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Hair Metal Bands

Music | By The Top 13 on March 9, 2010

Hair or glam metal, one of our very favorite genres of music from our youth, has seen a resurgence of sorts over the past few years. Many of the bands from that era have successfully released new albums and toured, and Poison frontman Bret Michaels gave us an intimate look at the life of a rock star on his very own reality show. The hair metal renaissance is continuing; last month, the new incarnation of Guns N' Roses played a few surprise shows in New York City. And over the next few weeks, the Scorpions and Ratt are scheduled to release new albums. With this burst of activity from some of the biggest bands of the genre, we began to reflect on the best that hair metal had to offer. Accordingly, we present the Top 13 Hair Metal Bands of all time.

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Guns N' Roses

1

Guns N' Roses

Just including this band on a list of hair metal acts might be viewed as a bit controversial. Regardless, once the decision was made that Guns N' Roses qualified, they were immediately slotted in at the top. Though at times straight heavy metal and blues rock, the band was formed in Hollywood in the mid-1980s and released its undisputed classic Appetite for Destruction in 1987 in the midst of the hair metal boom. And although the band's members certainly had the glam look common to the scene around that time, as can be seen in the video below, ultimately Guns N' Roses expanded beyond and transcended the genre. Appetite has sold more than 33 million copies worldwide.

Mötley Crüe

2

Mötley Crüe

Like the band at the top of this list, Mötley Crüe emerged from the Los Angeles glam rock scene to become one of the biggest metal bands in the world. With the foursome, including drummer Tommy Lee and vocalist Vince Neil, known for their outsized personalities, addictions, tattoos, scrapes with the law, and women, Mötley Crüe has lived the stereotypical hair metal lifestyle as fully as any other band on this Top 13. Beginning with 1981's Too Fast for Love, the Crüe released five straight fantastic platinum albums in the 1980s; all told, the band has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide. A film adaptation of the foursome's collectively written autobiography The Dirt will hit theaters next year.

Poison

3

Poison

With the release of their 1986 debut Look What the Cat Dragged In, the boys from Poison burst onto the glam rock scene and began a nearly 25-year run in the spotlight that continues today. Yet another representative of the Los Angeles hair metal scene, Poison - led by singer Bret Michaels and guitarist C.C. DeVille - remains best known for anthems off that debut like "Talk Dirty to Me" and "I Want Action," as well as the band's only number one single, the ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," which appeared on Poison's sophomore effort. Though they've toned down their glam look with the times, the band is still touring and enjoyed renewed success after Michaels' debaucherous reality show, Rock of Love, began airing on VH1 in 2007.

Def Leppard

4

Def Leppard

Having formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England as part of the new wave of British heavy metal, Def Leppard easily predated the hair metal movement. Nevertheless, the group's most successful album, 1987's Hysteria, was unquestionably a staple of the fleeting glam rock genre. With more than 20 million copies sold worldwide, that album spawned six top 20 singles, including the iconic ballad "Love Bites" and the unforgettable rock anthem "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Of course, Leppard will go down in history as much more than a hair metal band; its other albums sold nearly 20 million copies combined in America and the band remains moderately successful today. Its most recent album – released in 2008 – reached number five on the charts.

Bon Jovi

5

Bon Jovi

While most hair metal bands glamorized sex, drinking, and the rest of the hard-partying lifestyle, Bon Jovi enjoyed immense success playing the role of the good guys of the genre. But what they lacked in street cred, they more than made up for in record sales. Hailing from New Jersey, the east coast hub of the hair band scene (also home to hair metal bands like Skid Row and Trixter), Bon Jovi would become one of the most popular bands of the MTV era and beyond, selling out arenas and stadiums to this day. Their most popular album worldwide, 1988's New Jersey, sold more than seven million copies domestically and had five top 10 singles, which remains a record for a hard rock band.

KISS

6

KISS

When KISS released Lick It Up in 1983, they traded in their trademark kabuki makeup for the familiar mascara, lip gloss, and rouge of the hair metal movement. KISS co-frontmen Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons realized that classic hard rock - which KISS had perfected throughout the 1970s - was being surpassed by the glossier glam metal style and they were quick to cash in on this change. This led to slicker production, flashy music videos, and power ballads galore. While rock purists often refer to this time as the low point in KISS's career, all of their albums during this period went gold or platinum and produced at least one hit single, including the classics "Tears Are Falling" and "Forever."

Cinderella

7

Cinderella

Led by Tom Keifer - arguably the greatest voice of the hair metal era - this Philadelphia band utilized MTV to garner success as much as anyone during the hair metal era. Cinderella's first two albums went triple platinum, each on the strength of a popular power ballad and an accompanying music video: 1986's Night Songs gave us "Nobody's Fool" and 1988's Long Cold Winter featured "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." Unfortunately, the band has been plagued by personal problems - notably Keifer's long-term battle with vocal cord hemorrhaging - which have kept them out of the studio and off the road for many extended periods since the early 1990s.

Ratt

8

Ratt

One of the forbearers of the glam or hair metal movement, Ratt's beginnings can be traced back to 1976. But the Southern California band, led by vocalist Stephen Pearcy, actually broke out with the 1984 release of its debut album Out of the Cellar, which sold more than three million copies and featured MTV-favorite "Round and Round," the video for which included a cameo by Milton Berle. Hair metal video vixen Tawny Kitaen, who later appeared in the Whitesnake video one spot down on this list, graced the album's cover. Ratt – which gradually shifted toward blues-rock on later records and has sold over 20 million units worldwide – will release its first album in over a decade this month.

