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Glam metal (also known as hair metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal that arose in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United States, particularly on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip music scene. It was popular throughout the 1980s and briefly in the early 1990s, combining the flamboyant look of glam rock and playing a power-chord based hard rock musical style.

"Hair bands" was the derogatory term popularized by MTV in the 1990s and derives from the tendency among such bands to have styled their long hair in a teased-up fashion.


Musically, glam metal songs are traditional heavy metal songs with pop-influenced catchy hooks and guitar riffs. Like other heavy metal songs of the 1980s, they often feature shred guitar solos.Glam metal performers became infamous for their debauched lifestyles of late-night parties (widely covered in the tabloid press), very long teased hair, use of make-up, gaudy clothing and accessories (chiefly consisting of tight denim or leather jeans, spandex, and headbands). Many of these traits were influenced though not necessarily reminiscent of glam rock.

Origins (1970s)

The glam metal visual style was heavily influenced by 1970s glam rock, hard rock, and heavy metal acts. Stephen Davis claims the influences of the style can be traced back to acts like Aerosmith, Kiss, Boston, Cheap Trick, and The New York Dolls. Hanoi Rocks have been credited for setting a blueprint for hair metal. Ted Nugent has been cited as a seminal influence on the hair metal movement. Angel provided a, "virtual spot-on blueprint for '80s hair metal"

In the United States, many fans credited that the movement on the Sunset Strip was kick-started largely by Van Halen. Other early groups were Mötley Crüe and Nikki Sixx's former band London who originally formed as a glam rock band. Others assert that it was kick-started by Quiet Riot's Metal Health album when it reached #1 in the Billboard music charts in 1983. These bands played a prominent part in the overall look and would go on to influence a lot of the bands who formed from the mid-1980s onwards. During 1980 in England, one year prior to Mötley Crüe's formation, Wrathchild, fronted by Rocky Shades, also emerged. This band was also known for its similar image; they also used various pyrotechnics similar to that of shock rock and would eventually tour with Los Angeles heavy metal band W.A.S.P. in 1984. However, Wrathchild did not gain the same level of fame as their Los Angeles contemporaries.

First wave (1981–83)

During the early 1980s glam metal became extremely popular. The first wave of glam metal bands included Van Halen, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe, Dokken, Ratt and Stryper. Their music was a traditional heavy metal style combined with a glam rock look. The younger contemporaries who would eventually emerge, like Warrant, Slaughter and Poison, had a pop rock influenced hard rock musical style that ultimately became synonymous with the glam metal look.

Second wave (1984–91)

By the mid-1980s, glam metal could be defined by two major divisions. On the mainstream side were bands such as Europe, whose single "The Final Countdown" hit number one in 26 countries. The album with the same name also spawned an international success. Similar bands including FireHouse, Danger Danger, and Winger would surface in the later part of the decade, Los Angeles fostered a more insular scene around the Sunset Strip, starting in 1984-1985. This movement eventually spawned bands such as Poison, Faster Pussycat, and London. Other bands were associated with that scene's style but actually came from outside of Hollywood such as Britny Fox who were from Philadelphiamarker. In the mid-1980s, Stryper brought Christian lyrics to their hard rock music style and glam metal looks.

Since glam metal was an entirely visual aspect rather than a unique musical style it became appealing to music television, particularly MTV when it was launched. During the mid-to-late 1980s, glam metal bands were in heavy rotation on the channel. Glam metal bands often resided at the top of MTV's daily dial countdown, and some of the bands appeared on the channel's shows such as Headbanger's Ball.

The groups also received heavy rotation on radio shows such as KNAC in Los Angeles. The second wave of glam metal would prove to be the most commercially successful during the 1980s despite mostly negative critical reviews and being shunned by certain sections of the music industry.

A notable example came in 1987 with the release of Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls. Before the establishment of Soundscan in 1991, Billboard's album chart was decided by a combination of reports from retailers, wholesalers, and industry professionals, rather than on actual album sales. As the band related on MTV's Week in Rock, the week that Girls, Girls, Girls peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart, it was actually the highest-selling album of that week. However, the industry professionals gave extra weight to Whitney Houston's second album, allowing it to retain the top spot. In the band's opinion, the industry simply wouldn’t allow their album to hold the #1 spot. (The band eventually conquered the top spot with their next album, Dr. Feelgood, which became the biggest album of their career.)

Glam metal bands continued to generate hits, growing its fanbase during the 1980s. Poison's second album Open Up and Say...Ahh! spawned a hit single in Every Rose Has Its Thorn, and eventually sold eight million copies worldwide. Skid Row would later release their debut album in 1989, although they had been around since 1986. Other bands which fit the glam metal formula at that time, with similar visual styles, included Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Roxx Gang, and Dangerous Toys.

Decline (1991–97)

In the early 1990s glam metal's popularity rapidly declined after nearly a decade of success. Several music writers and musicians began to deride glam metal acts as "hair farmers," hinting at the soon to be popularized term hair metal. Several factors played a role in the decline, the main one being the rise of grunge music from Seattle, changing audience tastes, little or no support, lack of new contracts and the impacts of band breakups and personnel changes.

