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Sunday Old School: Winger

Kip Winger could have been a member of Kiss. I am basing this notion on body hair alone. As the number of eighties bands grew, Winger was one of the bands that started the “too much” movement eventually breaking in the early nineties. This was foreshadowed by the Beavis & Butthead character Stewart wearing a Winger shirt as a sign of being weak and available for jokey punch lines.

The debut album, ‘Winger’, was released in 1988 on Atlantic Records. The record received platinum status in the U.S. and went gold in Japan and Canada. In 1989 the album climbed the charts on the strength of their hits “Madalaine”, “Seventeen”, “Hungry”, and “Headed for a Heartbreak.”

Videos were an important part of launching the band. “Seventeen” starts with laughing, spinning with guitars and sweaty man chests in abundance. The hair is REALLY big and bounces as Kip nods his head while singing the lyrics. This may have been the first video ever to use a guitar as a prop first, instrument second. Great job Kip. By the way, there is a girl in the video. She lurks in the dark and at one point is drenched with water. It doesn’t matter; SHE IS NOT AS CUTE AS KIP. Whenever Kip crashes into a guitar player during this song it looks like a commercial for shampoo and conditioner. The “guitar” solo/jam at 2:33 pretty much says it all. There is no way the band doesn’t shower together after this video. By 2:45, the part of shirt Kip was wearing is completely gone. I enjoy a positive message, but this video is way too happy for me.

The ballad “Hungry” begins with a “just married” couple driving down a mountain. Someone cut the breaks! Was it the guys from Metallica? We never find out, but the car goes off the cliff nevertheless. The guy lives, but the girl dies. Is the video telling us the girl was weak? At the scene of the crash there is an ambulance, cop car, and Winger? They are in leather jackets with no shirts. Just in case you were ever wondering what to wear to such an event… At 1:58 Kip tries to look tough, giving his fierce look. He just ends up looking cuter. Apparently the scene isn’t too somber, Kip still gets in a guitar thrust at the 2:20 mark.

“Headed for a Heartbreak” was another hit ballad by Winger. Kip is sporting a beard that somehow makes him look even softer. The beard is so perfect it looks painted on. Kip is wearing a dress shirt left open. I like to think someone played a joke on Kip, removing all of the buttons. Kip put on the shirt, noticed the gag and said “fuck it” and just wore it open. This video may have moved Kip into first place for most beautiful hair band lead singer of the eighties. (Note: Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t agree.)

The second album was just as successful with radio ready singles and videos for “Can’t Get Enuff”, “Miles Away”, and “Easy Come Easy Go.” They followed this album, playing over 230 tour dates with Kiss, Scorpions, and Slaughter. After the tour the band recorded their third album, ‘Pull’ and given the release coincided with the grunge movement, the record was not successful. After, Kip would leave the band and embark on a solo career. In 2002 the band would get back together and tour with Poison, in 1996 the band also reformed and recorded their fourth album titled ‘IV.’ In 2009 the band went back to the studio and recorded their fifth album, ‘Karm.”

Also, it should be noted that it hasn’t been all chest hair and guitar hooks for Kip Winger. In 2009 Kip premiered his symphonic piece, “Ghosts”, with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. “Ghosts”, was written for strings, piano, and harp for a ballet commission. In 2010 the ballet premiered at the San Francisco Ballet. Kip was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Award for Excellence in Music. The ballet was brought back for a second season.

During the eighties, shirt buttons avoided Kip Winger (and most of his band). To this day I have not seen a picture from that time period that shows Kip with a shirt using any buttons, instead choosing to expose his Kiss-esque chest hair. The late nineties were probably spent in rehabilitation, learning how to use buttons.

Kip and his band were ready made for MTV. Their videos are legendary, with extreme close-ups of Kip’s face and George Michael like beard. For the record, NO ONE WILL EVER shimmy with a guitar quite like Kip Winger in the “Hungry” video. The song “Seventeen” should have been a staple for strip clubs, but somehow this never materialized. (Or maybe it did and I’ve been hanging out in the wrong clubs.)

NOTE: Official Music Video embedding for Winger videos has been disabled. It’s a travesty, I know! Go to YouTube to admire the band up close.


Heading for a Heartbreak



Easy Come Easy Go

Miles Away

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David S. Grant (aka Rockstar_Scribbler) is the author of several books including Rock Stars, Happy Hour, and Corporate Porn. For more information please go to www.rockstarbooks.net or www.davidsgrant.com. You can also follow David on Twitter @david_S_grant.

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1. musicologist writes:

Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer cites Kip Winger as an influence(!): "I liked some of what I heard him do in the context of the pop-metal Winger was playing" -Bassplayer magazine Feb. '13.

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