Pearl Jam Guitarist Shares Honest Opinion on Hair Metal, Explains How Grunge Affected the Music Industry

Recently, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard visited WIRF’s Meltdown show where he discussed various topics relating to his career and musicianship. One of the topics that stood out was the issue of glam metal and how it was perceived by grunge musicians, the “opposing” cultural movement of the early 1990s. Gossard, who was also a member of Mother Love Bone, a band that fused these two worlds together, shared his opinion on this “war” between the two subgenres (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“I think we [Pearl Jam] changed the landscape at that time – I just don’t think we reinvented anything. We were taking punk rock, and blues, and rock & roll and we were just doing it in a different way.”

“I do think we impacted the music industry at that time, and it’s only because hair bands were so entrenched in the record business, everybody’s just doing the same thing for so long that it lost its flavor.

Mother Love Bone - Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns

However, as Gossard further added, he wasn’t opposed to hair metal bands. Quite the contrary — he was a fan. But just like with every other musical and cultural movement, it all has its expiry date in the industry, so to speak. He added:

“I was into hair bands, I wanted guys to dress up, and have crazy hair and makeup. But, you know, everything has a time for a change; at some point, everyone wants something fresh again…

“But I love that moment when kids get a hold of something, and they break it, and they want to just make it their own. Any time that happens, it’s kind of fun, it’s a good time to listen, because then it makes it [possible] for anyone to make a band. Not just stellar musicians, sometimes it’s just gotta be a group of people that love making a racket together.”

What makes Gossard’s stance so interesting is the fact that not that long ago, his Pearl Jam bandmate Eddie Vedder unleashed on hair metal bands of the 1980s, particularly Mötley Crüe. In an interview with The New York Times, he said:

“You know, I used to work in San Diego loading gear at a club. I’d end up being at shows that I wouldn’t have chosen to go to — bands that monopolized late-’80s MTV. The metal bands that — I’m trying to be nice — I despised. ‘Girls, Girls, Girls‘ and Mötley Crüe: [expletive] you.

“I hated it. I hated how it made the fellas look. I hated how it made the women look. It felt so vacuous. Guns N’ Roses came out and, thank God, at least had some teeth.

“But I’m circling back to say that one thing that I appreciated was that in Seattle and the alternative crowd, the girls could wear their combat boots and sweaters, and their hair looked like Cat Power’s and not Heather Locklear’s — nothing against her.

Eddie Vedder - Society (HD)

“They weren’t selling themselves short. They could have an opinion and be respected. I think that’s a change that lasted. It sounds so trite, but before then it was bustier. The only person who wore a bustier in the ’90s that I could appreciate was Perry Farrell.”

Vedder’s stance on hair metal is something you’d generally expect from a grunge musician, knowing that these are two very opposing movements in rock music. But as years go by, people are slowly coming back to all the subgenres, be it genuine interest or a throwback fad. Whether we’re talking about young new perspective artists or devoted new music fans, it seems that they tend to be fond of all movements or at least respectful.

But at the end of the day, it’s music. You’re allowed to love it or hate it, or anything in between. Luckily for us, we’re living at times when we’re able to choose what we want to listen to and filter out what we don’t like.

Photos: Lugnuts (Stone Gossard 2018 (cropped)), Bjornsphoto (Mötley Crüe, Sweden Rock 2012)

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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