After posting about Motley Crue, I saw there was a lot of debate about which hair band sucked the most. Being a fan of Hair Bands / Glam Metal / Pop Metal / Poser Metal I thought I would throw in my favorites just because it looked like fun. My qualifications for this list were that the bands had to be musically excessive, wear spandex and use more hair spray than an army of Supermodels (meaning Metallica, Guns N Roses and AC/DC were disqualified). It also gave me a chance to learn from my wife how to name links with different words. So, my 10 favorite hair bands:
The masters of the "street urchin" look (torn spandex, fishnet and wrist/leg wraps), Ratt started as Mickey Ratt and were all about Stephen Pearcy's reptilian voice and Warren DeMartini's Van Halenish guitar solos. Out of the Cellar (1984) was a Pop Metal classic with hits like "Lack of Communication", "Wanted Man" and of course "Round and Round". Known for their provacative album covers (Whitesnake girl Tawny Kitaen is on the cover of Cellar) and videos the band were on MTV often during the mid 80's. They were never able to match the power of Cellar but still convinced enough people to Ratt N Roll for the rest of the decade. Sleazy, cheesy and a lot of fun was what I thought of them.
Favorite Album: Dancing Undercover (1986) had the spiraling guitars of "Dance", the rockin' "Body Talk" that was featured in Eddie Murphy's Golden Child movie and my favorite Ratt song-
Favorite Song: Slip of the Lip was fun.
Most Hair Band Moment: Their fragmentation following their greatest hits disc in 1992 has included lawsuits, reunions with some but not all original members, weak comeback attempts and the unfortunate death of guitarist Robbin Crosby. Pretty much writing the book for most hair bands career path whose hey day ended with Grunge.
When people think of human pyramids, they probably think of cheerleaders or the start to Eight is Enough. But what I think of is an aging '70's German metal band that found second life as one of the premier hair bands of the 80's performing human pyramids onstage. The Scorpions blew up with their 1981 album Blackout and came up with one of the best known Pop Metal anthems, "Rock You Like A Hurricane". At the beginning of the 90's, their power ballad "Wind of Change" became the theme song for a reunified Germany. In between, classics like "Still Loving You", "Rhythm of Love" and "No One Like You" rocked all over the world. And they completely left Ratt in the dust for risque' album covers.
Favorite Album: Made before their Hair Band peak, 1979's Lovedrive is an awesome display of the Scorps at their least compromising. Molten riffs, screaming vocals and face melting solos. But, to add a sensitive side the ballad "Holiday" closes the record. Essentially Lovedrive was the template for the band's future albums.
Favorite Song: Every time I hear Can't Live Without You from Blackout it gets stuck in my head for days.
Most Hair Band Moment: Did I mention Human Pyramids? Or that their mascot from Blackout was a crazy guy with forks in his eyes? But their most hair band moment was the comings and goings of original Lead Guitarist Michael Schenker. Lead guitarists were like the quick draw gunsmiths in the wild west, sometimes going where the ego feeding, I mean money, I mean artistic expression takes them.
Two words: Michael Matijevic. His voice was maybe the most powerful ever heard in Pop Metal, a multi octave flamethrower that could set any track on fire. The ultra power ballad "I'll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes) is my favorite song of all time. And poser rock? This guy knew every lead singer pose there was. He did the lean back and scream with the mic way up in the air, the side shimmy, the head shaking during the suspended notes, the fast spin-there was no Hair Band singer that was better. Or less recognized by the general public.
Favorite Album: I only have one of their two CDs they recorded during their peak, so I'm going to have to go with Steelheart (1991).
Favorite Song: I'll Never Let You Go . Best. Song. Ever.
Most Hair Band Moment: This band's moment was one of the saddest as it ended the intial part of their career. Lead singer Michael Matijevic climbed an improperly secured lighting rig and it fell on him. It literally plowed his head into the stage resulting in injuries that took him out of music for years.
It's debatable if Tesla belongs in this category because they were a bit more Hard Rock, but if the spandex fits then wear it. I lived in Sacramento CA during the late 80's, the band's hometown where they were considered like Gods. Very representative of the city they came from, even at dance clubs you would hear Tesla in between MC Hammer and Janet Jackson songs and the dance floor would not stop moving. And watching frat boys try to impress girls by drunkenly warbling the power ballad "Love Song" is burned in my mind. "Luv is gonnnna find a weighhh (hic) way back two uuuu-dude, get me another beer". Despite this, I still thought they were a great band with versatility and some authenticity. A rarity in Hair Band metal.
Favorite Album: Psychotic Supper (1991) was one of the band's sharpest records, raging hard rock ("Edison's Medicine") alongside rock anthems ("Call It What You Want") and power ballads ("What You Give").
