For the past month or so I have been immersed in Seventies Glam Rock, particularly the brand that originated in the United Kingdom with hits by T.Rex, David Bowie, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Sweet, among many others. What I have been reading about the English scene sounds like it was a fun time for both artist and fan, with both living their parts via fashion and within the clubs. Now, Glam Rock, or as I remember it being called back in the day, “Glitter Rock” really never caught on en mass here in the States. Sure, we all remember “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” by T.Rex or many of the early singles released by Bowie, but American Suzi Quatro was a superstar in the UK but unheard of in the States until her recurring role on the TV show Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero, as were other big UK rock stars like Slade, Mud and Gary Glitter. And, although American Glam Rockers like Alice Cooper and KISS both experienced mega-success, other American Glam artists such as the highly influential New York Dolls lay strewn on the side of the rock highways, as causalities to the fickle public.
Actually, it was not until the Eighties, when an Americanized version of Glam burst in the clubs on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. This version was a mix of the gender-bending dress of the musicians, added to spandex and lots of metallic material used in the band’s costuming. The bands all had long hair that appeared to be exploding from their heads, much like a stereotype of a New Jersey girl in the Eighties. These bands used cases of AquaNet, all the while borrowing their girlfriends’ makeup. This version of Glam Rock was mixed with a guitar-solo-worshipping virtuosos to form a poppier version of heavy metal, known as Pop Metal, Glam Metal, or, in a more derogatory manner, Hair Metal.
Now, in the States, Glam first became popular with the New Wave of the first artists played on MTV by the likes of Duran Duran and Culture Club. But, when that watered-down version of metal mixed with pop melodies (or good old English Glam Rock) started crawling out of L.A., first with Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz album, followed by Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe and Ratt, the floodgates were beginning to open. Then, at the US Festival in 1983, on the third day, the organizers held a “Heavy Metal Day” whose line-up was filled with many of the Sunset Boulevard bands that were making a scene at the time. And, that day was the most attended day of the three-day festival. Now, this Hair Metal thing was more than a scene, it was a happening. Record companies began to search everywhere for these bands. Def Leppard came from England, Bon Jovi from New Jersey, Poison from Pennsylvania-via-L.A. It seemed as if these Hair Metal band were everywhere by 1988. And, I was sick of the genre back in 1986! The whole thing offered little to me. It may have been the most conservative, same-sounding genre in the history of rock music. And, it’s success and excesses killed rock music, so much so that music no longer holds the same stature with the millennials that it once did with the Boomers and Gen X-ers.
But, in honor of this era, arguably the most decadent time in the history of rock music, I give to you, my reader, My Top 40 Hair Metal Hits. Enjoy!
40. Alice Cooper – “Poison”. This is the man who really started this genre finally getting a hit during Hair Metal’s heyday. This is poetic justice.
39. Aerosmith – “Janie’s Got a Gun”. What?!?! Someone is tackling a social issue in this genre? Heaven forbid!
38. Mötley Crüe – “Dr. Feelgood”. Okay, this is about their drug supplier and not their favorite strippers.
37. Bon Jovi – “You Give Love a Bad Name”. I’m sorry, but someone explain to me how Bon Jovi got into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!
36. Van Halen – “Hot for Teacher”. Van Halen was fun. Van Hagar was not. Any questions?
35. Mötley Crüe – “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Now, I will ALWAYS love this song because the lyrics show a sense of humor. Who hasn’t thought that when breaking up with a soon-to-be-former-partner.
34. Hanoi Rocks – “Tragedy”. This Finnish band was a fore-runner to this whole Hair Metal-thing, as they released this song in the early Eighties.
33. Autograph – “Turn Up the Radio”. Okay, here’s an ode to the use of a radio as music source for a party. How quaint.
32. KISS – “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II”. The perfect song to end Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
31. Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”. See? GNR was so much more than the party band for a bunch of strippers.
30. Aerosmith – “What It Takes”. This song will always remind me of a buddy who had been engaged to two or three different young ladies when this song came out. “There goes my old girlfriend. There goes another diamond ring.” HAHAHA!!!
