Old-Ass VHS Review, Volume 3: Married With Children – “My Dinner With Anthrax”

Y’know who doesn’t like Married…With Children?   Fascists (for all I know) and self-righteous religious types, that’s who. Since I am neither of those things, I, of course, love it to the ends of the earth. I even wrote a paper about it years ago for a 300-level college history class (and I got an “A” on that sumbitch, too boot!).

Way way back, Indianapolis, Indiana had a TV station known as TTV-4, or to most people, just “Channel 4” (it later became an affiliate for The WB, then a CW affiliate, and just recently, it became Central Indiana’s CBS affiliate, which, for reasons I can’t really explain, seriously fucks with my worldview), which was an independent station that during the day aired cartoons (morning and afternoon), talk shows, original children’s programming, and old TV shows in syndication (The Brady Bunch was one of the most common).  In the evening, movies, Indiana University basketball games, and other syndicated TV shows (Sanford and SonM*A*S*H, the 1960’s Adam West Batman (Julie Newmar’s Catwoman taught me a lot about growing up),  Mama’s Family, Diff’rent Strokes,  etc.), and on Saturday evenings, Hoosier Millionaire, a game show featuring contestants who won their spot on the show by playing the state lottery.

When Married…With Children began airing in syndication on Channel 4,  I was stoked.  The Fox affiliate station in Indianapolis didn’t have a strong enough signal to reach us out in the middle of nowhere (as I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, I grew up without cable television), and the signal from Louisville was weak and not easy to watch (that didn’t stop me from watching it, but it looked static-y and terrible), so I finally got a chance to see one of my favorite shows with an almost cable-TV-like clarity.

When the episode featuring Anthrax aired, I had to tape it, because I knew I might never see it again (living in the pre-internet era was hard, y’all!).  Like many Old-Ass VHS Tapes, I still own this one, and it lives in a box in my basement, only to get trotted out from time to time when I’m feeling nostalgic.  Without further ado, here’s the Old-Ass VHS Review of Season 6, Episode 18 of Married…With Children, “My Dinner With Anthrax” (original airdate: 2/23/92 – Quick note: I started writing this review sometime back in October or so and didn’t get around to finishing it. Then today I randomly decided to finish it, only to realize after finishing that the episode aired 23 years ago today!).

MarcyfrisksFrankie

The band’s interaction with Marcy is priceless. Also, dig that RIP Magazine polo shirt!

 

The Basics:

No case to protect this one.  The tape was originally a 30-ish minute cartoon tape (most likely purchased at Big Lots) entitled Porky Pig and Friends, which featured two Porky Pig cartoons followed by two completely unrelated Warner Brothers cartoons, a cash grab by some unscrupulous company that clearly had no idea (or perhaps did not care) who Porky Pig’s friends actually were. (Side note: one of the other cartoons was called “The Dover Boys at Pimento University”, and it was (and is) hilarious, and you should look it up on your own time.) Written on the label is “Gallagher: Over Your Head”, which I’d taped half of off Channel 4 prior to the airing of “My Dinner With Anthrax”.

The tape begins with the end credits to The Golden Girls, flowing directly into commercials for Miller Genuine Draft Light and the Rad-n-Bad Arenacross Nationals, which the internet tells me were held at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis on February 5, 1993.  The episode begins after this, with the commercials mostly cut out, and it’s pretty straightforward.  If you haven’t seen it, you should; it’s a good one.  I used to think the band members were pretty terrible actors, but honestly, when I watched it recently for this review, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they weren’t as bad as I’d always remembered.

After the episode ends, the tape cuts into a feature on the Phoenix Suns, featuring Gilbert Gottfried.  I used to be a Phoenix Suns fan back in the Charles Barkley days, which is also when I last gave any kind of a shit about basketball.  Sometimes I’m not very good at being from Indiana.

The Extras:

A trailer for National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 was fun to see, as was the commercial for “the new Cutlass Ciera, starting at ‘thirteen nine ninety-five'”.

The Highlights:

Anthrax on Married…With Children is a highlight unto itself.

The VHS-ness:

The picture is a little fuzzy throughout, but the quality is pretty good overall, especially considering the age of the tape, and the number of times I’ve watched it.  It does get a bit rolly and choppy when the band starts talking, but I imagine I’ve watched that part more than the rest of the episode.  The sound is decent.

The Bottom Line:

As with my other Old-Ass VHS Tapes, you’re welcome to come over and watch this one with me.  You don’t even have to bring your own beer for this one, since it’s less than 30 minutes long (although if you wanna stay and watch one of the other Old-Ass VHS Tapes afterward, you should probably BYOB).  YouTube doesn’t have the full episode up for free, so here’s a clip.

That’s all for today, friends.  Stay heavy, always.