Favorite Song: Don't De Rock Me is a clusterbomb of twin guitar soloing with Jeff Keith's ragged vocals and Troy Lucketta's pounding drums to up the ante.
Most Hair Band Moment: Twisted Sister's Dee Snider derisively credited Tesla with the "unplugged" movement of the early 90's following the band's hit cover of "Signs".
David Coverdale saw a generation of kids who had never seen Led Zeppelin and milked it for all it was worth. But he did it with style. 'Ol leatherhead (well, not anymore after plastic surgery) took his bleached blond hair and howled at the moon a'la Robert Plant to the tune of Platinum records and #1 singles. But let's face it, the times Led Zep showed their face during the 80's was few and far between and in terms of sheer Rawk power Whitesnake had both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's solo discs beat. Not even John Bonham's son (Bonham) or the near second coming that was Kingdom Come ("Get it On") could not compete with Coverdale's Zepparama. "Here I Go Again" has become a pop culture staple of thanks to twirling mic stands, airy keyboards and a fist pumping chorus. And the video with Tawny Kitaen on a Jaguar became a media classic.
Favorite Album: Slide It In (1984) was part of the two album roll that had Coverdale working with guitarist John Sykes (Blue Murder). Sykes skill with adapting Page's stop time riffage to slicked out 80's guitarwork was key to the band's success. Slide It In was rougher and more impolite than the mega successful Whitesnake (1987) making it the better choice.
Favorite Song: Here I Go Again seems the obvious pick but my true favorite is Love Ain't No Stranger .
Most Hair Band Moment: Whitesnake and David Coverdale are said to have inspired parts of the film This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and Michael McKean's character David St. Hubbins. Otherwise, having a specific beautiful girl as your band's calling card (the next band copied the move by bringing in Alicia Silverstone in the early 90's).
In 1984, Bostonian hard rockers Aerosmith reunited it's original lineup including vocalist Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry after a few years of drug abuse had torn the group up. They released a strong album, Done With Mirrors, in 1985 and were ignored. So they turned to Bon Jovi vets Bruce Fairbairn (producer) and Desmond Child (songwriter) and turned Hair Band. It led to one of the biggest comebacks in rock, a string of Platinum albums and power ballads followed and soon they were considered America's Band. Pop Metal classics like "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)", "Angel", "Janie's Got A Gun", "Love In An Elevator" and "Livin On The Edge" cemented their place in Hair Band history.
Favorite Album: Of their Hair Band period, Pump melded their bluesy Hard Rock edge to hooky choruses the best leading to four hit singles and nearly every other track becoming a rock radio favorite. "Elevator", "Janie", "What It Takes", "The Other Side", "Young Lust" and "FINE" all come from this album.
Favorite Song: Love In An Elevator had a swingin' groove, Tyler's hyperactive come ons and an Arena ready chorus. Oh Yeah!
Most Hair Band Moment: Years after the end of the genre, Aerosmith conquered the charts in 1998 with their ultimate power ballad - the Diane Warren penned "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing". Even nearing the new millenium Aerosmith were still spurring bic lighter sales (shortly replaced afterwards with cell phones).
...rhymes with Rockin' is what the cover to their Breaking The Chains album said. After I heard the power ballad "Alone Again", I was hooked on Dokken. They had a darkness to their sound that was very Metal, but the songs were catchy. The combo of Don Dokken's dramatic vocals and George Lynch's stunning fretwork made them a contender for being a best selling band but they could never crossover. They tried hard, recording movie soundtrack songs ("Dream Warriors" for Nightmare on Elm Street 3) and even tried to sound happy one time ("Burning Like A Flame") but pop success was elusive. As a result, lesser talented bands are better remembered than Dokken.
Favorite Album: Under Lock And Key (1985) had Producer Neil Kernon matching the band's bombast with heavy over production making it the most fully realized Dokken effort. Speed metal, midtempo melodies and power balladry all sit comfortably side by side.
Favorite Song: It took a little while for me to warm up to, but Into The Fire has become my favorite track from the LA rockers.
Most Hair Band Moment: Every rock band is famous for having "creative tensions" between members, but the feud between Don Dokken and George Lynch is the stuff of legend. What's funny is I can't think of any single incident happening between them that was memorable, just constant reports of their battles back in the day. Because they never crossed over, they were better known as a band for their infighting than any music they recorded. Making Dokken the number one example of Hair Band egos at their worst.
