If you grew up in the 90s and dig rock music, you would be familiar with rock stars who screamed like they wanna be girls, grew big scary hair, used more hairspray than your mother and wore pants that are way too tight. They all act macho, expose a lot of chest and for some, profanity was part of their live performances.
Yet their thumping music spoke to me. Powerful guitar rifts, bass lines, powerful vocals and melody notwithstanding, there was a certain honesty in their lyrics and the music. These rock performers gave stunning live performance without modern sound engineering aid that modern pop stars rely heavily on (auto tune). There was no need for these rockers to dance. They just sang and played instruments like they were extension of their souls.
Without a need for a backing track to mask imperfections, these rock stars of yesteryears gave it their all. Not all became wildly successful though. Some fell prey to substance abuse or suffered serious accidents during live shows.
Way less manufactured than today’s pop act, they struggled, practiced hard and performed. I was always impressed how the guitar gods played with such finesse and ease while the frontmen could sing in such sandpaper voices in crazy high keys. Undaunted, I would try to imitate how they sang. Many times, I ended up with a sore throat. Eventually I picked up the guitar and harmonica as I wanted to be more than just a vocalist. So motivated I was that my mother became concerned that I would quit my studies and join a rock and roll band!
I would always laugh at her unfounded fear. Much as music was and still is, a big part of my life, I was realistic about the music business in Singapore then. It was not easy to make a decent living as a music performer, let alone an english singing one. One would have a better shot singing and performing chinese pop!
Just to scare my mom, I would sometimes tell her I wanted to be a rock star. Her face would recoil in horror before I laughed and reassure her I was just jesting.
I’m delighted to share some songs that were a big part of my formative growing up years. Those were the years where one grapple with newly-discovered emotions and become more aware of society issues and the challenges people face. I’ve realized that parents are not always the best people to turn to when you want to make sense of what you feel and what you see around you. Sometimes the lyrics in songs explain what parents cannot.
I would like to share the live performances (old and new) of some of these rockers so you can see how much passion and effort they put into their polished craft. Amazing indeed. Tattoos then were not quite the rage unlike today, where even boyband members still in their teens wear them for street creed. The pop stars today can barely match up against the rocksters of yesteryear who had it tough, often having to ply the club circuit to hone their craft before hitting the big time. Enjoy these few selection I have picked. Maybe some would resonate with you!
Kix – Don’t close your eyes
Whatcha doing out in the night time
Why’d ya’ call me on the phone
Your mama can’t solve your problems
When’s daddy ever gonna get home
So you did your little move and cried
In the middle of a suicide
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t sing your last lullaby”
White snake – Is this love?
Is this love that I’m feeling,
Is this the love, that I’ve been searching for
Is this love or am I dreaming,
This must be love,
‘Cos it’s really got a hold on me,
A hold on me…
White snake – Here I go again
I’m just another heart in need of rescue,
Waiting on love’s sweet charity
An’ I’m gonna hold on
For the rest of my days,
‘Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams
An’ here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
An’ I’ve made up my mind
I ain’t wasting no more time
Damn Yankees – Where you’re going now?
There’s a face in the mirror
And you close your eyes
Much easier to turn away
Than to take a look inside
So you’re thinking it’s over
Let your little world crash and burn
Oh, what a price to pay
Skid Row – I remember you
Woke up to the sound of pouring rain
The wind would whisper and I’d think of you
And all the tears you cried – they called my name
And when you needed me I came through
Paint a picture of the days gone by
When love went blind and you would make me see
I’d stare a lifetime into your eyes
So that I knew that you were there for me
Time after time you were there for me
Kix – Tear down the Walls
Standing in the dark
Closin’ in, I think I’m going under
Fell down so fast
From the words I heard a crash like thunder
Never thought I’d feel the final blow
Like a shot it turned my heart to stone, we were
Livin’ in a dream, now it seems so far away
Why’d you tear down the walls
Tear down the walls
All the pieces were all in place
Why was it love you had to break
Steelheart – I’ll never let you go
Angel eyes, you have angel eyes, such a smile that lights up my life
You’re a dream come true, now I’m holding you
And I’ll never, never let you go, I will never let you go
Styx – All in a day’s work
She wakes up from a dream, checks the mirror for reality
She says “Come on girl, it’s all in a day’s work”
Gets herself dressed just in time, disappears on the 8:05
Oh the whistle blows and it’s all in a day’s work
‘Til she calls it a day
Oh she smiles as he glances up from the swimsuit issue
Oh she sighs as he walks away into the downtown day
Day after day night after night
Loneliness creeps in her window
She locks the door, turns off the light
Rehearsing a kiss on her pillow, she cries
It’s all in a day’s work
Steelheart – She’s gone
Lady, oh, lady.
My heart belongs to you.
At the coming Empower Advisory Xmas tea buffet where you’re invited, I will perform one or two songs for ya. See ya!