Idiots Guide: Top 10 1980’s Hair Metal Bands

Chances are that you can say a great deal about the metal bands of the 1980’s. Amid the discussion however, you might find yourself, in a private moment, wondering if that music was really any good at all. You wouldn’t be alone, happens to me all the time. The reality is that when you’re a pre-teen – to – teen, as long as your music contains the requisite amount of energy, you’re likely to love it regardless of the critical reality and/or assessment(s). With that being stated, We present you with a top 10 of 1980’s Rock and Roll that people LOVED.

#10. Quiet Riot.

Founded in 1973, by guitarist Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne) and bassist Kelly Garni, Quiet Riot was called several other less than cool names before they landed on the scene in 1975. Yes, this is an 80’s list, and Quiet Riot achieved their fame in March of 1983, with the release of the ‘Mental Health‘ album. The hit single released on the album ‘Cum on Feel the Noize‘ catapulted the album all the way to the top spot (#1) on the Billboard chart, becoming the first debut heavy metal album in the United States to do so. That makes Quiet Riot the elder statesman of ‘Glam Rock’.


#9. Winger.

Many people would be surprised to hear that Kip Winger (Lead Singer) and his band’s namesake, originated in NYC. That’s right, the Big Apple contributed to the big hair metal phenomenon. Winger also holds the distinction of having not one but two Platinum albums! ‘Winger‘ (1988), and ‘In the Heart of the Young‘ (1989). With memorable singles like ‘Headed for a Heartbreak‘, and ‘Seventeen‘, Winger was all the rage in the late 1980’s. Kip Winger’s voice being a bright light in this band.


#8. Warrant.

Their debut album ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich‘ (1989) went Double Platinum! A white hot start for a band whose ‘hey day’ lasted about seven years (1989 -1996) with the lion’s share of the 10 million albums they sold coming in the late 80’s and very early 90’s. They seemed to be one of the last super successful ‘Glam Rock’/’Hair Bands’ before the ‘Grunge Movement’ took complete control of the rock and roll musical landscape. Memorable singles include: ‘Heaven‘, ‘Cherry Pie‘, and ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘. They essentially ended their run with the Gold album ‘Dog eat Dog’ (1995) But we remember them, don’t we? Sure we do!


#7. Poison.

Their record(s) speak for themselves in terms of commercial appeal. The sales numbers don’t just speak, they scream. Over 45 million albums sold over the course of 10 years, including an astonishing 15 million in the United States alone. Add three consecutive Multi-Platinum albums to that order please. While you’re at it you can also add six (6) Top Ten singles including ‘Every Rose has it’s Thorn‘, and ‘Something to Believe In‘. Poison was a cultural phenomenon for a quick minute. Lead singer Bret Michaels a bonafide star. Their hair? Best remembered in silence…


#6. Skid Row.

When your lead singer’s name is Sebastian Bach, how can you not be awesome? Not to be outdone by the aforementioned band, Skid Row’s first AND second albums ‘Skid Row‘ (1989), and ‘Slave to the Grind‘ (1991), both went Multi-Platinum, including the five (5) times Platinum of ‘Skid Row‘! Not bad for the boys from Tom’s River, NJ. Memorable singles included: ‘18 and Life‘, ‘I Remember You‘, and of course the party anthem ‘Youth Gone Wild‘. These guys were nothing if not a fun band…

skid row

#5. Cinderella.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s own, Cinderella had people in a tizzy during the 1980’s. Their debut album ‘Night Songs‘ (1986) went….Wait for it…Triple Platinum, at several points selling in excess of 50,000 albums every week! Yes, these guys were pretty damn good. Displaying a slight departure from the over the top glam image, and sound, they used a more ‘Hard Blues’ rock and roll sound that made them unique for the times, and perhaps gives their music a bit stronger staying power over time.


#4. Whitesnake.

Lead singer David Coverdale formed this band in England in 1978, however it was the release of their self-titled album in (1987) that raised Whitesnake to a rock and roll super power. ‘Whitesnake‘ the album went a mind boggling eight (8) times Platinum! Memorable songs: ‘Here I Go Again‘ (1987), and ‘Is this Love‘ (1987), both singles reaching number’s one and two on the Billboard charts. And who can forget the video for ‘Here I Go Again‘? Tawny Kitaen? Jaguar hood? Yes, we remember.


#3. Mötley Crüe.

The fact that most of you know who Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, and vocalist Vince Neil are, speaks volumes to the popularity and cache of  this band. Mötley Crüe has seen a career that consists of more than 100 million records sold on this planet. With a quarter of that total,  or 25 million copies sold in the United States alone. They were perhaps the poster children for the entire ‘Glam Rock’ movement. They had the craziest hair, make-up, and stage performances of that era. Memorable songs: ‘Girls, Girls, Girls‘, ‘Dr. Feelgood‘, and ‘Shout at the Devil‘. I could go on, and perhaps should go on, however the trials and tribulations of this band would require more space than this list allows. Suffice it to say that Mötley Crüe was a force of nature. Nobody before or since can even come close to their worldwide impact in the 1980’s/90’s.

motley crue

#2. Bon-Jovi.

Ok. Maybe Bon Jovi doesn’t fit the ‘Glam Rock’ label to the letter. However, their musical impact, and persona was rooted firmly in the era. Nowhere to go but near the summit at #2 on our list, Bon Jovi was a cultural phenomenon, period. Starting with the hit single ‘Runaway’ (1983), Bon Jovi’s coming out party was still to come with the release of their debut album, the self titled,  ‘Bon Jovi‘ (1984), followed by ‘7800° Fahrenheit‘ (1985). Those albums were good. But it was the (1986) release of ‘Slippery When Wet‘ that made Bon Jovi a certified super band. That album was and still is GREAT. With singles like: ‘You Give Love a Bad Name‘, and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer‘, they never looked back. Having both singles reach number one (#1) on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The hits kept coming after that with the release of ‘New Jersey‘ (1988). With over 130 million albums sold worldwide to date, they are among the best selling groups in the history of the Earth. One cannot overstate the widespread impact this band has had especially in the late 1980’s. One of, if not the best, ever.


#1. Guns and Roses.

In truth Guns and Roses were more of a transitional band, surfing the waves of rock and roll using some ‘Glam’ aspects, and lots of ‘Hard’ aspects. The bottom line is to many people, myself included, Guns and Roses IS the Rock Band Champion of the World. Although they are no longer the ‘old’ GnR, nothing can change the fact that this band released six studio albums in total, with album sales pushing more than 100 million worldwide, this includes approximately 45 to 50 million albums sold in the United States alone. Without a doubt, Guns N’ Roses is one of the most charismatic, and best-selling bands of all time. Period. You already know the singles including arguably the very best rock and roll song ever ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine‘, ‘November Rain‘, and ‘Welcome to the Jungle‘. I couldn’t think of a better #1 band for this era…Can you?

guns and roses