I'm not at all certain he'd be pleased to hear me say it, but I think Kip Winger is quite possibly one of the hunkiest men ever to become a rock star. However, in the next breath--and I know this would please him--I also have to add that he's an incredible musician, singer, and songwriter, and it was really the music that first reached out and grabbed me. In fact, I bought the Winger album In the Heart of the Young when I was in high school because I had the riff from "Easy Come, Easy Go" stuck in my head and it just wouldn't leave!
That album was really my introduction to Kip and his bandmates; somehow I missed all the big hits from their first, self-titled CD. But while I really liked their music, at that point, they were completely under, or, perhaps more accurately, over my radar visually. This was just about the time that I finally gave up on MTV, but I do remember seeing the videos for "Easy Come, Easy Go," "Miles Away," and "Can't Get Enuff" a few times apiece. However, my reaction to them was really more to the music than the visuals; particularly with "Can't Get Enuff," I remember thinking that the song was pretty good, but the video somewhat off-putting. And, unfortunately, Winger was yet another casualty of the emerging grunge movement, and I had other bands to obsess over, so after a while, I kind of forgot about them.
Now fast-forward ten years. My new hubby and I were living in an apartment complex that piped a satellite TV feed into all of its apartments, and one day we got a letter saying our channel lineup had been extended, and one of the new additions was something called "VH-1 Classic Rock." Well, I turned it on--and fell in love. Here were all of those great videos that I remembered from my teens, plus a lot that I'd never seen before, even though I knew many of the songs from radio or CDs I'd bought. (And we made sure to choose a digital cable package that included VH-1 Classic when we moved into a house of our own!) Anyway, we were watching over dinner one evening when this video came on, and I said to myself, "Oh, Winger, I remember them--but I don't recognize that song title." Then Kip appeared, in all his leather-trousered, tank-topped, smoldering-eyed glory, and all I could think was "OMG" ... particularly when it registered what instrument he was holding. All that, and he played bass, too?
The video in question was "Seventeen," and a couple of weeks later, we also saw "Headed For A Heartbreak"--and I was down for the count. I could scarcely believe that someone so talented could also be so good-looking, and how in the world had I managed to completely miss what a hunk Kip was all that time? But I've since come to the conclusion that I simply wasn't capable of appreciating him as such, the first time around; I had been rather sheltered as a child and young teen, and at fourteen and fifteen, my tastes were still evolving. As astonishing as it might sound, at that point I still viewed black leather with a certain amount of suspicion, and the raw sexuality of someone like Kip Winger was, quite frankly, just too much to handle. It took a few more years before the whole hard rock/glam metal thing began to have any kind of significant appeal. (Though I daresay I've more than made up for lost time!)
On a more serious note, however, I do actually enjoy the music just as much as the scenery. I have all three vintage Winger albums now, and Kip's two solo albums are on my "to buy" list. Winger did seem to struggle a bit to find their own sound at first; the debut album is more metal, the subsequent two more progressive-rock oriented, though the one thing that never changed was that their music was always more layered and intricate and technically sophisticated than a lot of other, similar bands. The debut album is and probably always will be my favorite, however--not that the other two were bad albums, quite the opposite. But precisely because they're so good, ITHOTY and Pull don't make good "background music." They demand to be listened to, kept at the forefront of one's attention. And since I'm usually doing something else at the same time I'm listening to music--writing, or working on stuff for this site, or whatever--that does make it a bit difficult to have Winger on as often as some other bands that I can listen to with half an ear.
Kip himself is a fascinating person, though, and rather like his music: full of unexpected depths. It's interesting--he's known all over the world as "Kip Winger," but his full moniker is actually the far more impressive "Charles Frederick Kip Winger." (He says that his mother named him Charles Frederick "in case I ever wanted to get a real job." ) But that little factoid does sort of typify him as a person--the world has tended to see just the tip of the iceberg, namely the whole pin-up thing, and ignore everything else. And I'll admit that I was guilty enough of that for a while; it used to be that when I looked at pictures of Kip, the grin was so blindingly brilliant that it was difficult to see the shadows behind those intensely blue eyes.
But I know better now. At heart, Kip is a man who takes himself and what he does very seriously indeed, and he has a positively uncanny penchant for what's almost a kind of clairvoyance. He has said of the song "Headed For A Heartbreak," from Winger's debut CD, that, "It's actually very--what's the right word--very something. Cryptic is the word I want to use, but I don't like the connotation. It's depicting my life right now. When I wrote the song a year and a half ago, it's like a predicition into my life right now, which is really kind of weird. It was just like something I beamed into the future." There is also a lyric in the song "Blind Revolution Mad," from Pull: "And the nation's glued to CNN / To watch their own creation." The song was written in 1992 or 1993, but to me it seems like an eerie foreshadowing of events such as the Columbine High shootings and the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The most heart-wrenching instance of this, though, has to be the music video for "Hungry," another song from the debut CD. Kip scripted it himself, and it's about a man who loses his wife in a car accident--and Kip lost his own wife, Beatrice, in a car accident in 1996, just before the release of his first solo album. Now, it could be coincidence, or simple perceptiveness. But Kip describes himself as a very melancholy person, and I can't help thinking about all the fantasy novels I've read with a character weighed down to solemnity by visions of the future...