else that derailed these bands just as they were beginning to find their groove.

Hard rock and metal were staples of the late 80s/early 90s, but the times they were a changin’. Just as some of these bands began to work on their sophomore efforts (Dangerous Toys were particularly victim of this), the rumble out of the Northwest was heard. The “Seattle sound” – driven by its early popular practitioners such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana but also by such groups as early as Mudhoney and the Melvins and by such powerhouses as Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots – took over the ears of the disaffected youth and reflected their angst with life. The band Temple of the Dog was an amalgam of these groups, with members from Mother Love Bone, Green River, Bad Radio and Skin Yard joining with members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam for one of the monster efforts of what came to be called the “grunge” era.

If grunge couldn’t do the job by itself, then the second punch of gangsta rap finished off the 80s-hard rock/metal scene. Technically coming out at the same time as the 80s-hard rock/metal took off, gangsta rap became more accepted on both radio and in the culture as the 90s rolled around. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Ice-T (he was also known for his metal work, making him one person who was going to win either way), Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, Nas…they all had a hand in the demise of hard rock as the 90s moved along. With the double blow of the emergence of both the gangsta rap and grunge genres – not only in popularity but also on radio and in the record stores – the “good times” were over for the 80s-hard rock/metal scene.

Alas, it probably couldn’t have been sustained much longer. By the early 90s, many of these bands were succumbing to the curse of the “rock and roll lifestyle” in the form of drug and alcohol addiction and becoming exactly what they had hated – the establishment (this was something that grunge carried on). Thus, even if these next five bands had found success with these underrated gems, they may not have been able to keep the fire burning for much longer.

Contraband, “All the Way to Memphis”

This was a group that should have been so much bigger than it was. Contraband was conceived as an outlet for members of several other groups to record while their “day jobs” (re: the band’s they were members of) were on hiatus. Members of Ratt, L. A. Guns, Vixen (one of the few all-female hard rock/metal bands), the Michael Schenker Group and Shark Island all contributed at least one member to the proceedings, which some might have thought would have been uncontrollable but came together quite well.

This particular song was a great choice. Originally done by Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople (Hunter would prove to be a popular writer for hard rock bands; his “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” was a huge hit for Great White), it lent itself well to the canoodling guitar work from Schenker and Tracii Guns and the howling vocals of Richard Black. The rest of the record was, if you’re a fan of the hard rock/metal genre, an outstanding effort (especially “Loud Guitars, Fast Cars and Wild, Wild Livin’”).

Unfortunately, Contraband was eventually devoured by what we discussed above. It also didn’t help when their eponymous debut record was poorly received by the public. Eventually, the players all went back to their original teams and a second record was never recorded.

Saxon, “Dallas 1PM”

This is one of the older selections on our list as Saxon was at the forefront of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM) scene of the late 70s/through the 1980s. The British act never did find the same acclaim as bands such as Def Leppard and Iron Maiden did, but they did not disappoint in driving out album after album for their rabid fans. Wheels of Steel and Solid Ball of Rock are two of their more notable efforts and, to this day, they still are on tour and in the studio.

This song comes from their 1980 effort Strong Arm of the Law and, if you don’t recognize the significance of the title, you probably didn’t pay much attention in history class. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald as the President visited Dallas. At 1PM, doctors at the hospital declared Kennedy dead, hence the unlikely subject for a hard rock song.

There were a couple of problems that Saxon had with “Dallas 1PM.” First, citizens from the States of America hate having to think, especially about history. And second, citizens from the States of America hate having British people try to teach them history. The combination doomed what would have otherwise been an excellent chance to learn (and it is stunning how much you can learn if you listen to the lyrics of a hard rock/metal song…try it sometime).

Warrant, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

One of the original deviants of the “hair metal” genre, Warrant was all about the party. From their songs such as “Cherry Pie” and their hedonistic touring “pleasures,” Warrant was known more for their fun-and-games persona than their music. They were all excellent musicians, however, who wanted to be known for their music rather than their outside activities. Thus, when they issued “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” from the Cherry Pie album, people weren’t quite sure what to think.

The song was supposed to be the first song released off the album (the record company overruled and selected the title track) and it is arguable whether they would have found success with it. The opening acoustic guitar shows some nimble finger work and the story – of two men (an uncle and his nephew) witnessing the local sheriff and a deputy dumping two bodies they murdered into the local swamp – was more adult than anything else ever attempted by Warrant.

