"Rock Stars: The Rise, Fall and Rise of 80’s Glam Frontmen Into Pop Culture" (Book)
Reviewed by Eccentricity on January 15, 2010
I was a little hesitant about reviewing "Rock Stars: The Rise, Fall and Rise of 80’s Glam Frontmen Into Pop Culture," first because it was written by one of my peers (David Grant who brings you the Rockstar Ramblings column each week), and secondly because I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to wade through yet another documentary/biography of the bands I grew up on. By the time I reached the end of the introduction section, aptly called "I Wanna Rock," where David unearths the truth that "the end of the eighties was ten minutes after The Nelsons premiered their video 'After The Rain,'" I was laughing so hard and agreeing so heartily that I had to see what awaited me on the next page.
Joking aside, "Rock Stars" is chock-full of useful information and reminiscences from the viewpoint of a teenage boy about a movement that not only shaped a generation but would have a lasting impact on the future of music. The book really is geared more toward those of us who are glam enthusiasts, since David makes references to videos and album covers that the under 30 crowd wouldn’t recognize. In fact, a couple times I found myself surfing YouTube to pull up a snippet of a video referenced, but for those who may not readily know the names Stephen Pearcy, Joe Elliott or Kevin Dubrow, David gives a brief listing at the beginning with each frontman he will discuss and their respective bands. Sure, I may have wondered "do we really need this?," but then again not everyone is a glam enthusiast like David and I.
All the big names are covered, and Lita Ford is given special recognition as the only female included in the book, with the exception, of course, of Tawny Kitaen, whose importance in the glam scene I never realized, not ever having been a teenage boy. Sure, I remembered her writhing around on the hood of that car, (who wouldn’t?), but even I had forgotten that Tawny actually premiered on the cover of Ratt’s "Out of the Cellar" album. And really, since as David points out, all of Ratt’s music is about hookers and sex, it was a perfect match.
From Aqua Net to appropriate mic handling, to the battle of the jeans between Jon Bon Jovi and Joe Elliott, and the huge role chest hair played in the success of Kiss, glam fans will love this tongue-in-cheek but honest account of a genre that may now be scoffed, but at one time was the war cry of the angsty suburban teenager, those of us who can to this day tell you where we were the first time we heard "Welcome To The Jungle," (I was sitting in the bleachers in P.E. class), which is why according to David it is one of the top three album opening tracks of the glam movement. I concur.
Of course, the book is not entirely a stroll down memory lane, as its other purpose is to point out that many of these 80’s frontmen are still mainstays of our culture, whether it’s through reality TV shows, such as Brett Michaels’s "Rock of Love," Dee Snider’s continued work as an advocate against censorship, and Motley Crue’s resurgence of "Dr. Feelgood," an album that just turned a quarter of a century old, and yet still drew monstrous crowds at Crue Fest 2.
Sure, Motley Crue may have ditched most of the makeup and Nikki may have traded his black and white striped spandex pants for Levi’s, but how many bands whose average age is 50 can honestly call themselves relevant? This is what made the glam movement so important, despite those who would come out of Seattle in plaid shirts and scruffy beards and attempt to call glam ludicrous. And as David points out, where are those grunge founders now? Besides those who are dead, the answer is good question. As for the glam stars? They’re still around, making music, advocating a rock and roll all night attitude, and still impacting teenage boys through their lyrics and younger versions of Tawny Kitaen.
Though it may be apparent that I agree with David’s precept in "Rock Stars," and therefore found the book immensely entertaining, the book is also relevant for those who may not be so enthusiastic about bandannas and "Cherry Pie." Whether you’re a closet glam fan who’s able to laugh at yourself and the icons of your youth, or a naysayer looking for more proof that glam is worth mocking, "Rock Stars" is definitely worth the read.
Highs: The humorous accounts of frontmen’s gimmicks through the eyes of an impressionable teenage boy.
Lows: Some references to album covers and snippets of videos may be a bit too obscure for the casual reader or fan.
Bottom line: A whimsical, amusing stroll down memory lane for those of us who grew up on glam, and an informative and relevant read for those just being introduced to the genre.