Friday, May 9, 2008

Outlandishly Big Hair And Mucho, Mucho Volume - How 80s Can You Get?

During the 80s the classic big hair hard rock/metal band reached near plague proportions. Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Ratt, Winger, Europe, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Poison, Skid Row etc etc etc. Most took the already established heavy metal style of music and added the typical excesses of 80s fashion with a twist of glam-rock. It’s easy to see the strong influence of already established rock Gods such as KISS, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. The bigger and brighter and louder the better was the unofficial ethos of these acts. Some went by the wayside when the minimalism of the grunge movement came in to vogue in the early 90s, although some acts of genuine lasting class such as Bon Jovi and Def Leppard managed to adapt and survive.
Perhaps the archetypal big hair band with a big sound from the 80s were Los Angeles quintet Autograph. Formed in 1983 Autograph’s lineup consisted vocalist/guitarist Steve Plunkett (formerly of L.A. band Wolfgang), guitarist Steve Lynch, bassist Randy Rand, keyboardist Steven Isham and drummer Keni Richards. Their name was inspired by a Def Leppard song ‘Photograph’, and within 12 months of forming they were opening for Van Halen on a U.S. tour.
Autograph’s biggest (and only major) hit ‘Turn Up The Radio’ could well have been an unofficial anthem for the whole glam-metal genre. The song was a huge airplay hit in the U.S. but only registered a peak position of #29 on the Billboard charts, whilst the album from which it was lifted ‘Sign In Please’ eventually went platinum.
The title of their second album ‘This Is The Stuff’ proved to be a contradiction to its own popularity, or lack thereof. 1987’s ‘Loud And Clear’ was Autograph’s last tilt at hard rock superstardom but again failed to stand out among the throng of competitors in the glam-metal movement. Autograph signed off on their career soon after with members going on to work on various other projects and with various other bands. Plunkett has contributed music to the scores of over forty films including ‘Rock Star’, whilst Lynch is a respected guitar tutor with a number of books to his name.
The promo clips to several of Autograph's songs remained popular staples on MTV and VH1 retro playlists, and it was on a VH1 special on one hit wonders of the 80s that I first discovered the song ’Turn Up The Radio’. I couldn’t believe such an anthemic song failed to make any impact on Australian playlists or charts when it was released in 1984 but then again Australia didn’t succumb to such an extreme as the U.S. to the whole big hair band thing. Given the continued popularity of some of Autograph’s work into the 00’s, front man Steve Plunkett put together a revamped lineup and took to the road again in 2002, and a new album ’Buzz’.
The following quote from Steve Plunkett in a 2003 interview for sums up Autograph’s sound in a nutshell; “big choruses, harmonies, melody and hammer-on guitar playing”. If you like those elements in your music, you’ll love ‘Turn Up The Radio’. But when you play it, be sure to PLAY IT LOUD!!!!
Be amazed by the suitably extravagant promo clip for 'Turn Up The Radio' here:

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