Rock-on Hair Bands Not Having a Bad Day

The video game has given hair bands of the '80s and '90s a reason to rock again.

July 8, 2008— -- Much of the hair is gone, but the songs live on.

Though often maligned in its heyday, the music of '80s and early-'90s hair bands and glam-metal groups has shown surprising resilience.

Rocklahoma, a five-day festival devoted to the hard rock and heavy metal of that era, begins Wednesday in Pryor, Okla. Bands such as "Warrant", "Ratt", "Triumph" and "Queensryche" are expected to draw about 30,000 people a night.

Now, thanks to the "Guitar Hero" gaming franchise, a new generation is discovering the virtues of teased hair and flashy guitar solos.

"About a year ago or so, kids started bringing their "Guitar Hero" controllers for us to sign," says guitarist Erik Turner of "Warrant", whose "Cherry Pie" is part of "Guitar Hero II".

Though radio pays scant attention to these bands' new music, their early hits are still finding a second act in movies, TV and commercials. Says Turner: "It's nice not only for the pocketbook, but for the perception of the band."


The hit: "More Than Words" (1991, No. 1)

The afterlife: Perhaps the hair-metal era's last great power ballad, "More Than Words" has appeared on more than 50 CD compilations with titles like "Monster Ballads" and "Heart of Metal". (The reign of grunge started a few months later when "Nirvana's" "Nevermind" topped Billboard's albums chart.) Surprisingly, the Beatlesque ballad has never been heard on "American Idol", but it's a choice on "Karaoke Revolution's Idol" video game (as is "Poison's" "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"). Mexican-American singer Frankie J had a Latin/pop crossover hit with the song, and David Cassidy also covered it.

Sebastian Bach of Skid Row

The hit: "I Remember You" (1990, No. 6)

The afterlife: "Skid Row's" catalog hasn't provided the licensing bonanza of other hair-metal hits, but it's hard to miss former lead singer Sebastian Bach. He's built a side career as a reality-TV regular, appearing on "Celebrity Rap Superstar" and "Gone Country". He also had a recurring role as Hep Alien guitarist Gil on "Gilmore Girls", 2003-'07. "Skid Row's" songs show up occasionally: "I Remember You" was used in a South Park episode satirizing "Guitar Hero", and Carrie Underwood has been known to sing it in concert.

"Living Colour"

The hit: "Cult of Personality" (1989, No. 13)

The afterlife: "Living Colour" recorded a new version of Grammy-winning "Cult" for "Guitar Hero III", and the song also appeared in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas". "Cult" was a favorite on "Rock Star" with contestants performing it during both the "Supernova" and "INXS" seasons. Over the years, band members have maintained their chops by playing with David Gilmour, Tracy Chapman, jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette and rapper Mos Def. Most recently, singer Corey Glover has been appearing as Judas in the national touring production of "Jesus Christ Superstar".


The hits: "Heaven" (1989, No. 2), Cherry Pie (1991, No. 10)

The afterlife: Power ballad "Heaven" figures prominently in the ad campaign for AT&T's new LG Shine cellphones, but "Cherry Pie" gets most of the action. In addition to being in "Guitar Hero II", it was used in the audition sequence of Bring It On. TV can't seem to get enough of it: The tune has been part of the menu for shows ranging from "Kitchen Confidential" to "My Name Is Earl". It's even Nancy Gribble's ringtone in "King of the Hill".

Bret Michaels of Poison

The hits: "Talk Dirty to Me" (1987, No. 9), "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" (1988, No. 1)

The afterlife:"Talk Dirty to Me", with Michaels' newly recorded vocals, is a track in "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock". The song also figured prominently in a "Scrubs" episode in which a coma patient's living will stipulated that it be played daily. "The Simpsons" and "The OC" have used "Every Rose", as did 1991's "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey". Michaels keeps a high profile, too, guesting on "Yes, Dear", judging the 2005 season of "Nashville Star" and starring in VH1's"Rock of Love" reality show.


The hit: "Round and Round" (1984, reached No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart)

The afterlife: "Ratt", which reunited with three founding members after a "VH1 Behind the Music" episode rekindled interest, celebrates the 25th anniversary of its first EP this year. The band's biggest hit has been licensed for at least three video games: "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories", "Saints Row" and "Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s." It's also heard on Cartoon Network's "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" at the close of the "Billy & Mandy Save Christmas" episode, planting the seeds for a new generation of Ratt 'n' Rollers.