Taking Dawn’s Chris Babbit: “Skid Row Is Not a Glam Band!”
Chris Babbit is the lead singer of traditional heavy metallers Taking Dawn. He loves heavy metal. This makes him qualified to weigh in on some of metal's heaviest debates. Here, he makes the claim that Skid Row were not a glam band. Do you agree?
Remember Pee-Wee’s Playhouse? So Mr. Herman had this “word of the day”-type gag where everyone goes invariably apeshit whenever the pre-ordained word was so much as whispered. Well, I play a little word-of-the-day game with myself*. Every time I hear the word “glam-metal,” I see red. That’s right, I’m hyphenating in case any of you smartasses simply can’t refrain from pointing out “glam metal” is two words. And now I’m gonna pull a Danzig and shorten it up to just glametal. So the topic’s supposed to be why Skid Row is not glametal. Since I can’t just play Slave to the Grind and walk away from this audacious allegation, and since the word word “glam” sends me into a furious frenzy with it’s spurious implications (which never allude to the proper progenitors like T-Rex and Bowie), I guess I’ll have to elaborate and elucidate the all too evident.
Skid Row, glam, seriously? PSSHT! Alright, if “Piece of Me” or “Forever” were the only tunes you ever heard from the Skids then I might let you off with a warning. True, the first record oozes a little more of the sap synonymous with crap like some other bands who ruined that era for the rest of us. However, the genuine grit of raw, raging rock bubbles under and permeates every pore of their fledgeling, albeit formulaic debut, and is culminated in their sophomore release. Yeah, so “I Remember You” is a veritable paradigm of the infamous “power ballad,” but a flawless power ballad does not a glam band make. Otherwise, you’d be lumping the illustrious likes of Ozzy and Guns N’ Roses into the same airsick bag of candy-coated, cookie-cutter, pop prattle that was paraded across the radio under the guise of real rock ’n’ roll (much the like of all too many of today’s syndicated sensations). While these songs, the sonic equivalent of a gag-reflex, sullied balladry almost irreparably, Skid Row still came across as something sincere, something of substance. From “18 & Life” to “Qucksand Jesus” to “Into Another,” they came off as something classic. And they came late in the game. Dropping in ’89, they scarcely qualify as even an 80s band, let alone a fucking glam-band. (Much the same as future tourmates Pantera. Heard of ’em?).
While hordes of clichéd, carbon-copy clones struggled desperately to suckle from the over-tapped Aerosmith/Van Halen teet, Skid’s roots reached the rich and dirty deposits of Thin Lizzy, Sweet, Slade, and Ted Nugent. And with pipes that could compete with Ian Gillan**, why wouldn’t you flex your chops? Hell, “Monkey Business” is so close to a next gen Nuge track that the Motor City Madman probably had points on Slave to the Grind. I’d be far from befuddled to find that Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan shared more in common on a genetic level with Ted than Mr. Nugent would like to admit at a child support hearing. Skid Row’s guitarists, Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill, shelled out the shred with licks on the level of Zakk Wylde and Slash, but I feel like they never really gave themselves enough time to shine. They never indulged, ever tasteful in the age of excess…perhaps, even, to their detriment. Just as Pantera would later follow a similar evolution, Skid Row shed their skin to become a progressively heavier, sleazier, slithering beast with every record. With winding and utterly crushing riffs like “My Enemy,” it’s easy to see how Skid played as much a role in the birth of bands like Shadows Fall as did Metallica and In Flames.
Now they are, of course, guilty of a little cheese. But as the photo below should illustrate, so was Pantera. So was everybody! Frankly, it’d take a band with some serious balls to release something like “Cowboys from Hell” in this day and age with a straight face and be taken seriously. I mean really listen to the lyrics on that record. Or on “Nightrain,” for that matter. “Hot for Teacher”? SERIOUSLY?! On the whole, if the classics have anything in common it’s that for all their cleverness they’re corny as hell. And they’re all the better for it! Songs about mythic beasts are as silly coming from Mastodon as they are from Manowar, but so long as they are sincere they transcend all kitsch to some celestial echelon of epicness reserved only for the titans who have the brass to pull it off.
“He who approaches the temple of the Muses without inspiration in the belief that craftsmanship alone suffices will remain a bungler and his presumptuous poetry will be obscured by the songs of the maniacs.” —Plato
Be Shred or Be Ded,
Chris, Taking Dawn
* Yes, I am aware I just said I play with myself.
** That’s the legendary lead singer of Deep Purple… Sadly enough, that’s not common knowledge, so I forgive you.
So which one’s the glam-band?
Pantera, circa mid-’80s