Falling smack in the middle of the hair metal decade, 1985 might logically seem to be the zenith of all things poodle-do’d, spandex-pantsed, and glitter-guitar-powered. In hindsight, though, 1985 actually served more as an incubator period between the coming together of glam-metal in the early-’80s and it’s late-decade peak.
The craziest metal action of ’85 actually went down in Washington, D.C., where the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an anti-rock coven of politician’s wives led by Tipper Gore, picked a fight they could not win after Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider testified pure logic and righteous reason against them on the issue of censorship.
As a result, the mousse-imbued momentum built by the likes of Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Zebra in 1983 and Night Ranger, Helix, above all, Twisted Sister in 1984 ebbed temporarily in ’85 only to rebound in a huge way in the back half of the decade via Poison, Cinderella, Warrant, Winger, Europe and the rest of the definitively monster-coifed suspects.
Still, 1985 did deliver its fair share of intoxicating dollops of classic mid-’80s glam jams. So let’s all tease our locks skyward, apply lipstick to areas other than our lips, and look back in pure party mode at the ten most towering hair metal hits of 1985.
“Leader of the Pack” – Twisted Sister
Twisted Sister owned 1984 by way of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.”. Alas, Dee Snider and company’s decision to lead off their follow-up LP Come Out and Play not with another fist-pumping rocker but with an amusingly knuckle-headed cover of the Shangri-La’s teen pop vehicular disaster classic “Leader of the Pack” proved to be a misstep from which the group never fully recovered. Still, the very funny music video got plenty of MTV play, and the song made an unmistakable mark on the Year of Our Hair Metal 1985.
“In My Dreams” – Dokken
“Rockin’ with Dokken,” as the fans’ catchphrase went, hit its mainstream apex with this agreeably hard and melodic mid-tempo number that builds off the sort of multi-tracked vocal intro that Bon Jovi would convert into heaps of platinum in short enough order.
The music video for “In My Dreams” focuses on frontman Don Dokken essentially ruining a swanky leather bolero hat and ankle-length leather duster coat, the latter complete with arm fringes, by belting out the tune in that outfit while standing under a studio-created rainstorm. The rest of the band, when not floating over the desert or in the sky via cutting-edge blue-screen technology (yes, those things were blue before they were green), similarly imperil their instruments beneath the downpour.
“Soldiers Under Command” – Stryper
Just like the old hymn goes, the Christian soldiers in Stryper marched onward into hair metal as to war, but instead of combating Satan and his minions with judgment and condemnation, these SoCal hair-hoppers made commitment to J.C. sound like an awesomely rockin’ proposition.
“Soldiers Under Command,” the title track from Stryper’s second album, drove sales of the LP to better-than-gold status. That, in turn, launched Stryper en route to becoming the biggest (explicitly) Christian rock band of all time. The fact that they pulled this off by way of ’80s glam metal, as overtly decadent and hedonistic a subgenre of rock that has ever existed, is nothing less than a goddamned miracle.
“Blind in Texas” – W.A.S.P.
The same year that Tipper Gore and her fellow pearl-clutching PMRC harpies harped on the buzz-saw codpiece cover imagery of W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (F—k Like a Beast),” the group scored a decent MTV splash with “Blind in Texas” from their 1985 LP, The Last Command.
Considerably less confrontational than “Animal” or even W.A.S.P.’s theatrical live shows that involved maidens in chains and raw meat tossed to the crowd, “Blind in Texas” nonetheless packs maximum hair metal wallop, bolstered by a music video that depicts Blackie Lawless and his tarted up marauders bowling over and blowing away drunken cowboys in an old-timey saloon with the sheer force of their rock.
“In and Out of Love” – Bon Jovi
From New Jersey they came and to the most dizzying crests of hair-metal they scaled before evolving into the country-friendly dad rock that keeps Bon Jovi filling football stadiums all these decades later.
