Thursday, May 25, 2006

heyday of the power ballads

In honor of our newest blogger, SJPsandman, I've compiled the following lists of that favorite '80s phenomenon known as the power ballad. Here are the five best and five worst -- can the two be separated? -- power ballads of that memorable era.

Keep in mind, this is the same timeframe that produced a combination of spiked hair and mullet on a 12-year-old Squawking VFR. Your first thought must be, "No, it's can't be. Squawking VFR was always way too cool for that."

Unfortunately, photographic evidence exists somewhere in my mother's scrapbooks.

The best:

1. Home Sweet Home, Motley Crue.

While they weren't busy getting high and maiming fellow motorists, Vince Neil and company started the formula that defined 1980s metal: Kickstart an album with a rollicking, hard-core tune filled with head-banging glee, then tone the next single down with the power ballad.

The first one was also the best.

It is also worth noting that a friend of mine taught me how to play the piano portions of this on a keyboard. Sometime while we were in college, this grade-school chum OD'd on heroin and died. Guess he was emulating the Crue a little too much.

2. Love Bites, Def Leppard.

A standard. This was very popular among us seventh graders in North Jersey, and played at all school dances. Because we had been jaded by the whole folly of love by age 12, of course.

3. The Ballad of Jayne, L.A. Guns.

What a shame, what happened to Jayne. What happened? We never learn. All we know is Jayne is in Heaven, and it will be one of the great mysteries of the 80s as to how she got there.

4. House of Pain, Faster Pussycat.

Deadbeat dads cause heartache for little boy. At 18, he's still talking to himself. While the lyrics never explicitly state it, we can assume this child is destined for a life of petty crime and delinquency, all because of the lack of a father figure.

5. High Enough, Damn Yankees.

The boundaries of the power ballad are pushed to unforseen heights, and it earns the fifth spot thanks to its over-the-top video.

Channeling Charles Starkweather, the Bonnie-and-Clyde couple in the video have a blast driving around and knocking over liquor stores. An armed batallion of law officers use the element of surprise, descending upon them mid-coitus in the back of a convertible.

She gets caught. He holes up in a home the size of a dollhouse. The police fire more rounds into the house than were used during the entire Vietnam War. Unfortunately, they manage to miss a zebra-clad, gum-chewing Ted Nugent, who's standing on the front porch wailing away on his guitar. Hot bird gets sentenced to death.


Now we move onto the worst:

1. When The Children Cry, White Lion.

Political activists masquerading as 80s metal band? It will never work.

2. I Remember You, Skid Row.

Pure made-for-radio schlock. There's no way the same band that made "18 and Life" and "Youth Gone Wild" seemingly churns out this garbage.

3. Time For Change, Motley Crue.

Home Sweet Home rocked. This? It makes Motley Crue sound like a bunch of vaginas. It should also be noted that this song was sung at my eighth-grade graduation, which contributes to its embarrassing downfall.

4. I'll Be There For You, Bon Jovi.

"If you breathe, I want to be the air for you." Vominous.

5. Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison.

Fuck Poison.

Labels: ,


At 10:11 PM, Blogger SJPSandman said...


Thanks for the shout-out.

It's ironic that you posted this. I am working on my list of my favorite artists of all time, and it includes quite a few of the 80s hair bands that produced some of the greatest power ballads of all time.

Gun to my head, if I was forced to pick one genre of music that I considered my favorite, it would probably be the power ballad.

I will assume you have limited your list to the "hair bands," and have excluded power ballads by arena rock bands, like Journey, Bryan Adams, Heart and Survivor, as well as power ballads by actual metal bands, like Metallica, Pantera and Ozzy.

I must take issue with some of the songs you picked for "worst."

"I Remember You" is a kickass power ballad. Sure, the lyrics are cheese, but isn't that the point of these tunes. Skid Row, actually had some even better power ballads on their second album, "Slave to the Grind," like "Quicksand Jesus," "Wasted Time" and "In a Darkened Room."

"Time for Change" was below Motley Crue's standards, but it was never released as a single, so I guess they knew.

