first round game
(4) ozzy osbourne & lita ford, "close my eyes forever"
(13) tigertailz, "love bomb baby"
& will play in the second round
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchshredness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on 3/7.
matthew conley on ozzy osbourne & lita ford's "close my eyes forever"
Two people wander a possibly abandoned studio/performance space and consider the depths of being as the lights swirl and any audience falls away.
Baby, I get so scared inside and I don’t really understand
is it love that’s on my mind, or is it fantasy?
One, a young blond woman hardly contained by her ripped blue jeans, sometimes sways and bends over suddenly as if a poison has been ingested. The other, a man whose hairdo almost doubles his height and weight, is somehow completely unaffected by the wind that often plagues her.
Heaven is in the palm of my hand and it’s waiting here for you.
What am I supposed to do with a childhood tragedy?
We don’t question whether the two are lovers, but in a possible suicide pact? It seems that their paths are incompatible, and the conversation teeters on the disjointed drivel that usually accompanies relationship endings. . .but who is to blame, or if they will go together, and how will the end come, can only be revealed a peek at a time, as if clad in the aforementioned “pants.”
If I close my eyes forever, will it all remain unchanged?
If I close my eyes forever, will it all remain the same?
It’s 1988, and Hair Metal is about to die. Long the darling of MTV and curse of the PMRC, all shock value has worn off and other voices in American music (most notably rap) are gaining prominence purveying that kryptonite of hedonism: the real. Somewhere in the mildewed garages of the Northwest grunge is being born from a punk sense of said reality. When coiffures change so quickly they fall out of favor, how could a genre so attached ever survive?
Ozzy Osbourne, the idiot savant of metal, knows it, the real death toll (“Cherry Pie” by Warrant) in the not-too-distant horizon. The Breakfast Club clones and the “too drool for school” (my group) bleed for it as surely as the posturing fur poles that populate my South Jersey high school love to lick their fingers and randomly add vocal high notes to conversations to demonstrate “shredness” (“riffness” in South Jersey parlance).
Lately, it’s hard to hold on, so hard to hold on to my dreams. . .
it isn’t always what it seems when you’re face-to-face with me!
But this isn’t just chaotic spew coming from hurting hearts going through a melodramatic life change, this is something deeper: an actual death mass for the genre itself. Seen in this way, those first Osbourne lines are not flailing at all but exactly what we expect from him: tropes, all disaster but no landing, starting with an almost farcical hint of doom. He might as well be singing “Make a joke and I will cry / and you will laugh and I will die” .
And so we have Lita Ford and OO late-night drinking at the urging of wife Sharon to come up with a song to promote Lita’s third album with inflatable gorilla (no lie) in attendance . As Ozzy tells it, he’s pissed at having to fly back and forth from Britain to the States for the session, then the video, then tour dates ... Ford’s account is a suspicion-raising tale of being too drunk to drive Ozzy home but not the gorilla . Both seem to regret that the song is a hit, but there must have been at least a little fun in the session and I prefer to see them both giggling madly at the thought of Tipper Gore coughing up a gleaming-Jesus lung when she heard the lyrics.
And like a dagger you stick me in the heart and taste the blood from my veins,
and when we sleep would you shelter me in your warm and darkened grave?
Because if this is a suicide song, it’s these two iconic (yes) artists sticking the dagger into Hair Metal, its ridiculous tropes of wild abandon except in the salon, gothic tarnishing, light gender-switching, and ultimate blame placed on women. It should affect us differently today than then but it doesn’t. Suicide is strongly suggested as a personal gesture, sure, in the way that your creepy high school boyfriend suggested he was gonna when you broke up with him but then he only bragged to his buddies (“Cherry Pie”) about gross shit. And that’s the palatable (ugh) story woven here, two lovers having THAT dreaded conversation, wandering through a probably empty performance space (as shown in the video). But what could never be admitted, not even by the lower-class lad from Birmingham to himself, is that this is a parody (C. Obvious, 88).
’But would you ever take me?’ ‘No, I just can’t take the pain.’
'But would you ever trust me?’ ‘No I’ll never feel the same!’
He surely feels it won’t go well, and mirthful little imp that he is he makes sure to undercut the song’s premise by admitting his own mutability. And I daresay Lita agrees, with her “Solo that would Make Neil Young Blush”...will all this effort be simply washed away by the capriciousness of a few slow notes played on only the bottom neck? All the time spent in make-up over the years, all the poses repeated ad nauseam for the shoot? ...with so much YES YES YES echoing in the high archways the subculture did what any problematic human does in said situation: it holds on for much longer than it should. The lovers never take the final leap.
