Whether you’ve gone deaf listening to Leppard or been charged by AC/DC, perhaps you are among the many fans of the big hair, loud guitars and catchy vocals that make up 1980s rock history.
The hair band classification was coined to represent the arena, glam and ballad rock groups that tore up the airwaves in the 80s – bands that looked like chics but rocked like men. In fact, the tresses of hair bands inspired one local air personality as he played these bands the first time around.
“I was doing my show from Rocky Glen Park (a now defunct Moosic fun park) in our glass studio. Jon Bon Jovi joins me. The booth is eight-by-eight feet. His hair and my combined was seven-by-seven feet. Tight quarters. And I have the pictures to prove it,” said 98.5 KRZ’s afternoon drive jock, Jumpin’ Jeff Walker. Walker dons a much shorter do two decades later, by the way.
While this troupe of 80s rockers never really topped the radio and records charts or garnered music awards, they are still rockin’ jukeboxes and concert venues around the Wyoming Valley. Motley Crue is one band that will be making its way to the Wachovia Arena for a Valentine’s Day show. The band was known for hits such as “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” “T.N.T,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Without You” and “Same Ol’ Situation.” (Perhaps you are not reading those titles; rather, singing them to yourself.)
But, it’s not just Tommy Lee and the gang. Concert promoters have brought in recent years many hair bands shows to the Wachovia Arena: Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Whitesnake, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Tesla, Cinderella, RATT, Quiet Riot and Firehouse, and Aerosmith and Cheap Trick are slated for March 15.
The Ford Pavilion at Montage Mountain is another venue that keeps 80s music alive, with Poison hitting the mountain nearly every summer. The Bloomsburg Fair is also known to bring hair bands to the area each fall.
One Wilkes students is a self-admitted hair band freak and is indeed contributing to the success of these concerts. Just this past year senior communication studies major Christie Jones has seen most of the shows listed above, including Poison every summer the past four years. And, she has tickets for the Aerosmith and Motley Crue shows.
“These concerts are better than ever,” she said after rattling off her list. “They’re all crowd pleasers. Here’s the thing, these concert tickets are not low cost by any means. The people at these shows are spending their dollars on tickets for the same reasons anyone spends money on a concert ticket – a night of fun and good music.”
Sometimes Jones gets a mixed reaction when she tells people about her concert-going.
“When I told people I was going (to Def Leppard), the reaction was, ‘aren’t they dead yet?’ Good music will stand the test of time. I can tell you this; the guys from the band are some of the most talented I’ve ever seen. All of their music is original and you won’t see any lip syncing at a Def Leopard show,” she said, adding that these hits are timeless. “People seem to have this idea in their heads that because a band was popular in the 80s, they can’t possibly still have their talent anymore. I didn’t know that talent fades with age.”
When there aren’t national 80s band tours at nearby venues, hair band music can still be heard locally via the aptly named tribute group Bad Hair Day. Lead guitarist Ricky Starr says their once party band evolved into the 80s hair band concept because that was the music they knew the best – and the songs that got the best crowd response. Add some wigs and costumes to the set list, and you’ve got a modern day hair band.
Starr’s personal favorites include Van Halen, KISS and Bon Jovi because they were either great musicians that inspired him, wrote amazing songs or were great performers, things he doesn’t see today.
“I feel this is all lost in today’s music for the most part. It was also music that pumped you up, whether you were going out for a night on the town, or actually hearing a live band play this stuff. There really has never been, nor will there ever be better party music,” he said. Starr adds that top requests are for Bon Jovi, Poison, Def Leppard and KISS.
Jones agrees. In fact, she can’t narrow down a favorite.
“I guess if I had to base a favorite on talent, Cinderella’s front man Tom Kiefer can play like seven different instruments. That really impresses me. Most musicians from this genre wrote their own lyrics and music. They’re genuine. I think that’s what makes me so attracted to them,” she said.
Starr and Jones agree that lingering memories seem to also keep the music alive.
*”There is also the sentimentality factor – a lot of people grew up on this music and it brings back a lot of great memories,”* said Starr
Jones added, “The songs from this era all seem to be about a personal story or experience, some of which a lot of us can relate too. I know I personally have a lot of high school memories attachedÃ¢Â?Â¦.” Jones said.
But, whether it is about reminiscing or just about the music, there is still a craving for hair.
“In the end, I think it all boils down to demand. There is still a demand for this music, so these bands still tour. Sure, they’re not getting the crowds they did back in ’88, but if they were, they’d also still be all over the radio and MTV,” said Starr.
While many 80s favorites are churning out new music, it’s the classics that people want to hear.
“Many of these bands still pump out new albums here and there, but generally they don’t do very wellÃ¢Â?Â¦It’s cool to hear a new Poison or KISS album, but in reality, it’s just a vehicle for them to go back out on tour and play all of their old hits, which is fine with me!” said Starr.
Bad Hair Day’s next dates are February 18 at Decade’s in Swoyersville and February 25 at Brews Brothers it Pittston. For more information on the bad, visit www.bhdrocks.com.