Author explores era when big hair and spandex ruled rock
brian towie/metro toronto
They were flamboyant, hedonistic, androgynous egomaniacs letting loose castrati wails under gargantuan Aqua Net hairdos — and we loved them for it.
That’s what author Steven Blush is saying in his newest literary smash hit chronicling the sleaze-rock bands of the 1980s, American Hair Metal. Already in its second print run, the book features rare photos and quotes from the era, depicting the days when bands like Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi and Skid Row ruled the planet in all their kitschy glory.
The project was a journey of discovery, the author claims. After writing punk rock history tome American Hardcore and co-producing the film of the same name, Blush delved into subject matter that initially wasn’t his forte.
“I was a hardcore (punk) guy,” Blush says. “I was sitting in a friend’s car listening to a song by Cinderella one day and I was immediately hooked. So I decided to explore it more. It became an archeological dig for me. It’s a lost civilization in the truest sense.”
It was a time of riotous pleasure-seeking, Blush claims in the book. The pursuit of sex was the be-all-end-all, and men knew big hair and neon-pink spandex were infallible tools to get girls. One picture shows a member from Kix giving the thumbs up while a groupie orally services him. A quote in the book has Poison’s Brett Michaels saying, “What have I learned? Use a rubber and check I.D.”
“There was no political message. This was the establishment rock of the time,” Blush says. “It was an innocent time about hedonism and being an alpha male. Men dressed like this because they knew it would get them laid.”
Blush’s research didn’t come easy. He says ninety per cent of the genre’s stars who he contacted weren’t eager to call back, which he puts down to embarrassment. The author is aware of the subject matter’s comedic value, but he treats it with well-deserved deference, which garnered a positive response from some.
“I got a call from (Poison’s) C.C. DeVille. He told me that he liked what I was doing,” Blush says. “Guys like him know why they’re popular now, but these were great songs during their time and still are great songs today.”