(15) helix, "wild in the streets"
(15) sleeze beez, "stranger than paradise"
and will play in march shredness
Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchshredness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on Feb 3, 2018.
Gotta say that introductory riff to "Wild in the Streets" stands pretty god damn tall, and given the song's crisp production, I'm a bit surprised this didn’t go bigger than it did in 1987 (it topped out at #179 on the US Billboard charts, though it, like most of Helix’s songs, is better known in Canada, their home). Like several of the better play-in songs, this one’s wisely indebted to AC/DC, even as our lead singer’s coif and gymnastic strutting suggests something more along the lines of an even more jacked-up David Lee Roth, and the lead-in to the chorus echoes Def Leppard (not shocking since “She’s Too Tough,” another song on the Wild in the Streets album, was written by Joe Elliott).
If this song wasn’t on our radar going into the early research of the tourney, it was a good discovery as the members of the March Shredness Selection Committee duly plumbed the depths of a 55-CD compilation of hair metal downloaded somewhere online as we tried to find some lesser-known gems for you. This is one! This process of discovery is in part what we hope you’ll dig, especially in the play-in games.
One theory why this song didn’t go bigger is that the video shows Helix having just too much fun. Don’t they know that it’s best to cultivate an aura of rakish danger and a sense of being too good for whichever party you're at? That it’s not just an honor to be nominated? You gotta either really fuckin’ want it or seem not to want it at all, ideally both. Only then will you be loved. Having said that, watching the video 30 years on, I find the affect charming, and maybe even winning. We'd go see them live for sure.
So it's too bad that, at least in the US, this song marked Helix’s commercial apogee. After “Wild in the Streets,” as their website notes, “the band by now had dropped back into playing the bars and their popularity was on the down swing… In Canada they played their last headline tour. To add to the misery, long time band member Brent Doerner decided to pack it in at the end of the Wild in the Streets tour and the band lost it’s [sic] deal with Capitol/E.M.I.”
Maybe that’s what happens to those who, as the song says:
- "quit high school"
- "took a chance on a nowhere ride"
- [were] "always breakin' the rules"
- "Grabbed the world by the ass"
- "And barely made it out alive"
Even if “it gets tough when you wanna be free,” still: here's Helix, and they’re still rocking, 30 years on. Will they be rocking in March Shredness? It’s up to you.
It’s a little hard to imagine in what world the catastrophically-ill-named Sleeze Beez comes in as a favorite in a March Shredness game, but we think they probably do in their play-in against Helix. In spite of the long flight to the qualifying tournament (Sleeze Beez hail from the Netherlands), they’ve maintained their intensity & level of self-belief, which is key to rock music in general and particularly this era of hairy guitar heroism.
Start with the vocals: English singer Andrew Elt may make a number of unsubstantiated claims in this song, but he believes them. For instance, he’s “a street hero, a street star, oh, and…a rebel at heart.” I dunno. Maybe? Can we wait and see how the song turns out? At 1:40—and seriously, you’ll want to replay this bit a couple times if you're me: you might even be in it on repeat in some weird Black Mirror simulation deal replaying it until you die of hype—Elt is going to tell you “what it’s all about,” not just “right now,” but [shrieking—in a way that becomes more and more unsettling when you keep replaying it] “RIGHT NOW,” and what it’s all about is apparently “all my love for you, it made me do things I could never do.” What things? WHAT THINGS? We never do learn. But I'm steering clear of this song in karaoke, so there's that.
What it's all about is the exact question the tournament itself means to ask of you, so I'm glad it's on the table. Just guessing, but perhaps what it’s all about is in large part: the no-shirt leather-vest (a trope of the era) guitar solo...which is played on...what?…is that an acoustic guitar? AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR? ( +20 for innovation.) Yes, but wait, just in case you thought these guys were too European to ROCK (the band Europe has some things to tell you later), that gets followed immediately by a solo on an electric one. AN ELECTRIC ONE. ( -20 for overdoing it.) Chriz (note the Z) Van Jaarsveld is still deep in his solo, showing us what it's all about, and I don't think it's really over, when Elt just can't wait (CAN'T WAIT) to get back into it, and so indeed he comes back (COMES BACK) with an OH I CAN’T GO ON, and yet he does, and so does the song, even after it’s apparently over at 3:24 with a nice radio fade, but then oh no (OH NO), like a villain we thought we just killed, the Beez are back, if just for another forty seconds.
Alright! That's a lot of stuff going on here. If the song is less than the sum of its parts, that may be because they got signed to a record contract before they even had songs to play or a band to play them, and they put the rest together on the fly. That's why they're a play-in, but a fascinating one.
Do you want them back in March? Then vote Beez in 2018.
A member of the Official March Shredness selection committee, Ander Monson's first concert of note was Warrant opening for Poison, and there was no going back from there to shallow waters. One of his first five CDs was Fifth Angel's Time Will Tell which surely has no relation to why they are in the tournament.