By trying to make their sound a bit more adult and include some seriousness to their compositions, Warrant signed their…well, death warrant. Their next album, the much more serious Dog Eat Dog, did not reach the level of success of earlier Warrant efforts and the band broke up. In a demonstration of the changing scene, the late Jani Lane (the vocalist for Warrant) said he knew “the proverbial writing was on the wall” when the band’s framed photo in the foyer of the Columbia Records (their record label) offices was replaced by the Seattle band Alice in Chains.

Cinderella, “Shelter Me”

Here’s another entry into that “consider us serious musicians” category that didn’t end up working well for the group. Cinderella was pretty much a blueprint for the “hair metal” bands of the 80s. Big hair? Check. Big guitars? Check. Raspy vocalist screaming loudly? Check. The band broke through with such rock anthems as “Save Me” and ballads like “Nobody’s Fool” but, by their third album, they were wanting to stretch their musical legs.

On the album Heartbreak Station, lead singer/guitarist Tom Keifer began to add in different touches that you normally don’t see in a hard rock effort. Dobros, saxophones and horns, female backing vocals and a boogie piano were put into this song, making it a bit of a departure from the earlier work by the band. Then there were the lyrics, pointing out the things that people will utilize to get relief from a maddening world. Overall it was more of a blues song than a traditional hard rock song and people didn’t know what the hell to do with it.

Perhaps that change in styles was the thing that sent the band into a downward spiral. The album didn’t reach the level of their earlier efforts (Night Songs and Long Cold Winter) and their swan song, Still Climbing, never got off the ground. Kiefer still performs today with a version of Cinderella, but they haven’t released a studio album since Still Climbing in 1994.

Junkyard, “Hollywood”

Junkyard was about five years too late to be the big success they should have been. Formed in 1987, they didn’t get their debut effort out on the scene until 1989. That eponymous debut record had many comparing them to Guns N’ Roses, but Junkyard was unique (in my mind, at least) in their full-on embrace of the biker culture. With this addition, there were also some sounds in mind that would give one pause to think they were a Southern rock band.

This tune captured the essence of both the Sunset Strip and Tinseltown in its attitude and its decadence. A raucous assault of guitars and moxie, Junkyard would never again reach this level. Their second album, Sixes, Sevens and Nines, failed miserably and their third record wasn’t released by their label, Geffen Records. They would disband in 1992 but are now back together, rocking crowds if not the charts.

So, there you have it (although I’d love to hear some other thoughts on the subject). Although the bands on this list might have had some success, just what could they have been if the fates had shifted differently? One will never know.

Wondering Whatever Happened to…For February 1

Filthy15

Sitting around wondering whatever happened to the “Filthy 15” while pondering…

You Want to Talk About Double Standards? In December in Akron, OH, Daniel Kovacevic was the subject of a brutal verbal tirade from Deone Slater on a sidewalk in a busy neighborhood. Kovacevic was so in fear, reports state, that he called police in to get Slater away from him. Police arrived on the scene and did speak to Slater, who was yelling profanities at Kovacevic…because Kovacevic wanted to walk in front of Slater’s business, a barbershop, while carrying a loaded rifle slung on his shoulder.

While Ohio is an open carry state – even to the point of being able to openly carry WITHOUT a license – Slater was understandably bothered that Kovacevic chose to do it in front of his business and really didn’t understand why police had an issue with his displeasure. “They (police) asked me why do I have a problem,” Slater said. “He’s a threat to me and my people. He’s a threat to me.”

If you hadn’t figured it out, Slater is black while Kovacevic is white and Slater believes this played into police reaction, which they deny. Still, the state of Ohio is the one that saw police shoot to death a 12-year old Tamir Rice for having a toy gun (among other superb examples of police work in the state), but in this instance decided to speak to a business owner about being upset over a guy walking around in front of his place of business carrying a rifle and running off his customers. Double standards, anyone?

What, You Contributed How Much? OK, Go Ahead and Kill Kids… – In the state of Florida, the stupidity normally runs towards criminals running into the swamp and being eaten by alligators or a bicyclist who shoots himself to death because he’s carrying his gun on him, but this one takes the cake. After the Republican Party of Florida was partially the beneficiary of $200,000 in political contributions from Tenet Healthcare, state officials dropped quality standards for surgical procedures for children with heart defects despite those procedures being in place for nearly four decades without being questioned.

