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The Top 10 Glam Metal Bands of All Time

These guys were glam enough, but were they good enough?
These guys were glam enough, but were they good enough?

by Alex Distefano

Call it what you will -- glam metal, hair metal, cock rock, or plain old '80s metal -- but there's something to be said for a subculture that extended from the late '70s into the early '90s that refuses to wash off its makeup and die.

Glam metal is an acquired taste, but the lasting legacy of certain bands cannot be denied. Music fans today, both young and old, share a longing for a time when spandex, Kabuki-style fashion, Aqua Net, fire, power ballads, glitter, and guitars were mandatory for any rock or metal show. For this list, I tried to go outside of the box with several picks to encompass bands that might not otherwise be considered glam or even hair metal but were, for whatever reason, lumped into the scene. This is not done as a pejorative -- to the contrary, some of these bands transcended the musical boundaries of shock rock, prog rock, power metal and even proto speed metal.

With that said, whether you're old enough to be Dee Snider's wife or young enough to be his daughter, bust out the hairspray, leather vest, and your tight pants and get ready to rock like it was 1985, again. Enjoy the Top Ten Glam Metal Bands of All Time.

10. LA Guns LA Guns came onto the scene in the mid-'80s, but by the time of the band's second release, 1989's Cocked and Loaded , it had defined 'cock rock' with its glammed-out biker-style looks, a foundation in classic/hard rock, and a harder edge that many fans adored.

Formed in 1983 by guitarist Tracii Guns, the band had many early lineup changes, most infamously taking part in the merger that became Guns N' Roses. But six years later, the band hit a note with hordes of fans, with their hit "The Ballad of Jayne."

With more than a dozen albums and tours with AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Iron Maiden, the current, active version of LA Guns features no original members.

 

9. Loudness Hailing from Japan, this international heavy metal group combines power metal with glam metal's nuances, and cheesy, yet powerfully loud songs with a good backdrop of heavy bass and hard drumming. The guitar playing is solid with crunchy riffs and catchy melodies and virtuoso style solos. The singer alternates in and out of high-pitch screams and operatic singing with more than one vocalist, creating songs that are memorable and meant to be experienced live.

Formed in 1980 by guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi, the band performed what might be considered early traditional metal in the vein of Van Halen and AC/DC. With a discography that includes 25 albums, the band is not as commercially successful in America as it is in Europe and Asia. Still active, Loudness has undergone many lineup changes, and sadly lost original drummer Higuchi from liver cancer in late 2008.

 

8. Twisted Sister How could we talk about glam metal without mentioning Twisted Sister? Lead singer Dee Snider's larger-than-life looks, persona, and voice screamed at listeners of Twisted Sister. In their early days the band was a mix of AC/DC and Iron Maiden and had a very accessible, yet punk-driven sound based on rebellion, making them an icon and symbol for the generation of the '80s.

They became a household name in the late '80s, with the hit singles "I Wanna Rock" and the timeless "We're Not Gonna Take It," (both from 1984's Stay Hungry) which were all over radio and MTV. Both songs became anthems for a generation of kids into heavy metal music when it wasn't cool, and society rejected it and attacked metalheads.

Twisted Sister also generated some broader controversy, when Tipper Gore and other members of the Parents Music Resource Center targeted the band for their song lyrics. Snider took offense and went on the attack to defend heavy metal music, testifying before Congress in a hearing that is available online, but is classic for any fans of the history of heavy metal in the '80s.

Twisted Sister is essential for anyone into this era of metal. Be sure to check out the debut album, 1982's Under the Blade; 1983's You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll; and the essential Stay Hungry from 1984.

 

7. Lizzy Borden Lizzy Borden may be considered more of a shock-rock type of metal band, but for better or worse, they were from Hollywood and got lumped into the early LA glam metal scene. This band was all about its live stage show; Lizzy Borden's theatrical take on heavy metal was full of the typical glam metal style at the time -- tons of spandex, and Aqua Net -- but it also made sure to include blood, corpse paint, and a fantasy-like set of characters brought to life through music. (They were named after the famous ax murderer, after all.)

Think of Lizzy Borden as glam metal's answer to Alice Cooper, on speed. With a thunderous power-metal vibe, signature echoing high-pitched vocals, and sharp traditional guitar riffs, the band has 10 albums under its belt and millions of copies sold worldwide.

Lizzy Borden still rages to this day, flying the flag of heavy metal worldwide, with a career spawning three decades and counting and no plans on stopping. With classic early albums such as Give Em The Axe and Love You To Pieces, Lizzy Borden might please fans of Judas Priest, and even Anthrax or early Slayer.

 

6. Hanoi Rocks Some credit this Finnish band with inventing the whole glam style in the early '80s, with a definitive sound that paved the way for bands such as Guns N' Roses, Motley Crue, and others who saw massive commercial success in the '80s.

Formed 33 years ago by guitarist Andy McCoy and singer Michael Monroe, the band would ultimately undergo numerous lineup changes. (The best-known lineup consisting of McCoy and Nasty Suicide on guitars with bassist Sam Yaffa and drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley.)

Taking inspiration and styles from '70s glam-rock bands, proto-punk, and even bands like Queen, The New York Dolls, and AC/DC, Hanoi Rocks made it a point to bring out a flamboyant androgynous image with the edge of a rock band. Imagine the Adicts meets Bon Jovi, but better and before it was popular. The band's debut album, 1981's Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, set the template for most glam metal bands to follow.

