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Harper Metal News Book Read Along (Part II)

"Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion"

“Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion” uses a very interesting oral history technique in telling the story of the glam metal (or hair metal) scene, starting at the beginning of its formative period which was around 1976, through the 1980’s and continuing on to today. The authors interviewed approximately 250 people (mostly musicians) that were part of the glam metal scene, or were observers of this history. The events and stories are told by a series of many short quotes by multiple people from multiple interviews done by the authors.

In Part I, titled “Everybody Wants Some!!”, the book begins with the period in the late 1970’s, which was a down time for the hard rock / heavy metal genre. While some bands like Kiss and Black Sabbath filled venues, record companies and the music buying public were more interested in new wave groups like The Knack, The Go-Go’s, The Cars, The Police and Elvis Costello and the Attractions. These bands embraced synthesizers, avoided guitar heroics and favored a mod and punk fashion sytle. In the late 1970’s, punk and new wave music was in style, and “dinosaur rock” was out. (“Dinosaur Rock” was a derisive term used then for hard rock / heavy metal music.)

Despite the music industry’s shunning of “dinosaur” rock bands during this time, Van Halen, a hard rock band from Pasadena, California, was able to sign a record label deal with Warner Bros. Records. Van Halen became a template for future glam metal bands with their good looking blond lead singer and their guitar wizardry. Van Halen was able to overcome this genre bias and become a big success. However, this at the time did not open up other opportunities for other hard rock bands. While this was a confounding situation, many young groups around then such as Motley Crue, Ratt (then called Mickey Ratt) and W.A.S.P. refused to quit despite the lack of record label interest. These bands used do-it-yourself guerilla marketing techniques, and a do-or-die approach to self-promotion, self-financing their recordings and over-the-top concert productions such as reckless pyrotechnics.

Chapter 1 through Chapter 5 tell many great stories from the early glam metal era, and these stories are being told in the book by the actual participants and witnesses. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on the clubs in the Hollywood area that featured these bands at that time, such as the Starwood and Gazzarri’s. Chapters 1 and 2 also discuss the interactions between the musicians and the movement of musicians from band to band during these early days of this genre. Chapter 2 also talks about Quiet Riot guitar phenom Randy Rhoads leaving Quiet Riot and becoming Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist. Chapter 3 features an interview with Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony about his recollections concerning this time period. Chapter 4 shifts the focus to the hair metal scene in the Northeast in the late 1970’s and its top band which was then Twisted Sister. Top independent Northeast glam metal bands then were making a good living playing at clubs all over the Northeast, but their careers were being stymied by two factors. Record companies were not interested in signing Northeast “dinosaur” rock bands, and the club owners would not let the bands play any original material. Chapter 5 features some fascinating stories about the early days of the bands Dokken and Great White. While I have been a huge fan of Dokken since 1984, I learned a ton about the band’s early days from reading these first hand stories!

So far, “Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion” has been a fantastic and very entertaining read, and I am looking forward to reading more. If the rest of the book is this captivating, then it will definitely be a book that I would highly recommend that you buy and read for yourself. See you in my next blog with more from this super cool book!

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