January 15, 2015

Back to the '90s dramedy, Hindsight, shows difficulty of recreating even the recent past

Millennials who keep hyping up the awesomeness of growing up as a "90s kid" may find it odd that the teenagers of that decade, the tail end of Gen X, have very little fondness for that period. This failure to resonate across neighboring generations is not found among the kids and the teenagers of the '80s, both of whom feel pride rather than shame when thinking back on the era.

So it is purely for sociological reasons that I've watched the first two episodes of a new scripted dramedy on VH1, Hindsight, in which an early 40-something woman who is about to get married for the second time miraculously travels back to the year 1995, when she was about to get married to husband #1, and now has the chance to improve on the choices she'd made the first time around. It's basically Hot Tub Time Machine, only for chicks, and set in the '90s rather than the '80s.

I could care less about the plot or character arcs, which seem to be the usual self-absorbed stuff found in the female-oriented medium of television. I'm more interested in seeing what the show's creators have chosen to make the world feel like the Nineties, and how the actors are choosing to interpret the personalities of the time.

First impression: it doesn't really feel like the '90s. It's not for lack of accurate references — shorter skirts on girls, longer hair on guys — or even for lack of placing those differences in their proper context (everyday relations are shown to be more sexually charged and promiscuous than in the middle of the 2010s).

It's more the delivery of these period markers that is off-key to those who lived through the time. The emotional range is what you'd find in mumblecore dialog of the present day, and the attempts at humor are also distinctly 2010s — reading wacky or self-aware lines in a totally deadpan manner. It feels more like Parks and Recreation, only without the annoying shaky cam, and with the cast and sets dressed up in a LARPing '90s style.

(Hot Tub Time Machine also suffered from a jarring mismatch in tone. It was basically The Hangover with cosplay '80s wardrobe and set dressings.)

Where's the extra-thick layer of sarcasm and cynicism? Or showing some kind of emotion on your face? The '90s did see the beginning of the trend toward today's emotional numbness, robotic speech, and attitude of glib dismissal. But it wasn't that pronounced in '95, when there was still a little soul and defiance in the personalities of young people, albeit less so than during the '80s.

See the cult TV show My So-Called Life for the definitive portrayal of coming-of-age in the mid-'90s, where the characters aren't mumbling through most of their dialog, and where something is actually at stake in the lives of the characters, rather than a kiddie romp through a bubble-world free from consequences, in which nothing you do ultimately matters.

Leaving out that side of the '90s will only confuse the Millennials about the decade being one of a pendulum grinding to a halt (after moving in the outgoing direction since the '60s) and starting to swing in the opposite cocooning direction.

A major part of youth angst back then was feeling pulled in opposite directions by larger social forces — the open and outgoing spirit that had been familiar during the '80s, and now this new closed-off and withdrawn impulse. It wasn't clear at the time whether the cocooning thing would win out — maybe it was just a blip of lameness? — but then again maybe that's the way the wind is beginning to blow. You couldn't tell, so you had to hedge your bets by expressing fondness, but then immediately dismissing it or slathering it with sarcasm. That way you had an "out" if either the sincerity police or the irony police got word of what you'd said.

This emotional schizophrenia, and the general feeling of gear-shifting, makes the zeitgeist of the '90s hard to distill and convey, just like the previous decade of switching from an outgoing to a cocooning atmosphere, the 1930s. Nobody can come up with a good picture of the social-cultural zeitgeist of the '30s, caught between the end of the Jazz Age and the beginning of the World-of-Tomorrow Midcentury. "The Depression" refers to the economic and political setting, not everyday social and cultural life.

In fact, the only time that Hindsight feels '90s-y is when the soundtrack plays. Contemporary actors are attempting the impossible — uprooting your mindset from your immediate surroundings and re-growing its tendrils in a distant time. However, the singing and playing from pop music have been preserved in their original form. Not that '90s music was very good, but it is shocking to see how far it has devolved in the last 20 years. Although becoming more withdrawn, you can still hear the soulfulness and melody carrying over from the '80s in the songs by the Gin Blossoms, the Cranberries, and Soul Asylum. That's a way more authentic '90s feel.

Hot Tub Time Machine had the same jarring breaks from its artificial feel, whenever an '80s song played in the background. For a moment, it actually felt like the '80s for real.

The VH1 show has an even tougher time getting the mood right because the actors are mostly born from '82 to '87, making them a bit too young to directly recall the atmosphere of adolescent and young adult world circa '95. Children in the unsupervised '80s were more in touch with what the older kids were up to, but as helicopter parents locked their kids up starting in the '90s, they lost touch with the generation just above them.

(It is striking how the average Millennial's recall of '90s music is entirely restricted to the boy bands and girl groups that were aimed at their own pre-pubescent audience, while suffering from a huge blind spot for the vast majority of pop music aimed at teenagers and young adults. Again, a severe change from children of the '80s, who remember the full spectrum of girl groups, rock bands, and adult contemporary hits from their early years.)

Then again, Hot Tub Time Machine had unconvincing performances, and those guys were all of the right generation to portray those characters. The main stumbling block is removing yourself from your surroundings. Still, when the past is not merely distant but foreign, it becomes nearly impossible to pass yourself off as one of the natives.

