You have Heavy Metal, you have Thrash Metal, you have Speed Metal, you have Death Metal….but out of all the types of metal music there are, were, and will be, Hair Metal holds a place near and dear in my heart.
Hair Metal requires just as much musical talent as any music style, but add to that the importance of good looks (usually requiring lots of hair spray) and a flamboyant onstage routine that oozes sexuality.
We’ve narrowed the list of the greatest hair metal bands in history down to the Top 10. See if your favorites made the list.
10) Mötley Crüe is one of the most well-known hair metal bands. Founded by bassist Nikki Sixx in 1981, the band consists of Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, lead singer Vince Neil, and lead guitarist Mick Mars. One of the famed hair metal bands to come out of the Los Angeles club scene of the 1980s, the band has sold over 100 million records worldwide. Their records include Shout at the Devil; Theatre of Pain; Girls, Girls, Girls; and Dr. Feelgood. Aside from their radio friendly music, the band was well known for their insatiable thirst for alcohol and drugs – however the band has since found sobriety. The band performed for the last time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on December 31, 2015, stating it will never tour again. However, the band is currently back together recording music for the biopic Dirt about the band’s years on the Sunset Strip.
9) White Lion was formed in New York in 1983 by Danish vocalist Mike Tramp. Tramp was the quintessential hair metal front man with good looks and an endless tenor voice. Surrounding Tramp were lead guitarist Vito Bratta, drummer Greg D’Angelo, and bassist James LoMenzo. Musically White Lion was one of the most gifted on the hair metal circuit, scoring hits with Wait and When the Children Cry, but aside from Tramp, their looks were subpar which hurt them in this era of music videos being the primary selling tool to young girls who made up most of their target audience.
8) Skid Row was formed in 1986 in New Jersey and released their self-titled first album in 1989. The band at that time consisted of bassist Rachel Bolan, guitarists Dave “Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill, drummer Rob Affuso, and vocalist Sebastian Bach. Although Bach has proven to be one of the biggest assholes in rock, in terms of sheer vocal talent there will probably never be another as gifted as him. Skid Row scored hits with 18 and Life and I Remember You. Bach has since left the band and they have continued with different singers over the years. There are no plans for Bach to reunite with the band.
7) Van Halen is another very well-known hair metal bands. Named for lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen and drummer Alex Van Halen, the band added vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony in 1974. The band initially played dates in Pasadena and Hollywood where they were discovered by Gene Simmons of Kiss fame. Simmons produced a demo of Van Halen, but couldn’t get album or management interest for the band. In 1977 the band impressed Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Brothers Records and they were signed to a recording contract. Roth, long known for his ego, departed the band in 1985. Some accounts indicate Roth was fired, others propose Roth left the band to concentrate on his solo career. Sammy Hagar replaced Roth in the band from 1986-1996. With Hagar in the band, Van Halen scored number one hits, something that eluded the band under Roth’s days as front man. Gary Cherone of Extreme replaced Hagar in 1996 and stayed with the band until parting ways amicably in 1999. Hagar returned to the band in 2003 and stayed in the lineup though 2005. Roth rejoined the group in 2007 and has remained with the band through present day. Bassist Anthony was ceremonially replaced by Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang Van Halen without explanation in 2006.
6) Joker is a Chicago-based hair metal band with a sound that can best be described as Journey meets Warrant. Joker release their debut album on indie label Red Light Records in 1989. The band’s lineup consisted of Tony Ingala on vocals, Joey Miroballi and Nick Sikich on guitar, Brian Smolar on bass, and Matt Stone on drums. The band recorded a sophomore album, Cool Deal, that was to be distributed by BMG Music on the Zoo Entertainment label in 1992. The album was produced by Gary Loizzo (REO Speedwagon, Styx). Unfortunately for the band, BMG and Zoo opted not to release the album due to feelings that the hair metal era was coming to a close. The band reformed in 2017 as Pavement Entertainment decided to finally release the Cool Deal album. It is one of my favorite albums in the genre.
5) Warrant formed in Hollywood in 1984. Featuring a lineup of guitarist Erik Turner, vocalist Adam Shore, drummer Max Asher, guitarist Josh Lewis, and bassist Jerry Dixon. After lead vocalist Jani Lane , guitarist Joey Allen, drummer Steven Sweet joined the band in 1986, they landed their first recording contact with Columbia Records in 1988. Their debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich featured such hits as Heaven, Sometimes She Cries, and Down Boys. To support the album, Warrant toured with such bands as Poison and Mötley Crüe, The band released their sophomore album, Cherry Pie in 1990. The album featured such songs as Cherry Pie, Blind Faith, and I Saw Red. A 1992 release, Dog Eat Dog, received critical acclaim but only moderate sales. In 1994 Lane left the band to start a solo career and Columbia dropped the band from its roster. After reuniting with the band for several years, Lane quit the band again in 2004. Lane died of acute alcohol poisoning in 2011. Robert Mason has been the vocalist of the band since 2008.
