The 1980s was a period of excess. From fashion to music it was all about obnoxious colours and dayglo shades. In fashion, women would ‘power dress’, with jackets that had shoulder pads so wide they looked like an upturned triangle.

Then there was the hair. The bigger the hair the better, and that wasn’t just for ladies. Men also got to enjoy the pleasure of long, backcombed, hairsprayed hair, which was rife in the world of rock and heavy metal. So here are 10 of the best hair rock bands of the 1980s.

Motley Crue

Motley Crue were often cited as a glam band, but their forays into wearing make up had a far more tribal look to go with the tattered shirts and tattoos. For many years, Motley Crue were the epitome of the LA rock scene, taking the excesses of drink, drugs and women to an extreme degree.


KISS had something of a personality crisis following their choice to stop wearing their trademark make up of the 70s. The unmasking did give the band a bit of a push at least in the first half of the decade, and most notably taking out bands such as Motley Crue and Bon Jovi on tour as support acts.

Bon Jovi

Perhaps one of the most successful American bands ever. It was the collaboration with songwriter Desmond Child that gave them this radio friendly platform they needed. It was KISS’ Paul Stanley who passed Child’s number to Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, who were looking for chart success. They found it with their third album Slippery When Wet, which spawned the hits Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name and Wanted Dead Or Alive.


An integral part of the early 80s glam metal scene in LA, RATT had actually been around since 1976, originally called Mickey Ratt. Their debut album Out Of The Cellar, released in 1984 is still held up to be a classic example of the hair metal genre with its punchy tracks and anthemic choruses.


Along with Ratt and Motley Crue, W.A.S.P exploded from the Los Angeles metal scene with their own brand of lewd and crude rock. The band was fronted by the outspoken Blackie Lawless, who stood out for his massive black and white hair and circular saw cod pieces.


Another band that began their life in the 70s, but found great success in the 80s. Formed by David Coverdale in 1976 after his stint in Deep Purple. Whitesnake’s biggest hits were Here I Go Again and Is This Love?, which made the band instantly appealing for radio airplay. Whitesnake were one of the few British hair rock bands to make it stateside.


Hair metal is often synonymous with glam rock. American glam rock of the 80s is very different to the British glam of the 70′s. Designed to shock America’s conservatism, Poison were one of a few bands from Los Angeles who made it their mission to exploit gender bending to an extreme degree. In fact, by just looking at the cover of Poison’s debut album Look What The Cat Dragged In, many people actually thought they were girls.

Def Leppard

Sheffield band Def Leppard fitted the bill or hair metal band perfectly, helped by their pop rock anthems and glossy production. While the band formed part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the late 70s and early 80s, their sound changed to accommodate the poppier sound that many rock bands were changing to at the time. Like Whitesnake, this earned them a broader appeal on both sides of the Atlantic.

Twisted Sister

Fronted by outrageous singer Dee Snider, Twisted Sister blended together the excesses of American Rock with the gutsy punch of British heavy metal. Although the band hailed from Long Island, they were very much influenced by British bands such as Slade, as well as having something of a punk attitude. Twisted Sister’s music was also very theatrical, which worked well with Snider’s versatile voice.


Aerosmith seemed to have had their career done and dusted by the time the 1980s rolled around. Falling sales and drug abuse was proving to cause the band to collapse, while guitarist and founder Joe Perry had already left in 1979, with guitarist Brad Whitford leaving a little while later. However, in 1984 the band reformed and were beginning to find their feet. However, it was the release of Run DMC’s version of Aerosmith’s Walk This Way that catapulted the band back into the public consciousness, and a stream of subsequent hits.

This article was contributed by Peterborough Music, which has a great collection instruments including Ibanez guitars for the budding rock star.

  1. rick on Thursday 24, 2012

    I’d go with Winger at #11. Fantastic list!!!