Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cheese Metal - A Brief Memoir

NOTE: Today's blog comes from our bro Zach Hangauer, who is a world renowned hero of Lawrence, Kansas. Fuck yeah.

I'm trying to remember what my favorite songs were before I heard any cheese metal. "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" - that was hot. I think Madonna was rocking "Open Your Heart" and Huey Lewis had "Stuck With You". "Parents Just Don't Understand" - what a joint, especially to a 5th grader, and how true - they really didn't. I wonder what my parent's pillow-talk was like when the Poison posters started going up...?

Two songs reached out of the boombox speakers with polished nails and pushed me hard against the wall: "Shot Through The Heart" and "Talk Dirty To Me". Choicer cheese metal songs were to come, for sure, but these were the sudden, startling Paul Revere's. There in my bedroom, listening to the Top 10 countdown instead of doing Social Studies homework, "Shot Through the
Heart" and "Talk Dirty To Me" made the purpose of my life clear: I was here to Rock! (That and do cab-slides down the driveway.) It's funny how rocking gets funnelled down to air-guitaring - I remember air-guitaring to the point of exhaustion, jumping off the bed, working miracles out of the frets of my imaginary neon Ibanez like some miniature C.C. DeVille. Well, maybe not min-... nevermind. I have to admit: all told, Poison was my jam. In retrospect I wonder if it wasn't because they were so over-the-top, so corporeally confident at the same time they looked like cartoon characters. It never once occurred to me that their bag-of-tricks was suspect, that their tough-guy-tattoos and flouncy-eyeliner played a debauchee's game between testosterone and estrogen, or that I, by the time I was their age - early 20's, mid 20's - would see the world not just fundamentally differently but kaleidoscopically so. I have no memory of ever looking at my wall of Poison posters and thinking "Well that's weird - they all look like chicks..."

Maybe it's because cheese metal perfectly aligned with the "fast" crowd in middle school, circa 1987. All the hot girls loved their long-haired, ripped-denim Supermen. All the cool guys loved all the hot girls. Next thing you know there's some grassy funk wafting around your 100th row seats at the Ampitheater and your girlfriends breasts are pressed against you hard cause the lights just went down and Poison, yes Poison, glorious Poison is about to twist your middle-school brain out of a tight jeans roll into a zippo sprayed with Aqua Net. Was it just a dream or did I see Kiss, Faster Pussycat, Warrant, Slaughter, and Poison in the flesh - ok, not flesh, but striped spandex - (or, for the tough-guys out there, what in their baggier form became Zubaz) - and love every screaming, strutting, breast-pressing minute of it?

To be fair, Poison had a great melodic sense. They were unabashedly major chord. They rocked you, but not too intensely. They tugged your heart strings from time to time. They perfectly navigated around every small explosion, not missing a note. Which isn't to say that I was right when I got in an argument with my best friend's older brother about the greatest guitar players of all time. Maybe, by 8th grade, I was old enough to know better but my crown went to C.C. DeVille. My best friend's brother thought maybe "Hendrix" was better, though his words were hard to make out through his floor-dropping heaves of laughter. Whatever. He also got a pretty good kick out of being informed I had a bunch of cheese metal posters up in my bathroom. Literally had to see it to believe it. The moment he hit the ground laughing that time - at my own house, with his '67 Mustang left idling in my driveway - I think I got the picture: time to get me some Bob Marley and some Doors. Yeah, I still had a year or two of penance to pay...

But this isn't supposed to be about the crash and burn of cheese metal in my life. It's supposed to be about the lift-off and the majestic heights we hit. Like those babes flashing in the "Pour Some Sugar On Me" video. Or that boa constrictor Slash pimps in "Patience". Or the MTV countdown to the premier of the "Sweet Child O' Mine" video, which gave me a fucking sanctuary of butterflies in my stomach and which was - maybe objectively? - pretty fucking all-right. Sleep-overs and "Headbanger's Ball". "Kickstart My Heart" with Mick Mars on that weird microphone. Samantha Fox in Playboy. The Counting Crows - wait, that was later. How about all those power ballads that somehow bridged an adult's juvenility with a kid's wonder. What was the apex? In my corner, it's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn". "I know that you'd be here right now/ if I could've let you know somehow." That's exactly what I wanted to say to every girl I loved and lost in puberty. But Brett Michaels gets the credit. I just put it on a bunch of mixtapes.

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