Content Warning: Though rare, there are references in this piece to sexual assault and misdemeanour.
There are also references to sex, drugs, and the kinds of things glam metal albums are built on. We apologise for any offence caused. Discretion is advised.
Some time ago, I delved into the world of glam metal; of the late ‘80s where drugs, sex and booze poured out like gospel from the radio. Where long-haired, leather-clad rockstars ripped down the Sunset Strip on motorbikes, and not far behind were entourages of groupies. When Mötley Crüe were big, when Bon Jovi were just starting out, when Def Leppard were carving a name for themselves. Love it or loathe it, from 1985 to 1993, hair metal was the scene. It was it.
And then it faded. The perfect mixing pot of boredom, uncontrollable behaviour and the rise of other movements in the world of music sealed the coffin lid shut on glam metal for good. But did it? Like rock ‘n roll, perhaps it’s not really dead. Wounded perhaps, but still, undeniably, here. There are those who still pray at the altar to Quiet Riot; who look up to posters of Poison in their bedrooms, who cradle Ratt rosary beads.
I’ve always been a fan of glam metal, but I was curious to hear what other rockers and ravers had to say about it. How such a genre shaped them, and even went on to define their growing years. Over several weeks and months, I sat down and tried to find the answers. Why is glam metal still so loved, even today? And how can such a beast be brought back from the musical morgue? What was there for us to salvage from a bygone age, and what lies there to leave behind? How was glam metal flawed, and how can it be remembered?
Remember, for many of these people, glam metal – the big hair, chained leather and spandex pants – isn’t just another branch of music. It’s something that defines them, something they can take refuge in. And sanctuaries like that don’t come often enough in this world. These are the people who seek shelter in them, and these are their stories. These are the tales of a youth gone wild.
The Pretty Lawless:
Name: Mja (@xxxleatherandlacexxx)
City: Los Angeles, CA – Born in Kentucky
What was your introduction to the world of glam metal?
“I was born into this music. My father, uncle and cousins are all musicians and have toured with some of the greats, so naturally they introduced me to these outstanding bands at an early age. I remember being three years old and singing the entire Too Fast for Love album [Mötley Crüe]. MC, Poison and Joan Jett were my idols from the start.”
Who’s your favourite glam metal band/artist?
“My all-time favourite band is Mötley Crüe but right beside them is Vain. Crüe turned me into the person I am and Vain gave me that little extra something I needed. Both bands are the soundtrack to my life.”
Vain were one of many hair metal acts to come out of the late 1980s; releasing their debut, No Respect, in 1989 – which did well both critically and commercially. Like many acts, however, they failed to follow this up four years later, when glam metal had slid from its mainstream pedestal.
Any bands you think are underrated in the hair metal genre? Or even overrated?
“I one-hundred percent believe that Guns ‘n Roses are overrated. They’re great musicians but totally overrated. However, bands like Vain, Tuff, Wildside and Shark Island deserve way more recognition. The amount of talent between them is astonishing.”
Are there any individuals in the world of hair/glam metal you idolize the most? Or look up to?
“I have a few, but all for different reasons. When it comes to who I think is most talented, hands down Dylana Nova from Vain (lead guitarist) and if its vocals, then Davy Vain.”
Why do you love glam?
“The reason I love this music so much is because it hits me with so many emotions. It’s there for me when I need to cry, feel like a badass or simply be in a good mood. I came from an abusive and broken home, so when no one was there, they were. It’s more than music to me. It’s my family. Their songs spoke to me in ways I could never imagine.”
Have you found others interested in the same thing?
“Oh, of course! I’ve been on the internet since 2007 and gone to shows since I was six years old, so I’ve been privileged to make friends with lots and fans, and even rockstars. I’m so thankful for the amazing community I know and am part of.”
Why do you think glam metal is no longer mainstream?
“You know, it’s just one of things where it comes and goes. Some things come back into style, just like hair metal did with some younger folks last year . I don’t think it will ever die; it’s just shadowed a bit. It’s a different life, different time unfortunately.”
So, you think it’s still alive?
“Yes, as I said, it’s coming back into the light with younger kids, but the rock and roll community is so large, it’ll be passed on for generations to come.”
Let’s talk downsides for a moment. Do you think there are any to glam metal and/or its community?
“Some people think it’s all about the fucking looks. If you’re not a hot babe, then you’re not cool in the glam scene. If you’re not a dude with the best hair and makeup, you’re a clown. It’s bullshit and I absolutely hate it. It’s about your passion for the music, not your fucking genetics.”
Is there anything from glam metal, or your love for it, that you can take as some kind of lesson? Something to keep in mind.
“Rock and roll is about passion, and not giving a damn about what others think. Live how you want to live.”
Name: Ella (@groupieofrock)
How did you find out about glam metal?
“I started listening to glam metal around April of last year. My parents have never really been rock ‘n roll fans, so I started listening to rock music myself, without any form of influence from them. Glam metal is currently one of my favourite subgenres of metal, because I feel like the production of its albums stood out in comparison to other rock/metal genres at the time. The riffs were another component of glam that had me hooked from the beginning. One of my favourite riffs is ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ [the second single from Poison’s hit 1987 record, Look What the Cat Dragged In].”
Any underrated bands from that era?
“There are a few bands I would definitely class as underrated. Ones such as Babylon A.D. and Britny Fox. Kix are also criminally underrated. The first ever Kix song I heard was ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’. The subject matter is a plea for the listener not to commit suicide, despite feeling like they have been cast aside by their loved ones.”
‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ remains Maryland-bred Kix’s most successful single to date; peaking at number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100. Its parent album, Blow My Fuse also featured their biggest rock ‘n roll number, ‘Cold Blood’, and became their best-selling. Like many hair metal bands, however, Kix was fated to fade into obscurity before long.
Favourite hair metal band?
“This is such a hard choice to make, as I have so many favourites. I’ll give you my top five because it does change frequently: Mötley Crüe, Warrant, Dokken, L.A. Guns and Hanoi Rocks. I feel like Dokken and L.A. Guns wrote some of the most beautiful ballads in glam metal. Songs like ‘In My Dreams’ and ‘The Ballad of Jayne’. Mötley Crüe were the first flam band I listened to, so of course they hold a special place in my heart. Warrant had me hooked with their ballad, ‘Heaven’. Jani Lane’s voice on this song could send goosebumps down anyone’s spine. In my opinion, Hanoi Rocks were one of the first bands to set the blueprint for glam metal, so I feel like their style defines the music and genre so well.”
Favourite individual of the genre in particular?
“Mick Mars, David Coverdale, and Joe Perry have inspired my greatly.”
Why do you like glam metal?
“If it wasn’t for glam, I wouldn’t have discovered other subgenres of metal. Some of my favourites are atmospheric black metal, thrash and death metal. Glam has inspired my fashion and how I present myself to people. Glam inspires me when I write music, or when I write poetry.”
Why isn’t hair metal popular?
“Glam metal was a very short-lived genre. It got maybe two years at most in the mainstream before grunge rock swooped in and became popular amongst the youth in the 1990s. But that was to be expected because such movements in music come and go; they’re always in and out of popularity. I feel like glam metal wasn’t considered by traditional heavy metal fans to be a ‘real genre of metal’ – which influenced people to hate on the genre. And it’s still made fun of to this day.”
Whilst it’s fair to say that glam metal had a little more than two years, its true the shelf life of such an artistic movement was still relatively short. Metal Health, Quiet Riot’s third studio album, was the first heavy metal record to ever top the Billboard 200; released in 1983 and marking, perhaps, the start of glam metalmania. Less than a decade later, however, and grunge giants, Nirvana would release their seminal Nevermind, taking the world by unexpeted storm. In the coming years, hair metal would begin its ultimate decline. Naturally, the work of one band was not solely responsible for glam metal going out of outlandish fashion – but nevertheless, it was doomed to live a short life.
Have you found others into this kind of metal?
“Of course! I’ve met most of my friends through the glam metal community. They’re all incredibly lovely and cool. I find it quite difficult to meet people in my day-to-day life that also like it. Maybe I’ll find someone one day.”
Do you think it’s still alive today?
“No. But I do feel like glam metal is appreciated in an underground way. Some of my favourite current glam bands are Hardcoure Superstar, Crazy Lixx and Reckless Love.”
Where does glam metal fall down?
“I feel like some bands went overboard with drugs and alcohol, thus creating many addiction-related deaths in glam bands. I also know certain band members did very illegal things which hurt a lot of people. The views of the time could be incredibly homophobic, racist and misogynistic, too.”
Something you’ve learnt, to take away from hair metal?
“Don’t ever believe anyone that tells you glam metal ‘isn’t really metal’. You can like whatever you like and if they don’t like it, that’s their problem.”
Name: Kate (@rxcktoinfinity)
Country: Virginia, USA
How were you introduced to hair metal?
“This is a bit of a butterfly effect, but my dad loves 80s rock, and when I was younger, we would drive around in the car and listen to the 80s station. I think I got a taste for that kind of music then, but I heard [Journey’s] ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ in a movie when I was ten years old and fell totally in love. I started listening to more classic rock and 80s music. Then when I was a little older, I got into Guns ‘n Roses, and I started listening to Hairnation on SiriusXM. That’s where I fell in love with all of the hair metal bands that I heard (Like Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Cinderella, Skid Row, etc.), and that love for the music, the bands and 80s aesthetic has stayed with me all my life since.”
Who’s your favourite glam band?
“What a question, hah. Waysted. Because I got into them last year and their music, lyrics and story have really struck a chord with me in such a short amount of time. Their music is absolutely amazing. And then of course, an honourable mention to Mötley Crüe, Skid Row and L.A. Guns for being my introduction to glam and being such a big part of my life when I was younger. Crüe especially!”
Any bands of the glam scene you think are overrated?
“KISS. Their music is okay, but I don’t really see what’s so great or iconic about them. Their stage presence is overblown, and everyone hypes them up. But I personally don’t feel it. Def Leppard, too. I like them as much as your average fan, but their hits (‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ especially) are overplayed and I don’t understand how they have so many fangirls everywhere!”
Any you think are underrated?
“Tyketto – A band with so much potential and a great attitude that hit the scene too late and suffered because of the grunge movement of the 90s. They’re a bit hair metal, bit melodic rock, 1000% great. Kix – A band that’s a bit more well-known, but for whatever reason never really got the recognition or stardom they deserved. They’re straight up sleazy hair rock with a great sound, and you’ll feel rock ‘n roll summer vibes in all their stuff. Waysted – A band that sort of destroyed themselves but made some hella great music while they were doing it. They have many line-ups but each one was just as good as the last, if not better, and they had Pete Way and Paul Chapman from UFO in most of them. Their first few albums with singer Fin Muir were straight up heavy rock ‘n roll, and their third record, Save Your Prayers featured vocalist Danny Vaughn (who later went on to form Tyketto!). That has a totally different vibe with almost melodic hair metal, flying with its guitar solos and exploding into stardust with its choruses. 1000/10, I saved the best for last.”