The single “Runaway” launched Bon Jovi in 1984. Jon, Richie, and their fellow Garden State goombahs kept that velocity rolling with their follow-up LP, 7800° Fahrenheit—“the temperature at which vinyl melts” (as the ads claimed)—scoring a handful of MTV and rock radio hits, including the power ballad “Silent Night” and the straight-up rocker “In and Out of Love.”
The intro to “In and Out of Love” showcases swooping, channel-hopping multi-tracked vocals that stereophonically repeat the chorus and lay the foundation for Bon Jovi’s quantum leap the following year on Slippery When Wet, wherein the group alchemized platinum out of sonic histrionics like the extra “Bad name!” outburst on the chorus of “You Give Love a Bad Name” and the “ooh-wah-ooh-wah-ooh-ooh-oohwah” at the beginning of “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
“Just a Gigolo” – David Lee Roth
No, “Just a Gigolo” is not a metal song and even in 1985, at the absolute apogee of Diamond Dave’s reign as planet earth’s premiere all-singing, all-dancing, all karate high-kicking, all-shucking-and-jiving clown prince badass showman supreme, the dude started to look like he was going bald.
Regardless, David Lee Roth’s Crazy From the Heat EP, highlighted by this single and his musically faithful cover of the Beach Boy’s “California Girls”—plus each song’s uproarious music video—embodies an absolute pinnacle of a world gone hair-metal wild. And no human could more perfectly embody the smiling face of that moment than DLR, doffing his hat and belting, “Bop! Bowz-dee-bowz-dee-bop! Titty-bop!”
“Tears Are Falling” – Kiss
Kiss’s makeup may have come off in 1983, but their thick black locks ascended northward in keeping with the times and the eternally hottest band in the land kept their inferno alight by rolling flawlessly into rock’s big-time hair metal exploision.
Paul Stanley composed the first single from Kiss’s Asylum album, “Tears Are Falling” and he performs the soaring lament with high dramatic gusto. MTV rotated the video like crazy and “Tears” stands as one of the few non-makeup-era Kiss songs that, driven by fans’ love of it, has been performed by the group in their later-day face-paint phase.
“Summertime Girls” – Y&T
Oakland glamsters Y&T taught their SoCal peers a thing or 69 about crafting an anthemic homage to what happens to beauties the world over once sweaty weather sets in and clothes commence to come off.
Bouncing off a bubblegum beat and exuding an irresistible power pop spirit, “Summertime Girls” stormed MTV throughout ’85 with its naturally bikini-abundant music video and, across the next few years, radio stations in a multitude of formats took to spinning the tune as soon as temperatures began to rise outside. “Summertime Girls” has since remained a classic rock standard—and as much fun to hear each time as it was on that first go-round.
“Lay It Down” – Ratt
Ratt came out swinging in 1984 with Out of the Cellar in 1984 and they kept the fight up—way up—the following year with their second top 10 album, Invasion of Your Privacy.
Fronting the onslaught was the single “Lay It Down,” a rip-roaring lust storm about what seems to be a one-night stand that, by the song’s end, turns into a proclamation of romance. Anything can happen if you just “lay it down.”
“Home Sweet Home” – Mötley Crüe
It’s soft, it’s sweet, it’s pretty, your mom liked it back when it first hit (and the present generation of moms currently uses it to affectionately torment their kids), American Idol country diva scored her own smash with it, and it’s the single most definitive hair metal song of 1985.
It’s the power-ballad-to-beat-all-power-ballads “Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe, of course, a piano-driven ode to the joy of returning to loved ones that has gotten millions of lighters ablaze and swaying in thousands of rock arenas all over the planet and that rocketed the band’s Theatre of Pain album to iconic status.
A ’90s TV commercial for a compilation CD called Monster Ballads used to say, “Every bad boy has a soft side!” and, for all the fun everyone had goofing on that ad, “Home Sweet Home” provides the proof of that notion by being sentimental, heartfelt, and tender in a way that only further boosted the band’s over-the-top outlaw dynamics. That’s hair metal for you, and that was 1985.