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You Know I’m a Dreamer, But My Heart’s of Gold: A Thing About Butt Rock

A couple of days ago, a co-worker asked me about my opinion of the “hair metal” genre, and I replied with the gusto which is the norm when anyone asks me what I think about pretty much any genre of music, which is to say, I believe he may have regretted asking me.  Continuing along the usual path of such an occurrence, here we are over 48 hours later, and I’m still giving the question entirely too much thought.  This leads me to believe that I need to write it out, because it’s a good way to elucidate my thoughts and it’s a good way to get it all out of my head, and, perhaps most importantly, because if I’m not gonna write in this blog, what’s the point of keeping it?

I’ll start by saying that I’ve always disliked the terms “glam metal” and “hair metal”, because when people hear those terms, they think of bands like Poison, and regardless of your opinion of Poison, you have to admit that calling them “metal” is about as accurate as calling Taylor Swift “country”.  Both are obviously examples of pop music – perhaps metal-influenced pop when talking about Poison (and that’s on their very heaviest stuff), or in the case of Ms. Swift, perhaps country-flavored pop, but at their cores, Poison and Taylor Swift are clearly both pop acts.  I’ve heard the term “cock rock” in the past, and although I am a sucker for a good rhyme, I don’t entirely like that term.  My wife refers to the stuff as “butt rock”, and so far that’s the term I’ve preferred, so from here on, this is the term I’ll use.

Not metal at all.

So many dudes thought these chicks were hot the first time they saw this album cover.

I have no interest in giving a history lesson on the origins and early days of butt rock, but it’s worth noting that the New York Dolls, Kiss, and Aerosmith were all early influences on the auditory, visual, and theatrical stylings of what we’ve come to know (and love?) as butt rock, as was Van Halen, with EVH’s blazing guitar wizardry/wankery and DLR’s high kicks and soul-shattering wails.  Def Leppard began to bring in poppier elements on their second album (High ‘n’ Dry – 1981), Twisted Sister released their debut album Under the Blade in 1982, and Quiet Riot released the first butt rock-tinged album to reach number one on the Billboard charts (Metal Health) in 1983, but they were all musically much heavier than what would begin to surface a few short years later.

Ratt and W.A.S.P. followed with heavy-ish albums (Out of the Cellar and W.A.S.P., respectively) in 1984, and in 1985, previously heavy sleaze rockers Mötley Crüe released their pop-slathered third album, Theatre of Pain, and soon the floodgates opened, with the likes of Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Poison, Stryper, and, eventually, Firehouse, Britney Fox, and (shudder) Winger exploding to top of the charts.  Established, reputable hard rock and metal acts like Whitesnake, Scorpions, Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne began to incorporate elements of butt rock into their sound and image, and soon, 9 out of 10 people in the United States of America thought that “The Final Countdown” was a heavy metal song.

More directly to the original question, re: my opinions on butt rock, I like some of it, because I have ears and I’m not dumb (even if I did just misspell “dumb” four times), and because I was a kid when it was huge, so, nostalgia.  I will rarely listen to Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” or Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” on purpose, but when I do (or if they come on when I’m somewhere else), I will enjoy the fuck out of them.  I am especially a sucker for a well executed power ballad – Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home” and “Without You”, Enuff Z’nuff’s “Fly High Michelle”, Mr. Big’s “To Be With You”, and Extreme’s “More Than Words” are a few butt rock slow jams which I am unashamed to admit that I find to be particularly sweet.  It’s important to remember, however, that not a single one of these bands is a heavy metal band, nor are any of these songs heavy metal songs, no matter what Chuck Klosterman thinks.

Looking beyond individual songs, though, there are a few bands found under the “glam metal” umbrella that I legitimately enjoy.  I absolutely adore Faster Pussycat’s second album, Wake Me When It’s Over (1989), and I consider Cinderella to be the Deftones of the “hair metal” genre, in that both bands are much, much more talented than a majority of their peers in their respective genres.  Cinderella’s second album, in particular (1988’s Long Cold Winter) is a beautifully crafted piece of work so deeply steeped in the blues that I sometimes get a little bit sad just thinking about it.  I also really enjoy everything from Def Leppard up to and including 1987’s Hysteria, even if that album is as absurdly overproduced as it is absurdly multi-platinum, and I enjoy a few of the songs that came after that.

And it should go without saying that I love Guns ‘n’ Roses, but I’ll mention them here anyway, because even though they transcended the genre from the very first notes of “Welcome to the Jungle”, they still often get lumped in with shit like Warrant and Slaughter (both of which have songs I enjoy), but Appetite for Destruction is obviously one of the greatest albums released by any band or artist in the 1980’s.