I know I’ve been so hard on you. I know I’ve told you lies.
If I could have just one more wish? I’d wipe the cobwebs from my eyes!
That’s actually your hair, Ms. Ford.
 “Paranoid.” Black Sabbath. Paranoid. London: Warner Brother Records. 1970.
 “Close My Eyes Forever by Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford.” Song Facts. Song Facts, LLC. Web. January 29, 2018.
 Giles, Jeff. “Ozzy Osbourne Recalls His Accidental Hit with Lita Ford.” Ultimate Classic Rock. Couldn’t locate sponsor in the short time I didn’t want to be on the site. Web. February 12, 2018.
Matthew Conley has recently joined the faculty of Central New Mexico College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was "Phoradendron californicum" in The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide (The University of Arizona Press).
moira mcavoy on tigertailz' "love bomb baby"
A friend and I have recently embarked on a mission to catalogue every accidentally queer song in our shared musical canons. To qualify as “accidental,” the song must not explicitly refer to queerness in any way, meaning that Melissa Etheridge’s entire discography, Mika’s “Billy Brown,” and Sophie B. Hawkins’ revelatory, if almost subtle, “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” are automatically disqualified. Our definition for “queer,” however, is much more nebulous. Oftentimes, what compels us to include a song is something inarticulable: a longing which seems too distant, too fervent, too reflective to be comfortable, a celebration of love which seems just as much about the self as about the beloved, a triumph stemming not from defeat of an opponent but a leveling of the playing field.
Our list has many predictable entrants—“Teenage Dream,” “Dancing On My Own,” “We Are the Champions,” a seemingly never-ending collection of showtunes, to name a few—but, the further we worked through our libraries, the more frequently underdogs started to emerge. Beyonce’s “Love on Top” was an early addition, as was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems,” followed soon after by Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” (there’s an argument to be made that, really, almost any depiction of young Catholic sexuality is inherently queer, but this is neither the time nor place for it). The first reaction is that these actually are obvious inclusions; by the Twitter suggested metric of “gay screaming upon listening,” those songs are all hits of the genre. But what do we make of those less obvious that appear further down? Josh Turner’s “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” a feelgood country track sung in Turner’s signature baritone, is surely about two girlfriends realizing their feelings when skipping the high school homecoming dance, right? And classic rock stalwart arena anthem "Baba O'Riley? The Who are actually regaling listeners with a tale of overcoming the trauma of a terrible coming out, the pain of that othered-adolescence, and the beauty that can be found within finding a self-determined community. Of course, these may not be what the songwriters were thinking when they penned the lyrics, or what the singers meant when they performed the tracks. But, the intent isn’t what’s important here. It’s only the final product, the visceral reaction while listening, the mental music video that flashes as the listener moves verse to verse.
Hair metal is often read an inherently queer, deeply performative genre which happens to be made of mostly cis, mostly heterosexual men (shout out to the lady rockers, who will never ever get enough credit). Its trappings, from the exaggerated, bombastic guitar solos and pitch defying vocals to the leopard leggings and garish makeup, are that of camp, and more particularly of drag, and for many, the aesthetic is enough for hair metal to merit its queer label. I mean, it’s quirky and flamboyant (so much glitter! Literal flames!) and gender bending-ish, so it MUST be queer, right? Of course, though, hair metal is not drag, and, beyond the surface, it seems precarious to call it queer. The aggressive performative queerness on display in the genre is something so exaggerated that the performer assumes control over the aesthetic as opposed to letting the aesthetic dictate to him. These men were not embracing femininity; in a way, they suffocated then remodeled it to fit themselves. Indeed, the almost painful underlying heterosexuality of the genre, if in question, is continually reiterated through the lyrics—quiet often misogynistic of the objectifying variety—and the music videos, rife with women whose hip thrusts are only made more tempting to the male gaze when contrasted with those of the male band members and other sexually suggestive imagery. They reinvent the narrative, taking that which would be discordant and using it to bolster the normativity at the core.
And yet, for all the not-queerness I see when I try to critically think about hair metal, I’ve found myself circling back again and again to include Tigertailz’ single breakout hit, “Love Bomb Baby,” on the list of accidentally queer songs. This is not due to its non-conformity in the genre, but rather because of its hyper-conformity. The first time I heard “Love Bomb” (which, in the interest of transparency, was a few months ago while doing research for this essay), I briefly assumed that it had not been organically recorded in 1990 but was instead the result of an experiment wherein a neural network has been played thousands of hours of hair metal and then asked to create its own track to fit the genre. Not only do Tigertailz hit every single stylistically-relevant mark, they do so with bombast, shooting a glam bomb at the target and exploding its glittering bullseye.
