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80's Hair Metal Masterpieces

Updated on June 27, 2016

Don't you miss that hard-edged simple sound of 80's pop metal?

A guilty pleasure for some, but not me, I am proud to say I enjoy hair/glam Metal. most of glam metal sounds better than most of the top 40 drivel I hear today.

Hair Metal or Glam Metal is a form of heavy metal that must be performed by a band who either had or did have big hair or some sort of glam or make upped appearance of one type or another during their career. Make up is not required.

Honestly though it's all about sound, you know it when you hear it.

There were a lot of bad, or even horrid hair metal bands for sure, but there were more than a few that rise above the pack, and a many albums that still stand the test of time.

The use of music videos worked very well for the glam/hair metal band, since much of their appeal was visual without a doubt.

Styles not on this list:

Don't expect Guns n Roses to be on this list, they were only briefly glam in appearance, their music was too punk influenced and for my way of thinking, closer to a rawer under produced Rolling Stones sound.

Rarely did GNR ever use a straight ahead power-chord, GNR probably rescued many a teen-aged kid in the late 80's from total hair metal oblivion. Gun's was also a bridge to other heavier bands, like Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica.

I notice Van Halen on a lot of these lists too, I never considered them glam metal, am I wrong about that? I also consider Van Halen a 70's pre-glam band. Their first album probably did predict the genre of pop metal for sure, almost every guitar player after 1978 mimicked Eddie Van Halen in some way, and David Lee Roth's looks and mannerisms were also lifted by many a glam band after.

You probably could make a legitimate case for the first Van Halen from 1978 album as being the first so-called hair metal album; but when listening to the albums below it's pretty obvious that sound wise, these bands below did not sound anything like Van Halen.

Motley Crue: Theater of Pain

Theatre of Pain released in 1985 was Motley Crue's complete embracing of the hair/glam metal style, especially the music is slicker and more pop radio friendly. it also was the first album after the car crash manslaughter arrest of Vince Neil for the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas Dingly.

Theatre of Pain features probably the most loved Motley track, the power ballad "Home Sweet Home" as well as the top 15 hit "Smokin' in the Boys Room.

Bassist Nikki Sixx wrote all the tunes except the "Smokin in the Boys Room Cover" the album sure sounds less heavy than Shout at the Devil and most of the phony satanic imagery is gone.

Motley Crue began seeing much more airplay as well on MTV at this time, from here on out The Crue found a formula to create good hard rock music that appealed to the masses, while still preserving their well deserved dirty white boys reputation.

Cinderella: Night Songs

Cinderella, a band discovered by Jon Bon Jovi received a big push when they were the opening act on the Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet tour. In fact, for a band with only 4 studio albums, selling over 20 Million records worldwide is pretty astounding in my book.

I have always thought Cinderella was underrated, Long Cold Winter and Heartbreak Station were very good, they featured a different sound, a blues rock style with heavy influences of 70's album rock.

Night Songs is one of the quintessential Hair metal albums, they certainly had a glam teased hair appearance. Power chords galore, with sex and drugs permeating the music on Night Songs. the obligatory power ballad title track, and plenty of solid guitar work.

Guitarist/vocalist Tom Keifer's stage presence draws heavily on Aerosmith front-man Steven Tyler's image and mannerisms.

Night songs sold over 3 Million Copies before the decade of the 80's was up. I just listened to the album on vinyl, and it still sounds good, not exactly the Beatles Abbey Road, but a good solid hard rock album.

The Cult: Sonic Temple

What a fantastic album The Cult's Sonic Temple is, super macho singing Ian Astbury, with his Jim Morrison meets Glen Danzig vocals, with no-nonsense guitar riffs and perfectly produced sound, an approach that drives home one of the best hard rock albums of the 80's.

Tracks like "Fire Woman", Edie Cao' Baby, "Sun King"and "Sweet Soul Sister" round out a solid core of album tracks, just put it on and listen beginning to end.

Note: As a vinyl collector, some of these albums released at the end of the original vinyl era (1989) were short printed on vinyl, and nearly impossible to find on vinyl. A copy of Sonic Temple can set you back $100, while the CD and download is under$10.

Other hard titles to find of the genre include: Skid Row's Youth Gone Wild, Badlands' "With Jake E. Lee" Self Titled début, and Tesla's The Great Radio Controversy are not all easy to find on vinyl.

Kiss: Crazy Nights

You really have to give Kiss credit, as they were easily the biggest hard rock act of the 70's

To come up with a new style after the makeup became stale, Kiss found a way to capitalize on the new MTV music video genre, and its huge marketing opportunity.

Kiss was able to stream line and polish up their sound and image, and during the 80's, Kiss released some fantastic classic hair metal albums that fall comfortably into the style, Lick It Up, Animalize, and Crazy Nights were the 3 best.

Crazy Nights is an extremely good hair metal album, certainly no high brow song writing, but what kiss was good singing about in the 70's, was perfect for the hair metal genre.