I once recorded "When the Children Cry" in one of those "studios" at Six Flags. Yeah, the song ain't "great," but I can get into it.

Bon Jovi rules. Yes, "I'll be There for You" is very gay, but the 15-year-old chicks seem to dig it.

And "fuck Poison?" No. Fuck you, cat! :-)

Poison STILL rules. They are the quintessential hair band and Every Rose is a kickass tune!
I still go see Poison when they play the Arts Center every summer, including this year, when they're slated to play with Cinderella!

I am also very impressed by the obscurity of some of your picks for "best."

"Ballad of Jane" and "House of Pain" did not get much air time -- well, "Ballad of Jane" was played quite a bit on MTV.

Also, if you're talking great Def Lep ballads -- I'm going to see them on 6/27 with Journey-- "Foolin" tops my list.

I can't argue with "Home Sweet Home," or "High Enough," both great tunes.

But you missed some great ones, off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

- "Love Song" by Tesla
- "I'll Never Let You Go" by Steelheart, who you have pictured at the top of this post
- "Rock Me" and "The Angel Song" by Great White
- "Heaven," "Sometimes She Cries" and "I Saw Red" by Warrant
- "Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone" and "Nobody's Fool" by -Cinderella
- "Alone Again" by Dokken
- "Bed of Roses," "Always" and "Never Say Goodbye" by Bon Jovi
- "Sweet Child of Mine" - Guns 'n Roses
- "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger
- "Still Lovin' You" - Scorpions
- "Dream On" - Aerosmith (perhaps, along with Led Zep's "Stairway to Heaven," the greatest power ballad of all time)

I could go on and on and on...

Still, great post. I plan to post my list of top artists soon.

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Pete said...

SJP, I indeed limited my list to the hair bands. Otherwise, there was just too much territory to cover and too few slots in the top 5.

I mulled over "I Saw Red" for the top five, but couldn't bring myself to include Warrant in a top anything in any sort of fashion.

As for Poison, I stand by my statement.

I believe their recklessness in releasing utter crap hastened the decline of hair-band rock.

If they had never released "Unskinny Bop," the world may have never grown disgusted enough to turn toward grunge.

Again, welcome aboard.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Joependleton said...

I will be weighing in on this soon. Pete, you've reinvigorated my desire to blog.

Thanks for the SI mention, too.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Dan said...

It is not ironic that he posted this. It is coincidental. Does anybody know the actual definition of irony?


Now, onto the topic at hand.

There is pretty much no debate about good hair metal vs. bad hair metal. With the exception of hair metal pioneers Van Halen, as well as Gun 'n Roses, it all sucked.

The worst of this awful genre of music was the power ballad. When I was in college, one of my upstairs neighbors owned the Monster Ballads CD. She loved it.

She was also one of the most idiotic, worthless human beings I've ever met. She was the kind of person who generally likes that kind of music.

While much of America was listening to this dreck, one of the truly great American rock bands was pretty much mired in obscurity: The Pixies.

More evidence of the stupidity of the American people.

The only good thing that came out of hair metal was its demise.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Joependleton said...

OK: Here goes. I'm only doing top 3 and bottom 3 and I may bend the rules a bit, but here it is. And by the way, F Poison (They suck arse, but kick arse, too).

1. PATIENCE (G & R) - I know, it's accoustic, but I tell you, nothing got the dames at TSC moister than this one. And that's the real goal of a power ballad.

2. SILENT NIGHT (Bon Jovi) - From the haunting keyboard intro the JBV showing off his vocal range, this tune kicks total arse. Perhaps the most underrated BJ song ever, it's a precursor to great things to come for this cat.

3. NOBODY'S FOOL (Cinderella) - Underrated band, underrated tune. Perhaps Bon Jovi's greatest contribution to music was discovering these cats.


1. LOVE WALKS IN (Van Hagar)
Nothing symbolized the seismic shift from Roth to Hagar than this huge piece of dog shit. As nutty as DL Roth has become, there's no way he would ever let this tune near a Van Halen record. Ever.