That’s quite some praise. Got a favourite glam star in particular?
“Oh man. So many. But as you’ve probably guessed, my heroes are Danny Vaughn, Paul Chapman and Pete Way. I look to them for outrageous fashion, spiritual guidance, and everything in between. Their stories inspire me to overcome the obstacles (and not to make the same mistakes they did, because I know they wouldn’t want me to) and their music brings me so, so, so much happiness. They give me the strength to continue when I feel like I can’t. Of course, there’s many bands – and rockers – who inspire me currently and have done over the years. These dudes just take the cake.”
So why do you like glam?
“What’s there not to like! The music has a vibe like nothing else before and nothing which came after. The fashion and aesthetic are so crazy and over-the-top, yet totally badass at the same time. I love how it brings so much strength and power in total uniqueness and a bit of absolute absurdity. The whole glam vibe makes me feel awesome, whether it’s in going about my day with a chorus and a riff stuck in my head or wearing leather and a large amount of eyeliner (blue eyeshadow included). I feel unshakeable; especially knowing that I’ve got the music with me always. To me, rock ‘n roll feels like home.”
Have you found others who feel the same?
“Yes! Some older folks in real life share my feelings, but even more than that, the 80s/glam community on Instagram is a whole network of people that feel the same way. I started my account in April of last year, but I’ve seen part of the community on and off since 2014, and I love it. It’s young people all over the world coming together to bond over a shared love of the same type of music, and it’s really cool. I’ve met so many of my best friends in this community and I never would’ve known some of my favourite bands had it not been for people going, ‘Hey, you should check out these guys’. The sense of togetherness we have on the fanpage account side of things is great, and I’m truly thankful for all my friends there. It’s hard to find people who share your interests when it’s something sort of niche like this. But we’ve got our own little world going on on Instagram. And it’s really good.”
Why do you think glam isn’t mainstream today?
“Honestly, I think with anything like that, it happens. Trends die out. Even though the genre and movement were great, it didn’t last because people came up with new things and suddenly glam wasn’t as interesting to the general population. Yes, I think grunge played a part in shifting the focus from it, but it wasn’t grunge, it wouldn’t been something else. Mainstream media is always changing, and people always get bored of things; dropping it when something new comes along. And unfortunately, that’s what happened to glam.”
Do you think it’s still alive?
“Yes! Very much so! Glam is alive in the little niche communities online of course, but farther than that, it’s alive in every one of the people who love it. The fans are what keep it afloat. Whether it’s wearing a band shirt, blasting it from your radio as you drive down the street, sharing a song on your Instagram story or telling your friend about this cool band from the 80s you just got into. All of those little things are what keep it alive for one more day, and maybe even take it a little further. Tell your friend about your favourite glam band! Tell the world! They might like it; glam might not be nearly as popular as it was in its heyday, but as long as there are people to love it, it will never go away.”
What, if there are any, are the downsides of glam?
“I might be biased because I don’t see a lot and I view the 80s as a more carefree and happier time. But the biggest negative to me is the way that the music and aesthetic leans toward romanticizing self-destruction, drinking and drugs. I think we should learn from our idols’ mistakes, but unfortunately not everyone takes it that way.”
Glam metal was no doubt the most obsessed with excess, of drink, drugs and sex. The songs frequently made mention to all three (especially the latter), and bands like Mötley Crüe only kept up the whiskey-soaked hysteria. A regular part of the band’s shows included certain members downing whole bottles of Jack Daniels. Or supposedly, at least.
Something to take away from the glam scene?
“Be yourself no matter what! People will always try to tear you down if you don’t fit into society’s mould, but our favourites didn’t let it get to them; it only fuelled their desire to keep going and to keep doing their thing. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and don’t be afraid to rock that blue eyeshadow or zebra-print leggings if it makes you feel like a badass! Glam has taught me to stand up for myself and be strong in the face of anything that makes me nervous. And as I said earlier, it’s brought me so much comfort and happiness over the years. Rock has been, and always will be, the music of my heart.”
Name: Madison, though everyone calls me Maddi (@here.from.there)
Country: Indiana, USA
How did you come across glam?
“I actually figured out glam metal on my own! I was a little late to the game, but at least I’m here now! My mom has always liked 80s music, but she never really got into hair metal. I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, and other bands, but I didn’t discover hair metal till much later. Before that, I heard a lot of Foreigner, Styx, Boston and Journey, and 70s such as the Eagles – along with 80s pop (A Flock of Seagulls was a vibe), etc.
But I actually got introduced to hair metal a long time ago (Yes, I know I’m sorta contradicting myself, but I’ll explain in a minute). I started discovering it through the game Guitar Hero. I had it for a good while, but I never really put two and two together, I sorta just viewed the music as the ‘videogame’s rock music’ or whatever. Guessing I was around eight years old; I’ve always loved playing songs on there, such as ‘Holy Diver’, Heat of the Moment [Asia] and Quiet Riot’s ‘Bang Your Head (Metal Health)’. Over time, I started to drift away from playing the game since I moved, and it got packed away. It wasn’t until later, around freshman year, when I came across Holy Diver on YouTube. I was looking at ‘how to play rock songs on ukelele’ (Yes, someone was playing Holy Diver on ukulele, haha).
