Rock of Ages brings with it not only “a sea of sweat, ear-shattering music and puke” but also a number of notable firsts: Tom Cruise in a comedic and musical singing role and Diego Boneta’s big-screen debut. (Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand can be counted on to provide the usual fodder: near-lethal doses of their trademark humor!) Underpinning those firsts, and in fact the reason for them, will be the Los Angeles music scene from the mid to late 1980’s, and specifically the genre of music said to have originated on the Sunset Strip at that time: Glam Metal.
Rebel Rebel by David Bowie
Bowie was part of the glam-rock scene, the precursor to glam metal.
Also known as hair metal and pop metal, the genre sounds like one you’d want to skip a listen to. But here’s the rub: The bands featured in the Rock of Ages movie, which takes place on the Sunset Strip in 1987, are still packing arenas—arenas!— to this day, and playing the very 80’s hits that form the emotional center of this movie. So we thought a short, short history of hair metal was in order.
Sister Christian by Night Ranger
This early hair-metal power ballad gets the Rock of Ages treatment when Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin give it their unique spin.
The Look, The Sound
Glam metal has its roots in glam rock, a genre that found its voice in the early 70’s in the United Kingdom. David Bowie, Slade, T-Rex and Mott The Hoople were some of the prime movers and shakers at the time. While the sound was diverse yet rock-n-rock-based, the look and style used by the bands put the glam in the title. Outrageous costumes and a rather androgynous approach to dress was common, as were platform heels, eyeliner (now affectionately dubbed guyliner) and a general flouting of gender roles. While it never found the same popularity in the US, a few practitioners of the music, namely Alice Cooper and Kiss, embraced much of its style.
I Wanna Rock by Twister Sister
Few bands took glam metal to this level, but it didn’t prevent Twisted Sister from producing some classics. Diego Boneta sinks his chops into this one in ROA.
Glam metal pushed the androgynous look as well, and big hair (hence the hair-metal tag) seemed to be a common life force in the universe of bands. The music, however, was more consistent from band to band and centered on a melodic form of heavy metal rich in power chords and catchy lyrical hooks (“Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Cherry Pie”). Power ballads were a specialty of the genre as well, slower songs that often built to a powerful, energized crescendo (“Heaven” by Warrant; “Love Bites “by Def Leppard; “I Remember You” by Skid Row). The movement is considered to have thrived from about 1981 to 1991, when some say the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind, and the subsequent emergence of grunge rock, killed it. Or, more appropriately, buried it alive in a shallow grave. Toward the end of the 1990s many of the bands clawed their way back into the spotlight and have yet to relinquish their popularity to this day. In fact, Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard and other glam-metal bands often tour together, packing houses and rocking like it’s 1987.
Providing an exhaustive list of bands that fall under the glam-metal banner would take its own page, but here are a few of the more notable ones: Black ‘N Blue, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Def Leppard, Dokken, Motely Crue, Night Ranger, Poison, Ratt, Skid Row, Twisted Sister, Warrant, and Whitesnake. Even hard-rocking stalwarts like Aerosmith, Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses are often considered to have passed through this phase at some point in their careers (check out the hair!).
Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison
Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige all put in a turn on Poison’s chart-topping power ballad.
Rock of Ages the movie plumbs the depths of this time period and puts some of the 80’s most iconic songs to work in service of its story of a small town girl and big-city boy reaching for the stars. In a previous post we gave you three songs from the original bands featured in the movie. Here we’ve dropped three more classics on you along with a blast for the past. Are you ready to rock now? Guyliner, anyone?
ROCK OF AGES
Based on the Tony-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages tells the tale of a small-town girl and a young man from South Detroit who follow their rock-star dreams to Los Angeles in 1987. Rock of Ages stars Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand (@rustyrockets), Mary J. Blige (@MaryJBlige), Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Diego Boneta (@DiegoBoneta) and Julianne Hough (@JulianneHough).
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