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mutha, don't want to go to school today
everything i ever needed to know i learned from hair bands
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)
pop culture

So I was listening to the song "Civil War" by Guns 'n Roses the other day, and a line started to resonate with me - "I went blind when I learned to see, so I never fell for Vietnam." And it struck me that, hey, if Axl, who was, let's see, three years old when the US first started sending troops, if Axl Rose was so canny at the age of three to know that the Vietnam War was wrong, then what else could today's politicians learn from prepubescent males from Indiana? Could the answer to peace in the Middle East be hidden in the cynicism of little Davy Johnston sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Mark Pierce's Fulmer Road Family Medicine office in Mishawaka, Indiana?

Let's hope so.

Anyway, I got to thinking that, y'know, maybe these metal hair band guys had more going on upstairs than just make-up and big hair. That said, I'm pretty sure every decision I make has been somehow influenced by Poison, Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Ratt, Kiss, Guns 'n Roses, Van Halen, Warrant, The Scorpions, Europe, Extreme, White Lion, Great White, Queensryche, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Damn Yankees, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Britny Fox, Nelson, Vixen, Slaughter, Tesla, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Winger, and, of course, Spinal Tap. And now I must indoctrinate all of you into my cult. It's amazing what you can learn from a late-'80s heavy metal band.

Relevant lyrics are underlined for your benefit.

1. Whenever you hit a snag, simplify.

There's no need to go crazy when something goes wrong, or when someone asks you to think too hard. Just go back to the basics. Life is full of enough conflict and angst without having to make things harder for yourself. When you see an easy way to solve a problem (the "occam's razor" concept), just go with it.

This can be exemplified by any hair band song in which the "lyricist" has chosen to rhyme a word to itself, rather than going through the onerous process of, well, actually rhyming it.

Example: Slaughter's "Fly To The Angels":
'cause now you've got to fly, fly to the angels.
Heaven awaits your heart and flowers bloom in your name.
You've got to fly, fly to the angels.
All the stars in the night shine in your name.

2. Take all life throws at you and come back asking for more.

No, I'm not talking about more Aqua-Net (pronounced by the French "Aqua-Nay"). These guys knew that behind all the lycra, the eyeliner, and the leather crotch-enhancers, it's all about character. No matter what life throws at you, whether it's sex-crazed groupies when you just want to drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and pass out, or a run in your tights, it's important not to let the little things get to you.

Example: Lita Ford's "Kiss Me Deadly":
Went to a party last Saturday night.
I didn't get laid; I got in a fight, uh-huh.
It ain't no big thing.

3. Think about the consequences of your actions.

Sometimes it's a good idea when you're about to, say, light something on fire, that you take a moment and grasp the complexities of the possible results. In other words, if it's a nice, dry log in your living room fireplace, the result will likely be a good one. If it's a kerosene-soaked cat tied to a hydrogen blimp in the middle of your daughter's LSAT exam, it's probably not going to end up working out for you. E-mail me if you need more examples for comparison.

Now, it's easy to argue that many of these bands didn't live the lesson. The results of being drunk and/or high for 8 years straight probably takes its toll eventually. They certainly sang about it enough, though, and it's a lesson that I've taken to heart.

Example: Skid Row's "18 And Life":
"Accidents will happen" they all heard Ricky say.
He fired his six-shot to the wind.
That child blew a child away.
Now it's 18 and life, you got it.

4. Don't do what everyone else says.

If there's one unifying theme running through the music of the heavy metal hair bands (other than, maybe, that love bites), it's this: sometimes just going against the grain for the sake of it is reason enough. In 1988, when Bobby McFerrin was telling everybody not to worry, to be happy, Poison had the guts to deny his jovial nature and scorn his Robin Williams video. Bret Michaels and company took a look at all this good feeling and said, "No. We don't want to sing it note for note. In fact, we feel that 'every rose has its thorn.' So there." That's the day I learned how important it is to stand up for your convictions, no matter what. (It's also the day I learned that every cowboy sings a sad, sad song, but that's neither here nor there.)

Example: Warrant's "Cherry Pie":
Swingin' in the living room, swingin' in the kitchen.
Most folks don't 'cause they're too busy bitchin'.

