The second 1985-1991 wave of glam-metal (aka "hair-metal", "pop-metal", "bubblegum-metal", and "95% Crap") framed the internal reactionary upping of the bar by Guns N’ Roses, as well as estranged origin band L.A. Guns. Guns N’ Roses’ moniker is a combination of the band names “L.A. Guns” and “Hollywood Rose”, as Gn’R’s founding 1985 lineup featured singer Axl Rose and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin from the latter and former’s Rob Gardner on drums and Tracii Guns on lead guitar (there was a fifth guy, bassist Ole Beich, but you get the point).
L.A. Guns self-titled major label debut for Polygram was released in 1988 but it was the follow-up, 1989’s Cocked & Loaded, that finally brought the band mainstream success behind the not-entirely-representative hit, “The Ballad of Jayne” (the album also features guest backing vocals from Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen). 1991’s Hollywood Vampires benefited from glam-metal’s absolute final moment of glory and reached #42 on the Billboard Album Chart.
Any form of metal that experienced a creative high-point during the '80s had a very rough time after January of 1992, but it was glam-metal that really got the kill-shot the month that Nirvana’s Nevermind went #1 on the Billboard 200…the nuanced irony being an accidental phenomenon kicked off by an authentic post-hardcore band unleashed the often unauthentic marketing campaign disguised as an organic musical style and movement we know as “grunge.”
Most glam-metal bands dissolved then resurfaced post-Y2K on cruise ships, at casinos, and fairs to capitalize on the nostalgia circuit (change the venues and we’d be discussing O.G. post-punk and late-80s/early-90s indie-rock), while others remained active for all or at least part of the decade and attempted to become stylistically amenable to the rapidly-changing rock landscape.
After a three-year hiatus (1991 – 1994), L.A. Guns went for latter and released three more studio albums before the close of the '90s that find the band’s customary sleeze-and-grit bumping up against their takes on everything from thrash metal to Pantera groove-chunk testosterone to Nine Inch Nails/Ministry-style industrial metal to whatever the hell you’d call Cake and the Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper”.
Founder Tracii Guns endured until after the release of L.A. Guns’ 10th studio album, 2002’s Waking the Dead. The L.A. Guns timeline began in 1983 and has experienced enough lineup instability to warrant a stand-alone Wikipedia page to chronologically map all of the band members.
There have been two L.A. Guns active-one lead by longtime vocalist Phil Lewis and one by Tracii Guns-during separate and concurrent stretches since 2002, as well as the legal actions (for rights to use the band’s name) that one might expect from this sort of thing. Tracii Guns has helmed several other bands alongside L.A. Guns plus those with variations on that band’s moniker.
Earlier this year, vocalist Phil Lewis and Guns reunited as "L.A. Guns' Phil Lewis + Tracii Guns" and that’s exactly what’s headlining tonight at Rockhouse Live. Supporting them is glam-metal outliers Enuff Z’nuff, who scored two hits with “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing” from their 1989 self-titled major label debut. The band hails from Blue Island, Illinois (just south of Chicago) and established their own strain of glam-metal that’s heavily informed by the power-pop of Cheap Trick and psychedelic pop.