“The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years” (1988) dir. Penelope Spheeris


“The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years” is Penelope Spheeris’s follow-up to her groundbreaking documentary on hardcore punk from 1980 (“The Decline of Western Civilization”). “Decline II” chronicles heavy metal, circa 1988 in Los Angeles, predominately glam metal, which was the rage at the time.

“Decline II” is often cited for being extremely funny because many of the participants seem absolutely delusional about their prospects at future success in music … and in life. There are interviews with stars (Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Tyler, Joe Perry, Poison, Dave Mustaine, Lemmy, Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Chris Holmes) and interviews with up and comers, most of which you’ve never seen nor heard from since this film came out.

However, the most compelling part of the film is arguably the interview with Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. Lying in a pool chair, literally pouring vodka down his throat, explaining he’s a piece of s–t, while is mother is sitting next to him, trying to put on a good face, but looking like she wants to cry. One of the saddest and most disturbing scenes from a documentary ever.

Despite this, the humor outweighs the pathos.  One of the best scenes in the film comes near the end where legendary club owner Bill Gazzarri hosts his annual “Miss Gazzarri Dancer” contest and Gazzarri tries to get everyone excited about a band called Odin, which he claims are going to be the next big thing.  Needless to say, they fell far short of this goal.  I’ll let you be the judge as to whether the public was ignorant in their mass rejection of Odin through this clip:

Spheeris later hit the box-office jackpot as the director of “Wayne’s World” in 1992, a job she got in no small part due to her success with “Decline II.”

“Pills / Trash” – New York Dolls (from the the German TV show “Musikladen” 1973)


Two killer tracks from the New York Dolls’ self-titled debut album (my all-time favorite #1 album … no s–t!) done live for a German music TV show in 1973. A really killer live performance.

Even though there’s only two members that are still living, the recently revived Dolls opened for a mutual Motley Crue and Poison tour last year in the States. I’m very sorry I didn’t see the Max Factor trio with brio last summer.

“Nothin’ But a Good Time” – Poison

This is a great, great song from one of the best singles bands of the 1980s-1990s. Yes, it’s difficult to say these things given the multiple painful seasons of “Rock of Love” on VH1. Yes, it took me many years to reach this conclusion after a good three decades of trying to be terminally hip. Yes, there are parts of this video that make “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” look like a Sam Peckinpah film by comparison. Yes, Motley Crue may be the hip retro-hair metal choice thanks to their infamous VH1 “Behind the Music” special and “The Dirt” autobio from 2001. But aside from “Home Sweet Home,” Poison had much better songs than Crue and much better songs than a lot of bands on the charts back in the era. It’s time to give them their due. And yes, it’s time to finally admit that as much as I tried to resist them back in the day, they hooked me with the terrific Sex Pistols/Steve Jones-influenced guitar on “Talk Dirty to Me” from the very beginning.