The fifteen best hair metal bands of all time
Before grunge scrubbed the smeared makeup off of the face of hair metal and trimmed its flowing locks, an endless parade of longhaired dudes did their level best to destroy the ozone layer, fueled by a steady diet of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Oh, and, well, depending on the band, more sex and lots more drugs. Lots more. During the Reagan era, glam metal reigned supreme with these bands ferociously whipping their hair. Keep reading for a rundown of the fifteen best glam metal bands of all time.
See also: The ten geekiest metal bands of all time
Although this act summoned an an ocean of lighters to illuminate arenas everywhere with ballads like "Heaven" and "Sometimes She Cries," Warrant's late frontman Jani Lane still wrote songs like "Uncle Tom's Cabin" that were more serious than your average glam tune. And it would be remiss not to mention the strip club staple "Cherry Pie," even though it is a song much loathed by the band as a last minute recording on the album to snag a hit single.
With songs like "Unskinny Bop," Poison's songwriting wasn't always in front of the makeup and hairspray, but the band nonetheless earned fame well beyond the Sunset Strip with a simplistic, sexed up pop metal sound. Bret Michaels was one of those frontmen with a vocal range that turned your ears inside out but he still chalked up huge radio and MTV hits like "Nothin' But A Good Time," "Talk Dirty to Me" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
Cinderella's glam metal fairytale got its start in Philly a world away from the Sunset Strip. Breaking through the thousand-strong army of already waging hair metal bands with Night Songs in 1986, Cinderella squashed its predecessors with edgier banshee vocals and powerful harmonies that led to a succession of hit singles. Despite its terrifyingly hackneyed hair band appearance, Cinderella was a step above other bands from that era musically.
12. Twisted Sister
Twisted Sister had a loud, large and rebellious sound symbolized by Dee Snider's massive curly blonde locks and his teeth biting sneer, making Twisted Sister seem wilder than the other pretty boy glam metal metal bands. Twister Sister can also stake claim to the fact that it created two of the loudest and most sacred hair metal anthems of the '80s that kids shook their fists to in "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock."
11. L.A. Guns
Tracii Guns took over for Chris Weber on lead guitar in a band called Hollywood Rose with Axl Rose. The act suitably changed its name to Guns N' Roses, and it didn't take long for Guns to retreat back to L.A. Guns. That group broke through when it released its self-titled debut in 1988, and especially with its follow-up, Cocked & Loaded, containing "The Ballad of Jayne," which locked in a flock of hardcore fans
10. Quiet Riot
Quiet Riot was one of the original forces in this genre with two mega hits, "Cum on Feel the Noize" and "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)." Even though Randy Rhoads was the original guitarist before leaving to work with Ozzy in 1979, Quiet Riot still gained the bragging rights of the first U.S. debut metal album, Metal Health, to reach numero uno on the charts in 1983.
Dokken made a name for itself with its vibrato-laden, high-note reaching, namesake frontman Don Dokken, whose voice could soar high with the best killer pipe wailers in glam. Partnered with George Lynch, arguably one of the top axemen of the era with impressive sharp, clean solos, Dokken is one of the more underrated hair metal bands.
8. Bon Jovi
Despite its tepid sound and the fact that it embraced every rock cliché in the book, Bon Jovi earned a massive following and churned out a seemingly never ending string of hits starting with "Runaway" in 1984. These stadium rockers are lucky they haven't gone blind with all the girls that have flashed their boobs over the years. Global superstardom came after the release of Slippery When Wet in 1986. Even though Jon Bon Jovi is as big of a douchebag as Bono, he had one of the better set of pipes during the hair band era.
Rock and roll outweighed the glam in Tesla with its members donning T-shirts and jeans. The act also boasted two underrated guitarist during a time when musicianship wasn't always in the limelight, and hair, makeup and tight pants were. Apart from producing the classic '80s power ballad "Love Song," most of Tesla's lyrics strayed from popular rock themes, and instead of fluffing up the element of glam when breaking mainstream, they took a step back into a more classic rock sound.
Compared to other hair metal bands of the '80s, with its much darker sound and raunchy, shocking live shows, W.A.S.P. fits better in the "fuck you!" category than the glam category. "Fuck" was a word that was often implied in glam metal, but W.A.S.P. put it in a song title, "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)," which grabbed the attention of anal politicians and played into their censorship agenda. Instead of looking back on W.A.S.P. as a fucked up band, the world should look back on them as an original contributor to the '80s metal sound.
5. Skid Row
Fronted by Sebastian Bach with vocals that shatter glass and make ears bleed, Skid Row made a lasting impression with a heavier hair metal aggression, fusing thrashy guitar with a whole bunch of pop. The band's self-titled debut and Slave to the Grind are two major albums in the time capsule of glam.
RATT was one of the first glam metal bands on Sunset Strip to help shape its sound in the early '80s. With ripping singles like "Round and Round" and "Lay It Down," which featured the blazing fretwork of Warren DeMartini, RATT chewed up the other bubblegum groups of the time and then spit them out, displaying notably superior musicianship cloaked in a more leathery hard rock skin.
3. Mötley Crüe
On stage, Mötley Crüe was the wildest and craziest band of all, reaching new levels of rock star overindulgence. Unlike most bass players who blend in with the background, Nikki Sixx was a major player in the songwriting process, producing a hefty catalog of catchy tunes like "Kickstart My Heart" and "Shout at the Devil." As one of the pioneers of glam metal, Crüe helped shape the sound of this larger-than-life subgenre as early as 1981 with Too Fast for Love.
2. Guns N' Roses
More glam in their early days on the Sunset Strip than on studio albums, with the amazing one-two punch combination of Slash's serious shredding and Axl's vigorously vicious vocals, Guns N' Roses, without a doubt, outmatched all other hair metal contenders. Not only did they kick the shit out of hair metal, they were a major force in general, leaving an infinitely indelible impression with the tour de force that is Appetite for Destruction -- one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
1. Hanoi Rocks
Crawling out in the wee early hours of the '80s, Hanoi Rocks caffeinated other early acts like Mötley Crüe, making sure glam dressed itself properly with gender-bending flamboyance and brought an edgy attitude to hand down to its glam band beneficiaries. Although Hanoi Rocks never accomplished commercial success, the band did create a strong cult following. Unfortunately the ride ended early when its drummer Razzle died in a car accident with Vince Neil at the wheel.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.