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article imageReview: ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Jan 26, 2014 in Entertainment
The third and final part of this three part BBC Four documentary series covers the 80s and on into the 90s with MTV and beyond.
As with the previous two episodes, the narrative of this programme is contentious. Was it really all about the chimera of sexism, or were these young men working hard and partying hard with "Girls, Girls, Girls" as Mötley Crüe put it?
If the researchers had done their homework — like the man from SongFacts — they would have realised this is actually a tribute song.
Yes, it is true that the music that wanted to change the world in the 1960s had been absorbed into the mainstream by the end of the 70s, but were the 1980s really the decade of decadence? This may be the image some of its greatest exponents like to project, but although many of music's finest have indeed had their problems with substance abuse over the entire course of the 20th Century on into the 21st, and some have died from it, bands have long revelled in this image. True, there was terrible inspiration of the song "Kickstart My Heart" — which is not mentioned here — but take a look at the chest on the 1980s David Lee Roth and ask yourself if that is the product of drug abuse or hard workouts?
As in other fields of human endeavour, success like genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. As veteran Alice Cooper points out here, Mötley Crüe put on thoroughly rehearsed professional shows, and they were far from unique.
On the other side of this vast country was a man making music in a much more thoughtful vein; Springsteen's massive 1984 album Born In The U.S.A. was indeed misunderstood, the title track in particular by Ronald Reagan. Or was it?
Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is played briefly but there is no mention of the man who played lead guitar on his earlier hit "Beat It": Edward Van Halen. Guitar hero Van Halen can be found at his vintage best on YouTube in Live Without A Net with Sammy Hagar — no mean guitarist himself — sharing some of the lead.
Eddie Van Halen - 1977 in New Haven  CT
Eddie Van Halen - 1977 in New Haven, CT
Carl Lender
As to that facile charge of sexism, girls can do it as well, there may not be anything like as many of them, but the Wilson sisters get a look in here. Best not to mention rap — even with the successful Aerosmith/Run–D.M.C. collaboration — but the older rockers were still around, like Tom Petty, who also contributes to this programme.
The 80s may be long over, but the music is still with us, and there is so much of it that even a cursory exploration will leave you spoilt for choice, and we haven't even mentioned Bon Jovi, much less Guns N' Roses. It is incidentally not quite true that this band was dragged up on the streets of Los Angeles; Axl Rose hails from Lafayette, Indiana, while Slash was born at Stoke-on-Trent.
Whatever the documentary makers may have misread, the closing thought of this programme sums it up accurately: the rock of the 60s, 70s and 80s is the classical music of America. As Chuck Berry said way back in that vintage year 1956 — Roll over Beethoven.
More about Bruce springsteen, Mtv, tom petty, Van halen, Aerosmith
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