5. It's important to share your feelings with loved ones.

Most psychologists will tell you that holding in your emotions, especially if you have a problem with someone, can only lead to resentment and more anger. Bottling up your emotions, or acting in a passive/agressive way will neither make the problem go away, nor will it make you feel better. I'm sure we can all think of an episode in our lives in which not telling someone how you felt about something they said or did just lead to a blow up further down the road, often manifesting in an overreaction to something small, like your sister using your favorite sweater to kill mice. No one wants to have to say "I'm sorry I cut off your finger over something so silly. I was out of line." Instead, the next time your fraternity brothers sleep with your girlfriend, let them know that you're perturbed. You'll feel better afterwards, trust me.

Example: Warrant's "Down Boys":
Some things you do really make me mad, I must confess.
The way the streetlight silhouettes your legs inside your dress.

6. If you don't know the answer to something, it never hurts to ask.

The hair bands knew that too many people go through life confused, when all it would take to be in the know would be a simple question. Pretending to understand a situation or assuming you know the score when you really don't can just lead to misunderstandings, not unlike those found on the classic sitcom "Three's Company." But the metal bands of the late '80s knew that real men ask directions, real women admit they don't know everything, and nobody wins when you're not all on the same page.

Example: Poison's "Unskinny Bop":
What's right?
What's wrong?
What's left?
What the hell is going on?

7. Sometimes humor is the best reaction to a bad problem.

Have you ever gotten to the point where you didn't think you could sink any lower? Have you ever had one of those days where it just seems like everybody's gettin' on your case, from your teacher all the way down to your best girlfriend? If life's thrown you some hardballs, there's no need to sit and sulk. Crying isn't going to solve your problems, and might just serve to make them seem even worse than they are. Before you lose yourself in a morass of self-pity, take a cue from these guys. Just because their biggest worries at the time were things like how to fit 30 naked groupies on one tour bus or which drumstick to throw into the crowd, never forget that they, too, had to deal with adversity - situations like not having enough money for both food and cigarettes or growing up in New Jersey.

Example: Bon Jovi's "Bed Of Roses":
Well, this hotel bar's hangover whisky's gone dry,
The barkeeper's wig's crooked, and she’s giving me the eye.
Well, I might have said "yes," but I laughed so hard I think I'd die.

8. If you find the right person, life can be very sweet

I think we all know this one. But for a genre of music that often focuses on bad relationships, it's important to note that sometimes a good relationship can make all of life's bitterness disappear.

Example: Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me":
Pour some sugar on me
In the name of love.
Pour some sugar on me.

9. Sometimes life just doesn't make any sense.

Good people die; bad people get rich; idiots get elected to high political offices. Nice guys sleep alone. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sure, we'd all like it if the universe were ordered, but, it obviously isn't. I could spend all day giving examples of how, like the following lyrics, our existence doesn't always make sense. But I won't.

• Ratt's "Round and Round": Another day, some other way. We're gonna go, but then we'll see you again. I've had enough, we've had enough. Cold in vain, she said.
• Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me": Livin' like a lover with a radar phone.
• Guns 'n Roses' "You Could Be Mine": With your bitch slap rappin' and your cocaine tongue, you get nothin' done.
• The Scorpions' "Wind Of Change": Take me to the magic of the moment on a glory night.
• Whitesnake's "Here I go again": And I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.
• Damn Yankees' "High Enough": It's a shame I've got to live without you anymore.
• Europe's "The Final Countdown": We're heading for Venus and still we stand tall. 'Cause maybe they've seen us and welcome us all.
(Note: In this case, I just don't find it necessary to underline the whole thing.)

10. Might as well jump.

I think this one speaks for itself. Sometimes I jump.

Example: Van Halen's "Panama":
Jump back, what's that sound?
Here she comes, full blast and top down.

Okay, well, there you have it. As Poison once said, "Sometimes I wish to God I didn't know now the things I didn't know then." I imagine that after reading this column, many of you feel the same way. Well, it's too late; you're all in my power. I command you to have a good November.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

more about adam kraemer


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topic: pop culture
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famous at five
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by adam kraemer
topic: pop culture
published: 10.8.10


robert melos
11.8.02 @ 1:17a

I don't know what to say. This column really brought back great memories. Very cool. The subtitle says it all.

mike julianelle
11.8.02 @ 1:34a

Damn Yankees were about as heavy as your jock.