2. WHEN I SEE YOU SMILE (Bad English). Not sure what was worse. John Waite in that dopey long hair or the song itself. I consider this the worst tune of the 1980s and Pete, I believe this is what got Cobain, Vedder and Cornell off their arses in Seattle. THIS SUCKS.

3. AMANDA (Boston). Not your classic hair band, but a power ballad - and a shitty one - nonetheless. I mean here you have a band that hadn't put out an album in 25 years and this is the first song out of the gate. Pure stench.


There, I feel so much better now.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger SJPSandman said...

I am not going to dignify Dan's post by addressing its specifics, but all I can say is, "don't be hatin."
Only steers and queers hate power ballads.

On to Mr. Pendleton's picks:


Patience -- Fantastic song. One of the best tunes ever released by one of the greatest bands to ever incite riots on the face of the Earth. Only problem is, Patience isn't a power ballad. there's no power.

Silent Night -- It's making the list is a major sleeper. You've got to be pretty versed in Bon Jovi to even know it. Nice job putting it in your top 3. And this by a man who once posted on his own blog, "Bon Jovi has always sucked."

Nobody's Fool -- No argument from me. Awesome song. I will be seeing Cinderella this summer at PNC, with Poison. And speaking of Poison, well put. They suck arse as musicians, but as a hair band they rule. Further, C.C. Deville might be the worst guitar player EVER, and is completely incapable of reproducing anything he recorded when they play live. Even the intro to "Fallen Angel," which took me all of four seconds to figure out on guitar.


Love Walks In -- Van Halen is not one of my favorite hair bands, even if I did shell out $100 to see them at the Meadowlands Arena two summers ago. But if I am going to listen to Eddie and co., it has to be with Sammy Hagar singing. I hate David Lee Roth. Love Walks In is not one of their better tunes, but it is listenable.

When I See You Smile -- GREAT call! If I was crafting a "worst" list, this song would definitely make it.

Amanda -- While Boston is not a hair band, "Amanda" does have all the makings of a power ballad. That said, I LOVE that tune!

And, it is ironically coincidental (happy, Dan?) that you mentioned "Carrie" by Europe. Not only do I love that song, but I busted it out on the Carinos' karaoke machine last week.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Joependleton said...

Sandman: Your hatred for DL Roth is understandable. If you want to take that approach fine, but please don't use that hatred to say the Van Hagar music is better.

Let's be honest: It is pure shit.

At least with Roth at the helm, VH was a rock-out, party band. With Samuel at the lead, they became a huge pussy, top 40, 80's cheese band.

There three main albums (5150, OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowlege) not only feature the three gayest album titles in history, the feature pure shit singles.

Of those three, the big songs were Why Can't This Be Love, Love Walks In, Dreams, Summer Nights, When It's Love, and Right Now.


There are six better songs on the first Roth album (Runnin' with the Devil, Little Dreamer, Feel Your Love Tonight, Ice Cream Man, Ain't Talking Bout Love, and my all-time favorite song Jamie's Crying.)

And I know people will say that the Hagar albums sold better.

Well, two things to that:

1. VH wasn't a real household band until 1984 hit the shelves. So it's no coincidence their follow up albums to that sold better than their earlier albums.

2. If we go by albums sales, than N-Sync and Billy Joel (perhaps the worst artist of the 20th century, Joel that is,) are better than the Beatles.

Yes, DL ROth is a clown, but at least he rocked. Hagar was more concerned about his bar in Cabo Wabo and making puss music and it shows.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger SJPSandman said...


I am not gonna take the time and put forth the effort to defend Van Hagar. I simply don't care enough. Like I said, they're not among my favorite 80s bands.
Besides, I enjoy the occasional hit of cheesy pop-rock (you forget Top of the World among Sammy-led Van Halen hits).
And, for the record, I would never use the sold-more-album argument in declaring one band better than another. Album sales does not equal talent. Ever.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Pete said...

I think now is the appropriate time to begin debating whether the video for "Yankee Rose" was the moment MTV began sucking.


Post a Comment

<< Home