Glam metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music that arose in the late 1970s - early 1980s in the United States. It was a dominant genre in popular rock music throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
The genre is also referred to, often by detractors, as hair metal. This term was popularized by MTV in the 1990s and derives from the tendency amongst most bands to style their long hair in a teased-up fashion. During its heyday, the genre was often referred to as heavy metal or simply metal.
Musically, glam metal songs often featured distorted guitar riffs based around power chords, shred guitar solos, a catchy melody with an anthemic chorus, hard hitting drumming, and complementary bass. Guitar riffs featured in glam metal are considerably more melodic and less aggressive than in any other metal genres. Vocals are almost always clean.
Many glam metal performers became infamous for their debauched lifestyles, long teased hair (hence the alternative hair metal tag) and use of make-up, gaudy clothing (chiefly consisting of tight denim or leather jeans, spandex, leather and headbands), and accessories—traits somewhat reminiscent of glam rock, a music genre which first emerged in the United Kingdom during the early 1970s. However, the earlier groups of the genre also implemented some of the leather and studs imagery which had previously been made famous by heavy metal band Judas Priest.
The genre took influence heavily from 1970s glam rock and heavy metal bands and some influenced by punk, with large sections taking influence from the likes of AC/DC, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, New York Dolls, Queen, Sex Pistols, Sweet, Van Halen, Slade, Mott the Hoople, T.Rex, Judas Priest and others. A few bands had previously experimented with mixing glam rock and heavy metal prior to the 1980s when glam metal emerged as a fully fledged genre. Angel, Starz, and Legs Diamond were prime examples of this. However, it wasn’t until the early 1980s (c.1981) that the genre truly began to gather speed and thus some of the earlier bands mentioned are not always viewed as part of it.
The first band of the 1980s to truly travel down the make-up and gaudy clothing route was Finnish group Hanoi Rocks. Credited as influences by countless bands, Hanoi Rocks followed the template laid down by hard rock bands of the 1970s and stuck to the make up and garishness of the New York Dolls. In the United States, many fans credited that the movement on the Sunset Strip was kick-started largely by Mötley Crüe and Nikki Sixx’s former band London after the earliest years when they started 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 the early 80s (c.1983). In any event, these bands played a prominent part in the genre’s direction and would go on to influence a lot of the bands who formed from the mid-1980s onwards.
During 1981 in England, the same year of Mötley Crüe’s formation, Wrathchild, fronted by Rocky Shades, also emerged. This band was known for playing glam metal style music and having a similar image; they also used pyro similar to that of shock rock sections of the genre and would eventually tour with W.A.S.P. in 1984. However, Wrathchild did not gain the same level of fame as their Los Angeles contemporaries.
First wave (1981-1984) Edit
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, heavy metal spawned several sub-genre forms; glam metal became its most popular manifestation. The first wave of glam metal bands included, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Helix, W.A.S.P., Dokken, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger and Stryper. Their music was a bit closer to traditional heavy metal than their younger contemporaries who would eventually emerge, like Cinderella, Warrant and Poison, whose music and image ultimately became synonymous with the genre.
From 1981 to 1984 several important albums which would shape the genre, and change the course of music during the 1980s emerged, amongst them were:
- Quiet Riot - Metal Health (March 11, 1983)
- Mötley Crüe - Too Fast for Love (November 10, 1981)
- W.A.S.P. - W.A.S.P. (August 17, 1984)
- Ratt - Out of the Cellar (March 23, 1984)
- Mötley Crüe - Shout at the Devil (September 26, 1983)
- Dokken - Tooth and Nail (September 13, 1984)
- Twisted Sister - Stay Hungry (May 10, 1984)
- Autograph - Sign in Please (1984)
- Def Leppard - Pyromania (January 20, 1983)
- Bon Jovi - Bon Jovi (January 10, 1984)
Around this time and the years following it, bands who had long been an established part of heavy metal and hard rock music during the 1970s and had ironically influenced many of the glam metal bands began to experiment with the genre’s stylings, an example of this is Kiss's Lick It Up. During the later part of the 1980s, many other acts would follow suit in a similar fashion; Alice Cooper in 1989 with Trash, Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation and Whitesnake with their 1987 self-titled album which featured the massively successful hit "Here I Go Again." Judas Priest's Turbo was released in 1986, during the glam metal "hair band" era. To keep up with the times, Priest adopted a more colourful look and gave their music a more poppy feel by adding synthesisers.
Second wave (1985-1991)Edit
By the mid-1980s, glam metal could be defined by two major divisions. On the mainstream side were bands such as Bon Jovi, whose 1986 album Slippery When Wet was a huge success at Top 40 radio and MTV, as well as the band Europe, whose single "The Final Countdown" hit number one in 26 countries; the bands in this style were and still are described as pop metal. Similar bands including FireHouse 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, London and L.A. Guns. Other bands were associated with that scene’s style but actually came from outside of Hollywood; Cinderella and Britny Fox, both Philadelphia bands, are prime examples. Also in the mid '80s Stryper brought Christian lyrics to glam metal, making Christian Metal popular in the process.