35 comments:

  1. "It is striking how the average Millennial's recall of '90s music is entirely restricted to the boy bands and girl groups that were aimed at their own pre-pubescent audience, while suffering from a huge blind spot for the vast majority of pop music aimed at teenagers and young adults"

    Do you mean later period Millenial?

    I certainly remember the kind of alternative, grunge, adult cont., nu metal, gangsta rap, pop punk, R & B etc. that the 14 yr old+ set listened to. It really wasn't unheard of for 9-13 year olds (males esp.) to listen to some of this stuff either. I did to some degree but even at that time I found Van Halen, Guns N Roses, Metallica and other artists that made their mark in the 80's to be a lot more enjoyable than the less agreeable bands that got big in the 90's.

    I always preferred hearing 80's pop/rock in soundtracks, restaurants, the radio an so on to the more simple, flat, and self consciously mousy or in your face 90's stuff. These tendencies have only gotten worse since as you point out.

    I certainly feel embarrassment rather than nostalgia regarding much of the 90's. Tool and Korn are the future of rock? Gee I hope not.

    You're very right about the folly of inserting contemp. actors in period peices. I think it's so difficult for so many to even grasp, let alone fully jump into, past times and places that I generally don't care for most period stuff. Though a very talented and thoughtful filmmaker (Like Fincher with Zodiac ('07 movie set in the 60's-80's) can come fairly close to being accurate with the tone.

    I suspect that a female demo oriented work will be esp. susceptible to botching the tone give that women, after all, are fashion oriented and they are less interested than men in "how it really went down" realistic portrayals. Esp. these days woman are mostly interested in media about being a princess/drama queen so why would a period piece for them accurately reflect the fact that the period didn't have as many selfish drama queens.

    It doesn't help either that woman are more conformist to trends so nowadays they are even more aloof, dull, and disagreeable than men which will make it even harder for them to portray period characters who are more modest and convivial than modern people.

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  2. You may be unusual in remembering teen / young adult culture from the '90s. In every "insanely upvotable" listicle on how awesome the '90s were, written by and for '90s kids (early Millennials), music takes up very little space in memory, and the few groups they do remember are always the boy bands and girl groups / girl solo singers.

    In the comments to those posts as well, it's always a late X-er who asks, "What about grunge / alternative, cardigans and field jackets from the thrift store, and going to local music shows?"

    The Millennials had the outside world filtered through a great big V-chip by their helicopter parents, so they generally only saw what was meant to be seen by children -- pogs, Dunkaroos, Disney movies, Nickelodeon cartoons, Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, and Mario Kart 64.

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  3. Has there been an increase in the number of movies and television shows taking place in the recent past?

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  4. When I've talked to kids born in the 1990s (I don't often, I work with a few and my brother's GF is one), certainly they are well aware of '90s bands like Radiohead, Oasis, Pulp, The Verve, Blur, etc. Performers like Seal I feel like they know as well.

    I can't imagine anyone born from at least earlier than 1985 wouldn't know they exist or remember them.

    My sister born then and more of what feels like a typical core Millenial to me (optimistic, high standards, risk avoiding, emotional meltdowns, lots of alone time and lots of hanging and clubbing with friends) is a fan of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the Foo Fighters. Although in my country, the UK, violence kept rising all through the 1990s until 2000 (see murder rates and violent crime rates), so maybe its a little different than the US.

    I don't know if any of this stuff would go on the "Top 10 Most Awesome 1990s Stuff" list though.

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  5. "Has there been an increase in the number of movies and television shows taking place in the recent past?"

    I think so, beginning with Back to the Future in 1985, but becoming much more common on TV shows nowadays.

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  6. I know that the Millennials are aware of Counting Crows and other stereotypically '90s groups today, but they don't trace them back to their own memories of the '90s. Meaning they must have picked it up in later adolescence, maybe in college, when they were consciously searching for "fun music I haven't heard before.'

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  7. In fairness, I'll say that the lead actress does her best and is not the typical airhead Millennial who would've made the show unwatchable. (The actors born in '85 and after struggle more when reading their lines to project an authentic personality.)

    She was born in '82, so she remembers a good deal of the climate from personal experience. Her voice is more breathy than fry-talky. And she's capable of smiling.

    The guy who plays husband #1, Sean, isn't terrible either (born in '83). He leans a little too much on the "shouting = drama" formula of today, but otherwise does a decent job of recalling a time when coolness was one of the most important goals, and something you had to aspire toward and pursue -- and something you might fail to accomplish -- rather than brattishly demand that the world recognize your innate awesomeness.

    That character could have gone really bad if a true Millennial had played the role, which would've been either as a Reddit PUA disciple or a proto-Jason Mraz buttlicker type. As it is, the character is part of the type that includes Damone from Fast Times, Bender from The Breakfast Club, J.D. from Heathers, and Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life.

    Those characters represent the affectation of coolness, something that young people of the time would've groaned about. But they also forgave that kind of behavior because they were at least aspiring toward a goal and wanted to be recognized for how much they had accomplished toward the ideal of coolness. They were insecure about their status, but still basically sympathetic.

