Hair metal


Hair metal is a type of heavy metal music that arose in the late 1970s, in the United States, and was a strong force in popular music throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. It is also called glam metal or glam rock. Pejorative terms for hair metal include poodle rock, due to the teased, bushy hair of many performers, or cock rock, due to the frequent fixation on sexual lyrics and deeds.



Throughout the 1970s, heavy metal languished in filth and greatness. Several bands maintained large followings, like Queen, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Aerosmith, Uriah Heep, and Ted Nugent, and there were occasional mainstream hits, like Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper". Less commercially popular bands from the period such as Angel, Starz, Montrose, and Legs Diamond, combined the heavy metal and glam rock styles and have been cited as probable origins of what later came to be called hair metal. Music critics overwhelmingly hated the genre, and casual listeners generally avoided it because of its strangeness.

This changed in 1978, with the release of the hard rock band Van Halen's ground-breaking debut. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen's innovative tapping technique, and vocalist David Lee Roth's mock-carnal presence provided the template for what would become hair metal. Countless bands relocated to Los Angeles to follow their example, and formed a colorful scene centering around the Sunset Strip.

Hair Metal in the 1980s

In the early 1980s, heavy metal spawned several sub-genres, including thrash metal and black metal; however, hair metal became its most popular manifestation. Drawing inspiration from earlier bands like T. Rex, New York Dolls, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper, early hair metal bands included W.A.S.P., Quiet Riot, and Fastway. Their music was less melodic than their younger contemporaries, like Mötley Crüe, Ratt, and Cinderella, whose music and image ultimately became synonymous with the genre.

Hair metal was aggressive, with lyrics often focusing on girls, drinking, drug use, and the occult. Musically, hair metal songs often featured distorted guitar riffs, "hammer-on" solos, anthemic choruses, frenzied drumming, and complimentary bass. Hair metal performers became infamous for their debauched lifestyles, their long, teased hair, and effeminate use of make-up, clothing, and accessories, (traits somewhat reminiscent of glam rock.) Following Def Leppard's wildly popular Pyromania, and Van Halen's seminal 1984, hair metal became ubiquitous on radio and television. Many other hair metal bands were one-hit wonders, or as David Lee Roth once said of them, "here today, gone later today," (for example, Europe and Autograph.)

By the mid-1980s, hair metal was drawing inspiration from other sources, such as the romantic rock of the late-1970s. Bands like Boston, Journey, and Foreigner, influenced Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Poison, among others, to record power ballads. Despite hair metal's popularity at the time, many began to consider it unimportant or derisory, due to a common perception that the bands were more focused on their make-up, clothing (usually spandex), lyrics, and stage shows, than on their music. By the mid-1980s, a discernible formula developed in which a hair band had two hits--one a power ballad, one a hard-rocking anthem.

In 1987, Guns N' Roses became hair metal's standard-bearers, with the release of the extremely popular Appetite for Destruction. Though debatably hair metal in music and attitude, Guns N' Roses changed the genre's image and sound by incorporating influences from punk rock, and thrash metal.

Decline of Hair Metal

By the early 1990s, hair metal had become widely ridiculed (the film This is Spinal Tap is a satire of the genre), and increasingly formulaic, (for example, the music of Firehouse, Vixen, and Slaughter.) In 1991, the surge in popularity of grunge music, such as that performed by Alice In Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, led to a decline in hair metal's popularity. Ironically, while many grunge and alternative music bands signed contracts with major record labels, many hair-metal bands, once considered proponents of 'corporate rock', signed with small, independent labels, and found niches; for example, CMC International released the music of Slaughter, Warrant, and others.

Several hair metal bands, most notably Bon Jovi, have stayed commercially viable throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s.

In recent years, certain bands associated with punk rock have scored hits with tracks that seem to evoke the anthemic hair-metal sound, such as the Offspring's Gone Away (1997) and AFI's Girl's Not Grey (2003). It is hard to discern whether these tracks are intended as sincere homages or ironic references. The British band The Darkness has attempted to revive the hair-metal style, albeit in a more tongue-in-cheek style, somewhat reminiscent of early Van Halen, and Queen.

List of hair metal bands


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