Beta Males

These Records Were The Original Hidden Tracks.

Whenever I go to someone’s home, the first thing I do is check out their music collection. Your record and CD’s say more about you that what we can pick up on the street and will decide how long I will be staying. Cheap Trick? Yeah I’ll stay for a drink. The Dead Boys? I’m taking my shoes off. Dave Matthews? “THE PHONE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE! GET OUT NOW!" Being able to hide some of your albums (in my mind) is one of the great arguments for records over compact discs. The more records you had, the more records you hid. Not bad records, just those from that musical purgatory populated by bands that played not so macho dress-up as well as music. While you may have filed your LP's in some order, if you were like me, you kept a stack out that were part of that week's heavy rotation. The records up front were there not only to listen to but to show off. These were the uber-cool records of the day or alpha male rockers that no one would question. So behind the safety of your "Clash at Shea Stadium" bootleg and Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" were a couple of choices that were lipstick on your music collar.

Androgyny for rock musicians was a statement of style that turned into an early marketing ploy to appeal to girls. In order to pry the baby-sitting money away bands went through eyeliner the way Adam Lambert goes through… well, eyeliner. Dolling yourself up to land in teen periodicals may sell records but inhibits your band’s ability to be taken seriously. Most bands are rockers at heart with a longing to be revered as drunken beat poets rather than be featured in Teen Beat magazine. The late ‘70’s was a macho affair with cock rock and punk in full swing. Still a few bands took the anti-macho route; looking to sneak out the back door with the girls while the tough guys slugged it out on the front lawn.

The Babys looked “teddy bear tough” thanks to soft focus album covers that would make Barbara Walters jealous. The band is a guilty pleasure that can best be described as the musical equivalent of sneaking a read of Cosmopolitan magazine. Cosmo articles are a quick lexicon of what girls wish you would say to them (Isn’t that why they leave the Cosmo out?) and Babys songs could have been the earliest versions of an audio book. The Babys had an underappreciated ability for gender-speak translation and crafted some memorable songs using it. Unfortunately when your biggest hits are ballads it is hard to get men to buy into, let alone, understand what you are doing. Once you get past the sappy numbers there are some quality songs of love, anguish and lust that are framed by the powerful vulnerability of John Waite’s vocals and Wally Stocker’s tasty guitar hooks. The band’s inability to break though is quite honestly part of the appeal of The Babys to me because except in rare cases, success ruins the cool quotient. The Babys wanted to be stadium rockers from the get-go and tried to short cut their way through with the slow tempo numbers (Isn’t It Time & Every Time I Think Of You.) thus making a Babys record the only LP you would borrow from your sister.

Broken Heart, the title track from the band’s 3rd album is not what you would expect a Babys song about a broken heart to be. Any idea of whining is knocked down the stairs with a guitar and drum led bravado clueing you in that it’s not their heart that broken. A ruckus of initiation to club of empty pockets and disappointment of many men caused by a single woman, Waite does his best to comfort her latest victim by showing his own scar like a badge. Broken Heart rocks with the lesson that you cannot be truly healed until you transfer your pain to someone else.

Listen To The Babys "Broken Heart"

Angel was a band that never really caught on because you couldn’t describe the band to anyone without sounding sarcastic. “These guys rock-they wear white polyester outfits and have a couple of songs where they use a harpsichord!” As much as you would think that Angel started on a dare, they were actually discovered by Gene Simmons and were signed to Casablanca, the same label as Kiss, to be the heavenly Ying to the Kiss demonic yang. While never achieving the pandemic status their label mates had, Angel developed a small yet loyal fan base by providing an ambitious live stage show and showing up regularly in the glossy fan magazines by being way more photogenic than the sweaty bell bottomed blue collar rockers of the day.

Angel’s main gimmick was gimmicks. A 3-D logo for live shows, albums that were sneaky mirror images and hair that would make Fabio cry himself to sleep. One of the band’s most successful gimmicks was to give equal time to both guitar and keyboards, allowing them to separate what they did from the crunch rockers by utilizing the skill and showmanship of Gregg Guffria. The result was a balanced sound that gelled with the visual style of the band and was less dependant on riffs and hooks. A band will sometimes do its best work when they depart from whatever formula they use to create a song and Angel perform that trick here with “Can You Feel It.” The song begins not with guitar or keyboards but drums that tense up your ears for the explosion of the entire band including Frank DiMino’s vocals sung at the speed of someone giving directions in a getaway car. Like it or not, this is the very blueprint for the Sunset Strip rock bands of the 1980’s. Some might have dismissed Angel as pretty boys; however, they are more likely the Velvet Underground of glam metal. Not many people bought their records, but just about everyone that did formed a hair band.

Listen To Angel's "Can You Feel It"


josh said...

...and the angel logo was awesomely reversible!

Flower Spy said...

I had to stop dating beta males cause it was bad for my inner alpha-goddess.

The Babies were under-rated and an awesome first date excitement kinda band. I made out to 3 tracks on that last album. Love that you remember this period of angst