If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a child of the ‘80’s. I was roughly 13 when they ended, so it was only the very final years that I had any concept of the world outside of He-Man. Music for me was almost exclusively Weird Al, and not until I reached middle school did I listen to much else. I can still remember the first time I saw a Guns N Roses video on MTV, and I’ve already given too much detail to the mock Def Leppard concerts I’d do in my living room when I was home alone. Hair was big, pants were tight, and usually black leather or ripped denim. “Cock Rock” epitomized every vice 80’s had to offer, and while I didn’t understand any content about the sex or drugs until much later, I still loved every guitar lick.
Poison’s 1988 hit “Nothin’ But A Good Time” was the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” for boys that looked like girls.“Open Up And Say ‘Ahh’” was Poison’s most popular album, and was the dirtiest thing I’d heard up to that point. Some parts of the song I’m still not old enough to understand. The album reached only #2 on the Billboard charts, defeated by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Guns ‘N’ Roses. I was in 5th grade taping songs off 99.1, The Whale (WAAL).
I was hoping to catch “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” but the time for that single had already passed the torch to “Love Bites.” My tape player had a built-in microphone that was always on, so if I didn’t want my own voice or movements recorded, I needed to put the tape deck in an empty room to record. I wouldn’t know which songs I’d captured until later playback. Not only did I catch Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” but I got Poison’s “Good Time,” as well.
What can be said about Poison? We’re all guilty for Poison. Maybe not me, I was a little kid. Still, I paid attention to Poison later than any person reasonably should. Sometimes you don’t realize things until much too late, and I didn’t realize the truth about Poison until about a year ago. I don’t have to tell you what that truth is. You already know. If you say you don’t know, you’re kidding yourself. For the next week, my imaginary concerts were all Poison, and all only one song long. Also, I wore a cape, because I assumed Poison wore capes.
Childhood friends Bret Michaels and Rikki Rockett were in a string of bands in Mechanicsburg, PA in the early 80’s before joining forces with Bobby Dall to form a band called ‘Paris,’ which became Poison when they moved to Los Angeles. When it came time to replace the original guitarist, the two top contenders were Slash of Guns fame, and CC Deville. Poison judged CC the better guitarist. History picked Slash.
I never saw Poison, not young Poison, not re-formed, old-man Poison. I saw Bret Michaels all by his lonesome, up on stage at the Magic City Music Hall in Johnson City, some time around 2003 or 4. “Rock of Love” was still the distant future, and Michaels was a sad sack at the time. He spent the entire show complaining he had a cold and he didn’t feel well. After phoning in a half hour of Poison classics and a few poorly-received solo songs, Michaels left the stage, promising he’d be back next year, and drinks would be on him. GWAR ruined the ceiling a month later and the venue was closed for more than a year. Bret never returned. When Magic City opened again, they brought Vince Neil instead.
I read Motley Crue’s collective autobiography, “The Dirt,” where the band details the drugs they did, the women they slept with, and their childish antics as the ‘bad boys’ of the 80’s. Their story is legendary: Vince Neil’s 30-day prison sentence for manslaughter, Nikki Sixx’s death and resurrection from heroin, Tommy Lee’s sex tap, and Mick Mars being a creep. The book was written not in collaboration, but by all four members of the band separately. I was pleasantly surprised by Nikki Sixx’s literary skill, and Mars and Neil were able to articulate themselves skillfully as well. Tommy Lee writes how he talks, which is mostly white-boy-urban gibberish, yo. I was shocked to find myself moved to tears when Vince Neil described the death of his baby girl.
Bands like Motley Crue and Poison did so much more for the anti-drug movement than Nancy Reagan could ever hope. For as much fun as these bands had at the time, time has left them disgusting broken husks. Every so often one member can pull himself together or take himself apart enough to land a TV show, or they can occasionally settle differences enough for a reunion tour, but for the most part, their lives are shit.
This was coincidentally about the time in their careers they landed at Magic City Music Hall. For bands on the rise, it was a great venue. For mid-level bands, it was what they came to expect. For people like Bret Michaels and Vince Neil, who’d looked out over seas of people in stadiums and festivals, Magic City was hell. Dr. Filth had a hookup for free tickets. The show started on time, and Vince was already playing “Livewire” when we arrived. Thankfully, he played only Motley Crue songs. We were not subjected to “You’re Invited But Your Friend Can’t Come.” Vince did better than I expected, but what I expected was to see him sitting on a stool eating cheeseburgers for the full set. The show lasted a full hour, but Vince took a 20 minute break in the middle to let the band do Led Zepplin covers. Even though we didn’t pay, I still wanted my money back.
