How Metallica + ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ Nearly Killed Winger’s Career for Good
Remember Winger? The group was seemingly on top of the world in the late '80s and early '90s, right at the height of hair metal's dominance, but it wasn't grunge that signaled their downfall. In a recent interview with Ryan Roxie, Winger guitarist Reb Beach points to two significant media presences that definitely affected their perception in the public eye, calling out Beavis and Butt-Head and Metallica.
As many fans will remember, Winger's rise coincided with heavy airplay on MTV. Videos for "Seventeen," "Headed for a Heartbreak" and "Miles Away" were among the network's most requested clips of the day. But while MTV played a part in their rise, it also had a hand in their downfall with the airing of Beavis and Butt-Head, featuring the two animated teen slackers who talked smack or heaped praise on music videos. Within the show itself, one of the side characters was a kid named Stewart, often seen wearing a Winger T-shirt and frequently dismissed by the teen duo.
Speaking with Roxie (as heard in the podcast below), Beach revealed that while meant for humor, the continued use of Winger's logo with Stewart and his family on the show definitely impacted the public perception of the band. He explained (as transcribed by Ultimate Guitar), “Absolutely, it did [affect us], hugely. As a matter of fact, we were on the road and we were selling out theaters. We were on the bus, and this kid said, ‘Hey, you guys got to see this cartoon. I brought you a VHS of it.’ And so we put this thing on the bus… In the cartoon, they hung this kid from his underwear from a tree. He was wearing a Winger T-shirt, and he was overweight… His name was Stewart, and he was in every episode. And then they went to his house, and his parents were wearing Winger T-shirts, and the dog was wearing a Winger T-shirt, and they were all nerds [laughs].”
"We actually saw a direct result of that thing," adds Beach. "In the weeks that followed, we had to cancel the tour because people wouldn’t be caught dead buying a ticket to a Winger show.”
Stewart in Beavis and Butt-head
Beach then called out Metallica for also taking their shot through a music video. "Metallica didn’t help with showing in their biggest video [in which] they throw darts at a poster of Kip Winger," said the guitarist, referring to the "Nothing Else Matters" clip. “They would show it at their live show, and my friend who went to see them said the entire arena laughed at that part of the video where Lars throws darts at Kip.”
Metallica, "Nothing Else Matters"
Between the two very public jabs, the band had become something now mocked, and the group saw a direct correlation with their touring returns. “I sold all my guitars, 20 guitars," recalled Beach. "I just bought a house in Florida, sold that – I was only there for 10 months – moved back to Pittsburgh from Florida, which I wish I didn’t have to do. And that was a really rough time.” Winger eventually disbanded in 1994, a year after releasing their third album Pull to diminished returns.
But Beach was able to find a new gig, with Kip Winger's help, eventually becoming part of Alice Cooper's touring band. “Kip told me that Alice [Cooper] was auditioning people, and I didn’t have enough money to get there. So Kip loaned me 500 bucks so that I could fly out and I could buy something cool to wear. I admit that I was nervous as a cat at the audition,” he recalls.
Beach has since proceeded to play with Dokken and Whitesnake, while later reuniting with Kip Winger along with Dug Pinnick and Kelly Keagy in the 2005 one-off band The Mob. Of late he's also worked with Black Swan and issued a 2020 solo album, A View From the Inside. Kip Winger, meanwhile, has released several solo albums, including material that ventured into classical music. He's also composed music for theatrical productions and has reunited his self-titled band, issuing three more records.