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Late-Stage Hair Metal Was a Hell of a Thing

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | March 8, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | March 8, 2023 |


Here’s a brief, reductive history of hair metal that I’m sure many will take issue with: First there was Ozzy/Sabbath, as well as David Bowie and punk rockers the New York Dolls. Along with KISS, they inspired the first wave of hair metal, combining heavy metal and make-up. Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi were the Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden of Hair Metal. Then came the second wave: Poison, Warrant, Cinderella, and Skid Row.

The third wave is when the seams began to fray: There was Slaughter, Firehouse, Tesla, Trixter, and the Bullet Boys, among others, some of which were decent enough hair metal bands if you were into the subgenre, but they really weren’t that far removed from boy bands with long hair. There wasn’t really anything “metal” about their music.

Just as the hair metal scene was starting to give way to grunge, a fourth wave rolled in and tried to capitalize on the dying hair metal scene with a combination of guitar and gimmick — it was largely a bunch of one-hit wonders and Dr. Demento detritus. It was these bands that came to mind this morning for reasons that I cannot explain. There was, for instance, Steelheart, which was a sort of hair metal Celine Dion, just atrocious music belted out by a guy with an insane metal falsetto. There was also White Trash, which combined hair metal and ska.

But the three one-hit wonders from that fourth wave I remember most fondly were the following: Green Jellÿ, a sort of shitty Gwar (that originally went under the name Green Jell-O until Kraft Foods threatened to sue them) that actually featured, at one time, a couple of members of Tool before they formed Tool (including Maynard James Keenan). They had a song about the Three Little Pigs. It was, inexplicably, a huge hit both on MTV and on the rock charts.

There was also a band called Ugly Kid Joe, whose biggest hit was a bad remake of “Cats in the Cradle.” Their first hit, however, was a banger that caught fire thanks to its inclusion in the Wayne’s World soundtrack. Some people may even remember that the rerelease had an unfortunate intro from Julia Sweeney’s SNL character, Pat, which has not aged well. I still dig the song.

Finally, there was Jackyl. They were the chainsaw band. They had one hit, “The Lumberjack Song,” and an actual chainsaw figured prominently in the music. It was absolute shit, but hell if they couldn’t play the crap out of that chainsaw.

Jesse James Dupree took his earnings from the short-lived success of Jackyl and plowed them into the Full Throttle Saloon, once the world’s largest biker bar, which was located in Sturgis, South Dakota. TruTV aired a reality series about the bar for five seasons until the bar burned down in 2015.

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