Winger was a hair metal band founded in 1986 in New York City by Kip Winger, former bassist for Alice Cooper. The other group members were guitarist Reb Beach, bassist Paul Taylor, and drummer Rob Morgenstein. The group’s first album sold over million copies and produced two of Winger’s most well-known singles, Headed for a Heartbreak and Seventeen. The group’s second album, 1990s In the Heart of the Young, was almost as successful thanks to the power ballad Miles Away. One of the things that may have contributed to Winger’s fall was the group’s success fell right between two distinctly different genres of music. During the 80s, the power ballads they delivered ruled the charts. Yet, after Nirvana shifted the music scene with Nevermind in 1991, the music scene began to embrace a different sound from the last decade fueled by hair metal combined with sex drugs and roll and roll set to power beats and guitar solos. The world was ready to embrace a new music scene fueled by pop culture. Frontmen like Kip Winger were quickly replaced by Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell. Additionally, the overall musical sound shifted away from studio beats and into a grittier sound fueled by disenchantment and youthful energy.
According to Music and Talent, Tom Beuajour and Richard Bienstock’s new book Nothin’ but a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion details Winger’s rise and fall from frame. One of the things that helped the group was MTV’s help on the Madeline video and a short tour with the Scorpion. Even though, looking back, Kip Winger noticed something on the horizon that was derailing the group’s career. Once the alternative took over the music scene, the group began to lose popularity. In fact, it took less than a year for Winger’s career to tumble. A lot of Winger’s success was because MTV had them on constant rotation. However, in a twist of musical fate, it was also MTV who brought them down. At least, that was what the group felt for many years.
After two successful albums, Winger had every reason to believe the group’s career was on the rise. In fact, guitarist Reb Beach was positive the album was going to go gold. Yet, 1993 was a massive year for another genre of music, grunge. Nirvana released In Utero, the follow-up to their groundbreaking Album Nevermind, and Candlebox released their first album. A year before, Mike Judge’s adult cartoon Beavis and Butthead debuted on MTV. This sudden shift in music began pushing groups like Winger out of the spotlight. In fact, it was Beavis and Butthead who took the brunt of the blame for the group’s demise. According to News-Press, Reb Beach feels that the fall of the group happened almost instantaneously. In 1993, the cult classic show Beavis and Butthead skewered Winger while defying Metallica.
The group was on the road and still selling out stadiums. Then someone brought them a videotape and asked them to watch it. It was an overweight kid wearing a Winger T-Shirt. The character Stewart on Beavis and Butthead was a little slower than other characters and always wore a Winger t-shirt. This made the group seem safe when placed next to Beavis, and Butthead preferred AC/DC and Metallica, who they consistently called the real metal bands. Additionally, Beavis and Butthead watched Winger videos on the show and called them insulting names. According to Louder Sound, Reb Beach feels that this led to their music being played less on MTV, which contributed to ticket sales dropping, and finally, record sales were down so much the band broke up.
Fuel to the fire
Metallica didn’t help matters at all. In fact, they played into everything Beavis and Butthead were saying about the group. During the music video for Nothing Else Matters, Lars Ulrich threw darts at a Winger Poster. Kip Winger tried to make light of the situation when he named the group’s 1993 Pull as a joke about using the CD as a target practice. However, with grunge on the rise and Beavis and Butthead mocking the group, they broke up. It’s difficult to tell whether or not it was grunge music, Beavis and Butthead, or a combination of the two that was the end for Winger. Music definitely went through a massive shift during that time. Even though many people thought that was the end for Winger, the group reunited in 20001.
Then, in 2006 they released the album Winger IV, a progressive rock album. Kip Winger is also a classical composer writing under C.F Kip Winger and has written scores for symphonies and ballets in San Francisco and Tucson. Frontman Kip Winger finally got past the resentment against Jude when Beavis and Butthead returned in 2011 after being off the air since 1997. Then, Winger went to Judge and said he wanted to clear the ar. Additionally, he made it publicly known he never tried to sue MTV for the negative press, nor did he have a problem with the TV show. The popularity of Beavis and Butthead was so immense there was nowhere for the show to go but up. Winger even wanted a voiceover on the new show, but it never happened.
Music is much like anything else; it has trends. Some groups stand the test of time because they were game-changers in the music industry or made a comeback because of retro status. Groups like Winger fell somewhere in the middle and couldn’t escape a cult TV show that used the group as a long-standing gag. However, it may have also been how music changed so dramatically in such a short time during the early 90s. Nonetheless, Winger made something of a comeback on later albums and still has loyal fans.