In the 1980’s one kind of rock band ruled over all the others so we take a look back and ask who were the ultimate hair metal band?
When I was younger heavy metal and rock music was my life. I had the denim jacket, read Kerrang! and accumulated a nice little collection of singles, albums and later on CD’s. Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath were what I considered to be proper heavy metal bands.
The other side of the coin was a succession of bands I considered tinny, over-produced, and lacking any real balls. Hair metal, christened as such for obvious reasons, was the name given to the first big wave of hyper-commercial, slick, formulaic metal that was, essentially, pop music with loud guitars. I think what I hated about it as much as anything else was the look of these bands. Big hair (of course), open-chested shirts, tight leather or spandex trousers, leather jackets, liberal amounts of make-up – this was the look, and in the first age of MTV it ruled. Of course these are metal bands so they also have to pay attention to their bad boy reputations, their rock credentials as it were. On the other hand the attention and effort they each seem to put in to their look is incredible. That’s a daily washing, conditioning, blow-drying and hairspraying regime going on there for sure.
Anyway, as time has passed and I’ve grown softer I’ve started to realise some of it wasn’t all that bad. What I wanted to do was find the ultimate hair metal band so I picked 3 of the biggest and decided to pit them against each other in a one on one on one taking in to account important factors like the hair, the metal, their misogyny skills (essential for any 80’s metal band), and their wardrobe. Ok, let’s go…
Bon Jovi – Runaway.
It’s easy now to forget just how big Bon Jovi actually were in the 80’s. Their third album Slippery When Wet produced three massively successful singles and propelled them to the pantheon of global mega-stardom where they’ve pretty much remained ever since. They kicked everything off though with this, their first single released in 1984 and taken from their eponymous debut lp.
Synopsis: The straight-up performance video loosely interspersed with shots that tell the story of a schoolgirl who runs away from home in the rain only to find herself in a Bon Jovi video where she’s magically transformed out of her soaking wet, clinging school uniform in to a saucy dancing dress.
Hair quotient: The band as a whole are hairy but not as bad as you might think. They’re redeemed by JBJ himself with his usual massive perm and drummer Tico Torres who sports an impressive mullet. 7/10
How metal is it? The presence of a significant synthesiser line stops it from being true metal, and the whole thing lacks sufficient oomph in other departments to make up for it, despite Richie Sambora’s best efforts. 4/10
Misogyny rating: Did the schoolgirl really have to end up that wet? Or in a sexy dress in a Bon Jovi video? Undoubtedly not. 8/10
And the clothes?: JBJ is a hair-metal vision from head to toe and embodies the requisite look for all 80’s rock singers. 8/10
Overall hair metal score: 27/40
Poison – Fallen Angel
One of the biggest rock acts in the world from the mid-80’s through until the early 90’s, Poison have sold some 45 million records and are probably best remembered for their ballad ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn’. They are many people’s epitomisation of the hair metal genre. ‘Fallen Angel’ was the single that directly preceded ‘Every Rose…’ both of which were taken from their multi-platinum second album Open Up And Say… Ahh!
Synopsis: The straight-up performance video again, interspersed a bit more fully than the previous one, albeit with a similar story. This time the girl is a few years older at least! She leaves the family behind for California with dreams of being a model or an actress or something only to end up on the casting couch and, of course, dressed very scantily. She ends up kicking the guy who exploited her in the balls, only to end up on Hollywood’s cruel streets where luckily she’s picked up by Poison singer Brett Michaels, the moral of the story being if you run away to Hollywood only to end up taking your clothes off for a living don’t worry, a heavy metal star on a bike will probably save you. Or something.
Hair quotient: Impressive from the whole band, each of whom sport an immaculately prepared mane. Once again, the drummer is worth a special mention. 9/10
How metal is it?: Well there’s no keyboards this time around but this is right at the pop end of rock music until C.C. DeVille rips out a guitar solo on his multi-coloured leopard-skin guitar upping the metal ante in a stroke. 7/10
Misogyny rating: Ostensibly the video tries to tell a cautionary tale which may seem sympathetic to the female protagonist but ultimately sees her swapping one form of patriarchal subjugation (the casting couch) for another (being a heavy metal star’s girlfriend). 7/10
And the clothes? They got hats, gloves, leather, spandex, open-chested shirts, the lot. They look like the kind of band who spend more on clothes than equipment. 10/10
Overall hair-metal score: 33/40
Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
In the 1980’s Los Angeles was the epicentre of everything metal and of all the bands to come out of that era Motley Crue were probably the biggest, almost certainly the baddest, and have gone on to become one of the archetypal rock and roll outfits, at least in terms of their reputation for hell-raising and general attitude. They have sold over 100 million records worldwide.
Synopsis: Motley Crue ride their motorcycles and go to a strip club. That’s it. Really.
Hair quotient: Oh they got hair. Nikki Six alone looks like he spends three hours a day getting the multi-layered thing he’s got going on. 9/10
How metal is it? Despite their reputation Motley Crue always sounded a bit too slick to true metal-heads. However, there’s no denying that for all it’s pop charms this song does also kick a bit of ass. 8/10
Misogyny rating: Are you fucking kidding? 11/10
And the clothes? There’s plenty of leather and ripped t-shirts on display but overall they lack Poison’s sartorial panache. 6/10
Overall hair metal score: 34/40
So there you go, Motley Crue pip Poison by a point proving beyond all reasonable doubt, to me at least, that they are the best/worst hair metal act of all time.
Do you agree? Think differently? Maybe there’s a band you think I should have included? Then come, spill your brains… (I mean leave a comment, don’t literally spill your brains as metal as that may be).