At first it was just called Hard Rock or Metal, then, more appropriately, Pop Metal or Glam Metal. Eventually, it was just referred to derogatorily as Hair Metal. But whether you loved it or not, the genre managed to have a pretty big stranglehold on pop culture, the radio airwaves, MTV and music charts across the globe for close to a decade.
Music journalists Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock have just put out the definitive oral history of the much maligned, but just as passionately adored (if by a smaller group) 1980s genre. Nothin But A Good Time includes a wildly impressive who’s who, and who’s that? of that image-conscious metal scene. The authors are smart enough to address the big old sexist elephant blaring “Cherry Pie” in the room in the book’s introduction: “Speaking of sex, this seems like a good time as any to address the fact that this work chronicles a bygone era where notions of sexism and gender politics and the disease of addiction were still relatively crude. Like the culture around them, most of the artists in this book have evolved and have become fathers and mothers and – yikes! – grandparents. That being said if you’ve come for an outpouring of regret or a litany of mea culpas, you’ve come to the wrong place.”
Obviously, the bulk of the book focuses on Southern California’s Sunset Strip and the clubs that dominated that scene, but the writers also give Philly, South Jersey, Maryland and New York some attention as well. With bands like Poison, Bon Jovi and Skid Row all coming from the northeast, that region can lay claim to some of the genre’s most successful bands, even if they had to pay homage to Southern California from time to time.
Told through hundreds of interviews with the obvious big hitters (members of Poison, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, etc.), some of the mid-tier bands (Kix, Cinderella, Britny Fox) and a few bands that just barely made the cut off before the genre’s inevitable implosion (Trixter, Pretty Boy Floyd, Danger Danger), the book gives the most exhaustive take on the scene coming in at over 500 pages. For anyone who lived through this era, or for the kid who recently stumbled on old Headbanger’s Ball clips on YouTube, Nothin’ But A Good Time is exactly as advertised, a fascinating, sometime cringy, surprisingly enlightening, but above all entertaining look back at a time when neon guitars, aqua netted hair and hooky choruses dominated the music world.