The Hair Metal 100: Ranking the ’80s Greatest Glam Bands, Part 2

Counting down from #80 to #61: the hard, the heavy, and the high heels.

Heavy metal dominated the 1980s as it has in no other decade. And of that era’s metal subgenres, no single offshoot stands as more quintessentially ’80s than that of the glammed-up, tricked-out, teased-squeezed-and-built-to-please over-the-top sonic-and-scenic insanity now known most affectionately as hair metal.

In the previous installment of The Hair Metal 100, the countdown kicked off with an array of pretty-boy (and occasionally girl) practitioners of poodleheaded guitar-noodling greatness that ranged from the first incarnation of Pantera to the incomparable Jon Mikl Thor to Lion, who forever enriched humanity with their 1986 theme song from Transformers: The Movie.

Try not to break an exquisitely manicured nail on your guitar strings now, as this next go-round of The Hair Metal 100 takes us from #80 to #61.

80. XYZ

Throughout the ’80s, countless small-town American rockers hightailed it out of the heartland in pursuit of Sunset Strip glam glory. In the case of XYZ, singer Terry Ilous and bass player Patrick Fontaine trekked all the way over from Lyon, France. Regular stints at the Whisky a Go Go attracted a cult audience that still endures. Don Dokken numbered among XYZ’s admirers, and he produced their 1989 self-titled debut.


One of glam’s most fascinating misfires, the diabolically decadent Sea Hags soared up out of pre-grunge Seattle and landed in thrash-era San Francisco, where they won fans with an especially sleaze-basted take on biker metal. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett co-produced Sea Hags’ demo, and Guns N’ Roses engineer Mike Clink over saw their self-titled first LP. Alas, the group self-destructed in the midst of a trek through Europe. Perhaps their manager nailed it best: “There’s only so far you can go with three junkies and one alcoholic.”


Kik Tracee counts as an ’80s band as they formed in L.A. in 1988 and absorbed numerous lessons from their local metal scene’s breakout superstars, Guns N’ Roses. KT made loud sounds and some seemingly sizable waves, becoming temporary fixtures on MTV’s Headbangers Ball, but their inaugural LP, No Rules, didn’t drop until 1991. You may have read somewhere that that happened to be the year grunge broke.


If only for the monster it spawned, Hollywood Rose would command respect and demand consideration. Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin founded Hollywood Rose upon arrival on the Sunset Strip from Indiana. In time, both Slash and Steven Adler made their way into the band. When Traci Gunns of L.A. Guns came on board, the group combined both monikers to create Guns N’ Roses. Traci eventually returned to L.A. Guns full-time, and we’re pretty sure you’re aware that GNR kept going even after he split.


Tora Tora alerted the world to the ’80s metal scene in Memphis, Tennessee by kicking ass at various Battle of the Bands contests and becoming a local sensation. TT’s early singles got heavy play on Memphis station Rock 98 and set the group up for national stardom that almost pretty much happened. Surprise Attack (1989) hit #47 on the Billboard album chart and a couple of Tora Tora videos made their way to MTV. By 1992’s Wild America, the excess hairspray was on the wall, and Tora Tora left behind a respectable legacy of slick Southern grooves.


There is no understanding the importance of doomed Finnish giants Hanoi Rocks to the ’80s glam metal movement. As a result, it can be tempting to oversell the pleasures of Jetboy, which featured Hanoi veteran Sami Yaffa on bass. That stated, Feel the Shake (1988) and Damned Nation (1990) are two albums well worth any mousse-booster’s listening time. Give them a spin.


Before he was Ace Frehley’s guitar tech and way long before he usurped Ace’s Space Man makeup and took over as Kiss’s lead axe-man, Tommy Thayer made some largely righteous noise in the Portland, Oregon glam combo, Black ’n Blue. In fact, Gene Simmons himself so loved BNB’s first two records—Black ’n Blue (1984) and Without Love (1985)—that he produced the group’s next two, Nasty Nasty (1986) and In Heat (1988). And you know you can always trust the God of Thunder.


Canuck slayers Killer Dwarfs boasted funny bones as sharp as their riffs and licks. As such, the band loaded their expertly constructed and enthusiastically executed arena-stomp anthems with an element that in lesser capable hands almost always spells groaning doom: self-aware wit. Bonus points for appearing—sort of—in the great 1987 heavy metal horror flick The Gate: one of the teenage headbanger heroes wears a Killer Dwarfs back patch on his denim battle vest throughout the very fun movie.

72. TUFF

Rising from Phoeniz, Arizona in 1985, Tuff took on the majors by issuing their 1986 debut, Knock Yourself Out, on their own Tuff Muff Music label. Their killer live reputation carried them for the next five years, until Atlantic finally signed them. In 1991, the album What Goes Around Comes Around generated the hit MTV power ballad, “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye.” After enduring what necessarily befell all such makeup metal squads in the ’90s, Tuff released “American Hair Band,” a spoof of Kid Rock’s “American Bad Ass” that humorously recounts the rise-and-fall of ’80s glam.


