Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Now Hear This: Big Bang Babies


     No disrespect but Big Bang Babies were way better than Poison. They were way better than Warrant. Why did those two bands find fame and fortune while Big Bang Babies did not? Timing, I think. Big Bang Babies just arrived too late. A few years earlier and perhaps they would have been just as successful, they certainly deserved to be. Poison only dreamed of writing songs as great as the Big Bang Babies' songs, but by the time the band's self-released seven song EP came out in 1992 Nevermind had obliterated opportunities that the band most certainly would have cashed in on just a few years prior. By 1992 any chance of getting signed by a major label or even noticed beyond the Sunset Strip was history for a band that looked and sounded like Big Bang Babies. That's a tragedy because the songs on that first EP were insanely good, my favorite is "Come On."

     The song from the EP that probably would have garnered them the most attention if it had come out a few years earlier is the first song, "Everybody Needs A Hero." It's catchy as hell. I think MTV would have given its flashy video (because there would have been one) a few spins in 1988/1989.

     Something was happening on the Sunset Strip in the nineties, something decidedly different from the alternative revolution that MTV was propagating. The bands that remained on the strip took the glam image to its furthest extreme and shamelessly indulged their pop sensibilities, I've often seen what they were doing referred to as "bubblegum." Call it what you want, they definitely explored extremes. Bands like Heart Throb Mob, Queeny Blast Pop and Tryx cultivated a style and image that was beyond over the top and a sugary pop punk sound that made no apologies. Big Bang Babies fit with those bands but they also maintained a connection to the earlier Sunset Strip vibe that Poison had co-opted and transplanted from clubs to stadiums.

     Big Bang Babies had broken up by the time a full length album was released in 1994 and apparently guitarist Keri Kelli put it together himself without the consent of the rest of the band. The CD is called Black Market and regardless of how the project came together the songs are goddamn brilliant. Check out the opening track, "8 Arms."

     How could anyone resist that song? But the big rock albums of 1994 were Green Day (like), Live (hate), Weezer (like), NIN (hate), Soundgarden (okay), Hole (ugh). "8 Arms" in the context of the musical climate of 1994 was "alternative" because "alternative" had become mainstream. In 1992/1993 a band like Big Bang Babies were the rebels. Big Bang Babies were the real thing. The cynical view of the "hair metal" years is that those bands were just in it for the money. I disagree, I think most of the "hair metal" bands just loved rock and roll. They wanted to be rock stars for a variety of reasons. Most of the members of those "hair bands" had shunned societal expectations and risked it all to pursue a dream. Many had a romance with rock and roll that their pretentious and elitist detractors could not relate to. Those who deemed "hair metal" low class and beneath them did not begrudge the similar flamboyant extremes of David Bowie or the New York Dolls because they were allowed to like David Bowie and the New York Dolls. This idea that all "hair metal" was disingenuous and all "alternative" music was honest and heartfelt is just plain bullshit. For example, the cover of the first Weezer album was just as calculated and image-conscious a concoction as the cover of Look What The Cat Dragged In

How can I be so sure? Rivers Cuomo used to play the Sunset Strip!

That's Rivers, top middle.
That's Rivers on the right.
     Case closed. (Disclaimer: I love the first four Weezer albums). Back to the topic at hand, the ballad on Black Market, "Hear You Say," is a very well-written song and almost certainly would have been a massive hit five years earlier.

     My favorite song by the band is a hidden track on the Black Market CD, it's not even listed! I'm going to call it "Let's Go." I love it: great riff, cool verse, awesome bridge, singalong chorus. Put this song on Headbanger's Ball next to Winger and Slaughter and tell me which band would have stood out.

     A rehash compilation CD came out in 1999 called 3 Chords and the Truth. Same bunch of songs but well worth having if it's all you can find. Big Bang Babies singer Kit Ashley now goes by Charlie Overbey, he still makes music and has a radio show in Oregon. Guitarist Keri Kelli went on to play with Alice Cooper, Slash, and numerous others.

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