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 8:44a

Don't go dissing Ted Nugent. Or my jock.

russ carr
11.8.02 @ 10:34a

Extreme? Those boys looked like they escaped from a Silkience shampoo commercial. RHCP overdosed on Prozac, that was Extreme.

sarah ficke
11.8.02 @ 10:35a

Funny, I tend not to classify Aerosmith with the hair bands. Then again, I am a hair band novice.

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 10:40a

Well, I do have to say, in Extreme's defense, that Nuno Bettoncourt (sp?) is a stellar guitar player. And I always thought the point of the hair bands was to look like they escaped from a shampoo commercial. Also, let me ask, Russ, are you basing your knowledge of their sound solely on "More Than Words" and "Hole Hearted"?

And, Sarah, Joe claimed the same thing about Van Halen (re: hair band/not hair band). I say if the style of dress, music, and attitude is the same, at least for the duration of the '80s and '90s, they fit that classification (if it walks like a duck...).


tracey kelley
11.8.02 @ 10:47a

Heh. In the new T-mobile commerical, Def's lyrics for "Pour Some Sugar on Me" are analyzed with a phone call to the librarian. It's hysterical.

So glad to see the glam boys take the Moby route.

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 11:04a

It's all about Joe Elliot.

russ carr
11.8.02 @ 11:06a

Adam: You mean they had a third song? Wow.

If they didn't have spandex, boots, and a 'do that would make Luanne Hill fall to her knees, they weren't a hair band. Van Halen was only a hair band when Roth was with 'em. (How ironic is that, now?) Aerosmith was never a hair band, either; in fact, they were barely still a band, 'til Run-DMC yanked 'em back out of obscurity.

russ carr
11.8.02 @ 11:08a

Oh, and you left off Deathtöngue.

sarah ficke
11.8.02 @ 11:08a

Aerosmith isn't a hair band (in my opinion) because they were a successful band in the 70's, before hair-rock was the thing.

jill bronner
11.8.02 @ 11:19a

What exactly are you saying about growing up in New Jersey?

travis broughton
11.8.02 @ 11:22a

Not a hair band in any sense of the word, but one of my all-time favorite lyrical rhymes, another example of occam's razor, comes from the Beastie Boys' "Pass the Mic":

everybody's rappin' like it's a commercial
acting like life is a big commercial

Apparently they couldn't come up with a way to put "inertial" into context.

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 11:24a

Wow. Attacked by the left and the right.

Okay. Just because a band was successful before the 'hair band' era, doesn't mean their music isn't part of that genre.

Second, yes, Russ, they had no more hits, but a few other songs. Actually, the Beethoven-in-the-mall scene from Bill and Ted was an Extreme song. Truth is, their hits were totally non-indicative of the type of music they played.

Third, yeah. Forgot about Deathtöngue.

And fourth, nothing wrong with growing up in New Jersey, per se. Except it's not Pennsylvania, New York, or Connecticut.


kimberly sullivan
11.8.02 @ 11:29a

I hear most of these bands are now playing anniversary parties and bar mitzvahs. “Appearing for Frank & Anne’s 40th Wedding Anniversary and for the first time at Somerville’s VFW – WHITE LION!!”

heather millen
11.8.02 @ 12:33p

Big Hair, Big Dreams baby! I would like to personally thank you for putting Monster Rock Ballads in my head for this beautiful Friday. No, really. Dude, "18 and Life" RULES!

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 12:33p

Yeah, or Sebastian Bach introducing Uncle Harry and Aunt Ruthie coming to the front to light the Bar Mitzvah candles.

Heather, no problem. I may be the only person who ever bought Warrant's greatest hits.


dr. jay gross
11.8.02 @ 12:56p

'Big Hair' was fine when we had some....those of us that can remember the original writers that invented the words that were 'Written on the Subway Walls' all the rest is just 'Blowin' in the Wind'. .....Just copied and plagiarised by the air-heads writing today's medium. A good protest takes a geat deal of immaturity....I never want to lose that quality.

