10 Essential Albums for Fans of 80s Hair Bands

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Shout at the Devil, by Motley Crue (1983)

This wasn’t the band’s first album, but it definitely was their first big-selling album across the United States, and it helped to set some of the look, attitude and music for the hair band scene over the next decade. The music here is almost heavy metal, quite dark in places, but it’s fun, too. Hits off this album were “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love,” but I also liked “Danger” and “Bastard.” Actually, a strong album from beginning to end.

Bon Jovi, by Bon Jovi (1984)

This was the debut album of Jon and the boys. Sure, the band didn’t really hit it big for a couple of more albums, but there were still some great tunes here. This album highlighted the future potential of Bon Jovi with solid songs like “Runaway,” “She Don’t Know Me” and “Shot Through the Heart.” This band didn’t get into the makeup and glam effects quite so much as other bands, but they did to a lesser extent and still wore plenty of leather and spandex. Though Bon Jovi was and has been one of the more mainstream and radio-friendly groups out of the hair bands, you have to admit they’ve had strong staying power and are still popular to this day.

Look What the Cat Dragged In, by Poison (1986)

When Poison first hit the MTV waves, they were the prettiest of the pretty boys. Tons of makeup, lots of hairspray and loads and loads of silky kerchiefs and spandex. But for some reason, this band took off with the rocker crowd big time. This is Poison’s first album, and it’s lots of fun. Great songs include “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Cry Tough” and “I Won’t Forget You.” Actually, the whole album is strong, so give it a twirl if this is your kind of music.

Whitesnake, by Whitesnake (1987)

Whitesnake had been around or a long time, but this album really was the band’s breakthrough in the U.S. Such hit songs as “Still of the Night” and “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love” can still be heard on the radio to this day, more than 20 years later. Throughout its career, Whitesnake often changed as a band, sometimes more blues driven and sometimes more hard rock, but this particular album was a mixture of all of it and really brought the band and lead singer David Coverdale into the limelight in America.

Appetite for Destruction, by Guns N’ Roses (1987)

This was the album that seemed to change everything. Guns N’ Roses was more rough edged than your average hair band, but they stll had some of the looks and attitude and music. Still, Appetite for Destructionwas a breath of fresh air in the rock music genre of the time, hard hitting and rocking and sometimes even fun, all at the same time. Axle Rose and gang had some awesome songs, like the famous “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” “Mr. Brownstone” and “My Michelle.” Truly, this is an awesome album from beginning to end, and quite possibly the best album from all of the 1980s.

Once Bitten … , by Great White (1987)

This was Great White third album and their first one to really draw the attention of MTV and the American audience. It wasn’t quite the huge hit as the band’s next album, … Twice Shy, but it still had some groovy tunes. Solid songs here include “Rock Me,” “Lady Red Light” and the melodic “Save Your Love.”

L.A. Guns, by L.A. Guns (1988)

This band is better known for its second album, Cocked and Loaded (1989) which included the hit song “The Ballad of Jayne,” but this album, the band’s first, has always had a special place for me. My favorite songs here are “Electric Gypsy” and “One Way Ticket,” but there were other cool tunes, such as “Sex Action.” If you are a hair band fan and missed this album, you owe it to yourself to find a copy.

Long Cold Winter, by Cinderella (1988)

Discovered by Jon Bon Jovi, the band Cinderella had a relatively short career as a hair band before transforming into more of a guitar-driven blues band. Long Cold Winter is the band’s second album, and it bridge the gap between hair band rock and the blues. “Gypsy Road” leans toward a rock, thumping hair band sound, while “Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Til It’s Gone)” is a solid hair band ballad. Other songs lean a little more towards blues rock, such as “Long Cold Winter.”

Skid Row, by Skid Row (1989)

Coming in at the end of the 80s, Skid Row’s first album proved the glam rock scene still had something new to offer at the time. “18 and Life” is a fantastic, heavy song that still receives some radio play to this day. Other cool songs include the ballad “I Remember You” and “Youth Gone Wild.”

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, by Warrant (1989)

Warrant’s second album, Cherry Pie, was a bigger seller, but it didn’t come along until 1990, and I wanted to make sure to list the band here. Still, this particular album had some strong tune on it, including the hits “Down Boys,” “Heaven” and “Sometimes She Cries.” This album was not only good in and of itself, but was a fine preview of what more was to come from the band in the future.

Honorable mentions

Since this list only consisted of 10, there were plenty of great bands and albums that got left out. Van Halen wasn’t exactly a hair band, actually being older than the hair bands, but they were a huge influence on these bands and rocked quite well. Def Leppard was sort of a hair band at times, though not always, and are worth mentioning. The lesser-known Faster Pussycat is also in need of a mention, even though this band didn’t come along publically until right at the end of the 80s; still they rocked hard and soft both and put out some excellent albums.

Related links

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