Right away I recognized the song from deep in my mind and from there looked up the whole Guitar Hero soundtrack. That led to me discovering more and more bands. The whole process of finding this genre almost feels like a fever dream. I feel like I barely remember it for some reason… so I tried my best to remember what went down. Strangely, I don’t think my stepdad is into this kind of music; I have no clue who he listens to – I don’t really talk to him much, so I never really got one of those cool dads who influenced or persuaded me to listen to hair metal. So yeah.”
Quite a journey. Any favourite bands in particular?
“My favourite glam/hair bands are – a very hard choice, but I’d have to say – Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., Ratt, Dokken, and Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career. There’s definitely more that I love, but I’d have to say those are my top bands. I’ve found I like more of that raw sound, so I also love late-80s sleaze metal, along with some heavy metal bands as well.”
Dokken are a hair metal band from L.A., and went on to write many radio-piercing hits, from ‘Alone Again’ to ‘In My Dreams’. Collectively, the band’s eleven albums have surpassed ten million sales, and they remain one of glam’s biggest names.
Any you think are underrated?
“There are SOOOO many underrated bands, it’s insane! But I’ll name a few. I love band Black ‘n Blue; I think the dude’s voice [Jaime St. James] is awesome and he looks like a Walmart Dee Snider so who doesn’t love that? I recommend the song, ‘Hold on to 18’, it’s amazing! Another really underrated band that hits hard is Dirty Looks! They have some awesome albums and one song I really recommend is ‘C’mon Frenchie’. The band Blue Murder are also good; I recommend ‘Valley of the Kings’. Other bands I’d say are underrated are Salty Dog, McQueen Street, Leather Wolf, Disney After Dark, Electric Angels, Bonham, 200 Volt, Gorky Park, Every Mother’s Nightmare and Slave Raider! I don’t know many bands that are overrated, honestly, haha.”
Gorky Park was the first Russian band to be featured on musical masterpiece, MTV; their 1992 album, Moscow Calling, boasted four singles, and was once likened to ‘Pyromania-era Def Leppard’. The album went completely unnoticed in the US, and by then tasted had changed in Europe, too. It seemed glam was coming to an end, and Gorky Park were one of countless bands who struggled to find their footing in a post-spandex world.
That’s quite a comprehensive list. Any ‘glam stars’ you love?
“My favourite glam star? Hmm, I’d have to say either Nikki Sixx, Dee Snider, Blackie Lawless, Dio, Ozzy or George Lynch. I love the fashion from most bands of this genre, so I don’t love these guys jus because of that specifically, but more because of how iconic they are. Blackie Lawless has one of the most iconic voices of metal in my opinion, along with Dio. Nikki Sixx is, well, Nikki Sixx; my favourite member of Mötley. Dee Snider’s looks are very well-known, too, along with his voice. You probably don’t need an explanation for Ozzy – I just love the man. I also love George Lynch and his playing. I love the way he uses his pitch harmonics. He uses just enough, but not too overly so. It’s just so, so, so good; his playing hits different. I don’t even know how to explain it.”
Why do you like glam in the first place?
“Why do I like glam? Well because it’s FUN! And it makes you feel cool! I love the fashion, the guitars and the attitude. There’s no specific reason as to why I love it, I just do! Whenever I listen to it, it puts me in a good mood.”
Have you found anyone else into the same thing?
“I’ve found a bunch of people with my music taste! They’re all online, though. But I have some amazing friends on Instagram and I almost consider them some of my best friends! I’m actually planning on meeting two of them this summer! I never knew that there were communities like this on IG, and I never would what have known if I didn’t make my second account just for music. It sucks how hard it is to find people like this in real life, but it’s doable. I’m actually creating a band, so luckily, I found a couple of people with the same sorta musical influence.”
Why isn’t glam metal still popular today?
“Because of its unfortunate ‘death’ in the late 80s. More and more glam bands were forming, copycat after copycat; over-commercialized (in my opinion. I love the late 80s sleaze metal era, but that’s not the point). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it had it coming. Things die. Trends die. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be resurrected! Trends always seem to go around and come back. Now, sure, it won’t be a mainstream genre like it used to be, but a lot of new hair bands are creating their own hair metal inspired sound and going strong!”
Are there any downsides to glam metal?
“There is definitely a downside to glam metal. Definitely. But maybe not as much to its listeners; more on the actual bands. In the 80s, some dudes went through who knows what. Drug overdoses, problems with alcohol and more. Many iconic figures have unfortunately died early. Another downside that actually effects listeners today is the view on glam metal as a whole. Many ‘outsiders’ and even other metalheads – who like heavier stuff – view glam as ‘gay’, ‘girly’, ‘fake’ or full of ‘posers’, which really sucks. But oh well, they’re missing out.”
Lastly, anything you take away from all of this?
“It feels amazing to have a ‘thing’, a hobby. To actually feel like you’re part of something! Glam metal helped me get more into fashion and get creative. I really don’t care what others think, outfit-wise; I wear what I want and I’m happy to do so! And, actually, speaking of the music part, it inspired me to start playing guitar! Overall, glam metal just puts you in an amazing mood as well. I always find myself talking about music like it’s an addiction. I’m always looking up more bands, more and more songs – It’s a healthy obsession! Haha. I mean, at this point, my hair/glam/heavy metal playlist just reached 920 songs (as of 12/16/2020).”
Name: Georgia (@snake.biteheart)
Country: England, UK
What was your introduction to glam?
“Where do I even start? Haha. I only really got into rock five years ago; thinking about it now, it feels like I’ve been listening to the music forever. I’ve always grown up with a household who loved rock. It was my dad and brother who listened to it more than anyone. I’ve been brought up with bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, etc., but at the time they never really appealed to me. That was until a family gathering I attended one Christmas. We were playing Guitar Hero and it was my turn. I remember dad choosing a song for me because thirteen year-old me had absolutely no idea who these musicians were, or what these songs were.