    Fast-forward to the Millennials, who don't believe in starting off at the ground floor and improving yourself over time with effort. Everyone is supposed to recognize how superior you are because of some innate capability rather than the realized use of that capability -- braininess rather than insight, athleticism rather than victories, good looks rather than cultivated sex appeal.

    The old school try-hards at least had a personality, whereas the don't-need-to-try crowd today could not be any more bland and annoying.

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  8. One other thing -- the protagonist's nickname would not have been "Becca" in '95. That's a Millennial trend. It was still "Becky" among X-ers.

    Name patterns are one of the sharpest and most palpable generational splits. And the other characters are going to use her name repeatedly throughout the episode. Hearing a stereotypically Millennial name like "Becca" over and over again disrupts my brain from trying to get into the '90s atmosphere.

    It's such a simple thing to fix, so I don't know why they kept it like that... unless the target audience is Millennials ("90s kids"), who wouldn't be able to get into the story if they didn't hear their own nicknames being anachronistically used.

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  9. "The Millennials had the outside world filtered through a great big V-chip by their helicopter parents, so they generally only saw what was meant to be seen by children -- pogs, Dunkaroos, Disney movies, Nickelodeon cartoons, Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, and Mario Kart 64."

    I think this is pretty accurate for those born around '88 and later but the '82-'86 group had a decent chance of being exposed to less dorky 80's/early 90's culture. Like bloody action movies, arcades with beat em up games and non emo rock.

    This can be traced at least somewhat to older siblings/older neighborhood peers keeping the encroaching crap at bay.

    I always hated Disney after being spoiled by the 80's/early 90's cartoons. I even think I saw Thundercats when it was still syndicated. Those shows emphasized camaraderie and adventure. The Disney stuff seemed pretty gay and boring (where are the weapons and armor to fend off the forces of darkness?).

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  10. The Vermifuge1/15/15, 3:01 PM

    Another example of a film that goes back to the '80s is The Wedding Singer, which was released in early '98. I haven't seen it in a while, so I don't know how it would compare to the latest attempts to present a period.

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  11. I was exposed to plenty of 80s stuff, though the stuff I liked took more effort to find. Judas Priest & hair bands were on the radio. I thought for years no good music was made in the 80s before hearing older Metallica, Iron Maiden, or any of the hardcore punk genre.

    I don't think that Tool or Korn belong in the same sentence, but I can see how someone from a different perspective might lump them together. King Crimson would only be willing to play alongside one of the two bands.

    I hated Disney as a kid because I was a Warner Brothers partisan. I think 80s cartoons aired on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, but we didn't have cable so I didn't see many of those.

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  12. "I don't think that Tool or Korn belong in the same sentence, but I can see how someone from a different perspective might lump them together."

    Maynard's vocals (at least on their hits, never could tolerate listening to a Tool album all the way through) have that very post 1992 tendency to lapse into either a dull drone or a shrill overdone shout which Korn and just about every popular metal act of the 1992-2002 period also did. Very Gen X-y, self conscious, inwardly focused, and alienated (as well as alienating). Prog (which I guess is what you'd label Tool) is a notoriously chilly genre but the Boomer Prog acts of the 70's/80's are definitely more approachable. Even late Boomer metal bands like Metallica are more rambunctious, more emotionally resonant and expressive than the grey droning of Gen X groups like Tool and Korn.

    One of Metallica's coolest, most urgent songs is Creeping Death (from their most unpretentious album Ride the Lightening). What's it about? The Biblical plagues of Egypt. Can you imagine a Gen X-er being able to pull off an ass kicking sincere rock song about such a fantastic topic? When X-ers began to dominate hard rock in the 90's escapist/fantasy based lyrics died overnight since X-ers are too reality based, too focused on wallowing in their anxious psyches to put themselves into an exciting 'make believe' performance. They'd smirk their way through such florid material which would destroy the listeners ability to lose themselves in the art.

    Really, it's no shock that heavy distorted guitar based music has been dead since the mid 90's. It takes so much effort, so much suspension of disbelief and self consciousness that the late Boomers were the last to do it well in the 80's and very early 90's. Gen X-ers made some decent hard rock in the early to mid 90's but it just isn't as exciting and transcendent as the greatest Boomer rock music.

    I personally think that Ride the Lightening (From 1984, 1981-1986 is probably the greatest period of rock/pop ever) might be the most utterly ecstatic metal record ever though the last instrumental song is a bit of drag.

    Not sure why so many go for Master of Puppets; the production is too dry (I dig the very 80's piercing reverb of Ride the Lightening), the songs are too long, James's vocals are already losing their upper range, and the album doesn't quite have the no nonsense urgency of Ride.

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  13. Fantasy-inspired metal wasn't popular in America in the old days, although it was in the UK. Here it was glam metal that was popular, and nu metal was of the same inspiration (show what a badass you are) only it sounded like shit. I think the fantasy type metal is still popular in Europe, relative to other types of metal, although I'm sure it's not as good as Maiden, Priest, etc.

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  14. Power metal is certainly more popular in Europe and elsewhere. US/Canadian power metal bands like Iced Earth, Nevermore or 3 Inches of Blood also seem closer to thrash than elsewhere.

