The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
July 15, 2022 9:11 AM - Subscribe

In this follow-up to the 1981 punk rock documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, filmmaker Penelope Spheeris dissects the world of heavy metal. Through live performance footage and interviews that feature popular glam metal musicians, Spheeris examines the metal genre and the decadent Los Angeles music scene of the late 1980s; highlights include Ozzy Osbourne discussing the tedium of sobriety over breakfast and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler claiming to have spent a small fortune on drugs.

Rated 91% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming free in the US on Kanopy, Tubi, Freevee, Pluto TV, and many others.
posted by DirtyOldTown (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
For rock kids in the 80s, this was a horror movie. And sadly, for that particular subculture, it was not exaggeration.
posted by methinks at 9:57 AM on July 15


It's interesting going back and watching these again years later. Because, at the time, I thought of them as music documentaries. And that interpretation leads to thinking of this as the one about cheesier music. But with the passage of time, and with belatedly seeing the third entry about gutter punks, it becomes clearer that what Spheeris is really interested in is LA youth subculture, and she's letting it define itself in terms of music and musical heroes, because that's what kids do.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:26 AM on July 15 [11 favorites]


Not that it needs to be elevated or redeemed as an art form, but it can be easy to forget that 80s hard rock, as silly or off-putting as it could be, was coming from the same concerns of modernism as other forms of rock n roll.

Described nicely by Bob Dylan:

"rock and roll was high energy, explosive and cut down. It was skeleton music, came out of the darkness and rode in on the atom bomb and the artists were star headed like mystical Gods ... [it was] was a dangerous weapon, chrome plated, it exploded like the speed of light, it reflected the times, especially the presence of the atomic bomb which had preceded it by several years. Back then people feared the end of time. The big showdown between capitalism and communism was on the horizon. Rock and roll made you oblivious to the fear, busted down the barriers that race and religion, ideologies put up. We lived under a death cloud; the air was radioactive. There was no tomorrow, any day it could all be over, life was cheap. That was the feeling at the time and I’m not exaggerating ... Rock and roll was atomic powered, all zoom and doom. It didn’t seem like an extension of anything but it probably was."

Bob Dylan Q&A with Bill Flanagan

Not all "gods" are benevolent, magnanimous, elegant, smart.
posted by methinks at 11:38 AM on July 15 [3 favorites]


This was the movie that helped me realize that I didn't like Kiss any more, even though I'll still listen to Destroyer once in a while for the nostalgia. Against all odds, Gene Simmons has managed to become increasingly sleazier.

it becomes clearer that what Spheeris is really interested in is LA youth subculture, and she's letting it define itself in terms of music and musical heroes, because that's what kids do.

I'll buy that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:07 PM on July 15


I want to watch a 7 Up-style thing where Spheeris checks in on these people years and decades later. This guy’s a moderately-successful musician, this guy’s going back to school to become a CPA, this guy’s a sleazy retiree, this guy is still Paul Stanley.
posted by box at 5:28 PM on July 15 [8 favorites]


I’ve always been fascinated by the Ozzy breakfast scene and the perfect cutaway to the disastrous OJ pour.

There was clearly a shot already set up there to capture it, but I don’t think it was fake. I think a canny second cameraman who had already spent the morning with Ozzy thought “there is no way he doesn’t fuck this up” and hurriedly got into position to get the shot it. It cracks me up to imagine.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:29 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Spheeris:
"We didn't shoot that at Ozzy's place – it was in the house of one of the producers – [though] Sharon did say 'This actually looks like our kitchen.' But he felt at home there and his robe was a prop, and I know you're gonna ask me about the orange juice, and yes I faked it. [Laughs] I'll cop to it right now. He had walked out of the room, and I had a grip or a dolly pusher or whatever pour the orange juice. 'Cause I remembered in the interview when he said 'We took a lot of valium and marijuana' that he was pouring orange juice, so I said, 'We'll just fake it here.' It gets a huge laugh. It's foreshadowing Wayne's World humor."
posted by theory at 2:22 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


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