The axe-obsessed Lizzy Borden absolutely boasted first-rate hard-and-heavy chops. The group’s “Rod of Iron” even appears on the 1983 edition of Metal Blade’s legendary Metal Massacre compilations. In addition, Lizzy hailed back to the shock rock stage show tradition of Alice Cooper (also like Alice, the group’s frontman is named Lizzy Borden). As a result, the cult of Lizzy swelled to a peak just in time for the group’s standout profile in glam’s definitive documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Come the end of the ’80s, though… well, a lot of heads rolled down those gutters of the Sunset Strip.


In 1986, Traci Lords, then the most popular adult film star in the world, revealed that she had only, just recently, turned technically “adult” herself: she’d been starring in sex flicks while under the age of 18 for the previous three years. As though that classic saga of Hollywood sleaze run wild didn’t come off as inherently hair metal enough, Traci herself had been a staple of the Sunset Strip’s glam hotspots and regularly kept company with the attendant bad boys in tighter pants and more makeup than she’d ever worn. All this is to explain where the band Lord Tracy got their name, even though they hailed from Tennessee: Traci Lords was just that luminous a mousse-metal icon. The group’s music powerfully lived up to her down-and-dirty legend.


Hollywood hair-heapers London arose in 1978 from members’ mutual love of ’70s glam rock, as prettily personified by the likes of the New York Dolls, Sweet, Gary Glitter, and Mott the Hoople. Ten years later, London jammed loud-and-proud among metal’s dolled-up disciples of those pioneers, even appearing in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.


The mid-’80s punk-metal crossover crystallized by thrash took an unexpected right turn in the form of Junkyard. Specifically, the oddness comes from bassist Brian Baker, who’d previously been an original member of straight edge hardcore legends Minor Threat before founding Dag Nasty. Junkyard provided Baker and his bandmates with a glam-era hard rock vehicle that, indeed, rocked hard.


Miami mayhem-makers Saigon Kick could have had no idea how prophetic their Vietnam-based moniker would prove to be: while the group was a reasonably glam outfit stateside, they attracted huge audiences in Asia. Another unique detail is that Saigon Kick scored its only big U.S. hit, “Love Is on the Way,” during the famously hair-metal-unfriendly year of 1992.


Beautified British bruisers Wrathchild pioneered huge hair, laced-up leather, and platform boots all the way back in 1980, even titling their ’82 demo Mascara Massacre and an ’83 EP, Stackheel Strutt. Wrathchild broke worldwide with Stakk Attack in 1984, followed a year later by Trash Queens, and then fumbling a bit before going out with the one-two glitter-bomb blast of The Biz Suxx and Delirium in 1988 and ’89, respectively.

65. TNT

TNT exploded out of Norway in 1982. While many of their fellow metal-minded countrymen were painting the world black, these Trondheim troublemakers at first went for pure power, then gussied themselves up in a rocking rainbow of colors to create a unique spin on glam that continues to resonate today.


Easy Action slid out of Sweden at the dawn of the ’80s, electrified by American hard rock and eager to toss their teased-up manes and soaring metal skills in to the mix. The group’s self-titled 1983 release caught on overseas and historically nabbed them a Sire Records contract, making Easy Action the first-ever Swedish metal act to land on a major U.S. label. Easy Action’s ride was not a long one (nor, by most accounts, was it easy), but that ’83 album remains a cult sensation and a must-have for ’80s hair band aficionados.

63. KEEL

In 1984, vocalist Ron Keel departed Steeler to form Keel and release a buzz-making debut on Shrapnel records, Lay Down the Law. Kiss front-tongue Gene Simmons produced the band’s next two records, The Right to Rock (which contained the hit title song) and The Final Frontier. From there Keel rode out the ’80s with high respectability. They also always chose interesting covers, including the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” Rose Tattoo’s “Rock and Roll Outlaw,” and Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen’s “Because the Night.”


Regal rock drummer Carmine Appice constructed King Kobra on the heels of his 1983-84 stint with Ozzy Osbourne. That, in turn, followed his legendary career that include power-pounding for (among others) Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Paul Stanley, and Ted Nugent. King Kobra’s Ready to Strike (1985) and Thrill of a Lifetime (1986) are both kickass slabs of ’80s glam. Better still is “Iron Eagle (Never Say Die),” the band’s theme song to the beloved action flick Iron Eagle. Best of all is the King Kobra splinter group featuring Appice and vocalist Mark Free that provides the music in the all-time heavy metal horror movie mind-ripper, 1988's immortal Black Roses.


Glam metal always loved a gimmick. Opera-lunged Nitro frontman Jim Gillette delivered one of the very best in hair-band history as he backed his claim of having the “fastest, loudest, highest sound around” by shrieking to the very top of his vocal capacity and shattering wine glasses live on stage. Guitarist Michael Angelo further upped the band’s ballyhoo by concocting a Quad Guitar X-4000, which boasted four necks with seven strings each in the shape of an X. Nitro’s two albums—1989’s O.F.R. (Out-F—king-Rageous) and 1991’s Nitro II: H.W.D.W.S. (Hot, Wet, and Dripping With Sweat)—match the group’s live bombast.