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  15. As a real Gen Xer (1975) two things: Judas Priest sucked and should never be compared to Iron Maiden. Period. Paragraph. On a more serious note, your observation about how Millennials are much less aware of what the older kids were into because of the cocooning is spot on and I think important. I date these little monster and it always strikes me how insular they are with pop culture references. Solipsistic really. Coupled with their tendency to being what we called "Spaz," it's like the Nerds really have taken over.

    The test I give them is to play them Blade Runner on a big screen and a very good stereo. In some sense, the empathy test still works - and it scares me how much closer to the android we have moved. The androids come across as Autistic, precisely the same tendencies that have accelerated since my youth in the 1980s. I come back to this again and again: people are becoming more autistic by the hour, which means a lack of empathy and sympathy, which means more android like - but without any of Daryl Hannah's virtues.

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  16. Maiden and Metallica are too victimological -- it's made for the downtrodden and marginalized, but emphasizes the audience's victim status too heavily, and promotes wallowing and resentment rather than taking action and trying to keep relatively cool in the midst of chaos (whether the source is supernatural or social). It's too atomizing.

    Priest were far better in that way. They were rooted more in mainstream unpretentious hard rock, made for people who felt like outsiders but wanted to belong to a healthy community. The communal impulse comes across in uplifting and group-bonding anthems "United" and "Take On All the World," something that Maiden could not achieve. Nor could they write a humble, good-natured Everyman's rock song like "Living After Midnight."

    Overall, Priest are so much more in-control while aggressive, rather than using aggression to lash out at random. Their songs are more confrontational than fleeing -- "Riding On the Wind" vs. "Run To the Hills."

    Even their passive-sounding songs like "Take These Chains" and "Fever" point to personal weakness as the source of sin and shortcoming, rather than blaming other people or other beings because "everybody is against me!"

    Priest joined Motorhead and Scorpions in style and attitude, whereas Maiden was more like Metallica and Slayer. The second group didn't make bad music, but it does suffer when compared to the first group because of the sapping effect of lack of confidence -- especially when the goal is made to intensify and stew in one's lack of confidence.

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  17. Damn I just wrote a long post defending Priest but my browser crashed. Priest showed s level of musical/emotional diversity that hard rock/metal bands usually don't have. Painkiller (1990) is probably the last great record by an early metal group.

    Halford is by most accounts the greatest singer in metal history.

    Always liked their solos too.

    Queensryche is another metal band that could kick ass and inspire too. They also had a good singer who helped evoke a variety of different moods besides fatalistic angst.

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  18. I just wrote a long post and lost it, too. "Hot Tub Time Machine" was an entertaining movie -- especially the scene where the main characters, dressed in baggy, grey extreme sports gear, go barreling down the slopes to the shock and horror of all of the 80's people dressed in neon tights who are skiing so slowly and sedately that they might as well be standing still.

    The problem was that the whole premise of the movie was flawed. Gen-X males don't do midlife crises. We saw the Boomers exhibit that pathetic behavior and there is no way that we are going to follow suit. It's hard to imagine a bunch of Gen X dudes going on a nostalgic ski weekend to "rediscover our lost youth." Our childhoods weren't that great anyway, and no one is going to be shallow enough pine away for a full head of hair. Sure we'd like to have sex with hot young chicks, but we have too much dignity to make spectacles of ourselves.

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  19. Iron Maiden's leader Steve Harris has stubbornly followed his muse since the band's 70's poverty days. Maiden finally developed a following among rowdy teens at the dawn of the 80's, when punk's novelty was wearing thin and kids wanted something more entertaining and less rigidly self conscious. Indeed, their first singer was a spiky haired punk who quit (or was he kicked out?) because he didn't have the temperament to be in a headlining internationally popular group.

    Maiden has developed a lot of goodwill among the metal crowd for that stubbornness. On the other hand, Judas Priest's 1986 album Turbo was trashed for being too melodic and not "metal" enough. Personally I like some of the songs but yeah, that kind of stuff requires you to drop your modern cynicism and try to go back to the days when people weren't so uptight and aloof. A lot of 80's music is like that.

    80's culture in general has a sort of unaffected outgoing earnestness which is probably why it's so tough to do accurate period pieces of that era. Maybe that's why there is much more period stuff set in the 50's,60's, and 70's.

    For the record, Saxon is another early metal band that never grew beyond a Brit audience but they did have a relatively buoyant personality. Some of their songs have a sort of yearning earnestness to them. They rarely dwelled in the sort of Gloomy porn for depressives that Agnostic is deriding.

    Helloween is a German entry into the happy metal sub genre. If I'm not mistaken I Want Out (from 1987) got some decent airplay in the US, at least on MTV. Some of the tuff metal crowd hate these kinds of bands but if Helloween doesn't put a smile on your face you need to get out more often.

    The much laughed at hair bands did put out some good stuff, you just gotta get past the look which I know some couldn't even do in the 80's, let alone now. If you're curious check out any Dokken's stuff from '84-'87 (starts with Tooth and Nail, ends with Back for the Attack). Dokken had good harmonies, catchy but also fairly heavy songs and a good guitarist in George Lynch who did some cool solos.

