The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)

As a 16-year-old in 1988, I have to tell you that this was probably the most important movie of my life — all the short time I had spent on Earth — and it made me dream about heading off to the Sunset Strip and taking my singing abilities in the service of bands like Jetboy and the Sea Hags.

And here we are, as I write about this on my couch while working all day on a Sunday afternoon, writing marketing materials for a college somewhere in New York.

If you watched this movie at 16 and didn’t want to be Chris Holmes, what was wrong with you? It’s funny, because as we watched this, my wife asked, “When did he die?” He’s still, improbably, alive.

Before reality TV decimated the Satanic edge of metal, seeing artists like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Mustaine, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley discuss their careers rarely happened. I love that each of them gets a background that relates to them — Joe Perry and Steven Tyler are just chilling on a couch while Ozzy is in a bathrobe making eggs and Stanley is covered in models as he talks about the life he leads. By the way, him spilling orange juice never happened and that’s not even his kitchen.

That said, W.A.S.P. bassist Holmes steals the show, mumbling throughout and providing the films one sobering — if totally drunk — take on the fakeness of it all. Just witness the band Odin, who is surrounded by models in a hot tub, discussing how they’ll be bigger than Led Zeppelin or The Doors or commit suicide. Or nightclub owner Bill Gazzarri, who just seems like a character straight out of the hell of a Dark Brothers film.

I kind of love that Lemmy was shot from a distance and asked questions in the hopes that he’d give dumb replies. Lemmy being Lemmy, he seems above it all, despite spending just about every night at the Rainbow, right in the heart of all of 1988’s hairspray.

Detroit band Seduce was added to fill the loss of Guns ‘n Roses, whose management kept them out of this movie. Several have pointed to the excesses in this film as killing off the era of glam and hair metal. If that’s so, bands like Steel Panther have seen this as a map to the world they wish still exists.

Spheeris told Louder Sound, “In a way, you can look at Decline II as the research and then Wayne’s World as the final product.”

The funny thing is, despite Ronnie O’s claims that he’d kill himself — like GG Allin without the punk heart or body covered in feces and gore — the band had already broken up before the film came out, with guitarist Jeff Duncan joining Armored Saint, a band that he’s still in.

Anyways, I’m 47 now. And I can tell you that most of what Chris Holmes was drinking was water. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t dream of 1988 a lot and wonder what it was like to play the Whiskey or the Cathouse.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

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