He chose Maiden’s ‘Two Minutes to Midnight’ (1984) and that was it. It went from Iron Maiden to Ozzy Osbourne to Black Veil Brides, more of a modern band. And that’s where I discovered glam. My dad had never been into it, so finding the genre was something I did completely on my own. It was nerve-wracking at the start if I’m being completely honest; I didn’t feel like the music was ‘me’. But the more I listened to bands such as Poison, Firehouse, KISS and Mötley Crüe, I started to really enjoy the genre.”
Iron Maiden are perhaps the most iconic band of the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’; a movement that enveloped the likes of Saxon, Def Leppard, Rainbow and Motörhead. As the 80s dawned, the musical landscape shifted, and influence from overseas turned British heavy metal into more mainstream, pop-influenced riffs. Thus, glam metal was born on this sceptered isle. No better example of this is Def Leppard’s 1983 release, Pyromania, which consumed the nation. A clear amalgamation of hard, British steel and Sunset Strip indulgence, it signalled the start of something new.
“This is definitely a hard one! My favourite glam band from the 80s is Def Leppard. ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ was the first Lepp song I heard; I wasn’t particularly keen on it, but it was enough to sell me on them and the rest of their discography. My favourite modern day glam band definitely has to be one called Midnite City. There’s a small outfit from the UK. Their stuff is good-time music; it’s full of influences from the 80s but mixed with their own sound. And I’m completely down for it.”
Are there any hair metal bands you find overrated?
“Oh, Mötley Crüe are overrated for sure (I say, while jamming to ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’). I absolutely love their music, but personally they just don’t do it for me. Sure, they’ve got some great songs, but I just really don’t understand the hype around them. But to each their own, of course!”
Any that are underrated?
“An underrated glam band from back in the day would be White Lion or Firehouse. Both of those bands are just amazing, the vocals, the guitars, the look. I love everything about them. An underrated band from the present day? I’ve gotta say Midnite City again, they deserve so much more hype and recognition. If you don’t already listen to Midnite, go add them to your playlist!”
Who’s your favourite ‘glam star’?
“Steve Clark, the guitarist of Def Leppard. He will forever have a special place in my heart. He is incredibly talented, the guitar riffs and solo in ‘Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)’ [from 1992’s Adrenalize] are just immaculate. I adore his fashion style and he’s someone I really look up to.”
Steve Clark remains one of glam metal’s darkest moments; a reminder of what happens when every aspect of your life is wrapped up in unadultered excess. The principal songwriter and lead guitarist of Def Leppard, he faced unrivalled fame when the group’s 1987 record, Hysteria, erupted onto the worldwide stage and resulted in no less than seven singles.
Clark was addicted to alcohol and, though he entered a rehabilitation clinic at the behest of the band, he left before finishing the program, and in 1991 was found on his couch by his girlfriend. Dead. Alcohol and prescription drugs claimed his life, and though his demos and songwriting appeared on ’92’s Adrenalize, he was later replaced by Vivian Campbell, who still plays with Leppard today.
Why do you like glam, then?
“The music, the aesthetic, the style, everything! I love everything about the glam culture. I always imagined myself as some rocker chick, and through the glam music and style I was able to express that. I love the style so much, it’s so different. I’ve always loved the big hair; I’ve always wanted a glam hair style, but I’ve never actually gotten round to having it done. The music has always been really important for me. It’s been a way to kind of let loose and listen to something fun, rather than allowing myself to be sad.”
Have you found others who feel the same?
“Yes! I have. It makes me so happy to say that. I’ve found others who share the same passion for the music and the culture as I do and it’s just wonderful. I never thought I’d find people my age into the music either, it was strange, but I love seeing it. I’ve bonded with so many people through my music taste and I never thought I’d have friends into the same genre of music as me.”
Why don’t you think it’s popular anymore?
“Times change, and I believe that bands have to adapt to what’s popular and what brings them money. I think that’s the only reason why. But there are modern bands out there who have that glam rock sound and release music. I think a lot of the glam community are sort of stuck in their way and unwilling to actually listen to these new bands. I mean, just two years ago, The Weeknd released After Hours and on that record were hits such as ‘Blinding Lights’, ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Scared To Live’ which really have that 80s pop sound. I believe if hit musicians were to keep releasing tracks like this, the 80s pop culture could become popular again, and in the future things might go that way with the glam community.”
Where does the glam community fall short?
“The whole community is flawed, as is every other. I think you’re going to get that in any fanbase. There’s a lot of downsides in this one, though, and the bad really takes away from the good. There were times I found myself affected by the standards of what you ‘need’ to be. If you don’t look a certain way, you’re immediately the underdog and you’re looked down upon by other members of the community. It breaks my heart to see that. Even though I found wonderful, amazing people through the glam world, I never felt like I belonged because I didn’t fit the typical standards. And the only reason I think things like this exist is down to the younger generation of fans.
I know for certain that older fans of glam who’ve actually lived through the era we reminisce about so much wouldn’t have cared about our appearance. While I know the fashion is important in glam metal – hence the name – the gatekeeping and judgment is terrible. I literally had the leather jacket, the tassel boots, the style. Everything. And I was still made to feel like an outcast. There are so many aspects to the community’s shortcomings, but I could go on all day and turn it into an essay.”