    Pride by White Lion is another "hair" band album I like (pretty sure they never wore makeup, neither did Def Leppard. Look up When the Children Cry; good example of a sincere, sensitive (but not wimpy or emo) rock song.

    Slayer actually wore makeup BEFORE they went to San Fran. The Bay area's rowdy 80's youth gave them shit so they never wore it after their first concert up north.

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  20. Hot Tub Time Machine was a let down after Cusack's previous ode to the 80s, Gross Pointe Blank. It's like they were really only interested in making Reagan and white people jokes (and maybe Cusack's own personal resentment of a period he will never creatively surpass added to the sourness). A waste of time and money.

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  21. My So-Called Life aired in 1994, when I was 11. I was too young to follow the show and relate to the characters, though Angela and her group of friends rang true because I was aware of the presence of older kids and had a vague and abstract sense of what they were up to. They were the cool older kids in the neighborhood, they listened to cool music, some smoked cigarettes, they had an air of mystery surrounding them, we wanted to know what they were doing so we could be cool via proxy. I recently watched all 19 episodes of MSCL and definitely appreciate the show more now than I did in '94, not to mention I have developed somewhat of an obsession with the 15 year old Danes. It's interesting to compare and contrast MSCL with the much more saccharine Boy Meets World. Angela Chase, the brooding, introspective, "I don't give a fuck" moody teen with a heart is the complete opposite of Corey Matthews, the main character of BMW, who was much more outgoing and often acted in a way that could be characterized as buffoonish. Rayanne and Shawn Hunter were pretty similar, both playing the part of the wild, troubled friend who causes the parents to raise an eyebrow. Topanga and Ricky Vasquez both play the part of the eccentric, free-spirits (though Topanga wasn't gay, it was a Disney show afterall. Interesting sidenote, Ricky Vasquez was the first openly gay teen to be portrayed on television, which, along with a litany of other issues such as drug use, teenage drinking, smoking, guns in school, etc drew the ire of many watchdog groups that called for the cancellation of the series). This isn't to say that BMW side-stepped serious issues. I can recall some episodes where Corey and Shawn got caught drinking, Corey and Topanga and serious relationship issues and arguments (much more serious than Angela's superficial infatuation with the doltish prettyboy Jordan Catalano), an topics broaching the question of "what's next?" After high school? What job to get? In other words, how to make it in the real world. Of course BMW ran for 7 seasons, so they had much more time to work these topics into the show. Lastly, both shows were set in Pennsylvania. BMW was set in a suburb of Philly, and while never explicitly indicated, one gets the impression that it was largely white and middle-class. MSCL was set somewhere near Pittsburgh, and the high school there was much, much more diverse. So draw your own conclusions. Both were good shows.

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  22. There are partisans on both sides of Priest vs Maiden. But you are probably the first person I've ever heard suggest that Metallica & Slayer are inferior to the Scorpions. The most notable thing about the Scorpions is that Michael Schenker (briefly) and Uli Jon Roth have played guitar for them. Sort of like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, except I would prefer to listen to the Bluesbreakers.

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  23. Having seen all the metal bands discussed in this post back in the 80s (I'm 45) I can definitively say that Motely Crue is the best! Just kidding!!

    I'm a big fan of Metallica -- I think they are the only metal band to transcend the genre and become something more -- just a great rock band (I like their 90s stuff and even their most recent release).

    My only other comment is that isn't it weird that Rob Halford turned out to be a fag!? I guess all that leather was a clue...

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  24. "My only other comment is that isn't it weird that Rob Halford turned out to be a fag!? I guess all that leather was a clue..."

    I guess Rob (by his own account) dated girls early on. I've heard people say "how did anybody not know he was gay back then" but back in the 80's there were far more flamboyant stars (some of whom were gay like George Micheal, Boy George, Limahl etc.). On the other hand Prince, Phil Oakey, and Martin Gore all turned out to be straight. The average person in 1984 would've had more suspicion for those guys than Halford.

    Did anyone in the glam scene turn out to be gay? Judas Priest were never glam by the way. The singer for this one obscure act ,King Kobra, long after the 80's got a sex change. If memory serves the drummer for a group named Rhino Bucket (not sure if they were a "pure" glam act) got a sex change in the 90's. But I don't think anyone in the bigger bands like Ratt, Poison,Van Halen, WASP turned out to be gay or a tranny.

    Interesting how many gays/flamboyant straights there were in 80's music yet virtually all prominent 80's actors were straight. Well, we may never know everything about Travolta.....

    Maybe it's cuz Boomers are just more flamboyant than X-ers.