Tenet Healthcare is a for-profit hospital that was under review because many tests and services for pediatric cardiology weren’t being performed at the hospitals owned by the company. As such, the Tenet-owned hospitals were unable to maintain a proficiency in heart operations for children, even on some babies younger than six months. A doctor from Johns Hopkins University suggested that the Tenet hospitals stop performing surgeries until their performance could improve. The hospital system ignored them.

Since those Tenet-run hospitals didn’t conform to the state’s standards for children’s heart surgeries, the state got involved. The state also quickly closed their investigations after $200,000 in campaign contributions were given to Governor Rick Scott’s political action committee, Let’s Get to Work, and the Republican Party of Florida. Of course, the politicos in charge claim that there is no “pay for play” in action in this case.

You might think that protection of children might be something that everyone would be interested in. Apparently not in the state of Florida…

For SHAME, Woman! Wear The Proper Clothes! – In Kansas, apparently a lawmaker is more interested in what a woman might wear when she appears in front of his committee instead of what the committee’s work might entail.

Kansas State Senator Republican Mitch Holmes instituted an 11-point dress code that dictated what was an “acceptable form of dress for women appearing in front of his committee.” Holmes, who said he thought about putting in something for men but eventually decided that “they didn’t need any guidance,” is the chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and says he wrote the instructions “because provocatively dressed women are a distraction.”

Naturally, the pervert Senator caught some flak for these “guidelines.” A fellow Senator, Democrat Laura Kelly, plainly said, “Oh for crying out loud, what century is this?” Another female Senator and the ranking Democrat on the Holmes committee, Oletha Faust-Goudeau, stated, “In my 13 years in the Legislature, that’s the first time I’ve ever read anything like that.”

After several days of being the laughingstock of the Kansas Senate, Holmes was finally shamed into removing the rules from his committee. “My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable. I apologize and meant no offense. I have decided to retract the conferee guidelines,” Holmes said in a written statement. He has refused any further statement on the subject.

Perhaps now the Senator can get about the business of rescuing Kansas’ rapidly escalating budget deficit rather than worrying about seeing some woman’s cleavage.

Perhaps A Remedial Course in the First Amendment Is in Order – Last week, the University of Missouri assistant professor who called for “some muscle” to rough up a student journalist during a campus protest in the fall was charged with a misdemeanor assault charge. Almost as quickly, the professor was able to avoid prosecution by agreeing to complete 20 hours of community service and not violate the law for the next year.

The problems began at the University of Missouri on November 9 when professor Melissa Click, who had joined several protestors who were protesting the delay that the school’s leadership was taking in its investigation into several racial matters on the campus, aggressively approached two student journalists who were working for the campus newspaper. Click allegedly grabbed one of the student journalists and called for “some muscle” to forcibly remove them from reporting on the scene of the protests on campus.

It must also be added here that Click is a professor of communications on the campus and had a courtesy appointment with…the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, which she not surprisingly resigned after violating that little thing called “freedom of the press.”

Although the legal case is apparently solved for Click, the school still has to decide what to do about her position. There is a tremendous uproar from the state Legislature to have her tenure revoked, but there is an almost equal crowd that is willing to accept the apologies that she has made and move on. At the minimum, she should have to take a review course in Journalism 101 and maybe keep that “freedom of the press” thing in mind next time around.

Now the answer to the question…whatever happened to the “Filthy 15?”

TipperGore                            PeopleMagazine1985

Three decades ago, there was a movement afoot that attempted to crush the rise of “shocking” lyrics found in pop, rock and metal music of that era. Led by then-Senator Al Gore’s wife Tipper (we never really found out who else was with Tipper in the group, just that she had a “legion of followers”), the Parents Music Resource Center railed against all forms of music that it felt violated certain standards that it set (and, once again, there was no indication of how these standards came about). They called the songs the “worst of the worst,” the worst offenders, the “Filthy 15” and the PMRC even went to Congress testifying about how “this type” of music was destroying the youth of that day.

The PMRC, as they were known, wanted to introduce a ratings system, much like what was done with movies since 1968 with the MPAA film ratings system. Instead of PG, R or X, however, the PMRC wanted something a bit different – D/A for drug/alcohol references, O for occult, V for violence and, sure, X for profanity or sexual references. After a hearing in front of Congress didn’t get the ratings system that they wanted, the PMRC was able to run the long con on the music industry that they WOULD be able to get their ratings system through eventually. The two parties ended up settling for the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker that we’ve come to ignore for the past 30 years.