What’s one thing you can definitely take away from glam metal?
“This is a hard one. Glam/hair metal is a music-based subgenre. Don’t listen to what people say about your appearance, whether you dress stereotypically glam or not. It’s about the music.”
Name: Caitlin, although everyone knows me as either Sidney (a name I took from Sid Vicious), or Cait.
Age: In my ‘mid teens’, aha.
What was your introduction to the crazy world of hair metal?
“Don’t make fun of me, but it was The Dirt. I liked so many glam songs when I was younger, but that movie really pushed me to start going all out!”
I can probably guess but, favourite glam band?
“My favourite ‘glam’ band will forever be the early years of Mötley Crüe. Then again, a little Poison never killed anybody…”
A band you find overlooked?
“Funny story, my first ever record was Wrathchild. A red vinyl, which I was so gassed about! They have some sick songs. A band that’s overrated? Whitesnake, if you’d consider them glam? I’ve never liked a single song of theirs.”
Favourite glam star?
“Hmm, I don’t think I have one.”
Why do you like glam in the first place?
“I’m open to almost every genre of music there is. But glam was something that really opened my eyes as to how different it was in the 80, and how dressing more feminine proved a statement.”
Have you found others who feel the same?
“Yes!!! I’ve found so many friends through social media who I’ve seen grow so much as people, through their music taste and vice versa. Ace Café down in London is a cool place to bond over music with older guys [one of those laughing face emojis I can’t do because I’m using a laptop, sadly].”
Why isn’t hair metal popular nowadays?
“Music has found popularity with teenagers and the younger generation more than anything. And most of them wanted to find something they can be passionate about. Pour their heart into. Music has always been like that. But things change, like when grunge and heavier metal started to be influential.”
Do you think it’s still alive in any way?
“You get your older people, and the small groups of younger generations fascinated by it. Take Steel Panther for example.”
Is there a downside to glam metal and its attitude?
“Oh gosh, the band’s I’ve seen before have done some horrible shit. R**e accusations are still all over the place. You have to be careful with who you’re openly a big fan of if you don’t want people reminding you of all the horrible shit they’ve done.”
One thing you find relevant, to take from the genre?
“Check if the members of that new band you’re looking at are still alive. I love Hanoi Rocks, but godamn, when I found out about Razzle.”
Anything else you want to add?
“Something I’ve never been able to talk about with anyone is how open musicians are about their glam era, and how embarrassed they are by it. Like Axl Rose – when Guns ‘n Roses first started out, they were big into the hair and that scene. But next thing you knew, the man was wearing pants with ‘Glam Sucks’ written down the side of them.”
Name: Eff Leppard (of @everythingglammetal and @rogue_leppard)
Country: The US of A
How did you discover hair metal?
“I’d say it was seeing Rock of Ages back in 2014 that planted the seed, but I think it goes back to watching American Idol as a kid and seeing Jon Bon Jovi as a guest mentor. ‘Who is that adorable, blue-eyed angel in black leather…’. I digress. The glam fever really took off when I started using Spotify; it kinda grew out of my general affinity for 80s music. Defining moment would be when I went on a YouTube frolic and saw the music videos for ‘Rocket’ and ‘Women’ back to back [both from 1987’s Hysteria]. One look at Joe Elliott and Eff Leppard was born.”
Pointless question, perhaps, but who’s your favourite glam act?
“Def Leppard, of course. The one band where I am personally invested in every member, and I think they’re just an amazing bunch of guys who have overcome so much adversity, and they bring so much joy to their performances. My top three are them, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi.”
Overrated bands? Underrated bands in the world of tight pants and big hair?
“Winger and White Lion are a couple that I think get way too much flak for being cheesy, but damn do they have talent. Cinderella also don’t get as much attention as they should. I’ll probably lose my EGM cred for this, but the Crüe aren’t really my thing. A few songs I like, but otherwise, meh.“
Who’s your favourite rockstar, in particular?
“I think I’ve become a bit infamous for my obsession with Joe Elliott. Rocks the dodgy mullet and ripped jeans, has the best RBF I’ve seen on a man, and I could listen to him alllll day.“
So why do you adore glam metal?
“Man, I could write a whole essay on this. I think it’s the dichotomy of it. The combination of raw machismo with feminine energy, of raunchy party tunes with beautiful, heart-wrenching ballads. I love anything cheesy, sappy or silly and the genre knows how to embrace it. Bottom line: it’s fun and thus can be a great comfort in very dark times.”
Have you found others like you?
“YES. Instagram continue to amaze me with all the wonderful friends I’ve made, all over the world. Not to self-promote too much, but I’m also incredibly grateful for the friends I’ve made through Everything Glam Metal, first as a fan and now as an admin. Not that I’m biased, but I think our Facebook group (Everything Glam Metal Nightclub) is one the best online communities I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in.”
Why isn’t glam on top of the world (and charts) anymore?
“I think it’s just the changing nature of music these days. That and music being a reflection of the world at large, and so I think there were certain elements of the social/political/cultural climate in the 80s that created glam, which just aren’t around anymore. But, given that there’s been such an 80s resurgence, I think glam is poised to make a comeback.”
Is it still alive?
“It’s definitely alive, you just need to know where to look. Again, the world of glam fans on IG is incredible to me. The more modern glam bands there are, the better the genre will become, so I try to do all I can to help support current bands.”
What does hair metal, or its community, get wrong?
“Sadly, there’s still some of the OG artists who hold onto racist/antisemitic/misogynistic views and that is a dampener. Thankfully, a good portion of the modern fanbase rejects that, but some don’t, and that can get disheartening when – at its core – glam should really be about acceptance and fun for everybody, not prejudice and intimidation.”
