What’s Up Everybody,
Please see below for the unedited version of a column that appeared in USA Todays Pop Candy. NOTE: This is by no means a knock on EWhitney or the version of the column. I understand there is only so much space and things get edited. No worries:)
Without further ado….
The Power Ballad and Popular Culture
“Take me to your heart,
Feel me in your bones,
Just one more night
And I’m coming off this long and winding road”
Do you know who wrote this stunning bit of prose describing the loneliness and heartache felt from traveling the desolate plains?
This stanza was crafted by the poet laureate Thomas Lee Bass and his writing partner Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr. in the year nineteen hundred and….(I can’t do it, I can’t continue with this sham, I will no longer be held down by the shackles of society, for this burden on my heart must be lifted. I have an affinity for Metal, specifically Power Ballads. I will no longer cower in fear of judgment and humiliation!) The answer to this question is Tommy Lee, yeah, that Tommy Lee as well as Nikki Sixx from the famed quartet Motley Crue.(And yes those names listed above are their given names. You’re not only going to be entertained during this column you are also going to learn…sorry.)
It’s about to get real up in here and the topic of conversation is the Power Ballad y’all.
The Power Ballad (not to be confused with ballad) is its own entity…There will be no discussion of Celine Dion, Elton John or Barbara Streisand…while there is nothing wrong with any of these artists, (…no judging…)that is not the type of ballad we will be discussing today. But, if you would like to hear from the likes of the Whites (no, not Jack and Meg but Whitesnake and White Lion) sit back, relax and let’s get it on.
I know what many of you are thinking right now, “Dude, what constitutes a power ballad?” to that I answer… hold your horses… I’m getting to that. The rules of the Power Ballad are simple: there are no rules (Call it Fight Club, Call it Thunderdome). The Power Ballad may be loud, it may be soft, the guitars could be electric or could be acoustic. Drums yes, drums no. (I understand this is a fragment and I am being prompted to consider revising- I choose no – If Dr. Seuss can do it, so can I). Piano, organ, tambourine and cowbell are all acceptable as well. You know what, rather than try to explain this using the Lorenz Attractor and Chaos Theory (What up Jeff Goldbloom?) I’ll just show you examples as well as some pop culture references to play with and we’ll go from there.
Let’s break this down into four groups shall we?
Group 1: Power Ballads – One Hit Wonders
These are songs where a heavy metal/ rock and roll/ glam/ hard rock band (choose your favorite subgenre) is best known for their softer side. While they rocked, this is the only song they are remembered for (with exceptions for Eddie Trunk).
Steelheart – “I’ll Never Let You Go” Did you know: Lead singer Miljenko Matijevec provided some of the vocals for Mark Wahlberg in the movie Rock Star. (Quick, top 3 fictitious bands: 3. Wylde Stallions 2. Steel Dragon 1. Stillwater – that is a proven fact and I will physically fight anyone who disagrees!)
Slaughter – “Fly to the Angels” DYK: Slaughter’s song “Shout It Out” was featured on Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. (That’s two Bill and Ted references already…can I hit the trifecta?)
Mr. Big – “Be With You” DYK: They are huge in Japan (what…it’s a long column…they can’t all be gold!).
Nelson – “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” DYK: They are listed in Guinness as the only family to reach number one record status in three consecutive generations. They follow their dad Ricky Nelson and grandparents Ozzie and Harriet. More importantly they were also in the band Power Tool and their song “Two Heads are Better than One” was featured in… you guessed it…Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (That’s three and I’m just warming up…yes I’m aware how much of a geek this makes me look…I’m cool with that)
Saigon Kick – “Love Is On the Way” DYK: The song “Body Bags” was featured in the film Beyond the Law staring a dirty Charlie Sheen. Winning! (Sorry about that…I’m late to the party…aren’t we still doing the whole Winning thing?…No?…Whatever.)
White Lion – “When the Children Cry” DYK: They were featured in the greatest Tom Hanks movie ever made, The Money Pit. (You thought I was going to say Ladykillers didn’t you?)
Faster Pussycat – “House of Pain” DYK: The name of the band was derived from the Russ Myer film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Samples from this movie are found in the White Zombie song “Thunderkiss 65” (I just successfully pulled off the rare double Russ Meyer reference. Thank you. Thank you very much.)
Extreme – “More Than Words” DYK: Their song “Play With Me” was featured in the film (wait for it…wait for it…Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You have just witnessed the B&T quad! (… For those of you not in the know the B&T quad is the fourth reference to the Bill and Ted film franchise…try and keep up)
Firehouse – “Love of a Lifetime” DYK: Firehouse won the 1992 American Music Award for best New Hard Rock/ Metal Band (close but no cigar Nirvana and Alice in Chains…think about that for a second.)
Europe – “Carrie” DYK: The only Swedish band on the list. (Arrested Development fans probably remember them for “The Final Countdown” thanks to GOB’s sweet entrance music and ringtone…high five Franklin!)
Lita Ford/ Ozzy – Close My Eyes Forever” DYK: Lita Ford was in the Runaways and Ozzy is actually Ozzy Osborne of Black Sabbath fame? (You did?…well then let’s move on…)
Group 2: Power Ballads – Reverse One Hit Wonders
These are groups you know and love. They not only rocked, but they rolled as well. You may have been a bit surprised to hear these mellow memory makers (I just made that up…I think I’ll trademark that one) show up on their albums.