I don’t know what else I can really say about the genre as a whole that hasn’t already been said in a more educated and intelligent manner somewhere else [see the “Glam Metal” episode of VH1 Classic’s excellent 11-part series Metal Evolution, for starters (part 12, “Extreme Metal”, was too extreme for VH1 Classic, and is available to purchase online, which you should do as soon as you finish reading this piece)], so I’ll just share some of my favorite butt rock songs with you, the reader.

I’ll begin with a few of the bands and/or songs mentioned above.

Faster Pussycat had a couple of hits off Wake Me When It’s Over, both of which are great (“Poison Ivy” and “House of Pain”, the latter of which is a sort of “Cat’s in the Cradle” for the MTV generation, and boasted a video directed by a young Michael Bay), but it’s two of the deeper cuts that really make this album stand out.  “Cryin’ Shame” is inspired by the true story of Ricky Kasso, a Long Island teenager who murdered a friend because Satan told him to (it’s also from whence the title of the album comes), and “Tattoo” is more straightforward butt rock, but it’s a really fun song, about an overly obsessed old flame who shows up in town with “my name tattooed on the backside of her frame”.

Cinderella released four singles from Long Cold Winter, with “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” being the biggest (unless you’ve been deaf since May 20, 1988, there’s no way you haven’t heard it), and “Gypsy Road” being the most like their more raw debut, Night Songs (1986), but “Coming Home”, which reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, is definitely my favorite song from this album.  The title track is also great, and feels especially relevant right now, with much of the United States getting absolutely blasted by shitty winter weather.

With no added pomp, because Def Leppard requires none, here are a couple of my favorite Def Leppard songs, “Photograph”, from Pyromania (1983), and “Animal”, from the aforementioned Hysteria.

And just because I think that too few people know these songs, I’ma share “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” from Enuff Z’nuff (who are so much better than their name and appearance would understandably lead you to believe).  Both videos are utter shit, but I dig the songs quite a bit, especially “Fly High Michelle”.

There are a few songs that fall under the “power ballad” tag that I can not imagine getting tired of.  First and foremost is “Wind of Change” by German hard rock juggernaut Scorpions.  Hearing this song causes a memory flood so fearsome that I can barely stay afloat.  It literally does not matter what I might doing or who I might be talking to, if I hear “Wind of Change”, I can guarantee you that the song is getting more of my attention than anything or anyone else around me.

White Lion was/is a total cheesefest, but “When the Children Cry” gives me goosebumps.  Part of that is no doubt linked to memories of my sixth-grade friend Amber, who really loved the song, and who was killed in a car accident during our senior year in high school.  Amber was a rad person, and she always stood up for me when the dummies in our class told me the music I listened to was satanic.  We drifted apart during grade 7, but she’ll always have a place in my heart, and I’ll think of her every time I hear White Lion, and especially this song.

Rest easy, Amber.

I’ve accidentally made myself sad, so I’m gonna wrap this up.  I didn’t really know where it was going anyway.  What do you think about butt rock, power ballads, and the songs and bands I’ve mentioned?  Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and remember, to stay heavy, even when you’re listening to “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”.

P.S. Modern butt rock revival acts like The Darkness and Steel Panther can all fuck off.

Metal in the Mainstream, Volume 1: Cold Slither

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Season 1, Episode 51, “Cold Slither”

Original airdate: December 2, 1985

Written by: Michael Charles Hill

We all know that the people in charge of our pop culture like to take (and subsequently take a giant shit all over) anything and everything in the underground that they deem marketable, often with hilarious results.  One excellent example of this is an episode of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero from 1985.  Entitled “Cold Slither”, the episode finds world-wide terrorist leader/all-around incompetent boob Cobra Commander broke, and in debt to the tune of $200 million dollars, payable within 48 hours, thanks to some key intelligence and skillful maneuvering on the part of the G.I. Joe team.

Destro and the Baroness devise yet another patented Diabolical Cobra Scheme (patent pending), and after procuring a briefcase full of money (one million dollars, to be precise), they set off through the swamps, along with Cobra Commander, into the lair of Zartan and the Dreadnoks, where the Baroness explains the meat and potatoes of “Operation: Cold Slither”.  Cobra Commander will give Zartan one million dollars (which Zartan promises to pay out to his Dreadnoks at “$5 per hour”) if he and the Dreadnoks form a rock and roll band called Cold Slither and pretend to record an eponymous hit song, along with a video of the same song.  Destro will then insert subliminal messages into the song, which will put the listeners into a trance, and make them mind-slaves of Cobra.  I can’t find a single flaw in that DCS.

“The only union they should be concerned with is the one between their heads and their shoulders.” – Cobra Commander

While no character actually refers to Cold Slither as a “heavy metal band”, the lyrics to the song do make mention of it, though it is difficult to hear over the sounds of the Dreadnoks wreaking havoc on the video set.

