Christmas, 1988 : The Stockin’ Was Rockin’

Christmas, 1988.

I was a newly-minted 15-year old, in the prime of a dorky and awkward teenage existence. I didn’t play sports, got bi-weekly allergy shots, had a mere handful of friends(the kind you spend lots of time with, not the kind you bide your time with in Algebra or English Comp), and spent most of my Friday and Saturday nights at home watching horror movies, playing guitar, or listening to music in my bedroom.

It was my life, and I was okay with it.

Sure, I’d get a bit lonely at times. There was plenty of pining for the opposite sex; crushes that went nowhere, some dating opportunities I certainly mucked up with my great communication skills, and my aversion to school dances quickly put to rest any other chances to mingle with the ladies.

When I wasn’t flailing in school or sad about my love life(or lack of) I was at home playing guitar constantly and working on my lessons and then filling my head with music, movies, and Stephen King. I was a music-obsessive, pocketing my lunch money and saving it up so I could afford the $8.40 for a new cassette at Butterfly Records in my hometown. I’m sure my mom wondered what was wrong with me and why I wasn’t morbidly obese when I’d come home from school nearly everyday and make myself two cold meat sandwiches with chips. I was on the “New Music Tuesday” diet.

Anyways, back to Christmas 1988.

I can’t quite remember what I had on my Christmas list, but since Christmas 1984 there was always a list of cassettes. My memory is kind of spotty, but I do remember getting Twisted Sister’s You Can’t Stop Rock n Roll, Van Halen’s Women and Children First, and Quiet Riot’s Condition Critical on December 25th, 1984. Christmas 1986 it was Dokken’s Under Lock and Key, and WASP’s Inside The Electric Circus. And Christmas 1988 it was Winger’s Self-Titled, Guns n Roses GnR Lies, and Dokken’s Beast From The East.

The cassettes usually ended up in our stockings. I remember my brother digging out ZZ Top’s Eliminator, Quiet Riot’s Metal Health and Rolling Stones’ Undercover out of his stocking amongst a fresh pack of tube socks, Fruit of the Looms, and a bottle of Brut 33. By Christmas 1988 it was I who was digging through that big, red sock and locating fresh tunes amongst tighty whites and aftershave(I was upgraded to English Leather.) I also had a mega pack of Care-Free Sugarless gum(bubblegum flavor.)

I was excited to get Winger and GnR. Winger were the “hot” new pop metal band with a front man that played bass and looked like a Chippendales’ dancer. But the draw for me was guitarist Reb Beach. He was playing so far under his level in this “okay” band. Actually they all were, as the band was made up of top session players that wanted some of that pop metal cash record labels were throwing their money at on Sunset Strip. “Seventeen” was a gross song since the bearded Winger was pining for jail bait, but musically it was a pretty good. “Madalaine” was another good song with a blistering solo from Beach, and “Headed For A Heartbreak” was a pretty solid rocker/ballad. The songs ranged from “She’s hot, man. She’s sexy, man” to “Why won’t she talk to me, man. I’m sad, man”, so they filled every teenage boy’s bingo card.

GnR Lies? Well GnR were the hottest band going in 1988. Hot off Appetite For Destruction, Lies was the placeholder between Appetite and the next full-length release which wouldn’t happen for another three years. It was mostly acoustic so I do remember learning “Patience” and “Used To Love Her(But I Had To Kill Her)” on my acoustic guitar. I have to admit that this was the last GnR album I ever really liked. By 1991 I’d checked out of the GnR train. Done. Fin. Kaput.

Now Dokken.

Beast From The East was a meal of a record. It was nearly 74 minutes of LA’s finest pop metal band tearing up stages on a 1988 Japanese tour. I’d been a huge fan of Dokken ever since I first heard a dubbed copy of Tooth and Nail which I swiped from my older brother’s bedroom. They did a great job of going from all-out proto metal bangers to soft and sappy ballads. “Tooth and Nail”, “Alone Again”, and “Just Got Lucky” were all on Tooth and Nail and I was a fan immediately. Beast From The East was a solid mix of their four studio LPs, with a sort of sappy cherry on top in the new studio ballad “Walk Away” which I totally dug.

This came just after the release of the band’s fourth and final studio album Back For The Attack during the band’s initial run. They pretty much splintered after Back For The Attack and George Lynch formed Lynch Mob, while Dokken created The Don Dokken Band. Neither did nearly as well apart as they did together, and when they reformed in the 90s, as B.B. King sang “the thrill was gone.”

Three decades later and I’d begun collecting a lot of the records I’d listened to in my youth on vinyl. Some were cheaper and easier to find than others, but I found the pop metal stuff was more reasonably priced than the speed metal. Back in 2016 during a trip to Ignition Music I came across a copy of Beast From The East on vinyl for $8. Double LP, gatefold sleeve, and it was in pretty great shape. It was coming home with me.

Here’s the thing that I’ve found out about Dokken after all these years: Don’s voice is sort of…well, boring. Now he’s a fine singer in that he sings in key, he’s melodic, and on those earlier records he could scream like a banshee. But at some point he just started to sound kind of tired compared to the music they were writing. His voice is what I’d call “brown”. Just sort of bland. At some point it felt as if he was in a different band than the one he was in. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. After a certain age he just made me not as excited to listen to Dokken.

I still ended up collecting nearly all their studio records on vinyl with the exception Breaking The Chains. Even with how I’ve come to hear old Don’s voice each of their albums has a few songs that still click, and Beast From The East is sort of the perfect ‘best of’ collection.

I don’t know why that Christmas always sticks out in my mind as a special one. I guess it was just the perfect mix of music, gum, and cologne. That year, the stockin’ was rockin’.

15 thoughts on “Christmas, 1988 : The Stockin’ Was Rockin’

      1. In retrospect quite average, but at the time exciting because the drummer played in some sort of cage affair that he had to climb into and they had spiky guitars.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wasn’t a big fan of BUYV, but AC/DC were always good live. Saw them two years later with Love/Hate opening. The cannons still ring in my ears from time to time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Honestly feel bad for my kids who all love going to shows. They’ll never know the beauty of the $14 ticket that you bought at the venue without the fees that were as much as the ticket itself.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Same. And this whole new pricing system makes me feel pretty solid about that decision.

        I can still get $30-$40 tickets for a small theatre, as long as I enjoy Statler Bros or a couple original Beach Boys. Maybe REO Speedwagon if I’m lucky.

        Liked by 1 person

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