Some people are in denial about hair metal, but it happened. Like the Black Death and World War 1 it happened and you just have to accept it and move on. Whatever outrages were committed in the style department one thing that can’t be ignored was the quality of guitar playing and, for me, the best of the lot was George Lynch.
(I won’t be cruel and say when the guitar solo comes in because Burning Like A Flame is a good song.)
You have to feel sorry for Don Dokken. There he was leading a band with his name on the album sleeve and no one wanted to hear him sing. Don Dokken simply filled the gaps between George Lynch’s solos. The stress point would eventually fracture the band with Dokken and Lynch reportedly unable to sit in the same room together.
I would have come across George Lynch on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on Radio 1 in the UK. Dokken were usually middle of the road plod rockers with old Donald up the front tightening his fist and singing about being strong to survive. (Everyone in the ’80s either had to be strong to survive or, failing that, hang tough. Whatever that meant.)
When Don Dokken drew breath and stopped grimacing in agony the atmosphere would change as Lynch took over: Lynch with the Californian sun tan and the grin that suggested he didn’t quite take any of it seriously. In interviews he sounds like a quiet man, almost to the point of shyness, but there was nothing shy about his garish guitar designs and flamboyant playing style.
I bought the albums and would usually distract myself during the vocals. Make a brew, paint a few walls, that sort of thing. Eventually the song would come round to the solo and for ten to thirty seconds I’d put the tea cup down, drop the paintbrush and listen.
(George Lynch without
Dokken’s annoying vocals getting in the way.)
I suppose some would listen and think he sounded like most of the widdly-diddly guitarists of that period, but those with sharper ears and a bigger record collection would accept that there were those who led and those who followed. Lynch, along with Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani were leaders. The rest were good, some were brilliant. Some would say Randy Rhoads, had he lived, would be on the leaders list and I won’t disagree.
For several years in the mid-Eighties George Lynch was an enigma. A brilliant guitarist in a mediocre band. He quit and formed Lynch Mob, a heavier grimier band than the washed-behind-the-ears Dokken. Today he’s still at it, albeit with shorter hair, almost ambassadorial in his status as guitar exponent and tutor.
He survived the hair metal train wreck with his self-respect intact because everyone, not just me, recognised his technical brilliance underneath the ridiculous showmanship the genre demanded. Quality always wins through in the end.