“Cold Slither”, as performed by Cold Slither

We’re Cold Slither
You’ll be joining us soon
A band of vipers
playing our tune

With an iron fist
and a reptile hiss (note: it sounds very much like they say “erectile hiss”)
we shall rule!

We’re tired of words
We’ve heard it before
We’re not gonna play the game no more

Don’t tell us what’s right
Don’t tell us what’s wrong
Too late to resist
Cause Cobra is strong

We’re Cold Slither
Heavy metal machine
Through the eyes of a lizard
In you will dream

When the venom stings
A new order brings
our control

The song naturally ends up in the Top 20 within 3 days, and white kids all over the local school are disturbing their square old teacher with all that heavy metal racket.  Meanwhile, back at G.I. Joe HQ, Shipwreck, Breaker, and Footloose fall under the spell of Destro’s subliminal messages (although a perusal of the lyrics indicates that someone maybe doesn’t really understand the meaning of “subliminal”), causing them to go AWOL to the “sports arena”, along with thousands of unwitting teenagers, to watch an electrifying performance by Cold Slither.  At this point, we become privy to Cobra Commander’s true intent: after getting the sold-out crowd good and brainwashed, he surrounds the stadium with HISS tanks, and announces to the parents who happen to be watching television at that particular moment that their children are being held hostage.  Their release is contingent upon payment of $100 billion, due in two hours.

Lady Jaye comes up with a scheme of her own – she, Cover Girl, and Scarlet go undercover as “fans” (groupies) and infiltrate the Dreadnoks’ dressing room, where they beat up the blundering dummies, learn the location of the command center, and knock the Dreadnoks out with some gas disguised as perfume.  They bust into the control room, where Cobra Commander, Destro, and the Baroness wonder why the ladies weren’t hypnotized by the music.  Lady Jaye removes her earplugs to find out what the villains are discussing, prompting Destro to ask, “So you knew about the subliminal messages?” “No,” says Scarlet, “we knew your taste in music.”

oh-snap

Cobra Commander proceeds to incapacitate the Joes by pressing a button that unleashes a terrible sound, shattering the windows to the control room, through which he escapes, along with his cohorts.  The crowd comes out of their trance and, prompted by Shipwreck’s parrot, Polly, begins shouting that they want music.  Rock ‘n’ Roll (the Joe team member, not the music) suggests that since the people came to see a concert, it’s not really fair to send them home without one.  “Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?” Duke says.  Breaker then introduces to the audience “the greatest rock ‘n’ rollers in the land, the Average Joe Band”.  They launch into a poppy version of the G.I. Joe theme song, which is so bad it makes you want to hear “Cold Slither” again, and then the credits roll.

What can we glean from this so-bad-it’s-good episode of one of my most beloved TV shows as a child?  Well for one, it makes me assume that episode writer Michael Charles Hill was a very out-of-touch old man who had never actually heard a rock ‘n’ roll song, let alone a heavy metal song.

Looking at the episode in a cultural context brings some interesting things to light.  First, the original airdate of the episode was December 2, 1985, which was just over one year and one month after John McCollum shot himself in the head with his father’s gun while listening to Ozzy Osbourne’s debut solo album Blizzard of Ozz (1980) in his bedroom.  McCollum’s suicide prompted his parents to deflect responsibility for their son’s actions toward a song on that album called “Suicide Solution”, which they claimed contained “hidden lyrics” which drove their son to take his own life (“get the gun and try it, shoot, shoot, shoot”), but which was actually about a person slowly taking their own life with drugs and alcohol.

Also of interest is that 21 days after this episode aired, James Vance and Ray Belknap got drunk and high, “allegedly listened to Judas Priest”, then shot themselves.  Belknap died instantly, but Vance survived with a mangled face for three more years before dying from an overdose of painkillers.  The parents of these two dummies claimed that Priest’s cover of the Spooky Tooth song “Better By You, Better Than Me” (from Stained Class – 1978) contained a backward message (“Do it.”) which prompted their sons to take their own lives.  Who could guess that the writers of G.I. Joe had their collective finger so firmly on the pulse of America?

I also find it interesting when we consider the state of heavy metal in December 1985: Iron Maiden was on top of the world, thrash metal was beginning its explosion out of the underground, the opening shots of crossover thrash had been fired, glam metal was less than one year away from becoming what most people would forever think of when they hear the term “heavy metal”, and Pantera was still more or less a KISS cover band.  Also, just over two months before “Cold Slither” aired, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister testified (very intelligently) before the PMRC Senate hearings, regarding censorship in rock music.  And while it was not entirely related to heavy metal, the United States was mired in the throes of the “Satanic Panic” at this point in its often absurd history.

And with all this going on, Michael Charles Hill thought that Cold Slither was what a heavy metal band might look and sound like.  Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Stay heavy, y’all.