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 1:01p

True. I would hope, of course, that the tongue-in-cheek style in which I wrote this is quite obvious.

matt morin
11.8.02 @ 1:52p

About 5 years ago Ratt came to play here in SF. They were hilarious. There were about 200 people in the audience and most of them new every word to every song - even the songs on their new album.

But man did those boys look worn out. The lead singer looked about 60. Ridden hard and put away wet.

Every time they played an old classic, we just started laughing.

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 1:55p

Funny you mention Ratt. I was watching a VH1 special and it turns out that the guy touring with them is not the original lead singer (who's currently touring behind his own name, but singing Ratt songs). So maybe the current guy could be about 60.

Also, didn't their guitarist die earlier this year?

heather millen
11.8.02 @ 1:55p

Oh, to see a Big Hair band now would be hilarious. They look worn out? Yeah, that's a shock. 8 years of straight whiskey and constant drug use, not to mention all of the sex, will do that to you.

robert melos
11.8.02 @ 9:15p

I think of Areosmith as a band in its own league. It is part of the hair band genre, but it is also much more.

And don't knock NJ. Look at all the musical talent from here. Springteen, Bon Jovi, Sinatra, John Eddie, just to name a few.

Name some from Pennsylvania please? (And polka music doesn't count.)

adam kraemer
11.8.02 @ 9:36p

Well, in the Hair Band genre, there's Poison and, I believe, Warrant. But also the Hooters, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, and G-Love and Special Sauce, to name three.

Besides, I didn't say that there weren't any good bands from New Jersey (you forgot the Asbury Jukes), just that growing up there counts as overcoming adversity.


mike julianelle
11.8.02 @ 10:57p

How are G-Love and Special Sauce a hair band?

robert melos
11.9.02 @ 1:19a

Well, I have to agree with you on the overcoming adversity thing. Yeah, I totally missed the Jukes. Also Skid Row and Trox.

jeff wilder
11.9.02 @ 3:33p

On the classification issue: I don't really think of Aerosmith or Van Halen as Metal bands. I just consider them rock bands. Then again, I never really considered Motley Crue, Def Leppard or Whitesnake metal either. To me they were just melodic hard rock.

G Love and Special Sauce fall into the category of bands from Pennsylvania. Although the first band that comes to mind when I think of William Penn's favorite place is Live.

joe procopio
11.9.02 @ 9:42p

Van Halen is not hair metal. The were metal in the late seventies.

Adam, you have balls to admit you know all these lyrics.

mike julianelle
11.9.02 @ 9:59p

Not to take anything away from Adam, but the lyrics he used were some of ther most well-known. How about something from "On with the Show" by the Crue? Or "Spend my Life", or "Up all Night" by Slaughter? And Tesla has skills.

adam kraemer
11.10.02 @ 4:59p

I actually used a smiliar argument the other day when I was defending myself against the "dude, you're scary" accusation. I'm well aware that all of these lyrics are from hit songs by big bands. Why on earth would I want to go all Dennis Miller? Would my readers have appreciated it more if it had been songs they didn't know?

Also, yeah, I can't believe I forgot Live. And G-Love was just a PA reference, not hair band.

And as far as the Aerosmith/Van Halen debate, just because their music came earlier doesn't mean it's not the same genre. Hell, Twisted Sister started in the '70s, and Quiet Riot had their big hit in 1982. Hell, Quiet Riot's original guitarist was Randy Rhodes. I recognize that there is a thin line between Aerosmith/VH and most of the other bands I listed, but don't tell me that "Poundcake" or "Love in an Elevator" should be in a different musical genre than "Bad Medicine" or "Fallen Angel."

joe procopio
11.11.02 @ 12:40a

Oh, you mean Van Hagar.

adam kraemer
11.11.02 @ 9:50a

Yes, right. You closed-minded purist. The name of the band was still Van Halen.

brian anderson
11.11.02 @ 11:31a

Of course, Quiet Riot's biggest hit -- Cum On, Feel the Noize -- was actually a cover of a Slade song from the 1970s that had been a hit in the UK.

