With their new book, Nöthin’ But a Good Time, producer Tom Beaujour and music journalist Richard Bienstock aim to better situate glam metal into the overall story of rock. Together they interviewed over 200 band members, music executives, stylists, and scenesters. Their work is likely to stand as the definitive account of the era. They aren’t exactly trying to use it to make the case that the music is under-appreciated, or that critics have somehow gotten things all wrong. Instead, they set the albums and the bands and the music industry more firmly into context.
As a bonus for PopMatters readers, Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock list their essential glam metal albums to help new listeners find the era’s best music.
READ an interview with the authors: Ballad of Big Hair: Los Angeles’ Glam Metal Scene Rises from the Ash Heap.
Mötley Crüe: Too Fast for Love (Leathür, 1981)
There’s a scene early on in Nöthin’ But a Good Time where a photographer wakes up in Mötley Crüe’s ransacked apartment to find three of the four band members huddled together on a couch, eating cereal and watching Looney Tunes. That’s the sound of Too Fast for Love. The album that launched a thousand glam metal ships is pure, uncut gutter-sleaze rock – raw, aggressive, debauched, and debased in all the best ways. It’s also tons of fun and poppy as hell. And while it sounds like crap, that just makes it rule even more. – Bienstock
W.A.S.P. : W.A.S.P. (Capitol, 1984)
Smart money would bet that even today, if you walked into a random local club and the band onstage was putting on half the show that W.A.S.P. was doing almost 40 years ago, you’d stand transfixed until the very last note was played… or you were nailed in the face with a softball-sized blob of raw meat. The band’s debut was the closest they ever came to capturing that wildness on wax, and while “Animal”, added to the reissue, gets all the attention, no less worthy is “I Wanna Be Somebody”, a fist-pumping ode to raw ambition (you, too, can “rule the zooooo!”) and the freedom-rock-on-steroids anthem “The Flame.” – Bienstock
Poison: Look What the Cat Dragged In (Enigma, 1986)
Recorded on a shoestring budget, Look What the Cat Dragged In stands as one of the most ragged, fun, and downright catchy albums of the era. Note: if the key track “Talk Dirty to Me” had been written and performed by Cheap Trick, it would be included on any and all “greatest power pop songs” lists compiled after its release. – Beaujour
Tesla : Mechanical Resonance (Geffen, 1987)
Tesla were one of the least photogenic bands of the era and eschewed the glam finery adopted by their peers, but Mechanical Resonance shakes the foundations with perfect fist-pumpers like “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Cumin’ Atcha Live.” AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and Montrose fans start here. – Beaujour
White Lion: Pride (Atlantic, 1987)
You’ve probably heard the hit power ballad “When the Children Cry” and maybe even “Wait”, but White Lion’s major-label debut is all killer, and barely any filler. Guitarist Vito Bratta’s playing elevated already solid songwriting to next-level artistry and his arpeggiated rhythm guitar approach is endlessly entertaining. – Beaujour