4) Dan Reed Network is a lessor known hair metal band hailing from the Pacific Northwest (Portland, OR). Mixing funk with metal, the band released a six track EP, Breathless, that attracted major label interest leading to a recording contract with Mercury Records. The band’s lineup included Reed on guitar and vocals, Brion James on guitar, Melvin Brannon II on bass, Dan Pred on drums, and Blake Sakamoto on keybords. Landing a four-star review from Rolling Stone Magazine, the band opened for such bands as Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones. Subsequent albums include Slam and The Heat. While the band achieved great success in Europe, poor marketing in the U.S. prevented the band from gaining fame and success in the states. The band reunited in 2016 to release the album Fight Another Day, with Rob Daiker replacing Sakamoto on keys.
3) Guns n’ Roses was formed in Hollywood in 1985 and was signed to Geffen Records in 1986. The lineup featured vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. Their albums include Appetite for Destruction, G N R Lies, Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, and The Spaghetti Incident. Eventually all members except for Rose departed the band – some fired, some quit. Rose leaked word that Guns n’ Roses would be releasing a new album entitled Chinese Democracy in 1994. However, the album (featuring only Rose of the original lineup) wasn’t completed until 2008 and was critically panned. Slash and McKagan rejoined the band in 2015 for the Not in this Lifetime tour. GNR’s hits include Welcome to the Jungle, It’s So Easy, Paradise City, My Michelle, Sweet Child of Mine, Patience, Used to Love Her, Civil War, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, and Get in the Ring.
2) Poison may not have the musical chops of some of the other popular Hair Metal bands on the list, but they embody everything that attracted teenage girls to scream allegiance and buy over 45 million albums worldwide. The band was formed in 1983 in Mechanisburg, Pennsylvania under then name Paris. The lineup consisted of lead vocalist Bret Michaels, guitarist Matt Smith, bassist Bobby Dall, and drummer Rikki Rockett. To further their careers, the band relocated to Los Angeles and changed their name to Poison. In 1986, guitarist Smith returned home to PA and was replaced by C.C. DeVille. The band was signed to Enigma Records and released the breakthrough album Look What the Cat Dragged In in that same year. The album spawned the hits Talk Dirty to Me, I Want Action, and I Won’t Forget You and became the highest selling album on the Enigma label. Their follow up album Open Up and Say Ahh peaked at Number 2 on the American music charts. The album included the Number 1 single Every Rose Has Its Thorn 1990 saw the release of Poison’s third album, Flesh & Blood. The multi-platinum album spawned several hits including Unskinny Bop and Something to Believe In. Clashing personalities led to the dismissal of DeVille from the band in 1993, replaced by Richie Kotzen. Kotzen didn’t last long. When it was discovered he was having an affair with Rockett’s fiancé, Kotzen was fired and replaced by Blues Saraceno. DeVille was then brought back into the band in 1996. Although new music has slowed, they continue to sell out concert tours. They are one of the all time greatest party bands.
1) Bon Jovi has been making hit records since 1983 to the present. The original lineup consisted of singer Jon Bon Jovi, keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, guitarist Phil X, and bassist Hugh McDonald. After scoring a hit with the single Runaway, the band went through some lineup changes consisting of Richie Sambora on lead guitar and Alec John Such on bass. The band enjoyed huge success with the 1986 release Slippery When Wet which included the hit singles You Give Love a Bad Name, Living on a Prayer, and Wanted Dead or Alive. The album spent eight weeks at Number 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart. New Jersey in 1988 proved another hit album for the band including such singles as Bad Medicine, I’ll Be There for You, Born to Be My Baby, and Lay Your Hands on Me. Subsequent albums include Keep the Faith, These Days, Crush, Bounce, Have a Nice Day, Lost Highway, The Circle, What About Now, Burning Bridges, and This House is Not For Sale. Hugh McDonald returned to the bass for the band in 1994. Phil X formally replaced Sambora on lead guitar in 2016 after Sambora left the group. Year after year, decade after decade Bon Jovi has supplied a steady stream of hits including cross-genre hit Who Says You Can’t Go Home which peaked at Number 1 on the Country Charts. Every album has shown growth and adaptation to new music trends. Ironically, they earn the top slot of the Top Ten Hair Metal Bands by not staying in the Hair Metal genre, but by constantly keeping their sound relevant.