Episode 5: Circus Tricks on The Sunset Strip
When I’m checking out a band the first thing i notice is their style; hair, clothing, attitude and most importantly how they present themselves as a group! In the age of excess LA metal bands had to take everything to the extreme to get noticed, especially their promo photos & stage outfits – this pressure made for some very interesting choices! It’s easy to believe every LA band of the 80s probably had the same dilemma – “To assless chaps or not to assless chaps?”- a question that for most would need considerable thought, especially for the band member who drew the short straw! How many squats were you going to need to do? well, based on all the pics I’ve seen – none…ever! There’s nothing like a skinny guy with long hair strutting around with his teeny tiny bottom on display.
In all honesty I love the gender bending choices made by some of my favourite bands. Tommy Lee‘s choice to wear as little as possible has always thrilled me, and anyone who is man enough to don a studded g-string with confidence for thousands to see is OK in my books – drugs or no drugs. The extremes these guys took to get noticed should be a lesson used by bands today, instead rock bands can be so bland, it’s been a while since i was truly ‘thrilled’.
The thing I love most about LA’s scene is it’s effect on every creative aspect. A friend of mine once said that “hair metal doesn’t have a definitive contribution to art – you can’t look at a design & know definitely that it’s from that time or place”. I’m not sure I agree – the rockers in this scene were ‘taste makers’ of sorts, combining every aspect of art (current & past) to support the artists they loved, which in turn created “pockets of style”, not only through album art but especially through fashion! When most people think of ‘rock fashion’ they think of LA’s metal bands. I wrote about some of these different styles in my first Hard Rockin Hair Daze post.
I’m a huge fan of band t-shirts & if you know me you’ll know that between my partner & I we own hundreds! Our constant question is “which black shirt will it be today?. Merchandise as we know it couldn’t have become what it is today without these guys & gals going to town on album art & through the use of kick ass logos printed on pretty much..everything. Bands had killer logos & mascots designed to grab your attention. I mean, if I had a dollar for every person I’ve met in a Cathouse t-shirt I’d be rich. The funniest part is I can promise you they never went to Cathouse, they probably weren’t even born when cathouse reached it’s prime! And do we even need to mention the effect KISS have had on merchandising…
One of my favourite things to look at are gig flyers that were handed out on the strip! If you can get your hands on a book called “Hollywood Rocks” it is filled to the brim with photos & flyers, it’s a visual delight! There is also a documentary of the same name which is pretty low budget but interesting none the less 🙂
Obviously the main role of these flyers was to promote gigs BUT if you look closely some are promoting hair dressers, photographers & clothing stores – no doubt these business were “sponsoring” their looks. I really LOVE that so many bands had “fan club” mailboxes & Hotlines (or a “Catline” if you wanted Faster Pussycat). My question is; who answered these calls & what kind of mail did they get sent?! I bet there were so many X-Rated conversations, voice mail messages & perfume scented knickers! I sure hope these guys still have it all in storage – there needs to be some kind of exhibition if the silverfish haven’t eaten everything!
One photographer who stands out in this scene is the legendary Neil Zlozower. Not only does he take killer candid & live shots but he is responsible for all of those classy ‘school photo style’ portraits we all know & love! They’re an art form in them-selves & you know what time period they’re from as soon as you see them !
Obviously I will never see ‘the sunset strip that was’ & I hate that I was born 20 years too late but it’s cool that you can take a peep online – below is some footage by the band Circus trawling the strip doing “promotion”. They have HUGE balloons and flyers to promote their gig! It’s hilarious – you can also hear other bands who are hanging out calling out their own band’s names for the recording – I seriously love it!
I think I’ve rambled on enough; so until next time… wear that pout with pride! xx