“A radioactive family is chasin’ me/They really know how to kill little babies” - The Hills Have Eyes
First of all, let’s hear it for Finland. Without it, flash metal would simply not exist, at least not in the glorious/ridiculous form it took in the 80s. Let us not forget what hard rock looked and sounded like before Hanoi Rocks. I mean, did you wanna dress like the dudes in Rainbow? Or Blue Oyster Cult? Before Finland, heavy metal was t-shirts and jeans or over-the-top biker leather, and the references were Zep, Sabbath and Hendrix, and that was basically it. But up there at the rim of the Arctic circle, where long-haired teenagers had months of endless night to ponder the possibilities of a brave new world, things were getting fantastically out of hand. Hanoi Rocks loved the New York Dolls back when nobody did anymore. And here’s the thing: the Dolls were a bunch of pug-ugly New Yawk mooks in tattered house-dresses. They were an audacious, punk rock parody of the 60s girl-groups they worshipped, six foot Frankensteins smeared in crazy-Auntie make-up. They were very clearly one of the greatest and most important rock’n’roll bands of all time, but let’s face it, they were a fucking mess to look at.
The fellas in Hanoi, however, were skinny and pretty and their singer basically looked like a blonde supermodel of indeterminate gender, so they thought, what if we try out these Dollsy glad-rags? I mean, that’d look pretty good, right? And it did. And they also had the best taste in rock’n’roll ever. MC5, early 70’s Aerosmith, Stooges, Dolls, Alice Cooper, all the cool-kid shit people take for granted now. None of that was obvious to anybody in 1979, a confusing year for rock’n’roll, a year when crusty proggers and tired arena rock bands battled disco for dominance and new-wave traded in guitar riffs for wobbly keyboards. Hanoi Rocks were the ones who taught us what was up. And that’s the truth. When Hanoi Rocks formed, they not only revived everything that was good and glamorous and authentic about 60’s and 70’s rock’n’roll, they were also reinventing it for a new generation, one that was raised on TV, not radio, a style-conscious new breed of rock’n’roller who wanted to look as good as the bands they listened to.
The Izzys, Tylas, and Dregens of the world got the news right away. Took the slower kids a few years and by that time, it was filtered down into whatever you’d call Warrant. But here’s the point: glam was back and it was time to kick out the jams, motherfuckers. Of course, it would’ve been great if Hanoi were only responsible for the coolest bands and you could blame somebody else for the Bulletboys, but once word got out it was all over, man. Mike Monroe will tell you, if you ask him – and people are always asking him – that he personally feels no responsibility for Hollywood glam metal. But he invented it. He did. Mike Monroe is the Dr. Frankenstein of the Sunset Strip.
But Hanoi Rocks are only half the story. In 1982, after Hanoi had already sown the seeds of glam metal, Finland’s second greatest rock’n’roll export formed. Smack are perhaps the most influential rock band that the world ever forgot. The darkest, hardest glam band that has or will ever exist, Smack were reckless pill-shoveling teenagers with no meat on their bones and no money in their pockets, but the slithery sounds they produced made Love It to Death-era Alice Cooper sound wholesome in comparison. They were the sound of rock’n’roll as a sexually transmitted disease, every slinky guitar riff a malicious act of wanton cruelty, every slurry word a prayer from the gutter.
Remember Dead from black metal pioneers Mayhem, the deranged kid who invented corpespaint, buried his clothes in the ground so they’d smell like the grave, and ultimately took a shotgun to his head? Well, imagine that dude was into the Rolling Stones instead of Venom. This is the band he’d form. Smack’s rock’n’roll was so lethal they basically had to keep it contained in Finland for everybody’s safety, but somehow their ‘84 debut album On You got out anyway, and the infection spread throughout the underground. Listen to it now and then listen to Appetite for Destruction and then tell me where Axl copped his moves, man. That’s the the ghost of Smack main-man Claude (RIP) rattling Rose’s bones.
So, obviously, 69 Eyes had a lot to live up to. Formed in Helsinki in ‘89 at the tail end of the flash metal era, they merged Smack’s darkness with Hanoi’s sense of style and cranked the volume up so high it melted the snow and knocked the kids dizzy. It goes without saying that Guns blew it after Appetite, that Use Your Illusion is a bloated mess with a few gems floating in a stew of self-indulgent garbage. But what if they didn’t? What would would Appetite’s follow-up sound like if Axl kept his cool and Izzy steered the ship into sleazier waters? Well then it’d probably sound like Motor City Resurrection.
A patchwork collection of 69 Eyes’ early work stitched together in 1994, Motor City Resurrection has all the flash and trash you could possibly want from a bunch of high-cheekboned motherfuckers with long hair and cranked-up guitars and none of the pandering Hollywood bullshit that drove folks away from this stuff in the 90s. Songs like Discipline, Barbarella, Mrs Sleazy and their fiery take on Kiss’s Deuce deliver full-impact sleaze metal with no remorse and no sense of irony. While the rest of the world cut its hair and doubled-down on alt-rock, 69 Eyes heroically carried on with the business of low-down, dirty, fuck-on-the-floor flash metal, and they did it better than basically anybody who was still left standing in the early 90s.
And then they got bit by a vampire. I’m not even mad about it, really. I mean, it’s dark all the time in Finland, vampires are going to flourish. In ‘99 they released their seminal Wasting the Dawn album and by that point, they were full-on, jet-black dye-job goth n’ roll, like Guns N’ Roses meets Sisters of Mercy under a frozen moon. And that’s cool, it’s just not as cool as they were before the fangs.
Incidentally, 69 Eyes singer Jyrki and Smack’s own Claude released a couple singles together as Fellow Reptiles in the mid 90s. Around that time, the rest of the Eyes helped out Andy McCoy when he got his old band Briard together for a reunion record. Ten or so years later, Smack guitarist Rane formed The Usual Suspects with Jyrki. Rane also joined LA flash-metal holdouts The Hangmen, which is really the only LA band aside from Motorcycle Boy or the Coma-Tones who deserved having a dude from Smack in their band.
Also incidentally, Nirvana used to cover Smack’s Run Rabbit Run.
And the 69 Eyes drive goth girls crazy the world over with their cold-as-ice vampire-metal jams. But I really don’t think this Guns N’ Roses reunion is gonna work, so we might need them to start playing their 90’s shit again soon.
Next week: Ready to Strike