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We Didn’t Know What We Had….Now It’s Gone February 23, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Music, Pop Culture Rants.

Written sometime in 1981, the  “Code of 80’s Teen, Action and Young Dramatic Films” was a little known edict that governed every film made throughout the decade. Drawn up by John Hughes, savage Steve Holland, representatives from the “Tootie” and “Jo Polnachek” camps and several trained chimpanzees from the Clyde Beatty/Cole Bros. Circus, it was over three hundred pages and contained missive upon missive. It single-handedly shaped that feeling and mood you just know about when every you watch an 80’s movie.

Such rules included the fact that all cheerleaders must be played by women who were no younger than 28 years old, at least one ethnic stereotype had to play a major role in the hero or heroine’s journey and no less than 8 films a year had to prominently feature Oh Yeah’s “Yello.” Bom bomp…chicka bomp bomp bomp.

Yet it was Article 4, section 8 that had the most profound effect on culture in general. It stated, in fancy sounding legal terms, “every film must include a scene scored to a heavy metal power ballad. The scene itself can occur at any point in the film, but must include at least one slow motion camera shot.” The Dokken and Motley Crue camps obviously had some pull back then to get such a rider tossed into the mix. The movie industry had to comply and because of that, power ballads were everywhere. Not because people liked them at first, but because, well, they had to be there.

Directors used them with aplomb. Sometimes the sentimental screeching underscores the beginning credits as we saw faded photographs of high school days gone by (This technique was known as ‘Letting You Know This Was a Serious one”) Sometimes it played beneath the final cado as the hero/heroine takes off in their parents car for a better life at college, wherever that may have been. It would zip along in the background when the hero/heroine came to grips with their friend’s betrayal. You could also play it at the climactic dance scene where women in powder blue Poofy sweaters and hair the size of Rhode Island sached slowly in the arms of their red cumberbunded objects of affection.

By pairing these “loud boys gone soft” songs, the country quickly identified with the power ballad as being something that induced feelings of sensitivity and loss. Boys liked them because it nearly doubled the number of women at the local W.A.S.P. concert. Women liked them because they were able to see the sensitive and caring side of the guitarist they were waiting on line to get molested by backstage. And the hair metal, a once British and dare I say effeminate, movement was given street cred. Soon, it was an unwritten law of their own that every album had to have a power ballad, whether it was being used at the local multiplex or not. The tunes were being blasted in Irocs everywhere. Some even made their way into graduation ceremonies. How cool was your school when every graduating senior marched down the aisle to White Lion? That’s right. Pretty f’n cool! The power ballad was everywhere.

But as the eighties drew to a close, two factors conspired to bring down the power ballad from atop its music pantheon. First, the movie code was not renewed when most people realized that teenagers all have the same problems and there were only so many times you could watch the same coming of age scenario before it got boring (Many also believed this was coupled with John Hughes breaking from the code and making Curly Sue…which broke Article 3, Section 2 “Cute kids are to be tertiary characters to provide one liners or sage advice and are IN NO WAY meant to be major characters. Unless they swear a lot or are adults trapped in children’s bodies.”) Second was the demise of hair metal itself. When studies showed that Poison and Bullet Boys were accountable for no less than 20% of the ozone’s depletion, the backlash came down faster than stock in Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey “Together Forever” marriage aides. With nobody to sing the ballads, the style disappeared from our landscape.

Sure, people still try to knock out a power ballad now and then today, but they are co-opted by NBC promos and movie trailers. They are then so over played (NBC alone played their trailer for “The Black Donnelleys” 872 times last night) that the song is dismissed as that annoying tune you hum while waiting for your pesto Portobello wrap at Au Bon Pain. This has meant that scores of power balladeers are out of work. They are forced to struggle on the streets or even worse, star on VH1’s Celebreality.

So I implore you all today, to hire a power ballad singing hair metal band to follow you around as your personal soundtrack.

How great would it be to have you own personal power ballad at your beck and call at all times? You go to buy some fruit and ask the guy if he has anything fresher in the back. He ignores you and moves on to the next customer. Cue the ballad as you walk away forlorn. You take one look back to see if he stills wants to sell you some grapes, but he’s moved on. You hold your glance for a second, but still nothing. You turn back and continue your walk. He does look and smile, but you don’t see it. And he places a single bunch of grapes on the counter and somewhere, credits start. Now that’s a great scenario made even better by loud wailing guitars and subtle piano notes and the time ravaged voice of Bret Michaels.

Don’t like fruit? How about having the bass drop in and the violins start crescendoing as you look over pictures of the girl who got away in high school? Need to borrow money from your parents? Try telling them your predicament with Kix’ “Don’t Close Your Eyes” in the background. Guaranteed extra two or three grand there.

We lived in a much happier time two decades ago and there is no doubt the power ballad was a major reason why. So, let’s bring it back. It may just take a little patience, but it’ll be home sweet home real soon. I promise, kids, heaven isn’t too far away.



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