This is no more evident than in its almost comically formulaic video. It starts with the band—hair astoundingly high and pristinely feathered and clothed in flowing blouses and tight pants—entering some unfurnished, darkened room as 80s “tech” font flashes on the bottom of the screen warning us of a “LOVE BOMB BABY” in bright red, capitalized letters. From here, the band launches into the track, showing off the requisite arhythmic hip gyrations while twirling guitars and hurling drumsticks, occasionally stepping away to stand upon/tip over/generally mess with the only non-musical prop in the video—a neon pink Cold War era-warhead, an image so phallic I briefly mistook it for an actual dildo when first watching the video. (Side note: is there anything more hair metal than a fluorescent penis missile? Answer: no, and it rocks). This projectile may or may not explode as an almost-resolution to the video? Something blows up, as there is a plume, then wall, of fire from which the band walks away as a voice announces “target destroyed,” a message additionally relayed by the previous tech text, now in a friendly green. The last shot is the band stumbled out of the building, triumphant, over what, we never learn.
I can’t help but wonder about what the missile itself was supposed to be. The obvious and slightly immature answer, after “justa cool action movie idea,” is ejaculation, but there’s a more compelling idea here, too, one with tension at its core. Was the missile a manifestation for desire, or a threat to it? Therein lies “Love Bomb”’s appeal for me, its secret weapon. Beyond its screamable intro and slick shreds, beyond its upbeat energy and hairsprayed locks, “Love Bomb” is a song that is ultimately centered around a desire so strong, so overwhelming, that the band has no option but to submit to it. Here, the beloved has ceased being a lady (a human woman) and is instead a “love bomb, ready to blow,” an all-encompassing attraction which threatens the very safety of those around its blast radius with its potential. Whereas their genre-mates attempt to control or consume or subjugate their beloveds, Tigertailz thrill in being destroyed and blown apart by her.
In a way, moreso than because of the passion or desire or sense of self on display in their lyrics and aesthetics, my friend and I began reading songs as queer because of the resulting discordance of doing so. There’s a certain amount of projection involved in interpreting any piece of media, and, in a medium so perpetually focused on the never-ending minefield of the human heart but so often ignoring anything but the cishet iteration of it, it only makes sense that queer women would seek to project our experiences and longings and underlying anxieties onto the narratives we’ve been given. And true, this discordance often seems appealing because, while still figuring things out, especially in this political climate, discordance seems like the only frame which we can secure around ourselves. We are other, so we must delight in finding a story in the other.
My first identifiable crush on another girl was natural and light-filled and invigorating feeling in the end, but at the start of identifying my own queerness, my own unexpected and other desire? It was like being constantly bowled over by fallout, perpetually hearing warning sirens, and yet still willfully, delightedly, blissfully returning to the bomb site, a contradiction of danger and desire. Throughout it all, I turned to music to make sense of my own emotions in a way I could not yet articulate, mentally writing companion scenarios to the otherwise unrelated songs as a means of justifying the reactions I had to the music. Sure, a lot of that was the sad and doomed sort of music, like Kate Bush and Nico, but there, too, had to be hope and joy: Beyonce, Josh Turner, and, sometimes, the incandescent hair metal songs I’d hear on the radio driving down the highway when I’d snuck out late at night and needed to move faster than the world around me. Disconnect, but leaning in. Discordance is revisionism when you get right down to it, and this discord allows us to rewrite our own histories, personally and as a community, to the ones we think we deserved, the ones we wished we had, the ones we want to have still.
Tigertailz are a (notably friendly) group of straight dudes from Britain. They did not write their most popular song as a veiled anthem of the intoxicating danger of queer love; lyrically, it is a (presumably cis) man singing about being into a (presumably cis) woman. And yet, to their credit, they managed to create a track so utterly superb in its genre-specific trademarks, so excellent in being exactly what it shredded out to be, that it transcended the underlying misogyny and heteronormativity that weigh down the majority of their contemporaries and actually felt like the flamboyant, triumphant, liberatingly campy sort of banger hair metal is popularly mythologized as having created. They made an unquestionably good piece of hair metal history, and they, too, have now made the list.
Moira McAvoy is a full time music-lover and sometimes-writer living in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus and Storyscape among others, and she co-edits Bad For You, a junk food-centric tinyletter. She’s too young to have ever had a metal phase, but the day-to-day volume of her hair makes up for it.