A few years ago we moved into a great new neighborhood. We love our new neighborhood and our new home, and have made lots of great friends. Many of them are a good 10-15 years younger than my wife and I. Hanging out with them makes us feel young again, so that’s a plus.
However, it occurs to me that since they are all 10-15 years younger than us, that means they were born in the 80’s and grew up in the 90’s, and as a result by the time they got into high school they were living in a time when pretty much all music sucked, and for the most part it has been that way ever since. Oh, there have been some good bands, if you look hard enough, but not all that much of anything good since grunge disappeared.
(And don’t say “What about country?” Can you think of a single supremely talented country music guitarist or drummer? How this stuff ever became popular is beyond me, but it is an indictment of the entire USA that we allowed this to happen. I mean, if you actually like country, why are you even here?)
Anyway. I realized I have an obligation to my friends to help them out.
This was made even more apparent the other night when (I’m not making this up) one of my friends texted me and said, “I have a favor to ask. Today, as we all jammed to Def Leppard in our mini van, I realized that we need more musicians that can shred a guitar and drums. But I was not indoctrinated in the culture as a young kid. I need a school of rock, you might say. But I need a teacher.”
“I’m happy to oblige,” I said.
So here goes. Here’s my help to my friend, my other friends, and all of the rest of you out there who don’t even know the difference between Van Halen with David Lee Roth and Van Halen with Sammy Hagar. Keep in mind, this is a starting off point, not a definitive list of every great artist, song, and album.
Def Leppard is a great place to begin. Def Leppard is a nice mix of heavy metal, hard rock, and arena rock. My friend started with Hysteria which is a fabulous album, and their best selling - although, in my opinion not actually their best. I told my friend to get Pyromania also, if for no other reason to have Rock of Ages - in my opinion, Def Leppard’s signature song.
- From High and Dry: “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak”
- From Adrenalize: “Let’s Get Rocked”, “Heaven Is”
- From Euphoria: “Paper Sun”
- From Def Leppard (self titled): “Let’s Go”
My next recommendation: Journey. Journey had almost disappeared into rock legend history, when suddenly this TV show called Glee became popular, and they sang this amazing Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’” a lot, and it became the most downloaded song on iTunes. I recommend starting your Journey journey with the albums Escape and Frontiers, both are amazing.
- From Departure: “Any Way You Want It”, “Line of Fire”
- From Greatest Hits: “Only the Young”, “Ask the Lonely”
- From Raised on Radio: “Be Good To Yourself”
Next is Van Halen. Van Halen has released a lot of really great albums with both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, and I don’t feel compelled to pick a preference. However, the music is different with one versus the other. Eddie says this is because Sammy’s a better singer…
Anyway, here’s a good smattering of Van Halen songs to introduce you to the world’s greatest guitar player and his band:
- From Van Halen I: “Runnin’ With the Devil”, “Eruption”, “You Really Got Me”, “Ice Cream Man”
- From Women and Children First: “And The Cradle Will Rock”, “Everybody Wants Some” (skip the last few seconds of this song)
- From Fair Warning: “Mean Street”, “Hear About It Later”, “Unchained”
- From Diver Down: “Cathedral”
- From 1984: “1984”, “Jump”, “Panama”, “Drop Dead Legs”, “Hot for Teacher”
- From 5150: “Good Enough”, “Why Can’t This Be Love”, “Dreams”, “Summer Nights”, “Best of Both Worlds”, “Love Walks In”, “5150”
- From OU812: “When It’s Love”, “AFU”, “Cabo Wabo”, “Sucker in a Three Piece”
- From For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge: “Pound Cake”, “In ‘N’ Out”, “Right Now”, “316”, “Top of the World”
From this point forward I’m going to kind of pick and choose some great sons from great bands. Keep in mind, all my new friends are youngsters. As such I need to protect them from adult language and mature themes. Some well known songs by some of these bands might not show up in the list.
Guns N’ Roses is one. They emerged during the height of hair metal but really brought it all back to it’s roots in rock and blues.
- From Appetite for Destruction: “Paradise City”, “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
- From Lies Lies Lies: “Patience”
- From Use Your Illusion: “Don’t Cry” (both versions), “November Rain”, “The Garden”, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, “Estranged”
Bon Jovi also comes to mind. Bon Jovi kinda got lumped into the hair metal scene in the mid 80’s but really I’d call them more of an arena rock or hard rock band, at least up until Jon’s “creative” phase, but we aren’t gonna talk about that.
- From Slippery When Wet: “Let It Rock”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Raise Your Hands”
- From New Jersey: “Lay Your Hands on Me”, “Bad Medicine”, “Homebound Train”, “Stick To Your Guns”, “99 in the Shade”
- From Keep the Faith: “In These Arms”
- From Crush: “It’s My Life”
Buy Their Greatest Hits
There are a handful of other bands that round out a good intro to 80’s rock. With these bands, the easiest way to go is to start with the greatest hits album and see if you like them or if you have poor taste.
- The Cars
- Sammy Hagar (called “Unboxed”)
- REO Speedwagon
- Rush (called “Chronicles”)
Where we go from here really depends. For example, if you liked Rush a lot, we could head in the Progressive Metal direction a bit and try Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, and Iron Maiden. But there’s no point if you didn’t much care for Rush. If you liked Sammy Hagar, we can head a bit more in the hair metal direction and try some selections from great bands like Poison, Tesla, Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and Dokken, not to mention so many great obscure 80’s metal bands - but again, no point if you didn’t like Sammy.
New neighborhood friends, there’s so much great music you missed out on, and I’m happy to help you out here. Let me know where we need to go next.