In the early 1990s, bands from the alternative rock subgenre grunge, including Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden started supplanting glam metal's popularity. Although grunge was influenced by heavy metal, it also mixed in elements of hardcore punk and indie rock, such as introspective or angst-filled lyrics, a stripped-down aesthetic and a complete rejection of the glam metal visual style and performance. Many major labels felt they had been caught off-guard by the surprise success of Nirvana's Nevermind, and had begun turning over their personnel in favor of younger staffers more versed in grunge. As MTV shifted its attention to the new style, glam metal bands found themselves relegated more and more often to Headbanger's Ball and late night airplay, and almost entirely disappeared from the channel by early 1994. Given glam metal's lack of a major format presence on radio, bands were left without a clear way to reach their audience.

Another reason for the decline in popularity of the style may have been the changing popularity of the power ballad, a slow, emotional song that gradually builds to a strong finale. While the use of the power ballad — especially after a hard-rocking anthem — was initially a successful formula in the late 1980s, audiences eventually lost interest in this approach.Contracts were canceled, and many bands broke up. From late 1991 to early 1992, Stryper, White Lion, Europe, and Britny Fox all broke up. Vince Neil was briefly fired from Mötley Crüe, guitarist Robbin Crosby left Ratt (who then broke up with the departure of lead singer Stephen Pearcy), and C. C. DeVille left Poison.

According to a documentary special called Heavy: The Story of Metal that aired on VH1 in 2006 claimed that the 1988 film The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years played a role in the death of glam metal, claiming that it disgusted audiences with its exposure of the excesses of the glam metal scene, particularly the scene that interviews W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes abusing vodka while on an inflatable raft in a swimming pool.

Revival (1997–present)

During the late 1990s, however, several glam metal bands of the first and second eras began to assert themselves again, releasing new material. The mainstream popularity of glam metal at this time however was being replaced by pop punk, post-grunge, and hip hop music. Since then, new glam metal bands have also formed, and events such as Rocklahoma, television such as VH1 Classic, and new material from bands have helped expose people to the music and create new fans. A major player in this revival was Tom Atkinson who suprisingly wore a wig made from dog hair due to his chronic alopecia. he was hailed as the hero of hair metal due to his love of widdly posers.

Bands reform

Mötley Crüe reunited with Vince Neil, and recorded the 1997 album Generation Swine, embarking on a U.S. tour. Poison reunited with C.C. Deville, and embarked on a 1999 tour of amphitheaters. A 2000 package tour featuring Poison, Slaughter and Cinderella sold extremely well .

In the 2000s, coinciding with the new blood of glam metal bands, more groups from the original movement continue to perform, and others that broke up have reformed. Bands such as L.A. Guns, Ratt, and W.A.S.P. have appeared in package tours together, and Mötley Crüe and Poison are continuing to record material and tour, reaching the upper parts of the Billboard 200 with compilation albums. The Monster Ballads compilation series has sold well, with the first volume peaking at #18 on the Billboard 200.

Rocklahoma is an annual festival that takes place in Oklahomamarker. In 2007, the four day long festival ran from July 12 through 15th and featured such bands as Jackyl, Poison, Ratt (reformed with Stephen Pearcy), Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Bang Tango, Vince Neil Band, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Britny Fox (reformed), Enuff Z'nuff and Y&T. Warrant and Cinderella co-headlined the festival in 2008 on July 10 through the 13th.

New bands

By the early 2000s, a handful of new bands began to revive glam metal in one form or another. The British band, The Darkness, was one example, albeit in a more tongue-in-cheek manner that's somewhat reminiscent of early Queen. American rockers Buckcherry scored a #1 Mainstream Rock hit with "Lit Up" in 1999. They have continued enjoying success on the pop charts, remaining on the Billboard Top 100 extensively, and have achieved gold certification. Beautiful Creatures, formed by ex-Bang Tango frontman Joe Lesté, signed a major label deal with Warner Bros. Records in 2000.

Newer bands, such as Straight Whiskey, Buckcherry, Pure Rubbish, Vains of Jenna, Andrew W.K., Hardcore Superstar, Jackviper,Le'Purr, Blessed by a Broken Heart, Crashdïet, Dirty Penny, Crazy Lixx, Lizzy Insane, Reckless Love, Insidiöus Törment and Steel Panther borrow elements from glam metal.

Other revivals

Rock of Ages, a musical with a glam-metal theme premiered in Los Angeles at the The Vanguard Hollywood in January 2006 where it had a six week run. In October 2008 the play opened Off Broadway. The play opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatermarker on April 7, 2009. The film rights to the play have been sold to New Line Cinema. The plot set in 1987 centers around a Sunset Strip rock club and stars American Idol alumnus Constantine Maroulis, Paul Schoeffler, Kelli Barrett, and Will Swenson.

See also



  2. #Davis 2008 pg 30, "The roots of what became known as glam metal were in the East: the New York Dolls, Aerosmith, KISS, Boston, Cheap Trick."
  3. Dimery 2006 pg. 508, "Their music connected the dots between glitter, punk, and heavy metal and helped set a blueprint for Eighties hair metal."
  6. Dimery 2006 pg. 412, "In 1999, the RIAA certified Van Halen diamond, for ten million U.S. sales. Purchasers doubtless include every perpetrator of Eightiues "hair metal", but don't damn them. They sinned but, lo, it was great."
  7. Wrathchild History—First Glam Metal band
  8. Poison Artist informatino, including charts.
  9. Britny Fox
  10. RATT
  11. Skid Row
  12. Europe
  13. White Lion
  14. Broadway world review
  15. Photo Coverage: 'ROCK OF AGES' Meets the Press March 4, 2009

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