Whitesnake

9

Whitesnake

Founded in the late 1970s by short-term Deep Purple frontman David Coverdale, Whitesnake didn't start out as a hair metal band. But by the mid-1980s, when this English band started experiencing real success on this side of the pond, Whitesnake moved away from its more bluesy roots and adopted the hair metal style then emerging out of Los Angeles. Whitesnake released three albums between 1984 and 1989 that sold more than fourteen million copies combined in the United States. The band's self-titled classic from 1987 featured hair metal favorites like the ballad "Is This Love" and the rocking "Here I Go Again," which can be seen below.

Scorpions

10

Scorpions

Releasing its first album back in 1972, the Scorpions had a far deeper catalog than any other band on this Top 13 by the time the hair metal era began. But this German export – which has sold more than 100 albums worldwide - achieved its greatest success during a four-album period between 1982 and 1990 that corresponded with the advent and height of glam rock. And there's no question that even though the Klaus Meine-led Scorpions were making straight ahead metal in the 1970s, their best songs from those four albums – like "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "No One Like You," and "Wind of Change" - featured all the hallmarks of hair metal. The Scorpions will release their final album later this month.

Tesla

11

Tesla

Tesla was probably the least glam of all the bands on this Top 13. Nevertheless, with the release of The Great Radio Controversy at the height of the hair metal era in 1989, Tesla rode the tide with big hair and tight pants to the greatest success of the band's lengthy career. Indeed, the power ballad "Love Song" was Tesla's only original song to reach the Billboard top 10. The Sacramento band has mostly stayed together, had three more platinum albums, including the trend-setting Five Man Acoustical Jam, and continues to release well-received and modestly successful albums.

Skid Row

12

Skid Row

Aided in their effort to secure a record deal by friend and fellow New Jersey resident Jon Bon Jovi, Skid Row burst onto the scene in 1989 with a self-titled debut, which sold more than ten million copies worldwide and featured two mega-hits in "18 and Life" and "I Remember You," as well as the fantastic teen anthem "Youth Gone Wild." Led by singer Sebastian Bach, Skid Row was unquestionably hair metal at the time of its debut, though the band certainly became more metal and less hair during the nearly ten-year period in which the original lineup was intact. The band continues to record and tour, though Bach is long gone and only two original members remain.

Warrant

13

Warrant

Another band from this era to emerge out of Hollywood, Warrant makes the Top 13 on the strength of its first two releases, each of which sold more than two million copies and which charted eight singles between them. Led by singer Jani Lane, Warrant had the big hair, spandex, and leather expected of hair metal bands, plus the power ballads - "Heaven" and "I Saw Red" - and rock anthems - "Down Boys" and "Cherry Pie" - necessary to be successful. Though the band has gone on to release five more albums and continues to tour, Warrant's lineup has changed repeatedly and Lane no longer plays with the band.

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Comments Leave a comment

KungFuJay ★★

Great list. I think GNR kind of transcends the genre, if it even falls in it, but you point that out. And I'd have Cinderella a little higher out of personal preference but no real complaints.

9:39 AM   Mar 09, 2010

eeezoe 

GNR should be chopped from this list...

9:45 AM   Mar 09, 2010

stillathreat ★★

I think Guns N' Roses qualifies - just watch the video on here. Also, they started with a bunch of members of LA Guns, and they are definitely a hair band. By the way, where is WINGER????

10:28 AM   Mar 09, 2010

jeremy 

Wow, this list looks like the contents of my velcro-strapped vinyl cassette carrying case from back in the day, except I didn't listen to that creepy old men hair metal, a la Kiss and Scorpions. Seems like there's a tension btw picking bands that most typify what means to be hair metal, e.g. Poison, and incredibly talented (at least for a few albums) bands that are a trillion times better than Poison, but not as hair metal-y, e.g. Def Leppard. Really like seeing Cinderella on here. Guess they left no room for Britny Fox, though.

3:45 PM   Mar 09, 2010

rjasonf 

I'm torn on the inclusion of GNR. I personally don't really think they are hair metal, but I can see why you would see fit to include them. And, obviously, if you include them, they're #1. Overall though, it's a great list and one about a genre that I'll always have a soft spot for.

9:15 AM   Mar 10, 2010

johndoeaa 

Damn Yankees. No respect.

12:23 PM   Mar 11, 2010

rjasonf 

not sure how I missed this before, but there's a disturbing lack of Dokken on this list.

7:27 PM   Mar 14, 2010

old_school_rulz 

Your list is lame & obviously you either aren't old enough to have been around during the era or you were one of those posers that listened to top 40 & then claimed to all your friends at school about the cool bands you listened to in order to try to be cool. It looks like you searched the internet for "hair bands" & just listed all the bands that were well known or on everyone else's lists.

G n R? Please. They don't deserve the respect to be on the list, let alone at the top! That's the band all the posers made popular & all the true hair fanatics made fun of. Bon Jovi? They for sure shouldnt be on there. They were more like pop rock.

In that era most of the time what was popular to the general public wasn't with the hair metal fans.

Where's Dokken, Y&T, Saraya, W.A.S.P. or even Great White?

11:07 PM   Mar 03, 2011

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