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  25. I was going to point out Halford was a homosexual, but someone beat me to it. Painkiller, Defenders of the Faith and Screaming For Vengeance are good albums. Turbo and Ram It Down both have some good songs, but British Steel and Point of Entry don't really appeal to me, mainly because of the production style. I've always thought Iron Maiden was overrated, despite them having plenty of good songs, and liking the Number of the Beast album. Totally understand why Agnostic would think they are too emo. Motorhead is just plain fun, even though they were never very melodic, which I'm a sucker for. I have the same opinon of "...And Justice For All" that Feryl has for "Master of Puppets," though I agree that "Ride the Lightning" (along with Kill em All!) is more fun and exciting, and less artsy. Of course "the black album" is when Metallica began to tank, despite that album having some good singles (overplayed they may be, Enter Sandman, Sad But True, and Wherever I May Roam still hold up)

    The guys in Metallica were never "badass." They were all nerds, even Hetfield. The real problem with Metallica is the twerp Lars Ulrich (and it's not because of napster). This guy always came across as an utter fraud, and he was always the one in the band that was most likely to puff up his chest, proclaiming how much he didn't care what people thought. And whenever he'd say something like that, he'd introduce as many "fuck's" as possible, in order to show that he had street cred.

    As for NWOBHM, Saxon released a couple of good albums. Tygers of Pan Tang had one good album, and a good sound, but they never quite had the memorable songs. Diamond Head has good songs, but only lasted one album. Raven managed three good albums, and a live album, released in rapid succession that were extremely energetic, but they didn't have the budget or the discipline to take things to the next level.

    None of the major hair band stars were homosexual as far as I know. One of the things this site has inspired me to do is go back and listen to the hair bands, which I haven't done since 2006-08, when I went through a phase listening to them (obviously, considering my age, I wasn't around when they first came out). One noticeable thing from glam metal videos, particularly from the 87-92 era, is how many of the hair bands wrapped themselves in Christian "paraphernalia," such as crosses, etc. This is interesting, considering what Agnostic has said about the 1970s and 80s being the height of the Evangelical "movement." I'm curious if this was a sort of a pandering, to assuage parent's fears about these bands being a bad influence, and get the heat off of them for the "rock all night" songs. Hear are a couple of examples...

    Firehouse, Love of a Lifetime
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ETENrv8cnU

    Poison, Something to Believe In (about 3 mins in on Brett Michaels, blink or you miss it)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5uamDMoW4o

    Skid Row, Monkey Business
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu8dBv-kiLM

    Bulletboys, Smooth Up In Ya
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziL2FyIg1_I

    Guns N Roses, November Rain (see Slash's solo)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SbUC-UaAxE

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  26. The three Dokken albums from 84-87 are all quite good, but White Lion is terrible! "Wait," is a decent song, and "When the Children Cry" could have been a good ballad, but they're torpedoed by the terrible lead singer. Another potentially good hair band, ruined by an awful singer was Britney Fox, which could have been a good meat and potatoes band, like Cinderella, but was utterly ruined their the singer.

    It may sound like blasphemy, but I prefer 1987-92 rock/metal to 1980-86. This might mean I simply like cookie cutter music, but by that period the basic formula was set down, and the various bands were able to maneuver around it. Also, the music videos from this period, while formulaic, were more sophisticated, with better lighting, editing, cinematography, etc. Unfortunately, though, this period has quite a few under-appreciated albums, which never took off, simply due to the over-saturation of bands. The first two Extreme albums, the two albums by Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Tesla's "The Great Radio Controversy," Skid Row's "Slave to the Grind," Little Caeser's self-titled debut, and Danger Danger's self-titled debut (I could never understand why Warrant went 2x platinum, but not Danger Danger; they honestly had the better songs...) are all quite good and entertaining. It's a shame that the only songs from this era that ever get radio play are the obvious ones by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Poison.

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  27. Funny you guys should bring up whether anyone from the glam metal scene was gay. Blind Gossip just reported that when family man Bon Jovi goes on tour nowadays, he and his wife agree to an open marriage -- but on the condition that he only sleep with trannies, who have been screened by an agency (presumably for a minimal score on the AIDS scale).

    http://blindgossip.com/?p=68897

    "You Give Love a Bad Name" will never sound the same again...

    It doesn't sound like he's really gay, but working out some kind of Pharisaic arrangement about being allowed to bang women who aren't really women.

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  28. " One noticeable thing from glam metal videos, particularly from the 87-92 era, is how many of the hair bands wrapped themselves in Christian "paraphernalia," such as crosses"

    By the late 80's there were so many thrash/death metal bands brandishing an obnoxious Satanic image that the lighter weight acts tried to go out of their way to not do that stuff. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motley Crue and Manowar, among other bands flirted with Satanic imagery in the 70's/early 80's but Metal was catching so much flack by '86 or so (understandably considering the sonic and lyrical excesses of some of the more tasteless bands) that the more commercial groups had to rehablitate the genre's image. Even Wasp by the end of the decade were trying to change their image. King Diamond did fantasy based lyrics rather than the satanic stuff of his early 80's work. I have a hunch that he learned how Christian America still was so he toned it down in order to sell and play in America without zealots attacking him.

    This softening of the non thrash groups (basically the prog metal, power metal, speed metal, and hair band genres) led ironically to thrash bands going to greater extremes to "prove" their credibility to kids who wanted something even more aggressive. Eventually this impulse led to death metal which essentialy is the unintentionally funny intensification of the kind of nihilism that Agnostic was bashing.

