The LA Scene
By Fredrik Nilsson
Los Angeles and Hollywood
would be the birthplace of the most commercially successful era of heavy metal,
and that was the LA bands from the early 80’s that would later be followed by the
“hair bands” in the late 80’s.
Mötley Crüe took off were
Kiss and Alice Cooper left off in their heydays, and had
four distinct personalities and wore stage costumes and makeup.
But the music was a lot heavier, even if songwriter
and bass player Nikki Sixx always had a pop sensibility in his
melodies. Singer Vince Neil was just like David Lee Roth
a born to be front man, and Tommy Lee was a great drummer and would
become one of the most respected drummers in the metal community.
Their two first albums (Too Fast For Love
and Shout At The Devil) had everything you could possibly want,
great songs, great performing and a shitload of attitude. Unfortunately the honeymoon
came to a halt when Vince Neil was involved in a car crash with
Hanoi Rocks-drummer Razzle (who unfortunately
died). Facing jail time for being drunk and driving, Vince got
of easy with just having to do civil service.
But the band was beginning to take its toll because
of drugs and alcohol, and the next two albums (Theatre Of Pain
and Girls Girls Girls) contained the necessary hit singles, but
were also packed with filler material. Fortunately the band bounced back creatively
with their 1989 album Dr. Feelgood, which was also deservingly
their biggest commercial success ever.
Crüe would remain in the spotlights the following years,
much due to Tommy Lee’s marriages to famous actresses (Heather
Locklear and Pamela Anderson), and the legendary status
of their wild partying lifestyle (all to be told later in a book called
The band Ratt had a similar style
Crüe, heavy guitars but with a pop sensibility
in the song writing.
Singer Stephen Pearcy was of an
acquired taste, with his raspy voice and almost feminine appearance. But he was
unarguably a great front man, and a poster dream for many girls of the 80’s.
The rhythm section of Bobby ‘The Blotz’
Blotzer (drums) and Juan Crucier (bass) was also one of
the best in the business. The guitar team of Robbin Crosby and
Warren DeMartini somewhat set them apart from
and Warren was an extremely talented lead guitar player.
Being from LA they hung out with the
on a regular basis, and would break through a year or two after them.
Their self titled EP from 1983 was raw and heavy
but still with sex appeal, and quickly became an underground favourite. But their
big break came with the -84 smash album Out Of The Cellar, with
excellent songs such as “Round And Round”, “Wanted
Man” and “Back For More”.
The follow up album Invasion Of Your Privacy
(1985) was equally good, and contained the hits “Lay It Down”
and “You’re In Love”.
After these two hugely successful albums the band
would lose more and more fans with each album, even if the quality of the albums
would remain at a high level. So in the early 90’s the band was put to sleep, and
later reunion attempts hasn’t met any considerable success.
The biggest shock rock act of the decade would turn
out to be a band called W.A.S.P., which supposedly stood for
We Are Sexual P
Christian groups would claim it stood for
We Are Satans People,
but the band and the fans just laughed such ridiculous accusations off (Kiss
was also accused of standing for Knights In
The debut album released in 1984 was an instant
success, with big hits such as “I Wanna Be Somebody” and
“L.O.V.E. Machine”. They also released the controversial
single “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”, which was better
than anything on the album, but unfortunately the record company didn’t dare to
put in on the album.
The stage show was also controversial, with lots
of skulls, fake blood, and the faked sacrifice of a semi-naked woman. But the band
quickly became one of the most popular metal bands of the 80’s.
The follow up album The Last Command
was even better than the debut, with songs like “Wild Child”,
“Blind In Texas” and the title track.
After a weaker album in 1986 (Inside The
Electric Circus), the band bounced back with their most artistic triumph
ever. Front man Blackie Lawless had matured as a songwriter, and
the 1989 album The Headless Children was a success.
In the 90’s Blackie would replace
musicians in the band like a businessman changes ties, but he would continue to
release for the most part good music.
Another great band from the LA scene of the early
80’s was Dokken.
They had all the heaviness of Mötley Crüe
and Ratt, but their front man Don Dokken had a
more romantic quality to his voice (in contrast to Vince Neil’s
and Stephen Pearcy’s voices which were loaded with raw sexuality).
The lyrics were mostly unhappy love stories, instead
of the typical women and party lyrics of the scene. The debut album Breaking
The Chains was a minor success, but it was with the follow up album
Tooth And Nail (1984) that the band really hit it big.
The album was indeed great, especially the guitar
playing by the virtuous George Lynch. And their 1985 album
Under Lock And Key could very well be the most accomplished melodic
rock album of the whole decade. The
whole album is just perfect from beginning to end.
The following album Back For The Attack
(1987) was also great, but after that inner turmoil split up the band.
They were to reunite later, but they never managed
to recreate the magic of their 80’s albums.
Great White and Kix
Two other bands from LA that had some success throughout
the decade were Great White and Kix.
Both bands were founded in the early 80’s and released
a couple of albums. But it wasn’t until Once Bitten (1987) that
Great White really broke through, and Kix followed
a year later with their superb Blow My Fuse album.
But by then the bands were caught up in the “hair
band”-scene, with bands like Poison (who stole a great deal of
their image and music from Kix).
Other bands that weren’t from LA, but still were
close to that scene in style and music were Y&T (from San
Francisco), Krokus (from Switzerland)
and the bad boys from the east coast Twisted Sister.
Y&T was at their peak in the
early 80’s, with three splendid albums in Earthshaker (1981),
Black Tiger (1982) and Mean Streak (1983). They were
one of the better live acts of the 80’s, but unfortunately they tried to commercialise
their sound in the mid 80’s, which gave them a hit single (“Summertime Girls”)
but essentially drove away their metal fan base.
Krokus was Swiss band with a strong
AC/DC-influence, and by the time of their fifth album Head
Hunter (1983) they had a successful single in the states with the wonderful
“Screaming In The Night”. The following album The
Blitz was somewhat weaker, and the expected big breakthrough of the
band unfortunately never came.
Twisted Sister took their image
to the extreme, and looked almost like cartoon heroes by the time of their 1984
album Stay Hungry.
The anthems “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna
Rock” were big hits, but in spite of the band releasing a couple
of solid albums throughout the decade they would always be remembered as one (or
two) hit wonders.
As the image of the LA scene
was pushed to the front, there came a new breed of bands in the mid and late 80’s.
This was to be the most commercial period in heavy metal, and would be dubbed by
the media as “Hair Metal”.