Scorpions – “Winds of Change” DYK: These guys having been playing and touring for 46 years. Their 1988 video for Rhythm of Love featured Joan Severance. (You might remember her from such films as No Holds Barred and Worth Winning…No…me neither…)
Damn Yankees – “High Enough” DYK: This super group consisted of former members of Styx, Night Ranger and, well, Ted Nugent (known for other touching ballads such as the heartbreaking “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”)
Dokken – “Alone Again” DYK: The documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot was filmed in 1986 before a Dokken/ Judas Priest concert. Also, bassist Jeff Pilson played the bass player for Steel Dragon (Rock Star reference number 2…watch out Bill and Ted…).
Cinderella – “Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone” DYK: There was a movie produced by Disney with the same name. (This band may have taken their name from the film…still working on fact checking that one)
Tesla – “Love Song” DYK: For about six months I thought Tesla and the Black Crows were the same band (In my defense, Tesla’s lead singer Jeff Keith and the Black Crow’s Chris Robinson both had really long, brown hair and I couldn’t tell them apart…sorry if that makes me a hairist…it was a different time back then…Yes, I am aware about 14 people got that reference but for you 14 people you know what I’m talkin’ about… that includes you Klosterman)
Queensryche – “Silent Lucidity” DYK: They are from Seattle but didn’t wear much flannel. They did contribute a song for the movie Ford Fairlane staring Andrew Dice Clay…so there’s that.
Night Ranger – “Sister Christian” DYK: Night Ranger contributed tracks to such films as Teachers, Explorers, Sixteen Candles, and The Secret of My Success. Also, Jack Blades is the chief counselor for the Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp (I’m not kidding…he’s a counselor…at camp)
LA Guns – “Ballad of Jayne” DYK: Guitarist Tracii Guns was the original guitar player in Guns ‘N Roses (Tracii Guns and Axl Rose…get it?…Guns and Roses) Things didn’t work out (Shocking, right?) Slash took over in G’N R and Tracii went on to start LA Guns.
Group 3: Power Ballads – Close But Not Quite
Were getting closer, these are some very good songs from some great bands but everybody can’t finish first right? (Unless you are the youth of America, in that case…congratulations…here’s your trophy for showing up today)
Aerosmith – “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” DYK: This song was ruined for me because of that scene in Armageddon where Ben Affleck is taking that animal cracker for a ride in Liv Tyler’s bellybutton. (Extra creepiness factor considering that Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler is Liv’s real life father…let’s move on…)
Van Halen – “When It’s Love” – DYK: This song helped answer the age old question of Sammy vs. Dave right? (What happened to these guys? Seriously… what happened? I think Van Halen is now Eddie and his immediate family. There’s not really a joke here…it’s just a little sad)
Def Leppard – “Love Bites” DYK: Def Leppard is one of only five rock bands with two original studio albums selling over 10 million copies in the US. The others are Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and the Beatles. (So yeah, Def Leppard is kind of a big deal…I’d like to borrow a line from Earl Hickey and say “…and you can pour some sugar on that!”)
Guns ‘N Roses – “November Rain” DYK: You could argue that “Patience” would be a better fit in this spot. (I disagree because the only things more awesome than a guitar solo in a power ballad are three solos in a power ballad…I’m looking at you Slash…Rock On!)
KISS – “Beth” – DYK: What? (Seriously KISS…what is this?) My favorite version of this song comes in the film Role Models when Paul Rudd serenades Elizabeth Banks. (You also learn some excellent KISS history lessons from Sean William Scott…sorry, NSFW.)
Bon Jovi – “I’ll Be There For You” DYK: OK this one is a stretch considering everything they have released the last decade could be considered ballads (you know what, no…Bon Jovi rocks…”I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride”…yeah you do…Young Guns 2 rules.)
Group 4: Power Ballads – The Greatest of All Time
Here we are, the top of the mountain. There is no debate. MIT has conducted scientific studies (they were wearing white lab coats and everything…I’m pretty sure that was the problem that Good Will Hunting solved in that movie Good Will Hunting). Without further ado, I present you the five greatest power ballads of all time.
5. Warrant – “Heaven” DYK: RIP Jani Lane
4. Skid Row – “I Remember You” DYK: Skid Row was the first ever heavy metal band to debut an entire metal album at #1, 1991’s Slave to the Grind. (Did you know Sebastian Bach is one of the greatest lead singers of all time? It’s true…I’m working on getting the statistical data to back this up. True story: Bas was fired in 1996 because he booked a show where Skid Row would open for KISS. The rest of the band said they were too big to be an opening act. Sebastian said nobody was too big to open for KISS. Four years later Skid Row opened for Kiss…without Sebastian Bach. Did you know Skid Row sans Bach is still touring today…I didn’t either.)
3. Whitesnake – “Is This Love” DYK: Tawni Kitaen starred in this video as well as in three other Whitesnake videos, but you already knew that. (Pretty girl performing Pilates on the hood of a Jaguar in a white negligee = greatest power ballad video of all time)
2. Poison – “Every Rose has its Thorn” DYK: In the film Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (Yes, yes, yes…It all comes back to B&T doesn’t it…my parents are so proud…) Ted tries to prove he is worthy of getting into heaven by saying the following: “Every rose has its thorn. Every night has a dawn. Every cowboy sings a sad sad song” (Check and mate!).
1. Motley Crue – “Home Sweet Home” DYK: This is the greatest power ballad of all time. (I’m learning to play this song on the piano so I can pull it out at dinner parties. Seriously…I’m going to do that. Like George Costanza said, “If I show up to a dinner party with Ring Dings and Pepsi I’m the hit of the party.” He’s right. So am I. When I show up at your dinner party and break out “Home Sweet Home” I’m the hit of the party…or some weird dude you ask to leave…)
Feel free to tweet @Thinktank if you would like your party livened up. Seriously…I will come to your house and serenade you with “Home Sweet Home!” You can also click here https://thanktink25.wordpress.com/ to see what’s what.