Power Ballads. A Blog Post.

My recent viewing of Rock of Ages got me thinking about the power ballad.  Here are some things the power ballad and their videos all have in common:

  • They show the band (mostly) but often have a side story or theme with actors, or sexy ladies
  • They are nearly all sung much higher than my range (What did all the bass singers in the 80s do?)
  • The band members almost always have very awesome clothing (with Damn Yankees being the exception)
  • There are usually a multitude of shots of sexy women, either models/actresses hired, or snippets of crowd shots
  • The lyrics are sometimes quite excellent in their banality
  • And, as I write this, not a single one of these videos has a commercial playing before you can view it

And so I bring you this retrospective of my favorites:
And I hope you understand the way I spin the word “favorites” to mean something like: at one time I desperately loved these songs and so I still feel a strong affection for them, even if now I find some of them a little silly.

To view, click the links, or, if the site lets you, you can watch the embedded videos.

Guns & Roses
“The record company made Guns & Roses write ‘Patience’,” said boyfriend #2 with a steely glint of admiration in his voice, “because the crowds were getting too out of control and they wanted the band to play something to calm them down.”
I have no idea if this is true or not, but I prefer this song to “November Rain” which has also has its merits.
Watch for:

  • Axl having to read the lyrics to this song while they are filming the video
  • Slash more interested in a snake than the many scantily clad women at his bedside
  • Panning over the sound guys, who look normal-80s and not rock-star-80s
  • The disappearing hotel hallway people
  • Axl’s pants
  • The smashing of the neon phone
  • Axl watching himself singing “Welcome to the Jungle” while looking a bit morose
  • The “ah” at the end of the song

Watch this and look for:

  • Jani Lane’s headband
  • Moving Polaroids of the band with names–perhaps J.K. Rowling saw this video?
  • Much footage of the band playing live
  • Hot woman serving as photographer
  • Excellence in lyrics: how I love the way you move/and the sparkle in your eyes/there’s a color deep inside them/ like blue suburban skies
  • I’m also noticing that the lead guitarist is much better looking than the singer.
  • Riding of motorcycle through empty stadium
  • Classic 80s double guitar
  • All-white outfits with their names on the jacket sleeves (!!!!!)
  • Jani Lane shaking the mother finger for emphasis in one spot
  • Fireworks on stage
  • Many candid shots of fans
  • Band posing in towels, with their long hair twisted up
  • Sexy wink.
  • “Yeah” ending

I Remember You
Skid Row
Their other ballad “18 and Life” is also good, but more sad-sad than sad-romance-ballad sad.
Look for:

  • Many shots of the band looking solitary, despite the fact they are playing the song together
  • Narrative of sad homeless man walking alone and staring at photos
  • Excellence in Lyrics: “All the tears you cry, they call my name”
  • Shots of a classic 80s 12-string guitar
  • Bass player singing along
  • A bridge
  • Really, there are many more excellence in lyrics moments in this song
  • Sad homeless man dropping pictures on the ground and in the homeless guy fire in the garbage can

High Enough
Damn Yankees
Look for:

  • Opening plot that works in the band’s name
  • Good gum chewing by the lead female in the story
  • Good gum chewing by Ted Nugent.  
  • Also sunglasses
  • Lead singer’s haircut, which was much like mine my senior year of high school
  • Slowest running from the police ever
  • Ted Nugent kicking down a door
  • Ted Nugent playing the guitar solo while being shot at by the police
  • Shirtless drummer
  • Apparently being the getaway driver leads one to the gas chamber in some states?
  • Ted Nugent as gum chewing priest

(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection
Look for:

  • Disinterested twin brothers in backstage-like black and white setting
  • Harmony!!–not a usual feature of 80s Rock
  • Sudden transition to big set, in full color
  • Girl in bikini on set 
  • One brother in torn jeans, one brother in over-the knee red boots.  Maybe those are chaps?
  • Same set, but clothing change for verse two
  • Interesting botanical setting, but with foofy material on the ceiling
  • Brothers who play guitar leaving the guitar solo to yet another guitarist?
  • Expressive hand gestures that don’t involve playing music, yet music is still playing?
  • A LOT of twin brothers singing directly into the camera
  • Snow coming from the ground?  Not sure what that fluffy stuff is.
  • End with just twins playing guitar back in the backstage-like setting

Every Rose Has Its Thorn
I won’t lie.  I still love this song, it’s probably a top-10 from the 80s.  I probably love it partially because Bret Michaels sings in my range, something that was quite rare for the time period.  But the video, I have to say, is a bit disturbing.  At some point in his writing, Chuck Klosterman pointed out how this video is a “sobering examination of Poison’s alcoholism” and he’s not wrong.
Look for:

  • Sad and sighing Bret Michaels
  • Sad and sighing scantily clad woman
  • Shots of the band onstage
  • Many rather disturbing clips of the band in states of inebriation
  • Band hi-jinks
  • Smashing of guitar on stage
  • Wet drummer in slow-mo
  • Fan biting lip
  • Bret Michaels on a pole

Love Song
I think this one holds up rather well, though I have to sing along an octave lower
Look for:

  • Day in the life of a concert from empty through setup, fan arrival and the concert itself
  • Band on the bus looking mellow
  • Band in rehearsal
  • White pants with black footprints on them (!)
  • Crowd shots, including attractive women singing along
  • Classic 80s double guitar
  • High kick by lead singer
  • Girl sitting on boyfriend’s shoulders
  • Many devil signs by the crowd
  • Playing while smoking
  • Headbands on the lead singer and the drummer
  • Airplane writing the word LOVE

When the Children Cry
White Lion
This was actually painful to both watch and listen to. It has not held up well. At all.
Look for:

  • Opening stills of the band
  • Lead singer looking sad and serious
  • Guitarist on playground, sitting on merry-go-round
  • Very serious message about being born into a world where “man is killing man, and no one knows why”
  • Picture of little child
  • All the band looking sad and serious
  • Despite all the serious, some quick cuts to band in concert
  • Excellence in lyrics: “no more presidents/one united world/under god”
  • Interesting geometrical shirt worn by guitarist during solo
  • Many shots of children looking serious
  • Excellence in lyrics: “when the children fight/let them know it ain’t right”

Living in Sin
Bon Jovi
I loved this album and liked this song a lot–enough to transcribe it into a journal.  But watching the video now!  Yow!  It seems fairly racy for my then-eighth-grade self.  O! MTV.  Such promises you made to us about romance. That said, the “kids” in this video look like they are in their early 20s, too old for their parents to be so interfering.
Look for:

  • Voice over by Jon Bon Jovi
  • Couple having sex in motel room (though just hinting at it in a PG way)
  • Couple on beach with waves crashing over them
  • Jon and Richie singing into the same microphone
  • Sex in car (we’ve moved to PG-13 sex)
  • Jon snapping with a cute smile
  • Catholic scenes of communion followed with the juxtaposition of man’s finger in woman’s mouth
  • Disgruntled look at parents by main male actor
  • More sex in motel 
  • Parents sleeping in twin beds with dad looking sad
  • Jon looking sad while singing and crossing himself
  • Couple being discovered in motel room by parents, who are very angry
  • Sad glances by couple as they are separated by parents
  • Couple anticipating the hand-on-window scene in Titanic (perhaps James Cameron watched this video?)
  • Girl in couple running off with hot guy in couple, leaving her parents angry and in the house

Love Bites
Def Leppard
I may have slow-danced to this song at a junior high dance.  Or I may have wished I was slow dancing to this song at a junior high dance.
Look for:

  • Girl on mattress reading magazine, but really lolling about in a sexy way
  • Lead singer in silhouette/half light
  • Sexy girl looking at the landscape while wearing gloves
  • Sighting of guitarist
  • Jean jacket with pin
  • Various band members singing up into the microphones.  Why did they not lower them?
  • Woman in red dress walking
  • Sexy gloved woman removing sunglasses while sitting by water
  • Singer and guitarist singing into same microphone
  • Woman running up spiral staircase to nowhere
  • Other various sexy women looking at the camera
  • Distorted final line: “if you’ve got love in your sights/Watch out: love bites”

Motley Crue
There is no embedded video for this song because Motley Crue’s “Official Video” for this song is from 1991 and has black and white stills and old photos and that was not what I was looking for.  It was only by googling “Where is the original version of Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home?” that I found a link.  But there it was, just as I remembered it, in all its trashy glory.
Look for:

  • Tour bus driving
  • Stage being set
  • Band taking the stage, but not before kissing all the posters of hot girls
  • Fireworks
  • Drummer spinning sticks
  • Decorative scarf on microphone
  • Jumping off risers on stage
  • White chaps
  • Pointing up when singing “up in lights”
  • Fans jumping on stage
  • Fans being carried off stage
  • Fan flashing the camera
  • Various things being swung around on stage
  • Drummer singing along to guitar solo
  • Iconic playing of piano riff at the end
  • Band taking a bow
  • Band walking off stage indicating they are number one
  • Tour bus that says “Rockin & Rollin”
This is another favorite.  It has all the elements of a classic power ballad.  And so many fun details, I had to pause the video so I could type them all.
Look for:
  • Band on stage, and due to video magic also in several different rooms and landscapes.  Joe Perry is partial to the desert.
  • Stephen Tyler singing on the moon, but no! It’s reflection of Stephen Tyler in Stephen Tyler’s own pupil (!!!!)
  • Breaking down a wall when singing “break the walls between us”
  • Opening a trap door to look into another room where Stephen Tyler is singing
  • Floaty sexy angel
  • Stephen Tyler as lonely detective-type person
  • Sexy lady in silhouette while dancing naked
  • Who disappears when Stephen Tyler pulls down the sheet!
  • Stephen Tyler writhing and singing in bed while singing “sleeping in this bed alone”
  • Stephen Tyler reaching for sexy floaty angel
  • Joe Perry without a shirt
  • Floaty angel in concert
  • Floaty angel touching Stephen Tyler in a certain “area”
  • Stephen Tyler in two very good outfits. One white and sparkly, one grey with tails and stripes.
  • Stretching out the two syllable word “angel” into 8 or 9 syllables
  • Band (except drummer) all singing on one mike
  • Stephen Tyler spitting something at us

6 thoughts on “Power Ballads. A Blog Post.”

  1. I think you just reminded me why I had nothing useful to say to my peers about music growing up. 🙂

  2. Oh how I would love to sing to most of these songs. I loved them, too. And for me, really, these were some of the only songs from these bands that I liked. I just wasn't so into the general genre that these bands song. I owned none of these albums, but certainly liked some of the songs that made it onto the Top40 radio station. The videos are so classic. I haven't seen that much acid wash in awhile.

  3. I was amazed to realize this time through what peacocks most of those guys were. They had absolutely fabulous clothing. Grunge killed all that. When Kurt Cobain died, he owned one pair of green converse. I'm willing to bet Jon Bon Jovi, at an equivalent time in his career, probably had 25 pairs of cool boots.

  4. These bands are why I spent my youth listening to the likes of Metallica & The Misfits.

    There are few words that could accurately describe how much I've always hated Axl Rose's voice. Like nails on a chalkboard for me. Sebastian Bach, though, he was a very pretty man back in the day.

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