29. Night Ranger – “Sister Christian”. Does anyone really think this power ballad convinced the guy’s sister to hold on to her virginity? Not if she listened to the rest of Night Ranger’s catalog.
28. Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne – “Close My Eyes Forever”. Nice power ballad Lita! Nice use of Ozzy when he could still sing.
27. Skid Row – “18 and Life”. I just HAD to throw this song in my countdown. WHY?
26. Poison – “Nothin’ but a Good Time”. Anyone else think Poison might be a Cheap Trick tribute band in disguise?
25. Aldo Nova – “Fantasy”. Anyone remember this Hair Metal Prequel?
24. Aerosmith – “Livin’ on the Edge”. “Aerosmith” on the comeback trail. Okay.
23. Enuff Z’Nuff – “Fly High Michelle”. I am not really sure if this Chicago band is Hair Metal or not. Like Poison, they might be a better Cheap Trick tribute band.
22. Def Leppard – “Photograph”. This song has verses that remind me of Loverboy, choruses that remind me of Journey, a middle eight that reminds me Sammy Hagar, and guitars that remind me of Van Halen. No wonder it was a hit.
21. Mötley Crüe – “Looks That Kill”. The Crüe was more believable early in their career.
20. Poison – “Unskinny Bop”. Yawn! Here’s a song for strippers!
19. Def Leppard – “Rock of Ages”. I like that the band counted to four in Swedish, or some Germanic language, to make people think they were doing something satanic at the beginning of the song.
18. David Lee Roth – “Yankee Rose”. Roth’s first real song he released is a hard rock classic.
17. Great White – “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”. Great White did a cover of UK Glam band Mott the Hoople’s former lead singer’s solo song and made it a hit.
16. Twisted Sister – “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. This video was funny, though Twisted Sister’s take on androgyny was scary.
15. Scorpions – “No One like You”. I saw this band open a concert in 1979, and I laughed at them throughout their set. The only band in the countdown who had a balding musician in a “Hair” metal band.
14. RATT – “Round and Round”. I knew this genre was trouble when the bands started recycling the old Aerosmith sound.
13. Whitesnake – “Here I Go Again”. Was this a hit because of Tawny Kitaen writhing throughout the video, or was it a nice little pop ditty? Might be the question of the era.
12. Bon Jovi – “Dead or Alive”. Jon Bon Jovi, do you really want me to answer that? Still, a good song.
11. Lita Ford – “Kiss Me Deadly”. The second most popular artist to come from the seminal L.A. all-girl band The Runaways.
10. Mötley Crüe – “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Strippers, Strippers Strippers. That’s why this genre became so boring to me.
9. Van Halen – “Jump”. Despite some guy in my dorm playing this song for two hours straight, I still like it.
8. Quiet Riot – “Cum on Feel the Noize”. This is a cover of Slade’s original Glam Rock classic that set the American charts on fire.
7. KISS – “Rock and Roll All Nite”. This is ground zero for the hair metal phenomenon.
6. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer”. Will radio ever quit playing this song? I liked the song better when Son #1 was a two-year-old singing it to his mom.
5. Living Colour – “Cult of Personality”. Technically, not a Hair Metal band, but they are third best metal band from this era, behind GNR and Faith No More.
4. Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. When Son #1 was three, he told me this was our song? Must have been because we saw the video everyday right after his mom left for her aerobics class.
3. Ozzy Osbourne – “Crazy Train”. “All Aboard!” Few could turn down that offer of public transportation. Especially, if Ozzy’s the conductor!
2. Poison – “Talk Dirty to Me”. The best Cheap Trick imitation of all-time. As a matter of fact, Poison might be the best Cheap Trick tribute band if they only chose to play Cheap Trick songs instead of all the crap Poison recorded.
1. Guns N’ Roses – “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Once again, GNR is NOT a hair metal band. They have too much punk in them (Thanks Duff!) and too much street cred to be a hair metal band. They only perfected the sound.
And, there you go! The 40 Hair Metal Songs that I actually like. I really didn’t think I would find that many, but I did!