Popular rock mythology says the great shift from hair metal to grunge happened the week Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson’s Dangerous out of the top spot on Billboard’s Top 200, but this isn’t entirely accurate â€” not only because Dangerous, Slash cameo notwithstanding, isn’t a hair metal album, but because the genre had been winding down for some time. In any dying industry, mergers aren’t uncommon, and so it was with so-called “melodic rock” in the late ’80s; witness Night Ranger’s Jack Blades, Styx’s Tommy Shaw, and Ted Nugent’s Ted Nugent, who joined together under the guidance of John Kalodner John Kalodner to form the hard rock accountant’s wet dream, Damn Yankees.
Like most supergroups, DY was never more than the sum of its parts; both of its albums were long on volume and short on brains. The band always had Blades and Shaw’s vocal blend going for it, but their songs were essentially parking lot rock by numbers. Give them credit for leading off their first album with a hard-rocking single, “Coming of Age”; dock them points for crafting said single into a witless paean to pedophilia.
And then there’s “High Enough” (download), a thunderbolt of AOR bombast that took the power ballad very near to its logical conclusion. Predictably, it was a bigger hit than Blades, Shaw, or Nugent had enjoyed in years, but it really hasn’t aged well, unless you consider androgynous harmonies, unnecessary strings, and thermonuclear guitar solos to be primary ingredients in a timeless rock song. (And hey, given how well certain bands continue to sell, maybe they really are timeless.)
I digress. In order to fully appreciate this song, you need to see the video. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Jack Blades’ ten-dollar sunglasses and Michael Cartellone’s beehive mullet were cool â€” and a time when Ted Nugent could kick down a door and deliver a hysterical solo in a hail of bullets, all while wearing one of Bea Arthur’s housecoats, and no one blinked an eye:
The Yankees scored another power ballad hit two years later with “Where You Goin’ Now” (download), essentially a retooled “High Enough” with cleaner guitars and a less humorous video. Again, give ’em credit â€” this was the fall of ’92, and rockers from Warrant to Bad Company were discovering they were past their sell-by dates, but Damn Yankees managed to retain a foothold on pop radio playlists into early ’93.
Still, though, when Blades and Shaw returned to their respective bands, and Nugent went back to his full-time gig as a reality television star in waiting, few tears were shed. Damn Yankees were the AOL Time Warner of rock â€” sort of fun for a minute, but never meant to last.