A life lesson you’ve learnt from your time with glam metal/
“Don’t be afraid to be cheesy. If something makes you happy, it matters. Musical elitists are garbage.
P.S. they don’t make Aqua Net like they used to, so don’t feel bad if your hair falls down.“
Name: Graham, or Crooks. Either is good. (@graham_cracker12)
City: Catawba, to be exact – North Carolina
What was your introduction to glam metal?
“As weird as it sounds, Bruce Springsteen got me into glam. My dad loves 80s music and we talk about it all the time. When I buy records, I show him what I got and he always says, ‘Yup, I remember when that came out’ or ‘I was your age when I got this’. I used to listen to pop and rap, then I discovered more of the 80s. I really liked it because it was something new that I needed. Then I found Born in the USA and listened to the full album; it really opened my eyes to Springsteen’s music. One day I decided I wanted something heavier. And that’s when I found the album, Dr. Feelgood [Mötley Crüe’s best-selling record]. The first song I heard from it was the title track, and that’s how I was introduced to MC. I fell down the rabbit hole with them. Through that came Ratt, Cinderella, Faster Pussycat, Skid Row, etc. I just loved all of it and needed more.
I always knew Van Halen, but only the hits, so I dove more and more into them – they’re easily one of my favourite bands. I discovered Whitesnake and, oh man, it was a need. Just the vocal range of David Coderdale and the bluesy rock makes that band hit in a different way. Their song, ‘Ride the Wind’ has helped me through a lot, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for them.”
Got a favourite glam metal band?
“My favourite glam band is Ratt; not because people think I look like Stephen Pearcy [the band’s singer – and yes, he does], but just the band in general. In my opinion they’re underrated and didn’t really get the respect and recognition they deserved. Pearcy is an overlooked vocalist, Warren [DeMartini – who left the band in 2018] and Robbin [Crosby – who passed away in 2002) are underrated guitarists for sure. Side note: I now have all of Ratt’s albums, and yes, they’re originals. A lot of their songs are very good, and everyone only knows ‘Round and Round’ – They’re just overlooked, and Cinderella is, also. But so especially are L.A. Guns, Britny Fox, Autograph, Faster Pussycat… I can’t stress enough that these bands all have great songs, but no one really knows them at all. An overrated glam band in my opinion would be Mötley Crüe. Don’t get me wrong, their music is really good, but when everyone thinks of glam, it’s Mötley.”
Mötley Crüe are the biggest hair metal band of all time. They’ve sold over 100 million albums, lay claim to seven platinum or multi-platinum certifications (an album must sell over a million copies to be awarded the fabled platinum) and have nine Top 10 records on the Billboard 200. They’re also the genre’s most abrasive band; featuring on the ‘overrated/underrated’ list more times than any other in this article. Some view them as pioneers of glam – their third album, Theatre of Pain saw them at the vanguard of glam metal’s first wave – whilst others think of them arrogant, self-obsessed and bad influences. In all honesty, they’re probably both.
Ratt, meanwhile, shot to stardom a year earlier, when their first LP, Out of the Cellar, achieved commerical and critical acclaim. It spawned the radio and MTV mainstay, ‘Round and Round’ – perhaps the band’s signature – and three other singles. Out of the Cellar echoed shades of the lengedary Eddie Van Halen, and swaggering charisma of Aerosmith. Ratt remains one of hair metal’s most definitive bands.
Your glam idol?
“My favourite would be Stephen Pearcy; he’s pretty much the inspiration for all my outfits and the way I do my hair. David Coverdale is the one I would look at as a good person with morals. David was just a nice dude, all around, and he still is. He also has dad humour and it’s great.”
Why do you like hair/glam metal?
“I like glam for the passion, the looks, the music and the attitudes. Nowadays you don’t really have heart or real music, instrumental-wise in the mainstream. And it’s sad because that’s what made it good.
The fashion, well, let’s be honest, it was really call and it made you stand out from the crowd. The attitudes just followed the way they dressed, so it pretty much worked out, honestly. Well, unless you’re Axl Rose. Then you have a problem with everyone.”
He’s not wrong.
Have you found anyone else in the glam community?
“Yes, I have; all over Instagram and we pretty much all agree on the same things. Simple as that. It’s been a cool experience meeting other people who love glam/hair metal. We get along good.”
Why do you think it’s not mainstream?
“The reason I believe it’s not mainstream anymore is, though it hurts me to say, times have changed, and no one really knows about it at all anymore, except people who’ve lived through it. The younger generation won’t know about it unless their parents raised them right and raised them on it. Also, most people now listen to fake music, like EDM. No one really respects the heart in music anymore.”
Do you think glam metal is still around?
“I wanna say yes but I have to say no, because once again, no one knows about it. Bands now can bring back a little, but it’s never going to be the same as how it was in the 80s. The fans are definitely still alive and well for glam metal. As for the sound, attitude and style, not so much. I really don’t think it could come back in this generation because it’s one of those genres that had its go and that’s it. A limited time thing. Unlike rock. Rock will never die.”
Name: Jackki Boy (@jackki_boy)
Country: United States
What was your introduction to glam metal?