Hanoi Rocks was successful in the UK and the rest of Europe, but in 1984, after a year -long U.S. tour, drummer tragedy struck when Dingley was killed. The band was partying in Redondo Beach, California, with Motley Crue when Razzle and Vince Neil took a drive to a local liquor store to buy more beer, while both were drunk.

Neil, who was driving, survived the car accident almost unharmed, but Razzle was killed instantly, putting Hanoi Rocks on a slow, downward spiral. Be sure to check out the band's other early albums, such as Oriental Beat and Self Destruction Blues. Although the band would later reform in 2001, the legacy and lasting impact of Hanoi Rocks' early music, should not be overlooked. The band had many followers and was looked up to by numerous prominent figures in the early glam metal scene, many of whom are said to have been influenced by the style and image of the band.

 

5. WASP Perhaps not quite a glam metal band, WASP was from the same era and was more theatrical than anything else. WASP always had a darker edge and sound than other hair metal bands of the 80s; their self-titled album from 1984 is a true gem, with the classic single "I Want to Be Somebody."

Their 1985 album, The Last Command, contained the song "Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)," which earned the band publicity when (along with another band on this list, Twisted Sister) it got the attention of the PRMC. The band achieved a different kind of infamy when former guitarist Chris Holmes was featured in a drunken stupor chugging vodka in the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization: The Metal Years. WASP should be credited for its longevity and contribution to the '80s metal scene and sound.

 

4. RATT Led by singer and main songwriter Stephen Pearcy, L.A.-based RATT was a massively popular glam metal band that helped to usher in the commercial success of the subculture and its music. This is a band that had loud anthemic songs that became the epitome of the glam sound. With their best-known 1984 platinum single, "Round and Round," (from the1984 album Out of the Cellar ) and that famous intro guitar riff, the band earned an eternal rotation spot on radio rock stations like KLOS, where it can still be heard to this day. '"Round and Round," is a staple '80s heavy metal song.

Even after more than three decades, and many lineup changes over the years, RATT are together again with the original lineup, including singer Pearcy, drummer Bobby Blotzer, bassist Juan Croucier, and guitarist Warren DeMartinni, and are planning to record a new record. The band has toured the world and sold tens of millions of albums in its career.

 

3. Skid Row Without a doubt, Skid Row's first two albums left a lasting impression on the '80s glam metal scene, even though they were somewhat latecomers. Emerging in the mid-1980s, the band's best-known lineup consisted of founding members guitarist Dave "The Snake" Sabo and bass player Rachel Dolan, along with additional guitarist Scott Hill, frontman Sebastian Bach, and drummer Rob Affuso. Glam was never this heavy, but a band like Skid Row did a good job splicing the aggression and styles of both hard rock, early metal and glam, to a style that stood out because of Bach's talented vocals.

Armed with a talented voice, beautiful blond hair, and the hard edge to match soft cheesy ballads, Sebastian Bach's performance on the band's two first albums, 1989's self-titled release, and 1991's Slave to the Grind are still fan favorites to up- and-coming bands such as Asking Alexandria, Pierce the Veil, Black Veil Brides, and a slew of others. Classic hit tunes from the self-titled album include "Youth Gone Wild," and "18 and Life." The current incarnation of the band features new vocalist Johnny Solinger.

 

2. Motley Crue These guys are arguably the most successful of the so-called hair metal bands. Motley Crue was also one of the most hedonistic. If there was one band that had to symbolize the entire subculture of '80s metal bands and their decadent lifestyle, it would be Motley Crue.

Motley Crue and its founding members -- powerhouse drummer Tommy Lee and bassist Nikki Sixx, along with guitarist Mick Mars and singer Vince Neil -- Motley Crue is recognized worldwide as one America's biggest rock bands. With classic slabs from the '80s like "Shout at The Devil," "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Theater of Pain," and "Dr. Feelgood," Motley Crue wrote heavier songs that were hellbent on detailing the band's exploits with booze, drugs, and women. The band's debut album, Too Fast for Love, has a punk-influenced sound and is considered a classic glam metal album.

Glam Metal just wouldn't be the same without the pioneering sounds of Motley Crue, who not only developed the style and sound but also took it to new levels of excess and success. Even after 30-plus years, numerous brushes with the law, struggles with drug addictions, countless tattoos, and even a brush with the Grim Reaper (bassist Nikki Sixx overdosed on heroin in 1987 and was dead for two minutes, then revived), the band is still intact with all original members.

 

1. Guns N' Roses What can we possibly say about Guns N' Roses that hasn't already been said already? Aside from being labeled at one point the "World's Most Dangerous Rock Band," Guns N' Roses brought back the "hard" in hard rock and were still able to be just glam enough in their early days to compete with bands such as Motley Crue, RATT, Poison, and Cinderella.

What gave GNR the fuel to wreak havoc on the music industry was the amazing chemistry between lead singer Axl Rose and guitar hero Slash. No offense to the current version of the band, with only original member being Rose, but nothing will ever come close to the magic of the classic lineup of guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff Mackagan, and drummer Steven Adler. The quintessential hard rock masterpiece Appetite for Destruction is not only a must have for rock/metal fans, it's a must have for music fans, earning GNR the top spot on our lists.

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