FrankZappa

To look back at the “Filthy 15” today, you would really have to chuckle. Metal bands such as Judas Priest, Motley Crue, W.A.S.P., Mercyful Fate, Def Leppard and Twisted Sister (yes, the song that Donald Trump currently is using in his Presidential campaign, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” was a part of the “Filthy 15”) were easy targets for violent or occult references, but some of the others were comical. The Mary Jane Girls (“In My House” for being sexually explicit), Cyndi Lauper (“She Bop” an ode to masturbation) and Madonna (“Dress You Up” for being sexually explicit in probably what was her most non-sexual song ever) all earned the ire of Gore and her coven of mommies whose ears hurt when they heard these songs.

It seems the ladies had a particular wing of the PMRC built for the iconic Prince. Not only was he there for “Darling Nikki,” he also earned his place on the list with Scottish songbird Sheena Easton (“Sugar Walls” was written by Prince) and his protégé Vanity (“Strap On ‘Robbie Baby’”). Yes, if you couldn’t figure it out, it was for profane or sexual content that these songs made the PMRC list.

DeeSnider1

The two gentlemen above (along with musician John Denver, oddly enough) were at the forefront of testifying against Gore and the witch hunt from the PMRC. Noted musician Frank Zappa, while not a member of the “Filthy 15,” eloquently testified to Congress against the censorship of music, while singer Dee Snider of Twisted Sister said at the time that the music was no different than what kids had done throughout history…finding a way to rebel against their parents’ staid world. Unfortunately, Zappa would pass away in 1993 from colon cancer; Snider still is on the road, performing with Twisted Sister and as a solo act, and he admits to listening to everything that his children do to make sure that it is appropriate for them to hear, only censoring in the most extreme cases (he notes the Tenacious D song “Fuck Her Gently” was not appropriate for his eight year old daughter in an interview).

So what happened to some of the other “Filthy 15?” Vanity, for her part, never quite had the career that she might have had if she had stayed under Prince’s tutelage (she was supposed to be the female lead in Purple Rain, but had a falling out with Prince before filming began; the role would then fall to another Prince acolyte, Apollonia). The album that her PMRC greatest hit appeared on, Wild Animal, wasn’t exactly memorable and, in 1985, she posed for Playboy. In the early 1990s, she shed the stage name Vanity (returning to her birth name), found Christianity and became a minister. Regarding her days as “Vanity,” she said to Rolling Stone, “I was young and irresponsible, a silly woman laden with sin, not caring for anything except fame and fortune and self.”

The same is also true for Blackie Lawless, the founder and leader of W.A.S.P. Their song “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” was one of the biggest bombshells of the PMRC and Lawless’ photograph – of him with a circular saw blade protruding from his groin as he played bass onstage – was waved frequently during the hearings in Washington, D. C. in 1985. Lawless, however, now is a born-again Christian and states that he hasn’t played the song – either live or otherwise – in more than a decade.

Others, however, are unapologetic for the music they created. Easton commented to Billboard that “parents have the right to filter the content that their children are exposed to. If parents felt that “Sugar Walls” was inappropriate…they were well within their rights. Adults, on the other hand, are free to choose what they want.” Prince noted that the “times were different back then” in saying, “I wouldn’t stand out today if I were brand new.”

Finally, there are those that viewed that “Parental Advisory” label as a badge of honor. King Diamond, the vocalist for Mercyful Fate who went on to form his own eponymous band, stated, “The sticker never served as a warning, but more as a stamp of approval that kids ended up looking for in record stores.”  Vince Neil of Motley Crue echoed Diamond, saying, “Once you put that sticker on, that album took off. Those kids wanted it even more.

And as for the PMRC and Tipper Gore? The organization doesn’t even exist anymore and Gore separated from her husband in 2010. She continues to be a political advocate, this time for the LGBT community and in support of AIDS research. Meanwhile, no one pays any attention to the sticker on the CDs anymore and songs such as Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck with You,” Tove Lo’s “Talking Body” (where she sings “we fuck for life”) and other songs are readily played on the radio nowadays with little thought about their lyrical content.