    We may laugh at the camp theatrics of 80's metal know, but their was still enough sincere religious reverence in the 80's that you can't blame parents for being alarmed about pentagrams on a Motley Crue album. The critics were right too about one thing: how are bands like Mercyful Fate NOT Satanic? One of the guitar players was so frightened by Diamond's attitude that he quit which broke the band up. Possessed were another Satanic band. Guitarist Larry Lalonde hated the image to the point that after a few gigs he started to not wear the black leather and pentagrams. A series of gigs in SoCal had so many mishaps like getting jumped by Mexicans (right after the band got a new series of necklaces if memory serves) that the manager convinced the band to throw the necklaces away.

    www.nolifetilmetal.com is a very good source for reviews, info, and pics of virtually every 80's metal band. The author, a lifelong Christian, went thru a period in the 90's where he threw out most of his metal stuff. Interestingly he eventually re aquired those albums (including the 'satanic' ones) but he admits he's not comfortable listening to it anymore.

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  29. Pittsburgh has always been way whiter than Philly, unless Boy Meets World was set in the most remote upper-middle class suburbs of Philly. That's another refreshing '80s-esque aspect of My So-Called Life -- being set in an unpretentious pocket of Flyover Country, like Sherwood, Ohio.

    Boy Meets World was one of those minor but memorable moments in the great shift of the '90s. My friends and I tried watching it, since it seemed to be in the vein of Saved By the Bell, but we couldn't get into it. It wasn't just due to us being a little older, as we were still watching SBTB in re-runs. It just fell flat.

    Fred Savage's little brother was a buffoon, not even trying to portray a real human being. The older mentor teacher Mr. Feaney gave off way too strong of a pederastic grooming vibe, taking too much of an interest in their lives, unlike goofy old Mr. Belding who didn't try to get too close to the students' own social space.

    And there were hardly any girls on the show -- Topanga was there to show her tits and create fake gf/bf drama now and then. She had no identifiable personality type or clique membership, just a hollow large-breasted cut-out. SBTB had three girl characters who interacted with each other in girl world, as well as with the guy characters in boy-and-girl world (and the guys had their own friendship in guy world).

    So, BMW felt more like a portrayal of 10 year-olds, who are still mostly sex-segregated and see the only appeal of the opposite sex as BOOBS, who haven't formed much of a personality yet, and who substitute buffoonish or cartoony behavior for want of a more developed identity. And who are clueless to the pederastic encroachment of their gaydar-tripping teacher.

    We couldn't articulate any of this back then, it was just "lame" and written off. But we were beginning to sense how kiddie pop culture was becoming. Not that SBTB was a serious drama -- but meeting a basic level of showing the experiences of adolescent life, trying to create distinct personalities, and exploring the drama that results from different social types trying to live as a group.

    ...I wonder how much of the Millennials' stunted social sense stems from their view into teenage life being Boy Meets World and the like. Most of them had little real-life contact or observation of real teenagers, unlike children in the '80s, due to helicopter parenting. They had limited access to that world via older teenage siblings, since those siblings were born during the Baby Bust (the Millennials themselves were actually an echo boom of the Boomers). Most of their mass media exposure was to children and even toddlers (Rugrats). And when they were shown teenage world, it was adolescent in appearance only, with the actual social dynamics and personality formation being those of 9 or 10 year-olds.

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  30. "Wait," is a decent song, and "When the Children Cry" could have been a good ballad, but they're torpedoed by the terrible lead singer. Another potentially good hair band, ruined by an awful singer was Britney Fox, which could have been a good meat and potatoes band, like Cinderella, but was utterly ruined their the singer."

    Cinderella's singer has had surgery I believe because his style was so damaging. As someone who learned how to sing I find their stuff unlistenable. My throat feels soar after hearing it. I guess some of is taste based/subjective. White Lion's singer was indeed weak and scratchy (albeit in tune though)on their early stuff but I understand he improved later on. Too bad since their best songs were on the 1st album.

    I have heard Britny Fox on a comp. and I agree about the vox, if memory serves he wheezes to the point that you think he's gonna pass out.

    Bio Cultural Beam Delta- Is it just me or do metalheads care more about production than any other type of music fan? I think it's because it's so difficult to record and mix metal that when it's produced bad it really hurts, moreso than in other genres. British Steel was a good album, problem is that other bands (and Priest themselves) took the sound of that album and expanded and energized on it subsequently. So it seem a bit dated in hindsight.

    Defender's of the Faith is too 80's for it's own good; the album is so drenched in production "enhancements that it blots out too much detail. The Sentinel is still an awesome song though, so is Freewheel Burning (the bridge and solo kick absurd amounts of ass). The remaster from about 10 years ago supposedly clears up some of the issues; problem is that all of the remasters are way too loud and compressed. God I hate post 1996 remasters which usually sound awful (too loud no dynamics, messed up moronic EQ and so on).

    Here's some cool metal songs by some bands that some of you may not have heard before:

    Fates Warning - Through Different Eyes ('89)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5abdXpvBR0

    Metal Church - Badlands ('89)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLpLYxUM2Gc

    Kick Axe - Hungry ('86)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGwEiiVyPwA
    The kind of spirit in this song just doesn't exist anymore; hell it probably didn't exist anymore as early as 1993.