The title track "Crazy Nights", "Hell or High Water" the power ballad "Reason to Live", and the title track create a nice party atmosphere, reminiscent of their iconic 70 "hit "Rock n Roll All Night. Kiss was essentially playing the same music, just slicker production and conformed more to the 80's hair metal look.

Also for my money, as much as I liked Ace Frehley, Guitarist Bruce Kulick was easily the best technically gifted guitarist Kiss ever had. But let's be honest, Ace is still the man.

Tesla: The Great Radio Controversy

Tesla certainly would not be characterized as a glam metal band, even though they toured with many of those types of bands during the mid 80's. It may be a stretch including them as a hair metal band as well, but the music style lend its self to the comparison.

I saw Tesla open up for Motley Crue at Columbus Ohio's Buckeye Lake during an out door concert on the 4th of July 1990. Hundred degree heat and shut off water fountains, easily the worst concert experience I ever had.

Tesla though, was very good, and Guitarist Frank Hannon sang Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze, I thought is was spectacular.

Oh that concert, hundreds of people's car windows smashed and cars spray painted with orange paint, I'll never forget the miserable experience.

The fire department showed up to pass out water and ordered the ownership to turn on the water fountains after so many 911 calls came in for heat exhaustion, yeah, scum bags were charging high prices for small cups of lemonade.

Our funds were wiped out when they charged us 20 bucks per person to park, no joke. To this day I hate the Ohio State Buckeye's because of the negative association I have when I think Buckeye.

Oh, what about the album?

The Great Radio Controversy is easily Tesla's best fully realized album, the album almost has a 70's album rock feel to it. Many different styles are touched upon, the bluesy slide guitar of Frank Hannon on Heaven's Trail, and one of the better authentic ballads within hair metal "Love Song".

Along with tracks like "Lazy days and Crazy Nights" and "Hang Tough", The Great Radio Controversy rounds out one of the best albums of 80's rock.

Ratt: Out of the Cellar

Ratt's Out of the Cellar was one of Hair metal's early breakthrough successes, the album released in 1984 eventually sold more than 3 Million copies. The centerpiece of the album is the track "Round and Round"; a track that went all the way to #7 in 1984.

Other quality tracks are "Wanted Man" and "Back For More". Ratt would go on to carve out a nice career for themselves with albums like Dancing Under Cover and Reach For the Sky.

With an original sounding vocalist in Stephen Pearcy, and a solid lead guitarist Warren Demartini they had what It took for a solid metal band.

Def Leppard: Hysteria

Def Leppard is quite simply one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, they are one of the few rock bands to have a pair of albums with sales over 10 Million each.

Hysteria is quite simply a monster of an album, and quite frankly isn't as good "not as heavy" as Pyromania in my mind, but selling well over 20 Million albums worldwide is impressive.

Hysteria stayed on the charts for a record 96 weeks in the top 40. Mega hits like "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Love Bites" propelled the album to incredible heights, not to mention concert footage video after video on MTV, it seemed like Def Leppard were Everywhere.

Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet

Slippery When Wet, despite its filler songs, does have 3 Monster hits. In fact, the first hair metal band to have back to back #1 hits, "You Give Love A Bad Name" and Livin' on a Prayer". Both of these songs were co written by songwriting superstar Desmond Child.

Child in his own right should get some credit for actually making the genre more credible with some better written songs throughout the mid to late 80's. Slippery When Wet has sold nearly 30 Million units worldwide.

As a whole, Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet is probably a little uneven compared to Def Leppard's Hysteria, which in my mind is more consistent with not much filler. Slippery When Wet does have a few lesser songs that seems out-of-place on the album "Wild in the Streets" and "Never Say Goodbye" especially.

I will also concede that Bon Jovi is much more than a hair metal band. Their image definitely fit though when they broke onto the pop metal scene.

Dokken: Under Lock and Key

Dokken is band I was rather fond of, and easily they were my own favorite of the hair/glam metal bands.

I always thought Don Dokken had a great soulful singing voice and shred guitarist George lynch technically was about a good as it got. Dokken somehow eluded real mainstream success.

In their entire 11 year run before the 1989 breakup, they only sold 10 Million records world-wide, when you consider many of the bands on this list did more than that many times with one album.

All of Dokken's Albums are worth hearing, Breaking the Chains, Tooth and Nail, Back for the Attack, and the double live album Beast from The East are all great high quality hard rock albums.

All of Dokken's albums have pretty good song writing, and a unique sound that I always thought was somewhat of a darker Blue Oyster Cult influence. Under Lock and Key is their best album, with Back for the Attack a close second. A myriad of hit songs on Under Lock and Key, with "It's Not Love," "The Hunter," "In my Dreams," and "Unchain the Night" make Under Lock and Key a must have.

Over the years my music tastes have changed dramatically, and I was more into discovering the masters of modern jazz and early progressive rock music, but Dokken's CD's were the only ones from the hair metal genre I hung onto from the day, and though I have been repurchasing most of the hair metal albums of my youth, I still listen to the those Dokken's albums even today. George Lynch's guitar playing still makes me green with envy.

