SKID ROW’s RACHEL BOLAN: How grunge bankrupted 1980s hard rock bands

SKID RANK bass player Rachel Bolan spoke to Rodrigo Altaf from Sonic Perspectives on how the rise of grunge in the early 1990s drove most hard rock bands from radio and MTVwith plummeting album and tour sales.

“When a musical genre becomes just an outlet, it’s kind of the beginning of the end for the genre, because they’re going to sign a million bands that kind to sound like a band, and then it dilutes everything,” Rachel said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). “So that’s what was happening right when grunge came out. And then when grunge came out, that was the next big thing, and then it happened to them too. All the bands that sounded like NIRVANA were signed, and they were nowhere near as good as NIRVANA. So that dilutes the market and ends up poisoning it.”

In 2014, Bolan admitted to the Dallas Observer that “grunge put a lot of bands like us out of business. You just have to wait. We came back because people wanted to have fun again. There were grunge bands that I liked, but that was such a different vibe and a different scene. People started to miss the bands of our time. There was a certain nostalgia involved.

In recent years, other 1980s hard rock musicians have weighed in on grunge’s impact on the glam-rock scene, including Bolanformer teammate of Sebastian Bach. When asked when he realized there was a “change” and what he thought about it, Bach say it fox business program “Kennedy” in a 2016 interview: “I think I realized that when I saw the video of [NIRVANA‘s] ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. And there had never been a video or song like this before; it was a new sound, and people were reacting to it. But what happens comes back. I mean, now the biggest tour in town is GUNS N’ ROSES or AC DCwhich have the same singer. [Laughs] So, you know, music is cyclical, and people will always love rock and roll, because it’s passed down from generation to generation. IRON MAIDEN has never been bigger than today. It’s a little crazy.”

When it was released in September 1991, NIRVANAit is “Smells like Teen Spirit” wreaked havoc on the vanguard of hair metal, ending an era dominated by glamorous, androgynous, glitzy rock stars who absolutely saturated the radio airwaves and were almost exclusively played on MTV.

Earlier this year, TWISTED SISTER leader Dee Snider said said MBA armchair that “no one saw” the rise of grunge coming, but he admitted that he “was already dead and half-buried before grunge hit”. TWISTED happened in the early 80s, then we hit our stride in the mid 80s and by the end of the 80s the band had broken up. I had a band called DESPERADO [with former IRON MAIDEN drummer Clive Burr and ex-GILLAN guitarist Bernie Tormé] which was discarded by Elektra Recordings; a lot of money we spent on this record. So I was kind of already retired as a featured artist at that point, and I was having a hard time finding my footing with DESPERADO and then WIDOW. And then I received the letter in the mail, a certified letter: “We have decided not to do what you do anymore – look like you, look like you, sing like you, write like you, play like you”. In fact, we want nothing to do with what you did. Sincerely, the music buying public. [Laughs] And that’s where the bottom really fell. I mean, imagine being a doctor who studied some form of medicine, and they found a cure. You are a cancer specialist — a specialist; it’s what you dedicated your life to – and you get a cure pill [cancer]. You no longer have a job. Grunge hardened hair metal. So I was out of work.”

less than two years ago, Sniper Told ultimate guitar that he “liked” NIRVANA and other grunge bands when they emerged. “When they first came out, it wasn’t even called grunge,” he explained. “And that’s the problem with titles – even heavy metal, punk, hair metal, they’re not titles chosen by the artists; they’re titles chosen by the writers. And usually with a negative connotation. Usually in the form bashing. And the artists that they called grunge, called punk, called heavy metal – they hated it. That’s a fact, man. I’m old. I know this, a fact: if you mentioned grunge for SOUND GARDEN or PEARL JAM, they became physically violent with you. It was just a rock band. And if anything, SOUND GARDEN, CHAINED ALICE, they were metal bands. They were spinning with ozy [Osbourne]. It has just been defined by certain authors; they cataloged it and called it a new sound.”

Dee continued, “When it first came out, I was doing metal radio again and playing CHAINED ALICE, SOUND GARDEN, NIRVANA on my show, and I was like, “This is great, new heavy stuff.” So it was defined as grunge, then it became hair metal killer, and it was awful. But I don’t blame the music; hair metal did it to itself. It got too commercial, then it went off the hook and it became nothing but power ballads and acoustic songs, and it wasn’t metal anymore. It had to go; that had to change.”

Sniperit is TWISTED SISTER group mate Jay Jay French Told Daniel Sarkissian of “Is Rock Dead?” documentary on the death of hair metal and the arrival of grunge: “The only band that jumped over and saved themselves was GUNS N’ ROSES. And my theory is that GUNS N’ ROSES was not seen as a joke. They came out of LA, but I think Axel [Rose], first of all, had a beautiful voice. I think they were perceived as real, not fake. Like, they were real junkies, not fake junkies. So there is authenticity. It’s all about authenticity, and grunge is about authenticity. People wanted authenticity, so they got it with grunge. It erased the perceived frivolity of hair metal, which is, ‘Hey, man. Let’s party. Let’s get the girls and drink. I think people just got fed up, and they wanted [something more] authentic.”

Ancient MOTLEY CRUE singer John Corabi Told press day in a 2014 interview that the FLOOD The album he sang on was a commercial disappointment as the music scene had changed, with hair metal being discarded for grunge. “Everyone was listening CHAINED ALICE and SOUND GARDEN“, Corabi mentioned. “At that time, we were considered overwhelmed.”

According to Corabi, FLOODThe ill-fated 1994 US tour “was a nightmare. We weren’t selling tickets. It was just awful,” he said.

In 2019, the former DTT singer Tony Harnell said the rise of the grunge movement, which symbolized the spirit of the working class and focused on music rather than image, was ultimately a positive thing for the rock genre because it “shed light on how boring and repetitive point” the glam 80s metal scene had become. He explained: “It was the same look, the same songwriters, the same producers, and it was just starting to be… No one was offering anything… Don’t get me wrong, there were a few which were interesting and different, but, for the most part, they were just kind of reworkings, a bit, of other bands.”

Virginia F. Goins