Steven Blush reads from American Hair Metal Friday (March 2) at the Bovine Sex Club. See Book Readings. Rating: NNNN
Giving me a copy of Steven Blush's American Hair Metal is like dangling keys in front of an infant. I squealed and reached for the shiny pink and blue embossed cover with its photo of Nitro, all quadruple-necked guitars, studded leather pantsuits and hair, hair, hair. Pretty colours! Gimme.
This is basically a picture book. Boys in spandex, boys in makeup, posing, pouting, posturing. Everyone's young, attitudinous and cocksure.
"Cock" is the operative word. Many of the pics also feature scantily clad women with huge bangs and big smiles hanging off the rockers like sweaty, drugged-out accessories. In one shot two members of Kix give the camera a thumbs-up while a groupie gives one of them head.
Blush, who also wrote American Hardcore, points out that hair metal was white music made by white people for white people. He also discusses its misogyny and the irony of "straight, white alpha males" dressing like flaming drag queens. But he does not go into any real in depth analysis, nor does he personalize the metal experience like Chuck Klosterman does in Fargo Rock City.
Vignettes and quotes accompany the photos: "What have I learned?" asks Brett Michaels of Poison in 1987. "Use a rubber and check ID." "Never fuck on balconies," says Warrant's Jani Lane in 1990, "especially if you're drunk." Pearls, I tell you.
Blush includes bios and fun facts about all the bands. Did you know that Mark Free of King Kobra underwent gender reassignment surgery and now performs as Marcie Free?
American Hair Metal allows us to visually recall a movement and aesthetic that dominated the Western world, then disappeared virtually overnight. It's amazing that something so bizarre, self-indulgent and wankerish can be so beautiful.