Whitesnake: Self Titled (1987)

To the uninitiated Whitesnake must have seemed like an overnight success, never suspecting that Singer David Coverdale had founded the band 10 years earlier after leaving Deep Purple.

This album titled simply Whitesnake, was the bands 7th album, and like kiss, Coverdale took great advantage of the MTV marketing bonanza, Coverdale moved away from the 70's rock n blues style to a slicker but more metallic studio produced sound.

Whitesnake was actually recorded in 1985 and 1986, and not released until 1987.

Guitarist John Sykes, bassist Neil Murray, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar did all the session work for the album, only for all to be fired before the release of the album and replaced by Guitarists Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenburg, and drummer Rudy Sarzo.

Whitesnake sold over 8 Million copies, and the fired guitarist John Sykes made a fortune off of song writing royalties as he co wrote all but 2 songs with Coverdale, his Sykes band Blue Murder is one of the most unsung hair metal albums of the era.

Hanoi Rocks: Two Steps From The Move

Finland's Hanoi Rocks is the quintessential glam-metal band. No band, outside of Kiss, Van Halen, and Aerosmith were a bigger influence on the genre, and honestly it's a crying shame this band, and its lead singer Michael Monroe aren't a house hold name.

Released in August of 1984 Two Steps From the Move was Hanoi Rocks fifth and final album; they disbanded after the Death of drummer Razzle, who was killed in a car driven by drunk Motley Crue front-man Vince Neil.

Two Steps From the Move is such a wonderful album, the punk influences are still there, but being their major label début and Bob Ezrin at the helm of production the album has a little harder edge than previous albums.

The Hooks and raunchy guitar riffs are here as well, with lead Singer Monroe doing his best David Bowie croon meets Mick Jagger's cock sure vocal strut.

I always found it odd that the album never charted in the U.S. and only reached 28 in the U.K. and had ZERO top 40 hits, though 5 cult classic tracks appear on Two Steps From the Move.

A cover of John Fogerty's "Up Around the Bend" is the lead off track and is quite good. It's not a radical change from the original, only a harder edge.

The trio of tracks: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Million Miles Away", and "Don't You Ever Leave Me" are startlingly good songs that have aged wonderfully the past 30 years. "Boulevard" a tale of drug addiction and its devilish hold over someone, has such clever word play, combined with the catchy chorus and back ground harmonized vocals, who can't like them?

Check out Guns n Roses' Welcome to the Jungle video, you'll see a clear ode' to Mike Monroe's image with Axl Roses' teased hair and his mannerisms. Many of those same mannerisms, passed down from Mick Jagger by the way, and perhaps Elvis Presley before him?

Tangier: Four Winds

If you have never heard this album before, risking hyperbole, you do really need to get this album now.

Four Winds is one of the best so called hair metal albums of the last 80's. Singer Bill Matson reminds me of Foreigner's Mick Jones a little, but he can really sing and the sound of the album is more in the vein of 70's arena rock than strict hair metal. But the hooks are there, and catchy they are.

The lead off track "Ripcord" kicks butt, tracks like "On the Line", Four Winds", Fever for Gold", "South Bound Train", and "Bad Girl" are all fantastic.

Tangier founder Doug Gordon is a real deal guitar stud too, he never over does it, but all of his solos are impressive.

If you like bands like Tesla, Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora's solo work, .38 Special, or perhaps even Foreigner, you'll like this. Don't get me wrong, this album rocks and it still fits in good with the hair metal style, but it does fit well into other styles as well.

The End of the Era

The self titled début album from Badlands, Dangerous Toys, Skid Row and Bulletboys deserve special attention for sure. White Lion's Pride, Cinderella's Long Cold Winter, Motley Crue's Girls Girls Girls, Tesla's Psychotic Supper, and any of Great White's 80's albums are very good.

By 1993 the genre was pushed to the curb by the Seattle grunge movement. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Sound Garden offering a darker and more thought-provoking sound. I have to tell you though, other than Pearl Jam, I don't return to the Seattle bands much....

As time has gone by, I find a lot of that music to be very pretentious and way too preachy for my tastes.

Isn't it funny how the alternative to the mainstream becomes homogenized?

The once fresh alternative, becomes over done and seems its self conformist?

Body art and body piercings are that way today as well, seems like you're the rebel if you shun the tats and piercings? One of life's little ironies?

Pearl Jam, with vocalist Eddie Vedder in particular, I thought took themselves way to seriously. You don't find much humor in the Seattle sound I know that.

I marvel at the genius of Vedder though, brother can sing, his vocals are so good and his lyrics brutally honest, I can't help but respect the guy... but sometimes I want to hear music that makes me tap my toes and smile once in a while, not grab a Prozac.

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    • GodsOfRock profile image
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      GodsOfRock 9 months ago from United States

      From what I understand, he did. He says he didn't know it was a live dove, but a stuffed animal.

    • Boomer Music Man profile image

      Boomer Music Man 14 months ago

      Great article. Would you know if it's true that Osborne bit the head off a dove in a concert?