Baltimore Hair Bands Then and Now

By Wesley Case (Midnight Sun, 3/26/2012)

More than 25 years ago, the Baltimore hard-rock scene was almost as big as the hair. Bands such as Kix, Mannekin, Child’s Play and DC Star toured the country, signed major-label record deals and sold out hometown shows at legendary clubs such as the Sandbar and Hammerjack’s.

It, of course, did not last forever. Hammerjack’s was torn down in 1997 and replaced with the M&T Bank Stadium parking lot. To some, the loss of the well-known club was the long-overdue final nail in the spandex. To others, such as Mannekin lead singer David VanLanding, Hammerjack’s lives on as a memory for those lucky enough to have been there.

“Hammerjack’s was to rock ‘n’ roll what Studio 54 was to disco,” VanLanding said recently. “It will never, ever be duplicated. I miss it badly. Not in a boo-hoo sense; I’m just thanking God I was able to be apart of it.”

At its height, the Baltimore hard-rock quintet played 250 dates in a year. The highlight was an opening slot for Night Ranger, another ’80s band best known for its power ballad “Sister Christian.” Touring led to a record deal and a two-month recording stint in Europe. The group ultimately shelved the record because it was unsatisfied with the producer’s work. “We were such a live band, so it would make sense to capture that live feeling on record,” said lead singer David VanLanding. “$250,000 later, we had a bonfire.” After years of touring and “bad decisions,” the band broke up in 1990, even as it was still packing venues. “We thought there wasn’t a future for us,” VanLanding said.

Continue reading and view the photo gallery “Baltimore Hair Bands Then and Now” at Midnight Sun.

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