And Van Halen eventually stooped to recruiting Extreme's singer, didn't they? Even if they were arguably not a hair band at the beginning, they made their way to that neighborhood.

adam kraemer
11.12.02 @ 1:32p

This is what I'm saying. And no one can convince me that Aerosmith didn't make a foray into the genre with "Permanent Vacation" and "Pump."

I seem to recal that a few other hair bands had hits with Slade songs, but I can't remember what they are. Any ideas?

mike julianelle
11.12.02 @ 5:14p

This may have already been posited, but isn't there a distinction between the hair-band "look" and the hair band "sound"?

adam kraemer
11.13.02 @ 10:38a

Actually, no one made that distinction. Are you arguing that VH and Aerosmith didn't look the part even in, say, 1989?

mike julianelle
11.13.02 @ 6:33p

No, not necessarily. But even if they did, I don't think their music qualifies. Hair Band to me is a degrading term used to signify the whole style over substance deal most, or more likely ALL, of those bands had going on. You could say Motley Crue was one, but I don't think you could say GnR was, unless you are making that distinction between music and image.

daniel castro
11.13.02 @ 7:14p

How in the hell is Metallica considered a Hair Band? Or Megadeth? are they considered to be that just for the hair? If we go deeper into what they were about I think both of those bands have nothing to with the rest of them. Hell, not even Anthrax deserves to be called a Hair Band.

joe procopio
11.14.02 @ 7:56a

I think young Castro has a point here. Weren't Megadeth and Metallica the alternative, maybe the antidote, to hair metal?

And I think Crue and GnR both started out as hair bands. Although GnR had the shortest stint on record - Axl having worn all that hairspray and makeup for Welcome to the Jungle.

Now the Crue, and this always brings on the flak, were somehow elevated, but I don't see what separates Crue from Poison or Warrant.

adam kraemer
11.14.02 @ 12:39p

When did I say Megadeth and Anthrax were hair bands? I don't seem to recall making that claim. Hell, I don't seem to recall having that thought.

daniel castro
11.14.02 @ 2:57p

Adam, It says so on the website you have linked at the beginning of the article. If you go to the "Hair Band Logos" they are there. And thank you, Joe, for the support. MetallicA and Megadeth were the antidote to "hair metal". Them and Slayer, Exodus, and Kreator.

adam kraemer
11.15.02 @ 7:16a

Oh. Maybe I'll change that link, then. That was really only for the purposes of edifying anyone who had no idea what I was talking about. I found a pretty decent list of hair bands on UBL.com, except for some reason, they included Mother Love Bone, which I just never thought of that way.

daniel castro
11.15.02 @ 6:48p

"Mother Love Bone"? quite an imagination to come up with that name.....

daniel castro
11.15.02 @ 6:51p

OMG! Lita Ford is there? WTF? My dad used to worship that woman...

mike julianelle
11.15.02 @ 7:19p

Wow. You've never heard of Love Bone, Danny? Wake up, will ya? They're important, at least for genealogical reasons.

mike julianelle
11.15.02 @ 7:19p

Oh, and I think there's some validity to Love Bone as a hair band.

robert melos
11.15.02 @ 11:08p

Daniel, you father had very good taste. Lita Ford really did wonders for the female presence in the music industry in general. As for hair bands, I think a lot of those classified as such were being diminished or having their talents dismissed because they choose a certain look. Much as Rap performers are dismissed by many people today.

adam kraemer
11.19.02 @ 10:11a

I'll agree with that, Robert. I heard an interview once with C.C. DeVille, from Poison, who was saying that he actually studied music at NYU. He was like, "I studied with Itzak Pearlman. He'd be appaled to hear what I've done with it."

mike julianelle
11.19.02 @ 11:44a

Yeah, Pearlman would be appalled by his choice of genre and the fact that he was a junkie.

andrea augustine
4.13.08 @ 5:47a

I met Itzak Pearlman here at I.U. when I was a freshman... YEAH Hillel! As you know, he can still play like a dream, and pretty much any electric guitarist I've ever talked to wishes they could play violin. Music junkies, and then some, eh? Too bad about the drugs. I hear some people main line insulin.


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