3. Def Leppard
I'm always amused that this band was once considered part of the British New Wave of Heavy Metal. When Def Lep met producer Mutt Lange, Pop Metal history was made as Lange focused the groups basic elements into a cohesive sound. Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) are two of the best selling albums of the 80's. Their ability to spend years crafting perfectly structured Glam Metal is well known, coming up with a sound that rocks with some crunchy riffs, bounces with heavy synthesized production and capped with squealing multitracked vocals. All the bad luck in the world couldn't stop this band.
Favorite Album: Pyromania combined AC/DC style slam bang grooves with their hooky Glam rock choruses to create a potent mix. "Photograph", "Rock of Ages" and "Foolin" were MTV staples. Even album tracks like "Rock Rock (til you drop)" and "Comin' Under Fire" still stick 25 years later. Unta Gleebin Glossen Globen.
Favorite Song: Is Tear It Down a song I once read described as an "Atomic Rocker". The version I like is the one with Steve Clark that was a B side to "Women", not the rerecorded version for the Adrenalize album.
Most Hair Band Moment: Taking four years a shot to record an album while they multitrack everything. Like Samson's hair, it was the source of their power but also their bane. It was like they were in a betting race with Tom Scholz of Boston to see who could spend more time making a record, leaving fans a lot of time to twiddle their thumbs between releases.
2. Bon Jovi
My story with Bon Jovi is a long and windy one. The band started out an Arena Rock band, sort of a Foreigner meets Bruce Springsteen, which is when I became a fan of Bon Jovi thanks to their minor hit "Runaway". After the first album, Jon Bon Jovi figured out that he got bigger royalties for selling albums instead of singles and that Metal bands sold primarily albums while Arena Rock bands sold singles. This prompted Bon Jovi's switch to metal, naming their second album 7800 degrees Fahrenheit (1985) which was promoted as "the melting point of metal". I still followed them through this change even though I was disappointed they were no longer Arena Rock.
Bringing in Producer Bruce Fairbairn and songwriter Desmond Child, Bon Jovi recorded the Pop Metal classic Slippery When Wet (1986). I loved that album for the first three months and played it until I got sick of it-I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. That's when "You Give Love A Bad Name" went to #1 and suddenly everyone had the record and was playing it constantly. It just burned me out on them. Though I was never as big a fan as just before they hit it big, I remained a Bon Jovi fan for the years that followed. Slippery and New Jersey (1988) became the pinnacle of Hair Band metal as they became all things to all people-enough rock to appease Hair Band fans while providing beefcake to the ladies.
Because they were never true Metal, Bon Jovi has been able to adapt to any trend whether it be Alternative, Adult Contemporary, Teen Pop or New Country making them the most enduring act of the genre. But in the late 80's they were one of the top Hair Bands in the country.
Favorite Album: Is still Slippery When Wet because time heals all wounds. "Livin On A Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" came from this album as well. Even the cast off "Edge of A Broken Heart" from the Disorderlies soundtrack was great.
Favorite Song: Is a song I don't own anymore. The stomping King of the Mountain from 7800 Fahrenheit is the tune that's always caught my attention. It's not that distinct a song, it just works for me. Go Tico!
Most Hair Band Moment: Hair bands often had to look pretty, in the image conscious 80's rock could no longer star ugly guys. Jon Bon Jovi perfected the pretty boy look for Hair Bands selling millions of posters to female fans and giving Kip Winger a fashion guru. And it was so annoying to see guys get that Superman tattoo on the shoulder to try to be like Bon Jovi.
1. Van Halen / David Lee Roth
It seems strange to name Van Halen because I consider them more an influence than an actual part of the Hair Band scene. But they were active performers during the era and were as much a part of it as anyone else. Van Halen's style- the slick clothes, the flamboyant front man, the shred guitar solos, the acrobatic stage shows and party hearty anthems were copied by all the Warrants, Slaughters and White Lions of the rock world. Nobody did it better before or since. Between a Sammy led Van Halen and a Steve Vai finger tapping David Lee Roth the genre had a battle going on where fans were the winners.
Favorite Album: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) combined Hagar's style with the Roth era approach to rockin'. It was weak in terms of songwriting, but the performance wins me over every time.
Favorite Song: Just can't top Diamond Dave's Yankee Rose for Pop Metal, the one two punch of Roth's rambling and Vai's talking guitar is unbeatable. It's the song I wished he had done with Van Halen.
Most Hair Band Moment: They had weird album titles throughout their career, but for three albums Van Halen got really off the wall. 5150 (1986) was advertised as the police code for the insane, OU812 (1988) was a joke in itself and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was an anagram of the first letter of each word.
And that's my Top 10 for Hair Bands, I wished I could have added Motley Crue and Europe and to the list but I'm going to leave it at ten. But this list really should have gone to 11.