The 80s were the decade of excess and musically that was absolutely true as well. The hard rock and heavy metal musical landscape exploded with band members with huge, hairsprayed hair, and outlandish, often colorful outfits, and both male and female rockers were glamming it up with makeup, eyeliner, and lipstick! The movement became known as Glam Metal and many of the bands started shooting up the musical charts with huge album ales and top-charting singles. Today, we’re taking a look at the top glam metal bands that made this genre mainstream during the 1980s. Each band listed contributed significantly to keeping the genre and its image front and center whether they charted highly in the charts or not.
Poison released their debut album “Look What The Cat Dragged In” in 1986 and opened a whole new door for glam metal bands. While glam metal was already developing in the Hollywood club scene, Poison cranked the glam factor up to 11. The band, with the help of MTV and radio airplay, went all the way to #3 on the charts, fueled by the singles “Talk Dirty to Me”, “I Want Action”, “I Won’t Forget You” and “Cry Tough”. The band released only one other album during the 80s, Open Up and Say… Ahh! (1988) which featured their only #1 hit, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. The album made it to #2 on the charts and propelled Poison to the forefront of the 80s metal scene as the era was coming to an end.
Hanoi Rocks are one of the bands that helped the glam metal image into the scene during the early 80s. The band released Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (1981), Oriental Beat (1982), Self Destruction Blues (1982), Back to Mystery City (1983), and Two Steps from the Move (1984). Unfortunately, the band became even more famous for the death of their drummer Razzle in a car accident in which Vince Neil of Motley Crue was driving. Hanoi Rocks never received the commercial success that their contemporaries did, but were quite influential on the music scene. The band eventually completely broke up and vocalist Michael Monroe now has a thriving solo career.
Enuff Z’Nuff was founded by vocalist Donnie Vie and Chip Z’Nuff back in 1984. They released their self-titled debut album in 1989. “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” were both hits for the band in terms of sales and video rotation on MTV. It is still regarded as the band’s greatest album. The band’s fans have often compared their sound to that of a harder-rocking Beatles with a psychedelic edge. The band would go on to produce many great albums but failed to live up to the commercial success of the first album. Donnie Vie parted ways with the band and now only Chip Z’Nuff remains as the only original member who now handles vocals for the band as well.
Pretty Boy Floyd
Pretty Boy Floyd is a glam metal band that was formed in 1987. They released their debut album Leather Boyz with Electric Toyz in 1989. The album spawned two singles that were a hit with the glam metal fans “Rock and Roll (Is Gonna Set the Night on Fire)” and “I Wanna Be with You”. The band broke up in 1991 but reunited again in 1995. Pretty Boy Floyd has since released two albums called Size Really Does Matter (2004) and Public Enemies (2017) both to critical acclaim. The original lineup of the band was Steve “Sex” Summers, Aeriel Stiles-guitar, Kristy “Krash” Majors-Guitar, Vinnie Chas-bass, and, Kari Kane-drums. The current lineup is Steve “Sex” Summers– Vocals, Kristy “Krash” Majors–Guitar, Criss 6–Bass, and Vik Foxx–Drums.
Glam rockers Roxx Gang released the album “Things You’ve Never Done Before” in 1988. It received critical acclaim and glam metal fans thought they had found the newest sensation in the scene, but the band would implode and change lineups before releasing new albums in the 90s. It all came out a little too late though, as the music climate had changed and record companies were looking at alternative bands to be the next big thing. The band’s albums were generally quite good and entertaining with vocalist Kevin Steele keeping things somewhat consistent.
Swedish glam metallers “Shotgun Messiah” impressed a lot of people with their trashy, sleaze sound on their self-titled debut in 1989. The band was originally called Kingpin but changed their name to Shotgun Messiah with their sights set on the L.A. Music scene. Original vocalist Zinny J. Zan left the band one year after the debut album and Bassist Tim Tim (Tim Skold) took over vocal duties. The band released the albums Second Coming (1991), I Want More EP (1992), and Violent New Breed (1993). Tim Skold would later go on to join industrial rockers KMFDM and perform with Marilyn Manson as well as a solo artist with his own band SKOLD. Original vocalist Zinny J. Zan released a solo album and two albums with his band The Zan Clan. Rumors have swirled recently that Tim Skold may be planning to reform Shotgun Messiah.
Tigertailz was the U.K.’s version of Poison. Musically their debut was much heavier than Poison’s. The band featured vocalist Steevi Jaimz on vocals, who had a more gruff voice that contributed to the band sounding less like a bubblegum glam band and more like a sleaze rock band in the vein of L.A. Guns or Faster Pussycat. Young And Crazy was a fantastic debut, but the band parted ways with Steevi Jaimz after this release. While they continued on with other vocalists, and still do today, they never reached the level that they achieved with the first album. Young And Crazy was one of the best glam metal releases of the ’80s. If you can find this one, you should get it. It’s great on every level.