    Riot - Outlaw ('81)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI_tDv5MBso
    These guys had a little classic rock groove, like Saxon kinda did too.

    Omen - Battle Cry ('84)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwI7YGjSTF8

    Most of the albums I own were released from 1982-1987 which is why I zero in on that period as being my favorite.

    Sorry to bore the non metal fans in this thread.

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  31. "You Give Love a Bad Name" will never sound the same again..."

    At this stage of the game I've become so resigned to modern perv culture infecting people that I try to enjoy what people did in the good ole days instead of dwelling on people (including once cool people) making complete fools of themselves in the post '92 era.

    The open marriage thing certainly ties into how perved out people get in times of high inequality; things were getting bad enough in the 70's and 80's but boy have we really gone downhill since then.

    I never watched Boy Meets World (I did watch Saved by the Bell though) or Rugrats; I sure played a lot of video games and I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV; Gi Joe/Thundercats/TMNT in syndication when I was really young, He-man and Transformers on VHS (I used to get in a trance watching the '86 movie which my parents must've rented about 50 times). That movie alone with it's driving AOR/Metal songs probably was the main reason I love 80's music. Later on I saw Max, X-Men, King Arthur on TV. God help me, I saw a few Captain Planet episodes too (thought it was pretty gay compared to the others).

    The really dorky Millennial culture that you blast (like juvenile shows, RPG games etc.) I never got into. If you saw Snake Eyes, Starscream, Tygra in action the Disney/Nickelodeon/PBS stuff wasn't gonna match up. At least if you aren't a total dork. It's worth noting that action oriented cartoons designed to sell weapon wielding action figures were still fairly popular into the 90's for very early Millennials. The later Millennials would not have been interested in shows/toys about a group of amiable heroes banding together to fight off the evil forces of darkness. Even He-Man's intro called out Skeletor as evil; you weren't supposed to find him charming, likeable, or sympathetic. The 80's/early 90's world that Gen X-ers/early Millennials grew up taught kids that the world was a tough, violent place so you better be prepared to gain allies, recognize the villians, and fight back.

    Compare that to the emo, non threatening atmosphere of Harry Potter and Super Nintendo RPGs. The guy who created He-man said he wanted muscular, tough characters to send boys the message that you needed to be strong to survive. Harry Potter went out of it's way to not emphasize rugged, mature physicality. The Lord of the Rings movies don't really count since they're too pretentious to appeal to young children.

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  32. Note also the recent failed Chris Meloni show 'Surviving Jack', supposedly set in some bizarrely-off version of 1991, that generated no nostalgia whatsoever, especially when soundtracked by music choices like The Cure's 1987 single 'Just Like Heaven'. I wasn't surprised it was cancelled after 8 episodes.

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  33. "Note also the recent failed Chris Meloni show 'Surviving Jack', supposedly set in some bizarrely-off version of 1991, that generated no nostalgia."

    Well, regardless of the quality or accuracy of that show it's hard for the people lived thru that period to get excited about shorts that were getting longer, clothes getting baggier, hair was getting straighter etc. And that's just the fashion. Music was getting more lame too, even the hits of '91-'94 pale in comparison to the best music of the later 70's-late 80's.

    Basically, people around 1990 started to become less outgoing, less trusting, and less agreeable. That period also had a spate of movies about people close to the lead character turning out to be psychos out to get the lead character. Not like the media of the 70's/80's that was about friends banding together to fight off some very external threat (like the Alien or the Terminator or Jason Vorhees). The early 90's was also when we started to see deviant/evil characters portrayed as often sympathetic anti-heroes. Compare the way Hannibal Lector was portrayed in 1986's Manhunter to the way he is in 1991's Silence of the Lambs.

    This kind of moral relativism (indeed arguably nihilism in some cases) has been getting progressively worse since the early 90's. Certainly the people who remember what happened in the early 90's will at least subconsciously have a feeling that something just went wrong in the early 90's. I guess some hardcore liberals will never get past disdain for the Reagan era but that just shows how braindead and heartless some people are at this point.

    Van Halen or Korn? Not a tough choice unless you're an asshole.

    I suppose later Millennials might enjoy a contrived portrayal of that era, but like you say that Surviving Jack show has bombed.

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  34. I didn't catch that show, but it may also have suffered from having a closeted homo, Christopher Meloni, playing a tough no-nonsense single dad. Just a wild guess there.

    I forgot to mention the worst offender in the genre of anachronistic period shows -- The Goldbergs. I've had to suffer through a handful of episodes because others wanted to check it out. Other than costumes and set decorations, it is wholly 2010s -- wacky dialog delivered deadpan, shouting = drama, references rather than insight into pop culture of the time, etc.

    Fun fact: the pop cultural doldrums of the Midcentury also featured a long-running show titled The Goldbergs, about a "bighearted, lovingly meddlesome, and somewhat stereotypical Jewish matriarch" (Wikipedia). On the radio from 1929 to 1956 -- not a flash in the pan.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goldbergs_%28broadcast_series%29

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  35. I was never able to get into Boy Meets World either. Now, The Wonder Years is a different story. And I got into Saved By The Bell reruns as well.

    Now it sounds like I need to give My So-Called Life a chance.

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