Up next: pod #6, where we have posted urgent testosterone warnings.
- #7 Seed: KISS
- Bad English
- Genesis (post-Peter Gabriel – 1978-forward)
Rooted in the campy theatrics of Alice Cooper and the sleazy hard rock of glam rockers the New York Dolls, Kiss became a favorite of American teenagers in the ’70s. Most kids were infatuated with the look of Kiss, not their music. Decked out in outrageously flamboyant costumes and makeup, the band fashioned a captivating stage show featuring dry ice, smoke bombs, elaborate lighting, blood spitting, and fire breathing that captured the imaginations of thousands of kids. But Kiss’ music shouldn’t be dismissed — it was a commercially potent mix of anthemic, fist-pounding hard rock driven by sleek hooks and ballads powered by loud guitars, cloying melodies, and sweeping strings. It was a sound that laid the groundwork for both arena rock and the pop-metal that dominated rock in the late ’80s.
fikshun: Aren’t these guys the ultimate winner? They kept up the standard “put out a new album every 6-9 months” routine for years. No one can touch their merchandising. The bass player owns the brand likenesses for the drummer and guitarist!!! Oh, and name one other band that has such low corporate ethics that they see nothing wrong with marketing albums to kids with songs about butt sex and sex with minors.
Me: A friend of mine once asked what could possibly be more conservative than long-haired “heavy metal” rebellion among working class teens in the Midwest. He wasn’t talking about KISS specifically, I don’t think, but when I was in high school the only thing more mainstream than KISS was maybe Coke.
Jim: Why these bastards aren’t the #1 seed is one of life’s mysteries.
Following Journey’s temporary breakup in 1987, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain teamed up with Cain’s former bandmates in the Babys — vocalist John Waite and bassist Ricky Phillips — to form Bad English. Drummer Deen Castronovo, who would later join Journey in the late ’90s, completed the lineup. One of the last supergroups of the decade, Bad English made power ballads like there was no tomorrow — and they did it better than most, due in part to Waite’s strong vocals and Schon’s creation of the power ballad prototype during his years with Journey. As the ’80s gave way to the ’90s, the group scored two huge hit singles — “When I See You Smile” and “Price of Love” — and watched its self-titled debut (released in 1989 by Epic Records) reach platinum certification.
Me: I loved John Waite. And I had loved The Babys before they split up. So you take three former Babys and add a guitarist who used to play with Santana and heck, that’s a formula for awesome, right? I momentarily lost sight of the fact that three of those guys either were or would be in Journey. Which was a formula for…well, formula.
Jim: Any band with Journey connections is damned forever. No exceptions.
Genesis started life as a progressive rock band, in the manner of Yes and King Crimson, before a series of membership changes brought about a transformation in their sound, into one of the most successful pop/rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, the group has provided a launching pad for the superstardom of members Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, and star solo careers for members Tony Banks, Michael Rutherford, and Steve Hackett.
Brian Angliss: Genesis with Peter Gabriel may have been artistically interesting, but the music sucked. Genesis after Peter Gabriel, on the other hand, was a hell of a lot more fun, even though the trio seemed hell-bent on cranking out crappy social commentary (along with the occasional / real / social commentary) at least three times per album. [Crappy = "No Son of Mine"; Real = "Land of Confusion"]
Me: In truth, post-PG Genesis didn’t really become a king-hell monster of commerce until the self-titled release in 1983, a good five years after Gabriel left. And even at that point, mainstream wasn’t necessarily a bad word. Back then you might not be John Lennon, but that didn’t mean you were the Bay City Rollers, either.
Jim: Genesis with Peter Gabriel – interestingly artsy-fartsy. Genesis without Peter Gabriel – neither interesting nor artsy-fartsy.
Few bands did more than Nickelback to establish the force of slick, commercially minded post-grunge in the 2000s. Led by vocalist Chad Kroeger, the band initially emerged in the late ’90s as Canada’s answer to Creed, prizing a blend of gruff vocals and distorted (yet radio-friendly) guitars. After a handful of singles failed to gain much traction in Canada, “How You Remind Me” caught hold in 2001, eventually topping the charts in several countries while gathering four Grammy nominations and four Juno Awards. Creed imploded several years later, but Nickelback’s popularity only grew as the decade progressed, effectively eclipsing those acts that had once informed the band’s sound.
fikshun: So corporate that I’m not sure if I’m thinking of them or Coldplay.
Bonesparkle: Ah, yes – the kings of Contemporary Corporate Douche Rock. Their lawyers are still trying to decide whether or not the band can sue itself for plagiarism.
Jim: Journey for people who can’t tell the difference between Nirvana and Candlebox – or Bush – or Nickelback…wait….
During 1982, Coverdale took some time off so he could take care of his sick daughter. When he re-emerged with a new version of Whitesnake in 1984, the band sounded revitalized and energetic. Slide It In may have relied on Led Zeppelin’s and Deep Purple’s old tricks, but the band had a knack for writing hooks; the record became their first platinum album. Three years later, Whitesnake released an eponymous album (titled 1987 in Europe) that was even better. Portions of the album were blatantly derivative — “Still of the Night” was a dead ringer for early Zeppelin — but the group could write powerful, heavy rockers like “Here I Go Again” that were driven as much by melody as riffs, as well as hit power ballads like “Is This Love.” Whitesnake was an enormous international success, selling over six million copies in the U.S. alone.
Me: Tawny Kitaen rolling around on the hood of that Jag was the archetypal expression of the ’80s aesthetic. Discuss.
Jim: Any band that evokes any memory of Tawny Kitaen deserves rebuke. Discuss.
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Image Credit: Last.FM