Planet Clair 

A friend has a theory: If Mainstream '80s bands were called "hair bands," he says, won't the current generation of radio-rock bands be called "ink bands"?

(Get it? Tattoos.) The fact that all the mainstream bands these days look like '80s underground punk bands is actually a bit of a lark for those of us who've been around since then. 'Hey,' you think. Them guys in Linkin Park look pretty bangable.' Then it slowly dawns on you that what used to be your little radar for which guys would probably like to get drunk and listen to Naked Raygun with you ain't gonna work no more. Linkin Park probably doesn't know who Alex Chilton is. Ack. So, yeah, it's the oldest story in the book: the co-optation of underground culture. And now everyone blames or commends Nirvana for bringing about this particular brand of popular music. As Michael Azzerad writes in the introduction to his excellent book about '80s indie rock, Our Band Could Be Your Life: "On September 24, 1991, an album called Nevermind by a band called Nirvana came out, went gold in a matter of weeks, bumped Michael Jackson off the number one spot on the Billboard album charts...." The book traces independent, punk-influenced rock from '81 to '91, ending of course with the Seattle "explosion." Nirvana's role in history is as the harbinger of ink bands. What's super-funny, though, is that all the hard rock bands that have fallen from glory since the '80s blame Nirvana for their decline, regardless of the real reasons. "Nirvana pretty much killed my career," said a fubsy Mike Reno of Loverboy in so many words on VH-1's Where Are They Now? Nevermind (pun intended) that the last hit his band had was with "Notorious" in '87. Yes, "The kid is hot tonight, but where will he be tomorrow?" has never rung truer. The interesting thing in all this is that now that the underground culture has been usurped by the mainstream, the indie types have had to glom onto something else that seems different and ironic. So what have they chosen? '80s hair bands. Poison and Mötley Crüe are way more appreciated now then they ever were among punks. The Donnas love the Crüe, and they also do a Judas Priest cover. Poison's Look What the Cat Dragged In gets pulled out at parties full of Hellacopters fans in need of a good hook. The good news for Mike Reno is that in the midst of all this, a new dawn is rising. With the release of their new live album, Live, Loud and Loose, perhaps Loverboy's time has finally come.

Planet Clair doesn't throw out this band to be sarcastic or cute. Loverboy was fucking great. They had a simple, catchy name. They were power pop. They were Canadian. They sang songs about the working man that would make any true skinhead take pause. ("Working for the Weekend": a Marxist parable?)

The band began in '79, and its first album, self-titled, was released in 1980. The cover picture was of a gaunt, Bowie-esque andro-gyne taking a drag off a fag. He/she looks suspiciously like Brian Eno, surely one of the band's greatest influences. "The Kid Is Hot Tonight" (Whoa! [sha-bang!] So hot tonight!) and the bass-heavy "Turn Me Loose" ("Turn me loose [sha-bang!], turn me loose [sha-bang!])" are this album's star attractions. One can't listen to the opening bass on "Loose" without thinking about the tragic death of bassist Scott Smith in Frisco Bay last December. From out of nowhere an eight-foot wave toppled him off of his sailboat (sha-bang!), and no sign of him has ever been seen since. In May a Marin fisherman reported netting a bedraggled pair of red leather trousers, but no one can confirm if Smith was in fact wearing such pants at the time of his death.

There were two other important Loverboy albums, Get Lucky and Keep It Up. Get Lucky released "Lucky Ones," "Working for the Weekend," and the ballad "When It's Over." At that point in rock history, no band had ever recorded a song about a breakup. For Loverboy, it was a pivotal move that would pave the way for bands to come. Keep It Up had the hits "Strike Zone" and "Hot Girls in Love." If memory serves, plain-Jane Janet Dobler won an MTV contest to be a part of the video for "Hot Girls in Love." The video's theme was sort of an outer-space Mad Max thang featuring feisty, feral females with big gazungas in torn animal-skin getups. Poor ol' Dobler, bein' less than a looker, was perched behind a console back at the arid planet's main station. She turned some knobs. There are no small parts, as they say. Just small boobs.

Loverboy managed to bridge the gap between New Wave and heavy metal like no other band of their generation. For that, they should be remembered. But the overarching theme here is that Loverboy rawked, and it's damn time that this band got some retro cred. In-the-know hipsters could start wearing mullets with headbands to separate themselves from the facial-haired/inked generation of mainstream sheep. The time is now. Stay golden, Loverboy. --Katy St. Clair

Planet Clair

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