“Hilariously enough, Steel Panther. In early 2017. I came across them on a local music venue event page, and thought they looked pretty rad. After listening to their song, ‘She’s Tight’, I was instantly hooked. Later on, I discovered it was a Cheap Trick cover, which in turn introduced me to that band. Soon I began branching out into the likes of Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe, Faster Pussycat and the rest is history. Before Steel Panther pushed me in the right direction, the only hard rock artists I listened to were Aerosmith and a bit of AC/DC. I was very much more of a 70s glam rock/punk/new wave/new romantic type. Luckily my music taste began to evolve more into the hard rock and metal scene.”
What bands stand out for you in the glam metal scene?
“Mötley Crüe, Tigertailz, Bulletboys, Def Leppard, Poison, Guns ‘n Roses, Twisted Sister, Faster Pussycat, Vain, Hanoi Rocks, Cinderella and Kix to name a few. I’m still always adding new artists to my musical brain catalogue.”
That’s… quite a list. Who’s underrated?
“Tigertailz. They probably lookthe most visually glam metal band you’ve (n)ever seen, eh? With hair that makes C.C. Deville look like an amateur (Bassist Pepsi Tate was the true blonde bombshell of the 80s). But even with their colored hair spray, glitter, lipstick and bangles, this Welsh band and the splitting vocals of singer Kim Hooker are severely underrated and unfortunately came to the scene a little later than most.”
Tigertailz hold the record for possibly the only Welsh glam metal band I know of. Their debut, Young and Crazy, like many during the late 1980s, faded amongst the pile of screaming vocals and androgynous make-up. All of that would change three years later, however…
“Their second album, Bezerk, was released in 1990 and it’s intensely impressive. An absolute masterpiece, and one of my favourite albums ever – definitely required listening.
Another underrated band is the Bulletboys. From their debut, their best-known song is ‘Smooth Up In Ya’, but their second album, Freakshow, I also consider a masterpiece through and through. Singer Marq Torien has some of the most unique, impressive, and criminally underrated rock/metal vocals I’ve ever heard. The man can SCREAM.”
Favourite glam star?
“Nikki Sixx is my idol. He has inspired me with my music, my art, photography, my sense of empathy and to seek drive and determination toward things I’m passionate about.”
Why do you like glam?
“Glam metal is the reason why I decided to grow my hair out, haha. I do love the flashy aesthetics and androgynous appeal of it. I’m majorly fashion obsessed, and a sucker for musical artists who dress to impress – even if that means bangles, cowboy boots and ten cans of hairspray. The confident and fun party attitude of it all totally speaks to me as well. Ear-catching melodies are important in the music I listen to, so I love how the genre is often driven by that, but still packs a hard-rocking edge.”
Have you encountered others like you?
“Yes, I live in the rural, southern U.S., so a vast majority of people I’ve met who are into this genre of music, I’ve met online. Social media is a huge way to find people with similar musical interests.”
Is glam still alive?
“Although obviously not even near as mainstream as it was 35 years ago, the glam metal scene is definitely still alive and well. The people and bands are still out there if you know where to look. Often larger cities in the U.S. like Los Angeles and NYC are good bets.”
The Sunset Strip of L.A. has long been regarded as the birthplace of glam metal. ‘Eruption’, a track from hair heavyweights, Van Halen’s 1978 debut, laid the foundations for what was to come, with bands like Motley Crue, Dokken and Bon Jovi carrying the flame, working the rounds in clubs like Whisky a Go Go. Like a spider’s web, such a sound splintered east into Europe, where Def Leppard, Whitesnake and smaller bands such as Little Angels spilled out like wildfire.
“But Scandinavia is easily the hub of modern-day glam metal. Excellent current bands have come out of Sweden and Finland in the last few years, like Reckless Love, Santa Cruz, Crashdiet, Crazy Lixx and the Trench Dogs, to name a few. I especially recommend the latter. Grab yourself a bottle of gin or saké, put on their album Year of the Dog, and let the desire to run rampant in the streets slowly take you over.”
At last, we come to the end of our time with these followers of all things big and bad. And what have we learned from the mouths of those who find solace in glam metal?
Firstly, that glam metal includes many, many bands. From definitive trailblazers to forgotten footnotes, the tapestry of hair metal is rich, diverse, and countless in number. From Jon Bon to Joe Elliott, Bret Michaels to Axl Rose, Sebastian Bach to Steve Whiteman, the paladins of poppy rock are an unstoppable force; an order of incalculable brethren.
Hair metal is awesome, and epic – painting great soundscapes of heartache, loss, debauchery and drunken amnesia. But it also has its dark alleys; where one must be careful not to fall into the cesspits of ill-judgment and arrogance. The 1980s are a bygone age; and though we can take from it the music, the hairspray, cowboy boots and the leather, some things are better left in the past. For the love of God, can we please let the term, ‘chicks’ die out already?
But most of all, we’ve learnt that glam metal plays a crucial part in the forging of many lives; whether it’s mere accompaniment to college years, or music that encourages people to express themselves. It’s fusion of devil-may-care attitude and garish fashion make for one hell of a companion, and something everyone can take a lesson in. It doesn’t matter what you look like, or how you dress. It’s the music that matters, and the music which will endure. The big hair falls out; the leather perishes, the chains stop jinglin’ sometime. But the teenage rebellion is here to stay, for evermore.
Lastly, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who participated in this interview piece. You were all very helpful, very open and very interesting in your responses, which were clearly well thought-out. I appreciate the time set aside for this, and if not for your answers, this piece would not exist. So thank you.
Author’s Note: All those interviewed as part of this piece were aware of its purpose, and as such gave permission for their answers to be shared in the public domain. The same can be said for any pictures or likenesses included within the piece. At the behest of those who own such images, they may be removed at any later date.