There were also some groups who continued in the style originated by the earlier glam metal bands. King Kobra (which would spawn The Bullet Boys, known most notably for their MTV hits "Smooth Up In Ya" and their cover of "For The Love of Money") is a prime example of this.
The visual aspects of some glam metal bands became thought of as appealing to music television, particularly MTV when it was launched. During the mid-to-late 1980s, glam metal tracks 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 for the genre as a whole, and enjoyed widespread success during the 1980s, but bands would sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of critics and 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 continued to grow its fanbase as the 1980s progressed. Def Leppard’s 1987 album Hysteria spawned seven successful singles, and eventually sold more than 12 million copies just in the US. This would later become one of the most popular hard rock albums of all time, being one of the most popular albums in the 1980s. Poison’s second album Open Up and Say...Ahh! spawned a huge 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 and had a harder hitting sound than many of the other bands in the genre at that point.
Guns N' Roses changed the direction of glam metal in 1987. They incorporated the sounds of blues and punk into the music, while retaining some of the imagery of glam metal. Guns N’ Roses became a mega-success in 1988 thanks to singles such as "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child o' Mine," and went on to sell millions of albums. Other bands which arose around this time with similar musical styles are Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Roxx Gang, and Dangerous Toys.
A similar movement also emerged in London, England at around the same time. Like Guns N' Roses, these bands were heavily influenced by early rock n' roll and punk rock. Like Hanoi Rocks, the bands from this English movement such as Dogs D’Amour and London Quireboys didn’t consider themselves heavy metal, but rather as rock n' roll, though they are sometimes incorrectly termed glam metal. Also, around this time British band The Cult moved their music away from their post-punk roots and began playing a more AC/DC influenced sound, touring the United States with Guns N' Roses and then later with Metallica.
During the 2000s the sleaze glam style has returned somewhat thanks to Buckcherry and Brides of Destruction, the latter of which features Nikki Sixx and Tracii Guns. Newer bands such as Vains of Jenna, Backyard Babies, Hardcore Superstar, and Red Star Rebels are also beginning to gain a lot of recognition.
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, including the rise of grunge music from Seattle, changing audience tastes, and the impacts of band breakups and personnel changes.
In the early 1990s, bands from the alternative rock subgenre named grunge, such as Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, started supplanting glam metal’s popularity. Like glam metal, grunge was influenced by heavy metal. However, grunge also mixed in elements of hardcore punk and indie rock, such as apathetic or angst-filled lyrics and a stripped-down aesthetic and a rejection of glam metal-style theatrics. 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 at 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 as after a hard-rocking anthem—was initially a successful formula in the late 1980s, audiences eventually lost interest in this approach. From Poison ("Fallen Angel" followed by "Every Rose Has Its Thorn") to Mötley Crüe ("Kickstart My Heart" followed by "Without You").  Older bands with hard rock/heavy metal roots also used this approach: Whitesnake's 1987 eponymous album introduced a rerecording of "Here I Go Again", which was followed by "Is This Love?", both power ballads (the latter more so than the former).  The decline in glam metal was further compounded by many key 1980s metal bands, glam or otherwise, breaking up or losing significant band members. 
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 supplanted by emo rock, 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.
Mötley Crüe reunited with Vince Neil, and recorded the 1997 album Generation Swine, embarking on a successful U.S. tour. Poison reunited with C.C. Deville, and embarked on a successful 1999 tour of amphitheaters. A 2000 package tour featuring Poison, Slaughter, Cinderella, and Dokken 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 Oklahoma. In 2007, the four day long festival ran from July 12th through 15th and featured such bands as Poison, Ratt (reformed with Stephen Pearcy and missing deceased founding member Robbin Crosby), Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Bang Tango, Vince Neil Band, Twisted Sister, Jackyl, Dokken, Quiet Riot, Britny Fox (reformed), Enuff Z'nuff and Y&T. Warrant and Cinderella will co-headline the festival in 2008 on July 10th through the 13th.
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. 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. 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 Revlon Red, Wig Wam, Murderdolls, Vains of Jenna, Andrew W.K., Hardcore Superstar, Babylon Bombs, Malice In Wonderland, Private Line, Bullets and Octane, Endeverafter, Dirty Penny, and Lordi borrow elements from glam metal. Such groups have helped carry glam metal elements, largely lyrical and vocal, to modern fans, often with a heavier, more updated sound. Crashdiet was also signed to a major label and have released two albums. Boston's Damone are another recent glam metal-influenced band who have enjoyed success, having had a song featured on the Madden NFL 2007 soundtrack. Some unsigned and lesser-known bands of the genre that formed during glam metal’s popular years are now being signed to smaller labels such as Perris Records and releasing material.
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