Reviewed: August 2021
Released: 2021, St. Martin’s Press
The nostalgia market for products of all kinds is a very large one, and Hard Rock and Heavy Metal are no different. NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME really taps into this market.
Long time L.A. Sunset strip scene inhabitants and pop culture journalists Tom Beaujoiur (Revolver) and Richard Beinstock (Rolling Stone) have collaborated on this beast of a book that looks fondly back at the American 80’s Hard Rock / melodic Metal scene. Call it what you will, ‘Hair Metal’, ‘Sleaze Rock’, Glam Metal, or any other number of vague unflattering terms, we all know what we are talking about.
As mentioned this hard cover is a monster. 535 pages worth. Corey Taylor of slipknot does the foreword for some reason. I’m not sure what he has got to do with Hair Metal but never mind. The authors write a very brief intro to each chapter and then we get quote after quote after quote. Thousands of them all organized to tell a modestly linear story. This is an oral history. What does that mean? The authors don’t write very much they just interview people… in this case tons of people (over 200 people to be exact) and they create the narrative from the quotes of the people. They are listed in the cast of characters. Although the authors don’t write much ‘original’ material, it takes a hell of a lot of work to synthesize all that mess, break it back down into digestible chunks and they did a very fine job.
The stories here are street level; real people looking back fondly (and sometimes not so fondly) about what it was like back in the 80’s. Memories are hazy at times and sometimes they are razor sharp. Everyone who was anyone (at least of the L.A. scene) was interviewed. Mangers, club owners, strippers, agents, record company people and of course the bands. Everybody has an opinion about what went right, what went wrong and of course opinions o the other bands. There is a lot of competition but mutual respect. Nelson talks about Poison. Poison talks about Motley Crue. Ratt talks about Guns ‘N Roses. Cinderella talks about bon Jovi and on and on it goes. The stories are fun nad amazing. It doesn’t get anymore real and uncensored than this. There was a sincerity and honesty in all these stories now that the bands are in the sunset of their careers and not necessarily playing it up for attention in the glossy media. Age and wisdom make for good storytelling. These tales take you right back to that glorious age.
The book however is not without flaws. There is already a book called NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME-THE SPECTACULAR RISE ANF FALL OF GLAM METAL published a year prior. The editor and/or authors maybe should have caught this and picked a different title. That is not a super big deal. The major issue is that this book is so incomplete it is laughable. Although the sub-title is ‘The Uncensored history of the 80’s Hard Rock Explosion’. They should have called it, ‘A bunch of American bands from Los Angeles we like and a few more from the East Coast’. This is so common of many American entertainment writers; they are so myopic they just don’t know or care about any band beyond their borders.
Accordingly, there are dozens of mainstream, major label ‘Hair Metal’ bands that are completely omitted. I’d have no problem if they said, ‘We are only looking at L.A. Hair bands from 1983-1990’, then that would be fine. But as it stands it is sort of presented as this comprehensive look at the style and it is it even close. I think maybe the only two non-American bands that get any sort of mention are Def Leppard and Whitesnake. They made the cut because Def Leppard was so huge they could not be ignored and the authors probably only figured out who Whitesnake was AFTER David Coverdale moved to the US and hired young Americans.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not some silly anti-American nonsense coming from a disgruntled Canadian. I fully admit and and recognize that the L.A. Sunset strip scene in the 80’s was the global epicentre of this musical genre. A huge part of this book has to be about that scene. However California was NOT the only scene and to completely disregard the rest of it was pretty weak. I can guarantee you that if I asked the authors, ‘Hey why didn’t you interview any members of long-running, major-label, 80’s, melodic Hard Rock acts like Treat (Sweden), Pretty Maids (Denmark), Bonfire (Germany), TNT (Norway) Loudness (Japan), Fair Warning (Germany) or Brighton Rock (Canada)? I’d get a blank stare.
In their defence the book is already over 500 pages long and they can’t cover it all but that is where they as editors needed to make better decisions. Do we really need an interview with the stripper the L.A. band lived with and mooched off of for six months in 1984 while they were shopping their demo or the girl who made a costume for Warrant? Probably not. Comprehensive? Yes. Interesting? Maybe. Important? No.
A lot of that extraneous crap should have been cut in favour of more focus on more bands and a better international flavour. The Rainbow Bar & Grill,, The Roxy, Gazzari’s, The Troubadour etc etc etc, are legendary establishments but they are not the only bars that had a hair metal band walk into and perform at. Ending off that epic rant, the lack of perspective is a pretty fundamental flaw of NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME.
Ultimately, like any good raging house party, the good outweighs the bad and the authors did a superior job capturing the point in time, region and bands they chose to focus on. The stories, the colours, the girls, the rock and roll mania they managed to cram it all in. The nostalgia market I mentioned in my opening paragraph, myself fully included, will love this book all nite long. Party on!