“Steel Rainbow: The Legendary Underground Guide to Becoming an ’80s Rock Star” is the only how-to guide you need if you plan on strapping on some spandex, teasing up your hair, smearing on some eye shadow, and shooting a music video complete with scantily-clad ladies, Ferraris, and debauchery. Jordan Hart, the writer and illustrator of the book lays out exactly what an aspiring musician needs to survive in a rockin’ Hair Metal band…other than a time machine dialed up to 1985 that is. I chatted with Hart over email to find out what exactly went into creating a book like this, and which 80’s Hair Metal band is truly the greatest.
MTV Geek: Give us an overview of what “Steel Rainbow” is.
Jordan Hart: “Steel Rainbow” is an illustrated guidebook on how to become an ‘80s rock star. The backstory is that an anonymous record label created a secret document in 1984 that promised fame and fortune to anyone who followed it.
Once grunge hit the scene, the guide was deemed irrelevant and never seen again, until I found a lost copy of it in the sleeve of an old Ratt album. I then copied it word-for-word and added instructional illustrations for today’s music hopefuls to fulfill their dreams of spandex-clad karate kicks.
Obviously, I made up the backstory. But I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this really existed in the ‘80s. Every band from 1985-1989 was almost identical.
Geek: Why did you write this handy guide to 80’s Hair Metal?
JH: My dad has always been a big rock fan. When I was growing up in the ‘80s, Hair Metal was the most popular sub-genre of rock and dominated radio play. It was pretty much all I heard in his car or at his work. Plus, he was a huge Eddie Van Halen fan, and taught me the art of air guitaring to “Eruption” at a very young age.
As I got older, I expanded my tastes to almost all forms of music, but Hair Metal and its ridiculousness has always had a special place in my heart. When I was in college I would occasionally fire up some classic songs from the era, and everyone in the workspace – students, teachers, janitors – would all laugh and talk about how bizarre the genre was.
At that point I realized that regardless of musical preference, everybody vividly remembers Hair Metal. More importantly, everyone loves to make fun of it.
Geek: Why 80’s hair metal? What’s special about the era and genre?
JH: Hair Metal is just so easy to make fun of. If you need a laugh, simply listen to one song or look at one album cover and you’ll get a good chuckle. It seemed like the perfect subject for a humor book because I didn’t have to try to be funny; I just had to point out actual events and styles from the period. I tried to base every rule I created on an actual fact from the era, which basically wrote the book itself.
If you really think about, Hair Metal went completely against everything that rock stood for.
Those guys smiled the entire time they were on stage, wore pink outfits, wrote songs about happiness, and even applied lipstick and blush. I’m sure Hendrix and John Bonham spent the entire decade rolling in their graves.
Geek: How much research went into this book?
Since I grew up with Hair Metal, and can play the guitar and drums, not too much research went into the book. I wrote more from memory and musical experience.
When I did need to perform research, I just went to YouTube. I’d spend hours watching every Hair Metal music video I could find. From outrageous outfits to awkward check-to-cheek microphone sharing, those 3-minute morsels of hilarity gave me all of the content I needed.
Geek: Best 80’s Hair Metal band?
JH: Van Halen; the real Van Halen, (1976-1984). From David Lee Roth’s lyrical style and antics to Eddie’s guitar techniques, they singlehandedly invented Hair Metal.
Almost every Hair Metal band in the ‘80s was trying hard to be them. I think what makes them so special is that their music sounds just as good today as it did in 1978. They are the genre’s true ageless band.
JH: Def Leppard. They were clearly in it for the women and fame, and not to make good music. Every time I hear a second of “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” I want to fall on a sharp object.
Geek: If you could be in one 80’s Hair Metal band, which would it be and why?
JH: Most would think Van Halen, for obvious reasons, but I’d have to go with Mötley Crüe. Those guys were nuts, and really Hair Metal’s only other timeless group. Not only were they great musicians, they took partying to an entirely new level.
I’d simply want to be around to watch their antics on a daily basis. However, they’d probably kick me out after a couple of days once they realized I wouldn’t inject Jack Daniels into my arm with a used Heroin syringe.
Geek: Who’s the ultimate Hair Metal icon? What makes him or her the greatest?
JH: David Lee Roth. Every Hair Metal lead singer tried to be him. He basically invented the persona of the ‘80s frontman. He was the first to wear spandex and assless chaps, plus he developed the flying split-kick and a screechy vocal style. “I reach down in between my legs, and ease the seat back” might be the best lyric in world history.
Plus, the guy was crazier in everyday life than he was on stage. When Entertainment Tonight asked to interview him in 1981, he chose to give it from his dirty-ass bed. Hilarious.
Geek: What did you learn while putting this book together?
JH: For better or worse, I learned that Hair Metal is the most memorable and recognizable form of rock music. The average person can identify the genre after only hearing a few seconds of a song or taking a quick glimpse at a photo.
Geek: Any plans to tackle any other musical genre’s, eras or cliches in another book?
JH: Definitely. I had so much fun making “Steel Rainbow” that I’m currently working on developing a sequel. As much as I love Hair Metal, I may leave the genre and focus on a different period. There are certainly plenty of options out there, but none as hilarious, or outrageous, as ‘80s rock.
Follow Jordan on Twitter @Jordan_Hart
You can pick up a copy of “Steel Rainbow” on on Amazon.