The moment I begin reading a book, I hope to have a connection with the author as it’s imperative that you get fully transported to a particular place and time. The moment I cracked open Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Art in The Excess of ‘80s Rock by Sean Kelly, I found myself in a cabin nestled in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains. It wasn’t quite the location I was expecting, but it was the perfect one.
Don’t worry, we wind up on The Sunset Strip in due time.
The narrator takes us on the journey of “hair metal.” Kelly is best known for his work with Crash Kelly and Lee Aaron, so he is no stranger to being placed into the same category. He examines the beginning, the rise, the sizzling and fizzling, and the resurgence of a genre widely misunderstood as novelty or fluff.
Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Art in The Excess of ‘80s Rock examines the roots (no pun intended) and eventual popularity of this genre with his personal experience as a music listener/lover and musician. There are interviews with members of hard rock luminaries such as Twisted Sister, Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Ratt, Skid Row, Quiet Riot, Guns N’ Roses, Dokken, Mr. Big, and others. These additional voices enhance and bolster Kelly’s observations with eloquence.
The book tackles the prevalent debauchery and sexism during the late eighties and early nineties with grace. However, it provides perspective into the minds of the music makers interwoven with said observations and experiences. Like many of us, Kelly was conflicted with lyrics while enjoying the riffs – AKA Catholic guilt. I feel the same way, especially with “Animal (F*ck Like A Beast)” by W.A.S.P. and “Cherry Pie” by Warrant.
What I especially enjoyed about Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Art in The Excess of ‘80s Rock was the validation of music I’ve enjoyed and adored for over three decades. (I’ve shouting at the devil and licking it up since the age of 11.)
The term “hair metal” has always bothered me because a number of musical influences are woven into the fabric of this genre. It doesn’t matter what you call it because it’s still rock and roll to me… and I’m rather certain that Sean Kelly agrees with me and you will, too, after reading.
Don’t mind me, though, I’m going to listen to my Spotify playlist containing 10,000 of the best songs that fall into this very category, because after this book, I can’t get enough.