I was fifteen and somewhat chubby, my Latina pubescence at its peak, my bangs in total defiance of gravity, and I had a face-full of cystic acne—but nothing could keep me down. I stood among the muck and grime of all of the eager, sweaty fans in the Miami Arena, where the venerable vixen Joan Jett was going to hit me with her best shot as the opening act for Aerosmith. Unsightly black leather boots stomped on the cigarette-butt laden bleachers, and the smell of stale smoke and beer breath hung in the air. But like I said, not a thing could keep me down. Because the music, you see, somehow always manages to keep me up.
South Miami was a veritable hotbed of glam or hair metal, the genre that we all laugh at—at the risk, however, of not really getting the deeper message of what these heterosexual men in drag had to offer. But I remember feeling the Zen of Rock then (and I admittedly still feel it now) when a young and horse-mouthed Steven Tyler (long before American Idol came calling) wagged his tail and emphatically wailed, practically imploring me to Dream on!—each utterance of the phrase climbing higher and higher on his sub-human octave scale.
The truth is that besides really taut buns, the rock gods of yore packed all varieties of wisdom into their leather pants. Here are the top five crucial insights that I took from the men of ‘80s rock:
• They were straight men who were both virile and objects of female desire, but who at once had no problem whatsoever connecting with their feminine sides. They knew how to worship a woman by being like one.
• They understood the inherent duality—yin and yang—that life is built upon, as evidenced by their undying love for both the anthem and the power ballad. You simply cannot have one without the other.
• They would have laughed at the nuanced antics of the indie music hipster—instead demonstrating real joie de vivre with their consummate theatrics and dramatic bouts both on and off-stage.
• At the risk of all sounding alike, they believed in the common denominator of their genre from a musicology standpoint, which in a way, kept us unified as a generation.
• And last but not least, they lived each moment as if it were their last. Granted, sometimes that meant a really bad tattoo choice and one too many whiskey shots—but the message was always pure: stay in the moment.
Best of all, their lyrics are good to live by, even today.