Whatever Happened To My Rock n Roll Part 6
I’m putting heavy rock on trial! Have Your Say!
Twenty five years on from the peak of heavy rock’s commercial popularity in 1988, this series asks why heavy rockers no longer dominate the charts and seeks to highlight the crimes that Heavy Rock is accused of, and give you the cases for and against.
At the end of each debate, you will have the ability to vote either “guilty” or “not guilty”, according to the evidence. And because this is a democratic process, you may also introduce your own evidence, in the comments section at the foot of the page to sway the jury.
By the end of the process we should perhaps have a clearer view of what went wrong with those eighties rock bands, and the pitfalls new bands might do well to avoid…
The Accusation: Heavy Rock Bands Are Blatant Lazy Rip-off Cliché Merchants…
Exhibit A: Rival Sons
In 2013 a new album of classic rock was released by a band called Rival Sons. I’m not looking to pick on this band in particular, but it seemed as though their album might have been released in 1988 or even 1976. One track on there, “Manifest Destiny Pt 1” sounded like Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” so much, that if Mr Nugent came home from a a particularly strenuous day of Democrat baiting and bear strangling (or vice versa) and heard it on the radio, he might take out the frustrations of the day by coming after them with his bow and arrow.
The lyrics to track “Wild Animal” (it’s about a girl, incredibly enough – rather than, say, a gazelle or mongoose) would have been cliched in 1988, and 25 years later just sound embarrassing. The first track has a huge whiff of Led Zep‘s cover of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, making it a copy of a cover version. And this perhaps sums up the problem that heavy rock faces. Isn’t so much of it, including this record, stuffed to the gills with clichés? All the eighties crotch-grabbing lyrics sound half-hearted and old fashioned. When Led Zep did that macho stuff it was just a small part of Plant and Page‘s stage persona. Unlike some rock acts I could mention, it wasn’t the entire basis of their act.
Led Zeppelin themselves purloined a number of old blues songs, including Leadbelly’s “Gallis Pole”, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Bring It On Home”. This was fine, because a) Led Zep continued a blues tradition of playing established songs as well as contributing their own, b) they acknowledged their influences (sometimes – they were criticised when they forgot themselves) and c) transformed the source material into something new and relevant.
Exhibit B: Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night”
When Whitesnake based “Still of the Night” so blatantly on Led Zep’s “Black Dog” it felt less like passing a torch than a blatant steal. Or, as Mr Coverdale might have put it with his own neat simile, he was “like a thief in the night”.
Whitesnake even added an atmospheric bit in the middle not a million miles removed* from the mid section of Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love”. And did guitarist Vandenberg really get a violin bow out on the video? This did not go unnoticed by Robert Plant who reportedly “fell off his bed laughing” and remarked at the time about David Coverdale “He’s spent years trying to be Paul Rogers, now he is trying to be me”, calling him “David Cover-version“.
This criticism appear to pique Coverdale, who in turn responded “I wouldn’t send him cat food if he was starving…” Presumably Plant food would have been more appropriate?
Then, in 1988 came Kingdom Come.
Fronted by ex-Stone Fury vocalist Lenny Wolf, Kingdom Come were an extraordinary clone of Led Zeppelin. Their debut album blatantly stole from Zeppelin to the extent that it was possible to sing the opening line to Led Zep’s “Kashmir” to “Get It On” whilst Wolf’s voice mimicked Robert Plant in a deliberate way**. Thanks to sneaky promotion – the track was sent anonymously to US radio stations in advance – it was reported that some people mistook it for a much-clamoured-for Led Zeppelin reunion. Amusingly Wolf claimed in Kerrang! Magazine that he’d never heard Led Zeppelin…
I saw Kingdom Come at Hammersmith Odeon, supporting Magnum. They came onstage and were about to start their first song when some wag shouted at the top of his lungs “Led Zeppelin!” at which point the crowd dissolved into fits of giggles. To give the band their due, they recovered and the drummer in particular pounded his drums with such brutal ferocity that he earned applause from the crowd. Although they were copycats, at least they did it with panache. To help the uninitiated understand the difference between Led Zeppelin and Kingdom Come, (or Kingdom Clone as they became known) I have produced the following graphics:
Exhibit C: Pictorial representations of Led Zeppelin’s and Kingdom Come’s Influences.
And here’s Kingdom Come’s influences:
It’s similar to a criticism of Oasis v The Beatles:
And here’s a full list of what influenced Oasis:
The whole phenomenon was summed up in the end by Gary Moore in his song “Led Clones”. You know things are getting bad when someone actually writes a song about it.
In conclusion, eighties rock just hasn’t a) stood the test of time in the way that (say) Led Zep did or b) moved with the times in the way that Bowie did. As a result, it is like that other eighties icon: the Rubik’s Cube. Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake et al may have sold millions, but they are now merely a colourful reminder of something old, which happened a long, long time ago.
* By which phrase I mean “almost exactly the same as”.
** We can safely say that because his phrasing was very different to his earlier voice
- The defence puts its view forward in the next post!
- In the meantime, it’s Time To Vote!
- Do you think heavy rock suffers from being derivative and unoriginal? Is it all merely a massive cliché? Has heavy rock moved with the times? Is it still original and exciting?
- Vote GUILTY if you think heavy rock is cliché ridden and has failed to move with the times.
- Vote NOT GUILTY if you think heavy rock is still as relevant as it ever was.
- SWAY the jury by sharing your views below!
Record #251: Kingdom Come – Get It On
Categories: Hard Rock