Rock has no more sad tale than the tragic epic of Warrant. Warrant was the Nelson of bands that were slightly tougher than Nelson, but still wore makeup and women’s clothes. They stormed the world in the early 90’s, but are largely credited with the death of the Glam era. Warrant became more irrelevant than any other in the face of Grunge, and by the turn of the century Warrant had fallen apart. That’s when Dr. Filth found a flyer for Warrant playing at a frat party in Ithaca, NY.
It wasn’t really Warrant, of course. It was Jani Lane and one other guy, but I don’t even remember which. The rest were kids that had all abandoned Warrant a year later, forcing the band to reunite the lineup that wrote “Down Boys.” After getting the original band back together at last, Jani Lane left Warrant in 2004. He returned in 2008, but left again the same year. He was replaced. He did some acting. He started another band. None of these panned out, and Lane died of acute alcohol poisoning August 11, 2011. He was 47. Unquestionably, Lane’s greatest work of art is “Ode To Tipper Gore,” which came as a bonus track on the “Cherry Pie” CD. I only had the cassette. All the swearing recorded at Warrant live shows were stitched together in a tapestry of profanity, of which the only broadcastable line I can remember is, “Gotta go get a blowjob real quick.” Beyond this magnum opus, Lane’s career is better left forgotten.
Frat boys in Ithaca take partying very seriously. These are the sons of doctors, lawyers, and car dealers from Long Island with promising futures as doctors, lawyers, and car dealers on Long Island. College is their only brief foray off the Island, and they want to drink as much beer as they can to forget it. The show started in daylight, and we arrived a few minutes late. We missed “Down Boys,” but “Cherry Pie” was saved for the second act. The set was all classics and covers. As awful as everything about Warrant ever was, they still wrote some kickass songs, and Lane hadn’t yet lost it as a performer. Doc and I enjoyed the shit out of that show, and we weren’t even drunk. I hefted Dr. Filth on my shoulders so he could show his tits. It’s probably the reason I have back problems today. The bass player was into it. I don’t remember if he was real Warrant or not.
The show ended with a cover of War Pigs and some bro behind me shouting, “I paid a thousand bucks for this, we better get an encore!” We didn’t, but that part made me forgive the band. After the show, fans were invited on the tour bus for a meet-and-greet. I needed to explain to Dr. Filth why even if that did include us, we didn’t want it to include us. Proud robo-slut Donna Anderson of Metal Sludge says of Lane, “He can write a good song but his gummy bear won’t take you to heaven.”
These days cock rock is not all old, washed-up has-beens, there’s young washed up has-beens as well. You probably remember Buckcherry from that one song you couldn’t get out of your head for a month about ten years ago. It was either about cocaine, or bitches, or cocaine and bitches. Buckcherry celebrated the lifestyle of 80’s excess long after Cee Cee Deville’s bloated face proved that lifestyle was a mistake. Still, Buckcherry wrote some badass songs, and I will still rock the fuck out in my car for all the benefit of everyone else stuck on the LIE at the Grand Central Parkway exit at rush hour. I put down all four windows and let everyone else enjoy not only the song, but my best Josh Todd impression. I have never tried cocaine in my entire life, but I still love it because of Buckcherry.
Naturally I was excited when I heard they were coming to Binghamton. I called Dr. Filth immediately and we squealed like school girls. Then we found out ticket prices were forty bucks. Buckcherry was the headliner, but the real stars were some early millennial post-nu-metal-rock-punk candy bar band that were on their way down before they even on their way up, but still garnered enough demand to drive up ticket prices. Buckcherry had simply been on their way down longer. Years had passed since the band released an album I could finish, and I was fairly broke.
Doc knows a guy. He knows a guy who knows a guy. He either is, or knows a guy that gets free tickets to any show in town from one of the radio stations. This is the same guy that got us in to see Vince Neil, and probably Brett Michaels as well. I might have paid for that show, Brett wasn’t demanding as much of the door cut. We talked to the guy who was already using the tickets the guy gave him to go to the show with his girlfriend. He received only two. Doc and I gave up in defeat, but luck turned in our favor. The guy’s girlfriend didn’t want to go. No one should take their girlfriend to see Buckcherry, unless that girlfriend loves cocaine. The guy gave us the Buckcherry tickets.
The show was awful, I don’t even want to remember it. The crowd filled only a small area in front of the stage, and the bands were all visibly disappointed. Around the same time, Megadeth had canceled a show after selling only 95 advance tickets. The Bush Recession hit Binghamton long before the rest of the country, and no one could afford to drop eighty bucks for a night out. Buckcherry played Crazy Bitch for about 45 minutes, and tossed out a few hits around it. Only a handful came from their debut albums, Buckcherry and Time Bomb, and those were the only songs I knew.