Tuff was the epitome of the 80’s glam scene. Vocalist Stevie Rachelle looked like Brett Michaels of Poison with more muscles. Rachelle’s voice was much deeper and added a darker sound to their version of glam rock but just couldn’t catch up to the rising tide of alternative rock that was taking over at the beginning of the ’90s. Tuff, however, created some great albums and should still appeal to fans of the genre.
Vinnie Vincent Invasion
After being released as the guitarist in KISS, Vinnie Vincent formed his own band called the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Featuring Vinnie, Dana Strum on bass, Bobby Rock on drums, and former Journey vocalist Robert Fleischman. This lineup recorded the debut album and found success touring with bands like Iron Maiden after the album’s release in 1986. The band’s look was entirely over-the-top glam. Fleischman would be replaced before the first tour and the second album “All Systems Go” which featured Mark Slaughter on vocals. However, the tension between the band members and Vinnie Vincent lead to Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum leaving to form the band “Slaughter”. Bobby Rock would go on to play drums with Nelson and Lita Ford among others. The Vinnie Vincent Invasion received great reviews from fans and critics alike, but the band’s implosion lead to Vincent becoming somewhat of a recluse and rarely releasing any new material afterward.
The D’Molls featured Desi Rexx on vocals, bassist Lizzy Valentine, guitarist S.S. Priest (Diamond Rexx), and Billy Dior on drums. They released their debut album in 1988 on Atlantic Records. The band got their video for “777” featured on MTV, but it did little to sell more copies of the album. The band would go on to release two more albums “Warped” (1990) and Beyond D’Valley Of D’Molls (1997).
King Kobra was the brainchild of drummer Carmine Appice, who had played with Rod Stewart and the king of metal, the madman himself, Ozzy Osbourne. The band featured band members that would later go on to other bands like W.A.S.P. and the Bulletboys. King Kobra’s look was unusual, to say the least with all members except for Appice having extremely bleached blonde hair. Ready To Strike was a great album and promised great things to come, but unfortunately the band never quite reached this level again. The band recorded the soundtrack to the movie Iron Eagle” and several other albums but ultimately disbanded. Lead vocalist Mark Free has since changed his gender to female now known as Marcie Free. Carmine Appice is currently performing with his brother Vinnie Appice in Drum Wars.
Nitro was formed in 1988 and the group featured vocalist Jim Gillette (Ex-Tuff), guitarist Michael Angelo Batio, bassist T. J. Racer and drummer Bobby Rock (Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Nelson, Lita Ford). Hailing from Hollywood, these guys set out to be over the top on everything with Michael Angelo Batio’s double-necked guitar that he played with both his right and left hand at the same time and Jim Gillette’s incredibly high-pitched screams. They released their debut album O.F.R which stands for Out-F#king-Rageous in 1989 and followed it up with Nitro II: H.W.D.W.S. in 1991 before disbanding. They received some MTV airplay with the video for Freight Train but failed to connect with a larger audience as far as commercial sales are concerned.
Stryper’s contribution to Christian metal is the equivalent of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest in the non-christian metal world. As far as the image, I never really got the God-fearing big hair boys with goofy outfits that made them look like bumblebees. They are however quality musicians who brought Christian metal to the mainstream in the 1980s. During the 80s they released the following albums: The Yellow and Black Attack (1984), Soldiers Under Command (1985), To Hell with the Devil (1986), and In God We Trust (1988). The band received heavy rotation on MTV and fans have applauded their work in recent years as some of the best of their entire career.
With the release of “No Respect”, which was actually released at the end of 1989, Vain should have been superstars. They make the list because they didn’t really get known on a more mainstream level until 1990. This great album received some help from MTV but couldn’t quite garner huge success. No Respect is still a favorite of mine and their follow-up albums, including their most recent release, are all great additions to any hair metal fans collection.
The Glam metal scene wasn’t just dominated by male hair metal bands. Vixen took the glam image up a notch for ladies as well. While the band was formed in 1980, Vixen wouldn’t find commercial success until they released their debut album, Vixen in 1988. It was a successful debut album and it reached #41 on the Billboard charts. This all-female outfit found fame and fortune in the 80s rock scene. Sadly, guitarist Jan Kuehnemund died from cancer in 2013 at the age of 59. Vixen has released four studio albums and the band continues on today with vocalist Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale) replacing Janet Gardener.