I don’t often say nice things about things, but I would like to take this opportunity to say something nice about someone who rarely has something nice said about him. The meltdown of Axl Rose was legendary. Everyone knows about the long-standing feud with former members of the band. There was one name on the cock rock scene that made even Axl seem like a well-adjusted, level-headed individual. Sebastian Bach fronted Skid Row, and had a set of pipes that took him to Broadway. His apparent insanity took both of these away, and left Bach with a sad collection of VH1 reality shows that one of your friends probably told you about once.
Bach’s break with Skid Row came with bad blood, and his arguments against them were one step from gibberish. Interviews with other band members agreed that Bach was impossible to work with and all were happier without him. Skid Row continued playing stadiums in Europe and Africa for years after they were off the radar in the US.
Dr. Filth saw the post-Bach version on a rare Stateside tour, but I didn’t go. With that show I also missed the original lineup of KISS and the fucking Motor City Madman. It is well-documented that I don’t give a fuck what anyone says to defame him, including what Nuge says himself, Ted Nugent rulz. That’s ‘rulz’ with a ‘z.’ The ‘z’ stands for ‘pure rock fury.’ I’ll probably never have another chance to see Nuge before he invites me out to the ranch for a hunting accident. He may be a crazy racist redneck, but so is most of my family tree. Vote for the real madman. VOTE NUGE!
They played the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, same venue I saw Buckcherry, and Tool, and Ozzy with Korn as his opening act. Korn was booed off the stage, and the next year Jonathan Davis owned the world. When Korn came back, I regret skipping that show and missing Rob Zombie at his Hellbilly peak. I saw Bob Dylan there with my mom, and Natalie Merchant was the opening act. I also saw a lot of ethnic festivals, and once watched a hockey game in Senator Libous’s seat, but I missed Skid Row.
That is fine with me, because in a tiny club in the prison-town of Elmira, NY., I got my hand clapped by Sebastian Bach on his first solo tour. Bach is a maniac that has been arrested numerous times for drugs and fights, as well as “terroristic threats” when he told the bar he was going home for his shotgun to shoot up the place. He battled Skid Row for years over rights to the songs, which he claimed to have written. Liner notes reveal him to be essentially a hired geek; a studio musician that looked good on stage and video. Ultimately Bach was more trouble than he was worth, and he was fired. The courts agreed.
The opening act was a comedian. That was weird, but no one wanted to see it, so Dr. Filth and I were able to get a spot at the stage. We stood pressed against the rail all through his set with no one else around. There may have been an AC/DC cover band, or I may have been crafting an elaborate rendition of an AC/DC cover band during his performance. Sebastian Bach hit the stage and exploded. He was relentless, mixing Skid Row hits he still claimed to have written, mixed with his newer material that wasn’t half bad at a live show. Doc and I were right up front, rocking our fucking asses off, and Bach clapped my hand during “Riot Act.”
Looking back, Skid Row’s debut was questionable. “Skid Row” had an edge, but was at heart no less candy rock than Poison, but from New Jersey, so it smelled like turds. “Big Guns” and “Sweet Little Sister” are guilty pleasures for me, though I wouldn’t want to be caught singing along to either. Those duets between myself and Baz are reserved only for long stretches of empty country road. “Slave to the Grind” was the album that cemented a place in Rock history. Rachel Bolen and Snake Sabo revealed the mean strike Guns N Roses was seeking but couldn’t find. Skid Row was dirty and vicious. Bach’s off-stage antics legitimized their image. “Slave to the Grind” remains a solid album to this day.
The world was bored with Skid Row by the time they released “Subhuman Race.” Interest in Cock Rock waned in the 90’s as Hip Hop came into its own and Grunge took the world by surprise. Skid Row imploded, and Bach was fired in 1996. Skid Row continues releasing albums that the drunk guy in the leather jacket at the bar orders through the mail.
Regardless of anything that can be said about Sebastian Bach, I count that show in Elmira as one of my Top 5 favorite shows. Bach has a massive ego, and he’s quite possibly insane, and almost certainly drunk and/or on a lot of drugs, but that night in Elmira, Baz delivered. The room was small, and he called security to remove anyone who photographed him, but Sebastian Bach filled every inch of that tiny room. Sebastian Bach earned his place on that list, and is not likely to lose it soon. Most of the other five are GWAR, so you can take that endorsement how you will.
Paul Juser is an adventurer and traveling clown, as well as author, playwright, poet, photographer, artist and actor. He has also directed plays. He lives in Brooklyn. Read more at www.printisbetter.com