Rock music in 2018 is a many-splendoured beast. It can however, be guilty of taking itself very seriously indeed, with a sense of fun sometimes feeling like it’s in short supply. Remember when rock and metal bands used to get dressed up and have a good time, all of the time? It feels like a million years ago now. So let’s take it back to the era of hairspray and spandex, when everyone just wanted to rock and tomorrow didn’t matter. Welcome to The Ultimate Hair Metal Party Playlist!
GUNS N’ ROSES – PARADISE CITY (GEFFEN, 1987)
As much as Guns N’ Roses were a knee-jerk reaction to the hair metal pouring out of the Sunset Strip during much of the ’80s, early songs like Welcome To The Jungle and Mr. Brownstone in many ways embodied it. On Paradise City, three simple chords would underpin a stadium-sized love-letter to Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin’s hometown of Lafayette, Indiana. “The verses are more about being in the jungle,” the frontman revealed in 1988, “the chorus is like being back in the Midwest or somewhere.”
WARRANT – CHERRY PIE (COLUMBIA, 1990)
With its outrageously catchy gang vocal chorus, beefy metallic guitars and swingin’ grooves, Cherry Pie was quick to join Girls, Girls, Girls as one of the more heavily rotated tracks on stripclub playlists. Singer Jani Lane regales the tale of a lady born with the power to ‘make a grown man cry’ – and ironically the same could be said of his lyrics, culminating with ‘in walks her daddy standin’ six foot four, he said you ain’t gonna swing with my daughter no more’. Wow.
MÖTLEY CRÜE – KICKSTART MY HEART (ELEKTRA, 1989)
Inspired by that time bassist Nikki Sixx took so much heroin that he actually died, got revived by paramedics in an ambulance from which he escaped and made a beeline for more drugs, Kickstart My Heart could be one of the most reckless anthems of the ’80s. Thankfully the bassist eventually got clean from the lethal substance that bizarrely helped make him a millionaire.
ALICE COOPER – SCHOOL’S OUT (WARNER BROS., 1972)
There are few moments in life as joyous as that final bell of the academic year ringing through the corridors of school. Which is exactly why early glam icon Alice Cooper chose to pen an ode to all bets being off for the foreseeable… “What’s the greatest three minutes of your life?” he once rhetorically asked. “There’s two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you’re just getting ready to open the presents. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school, when you’re sitting there and it’s like a slow fuse burning. I said, ‘If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it’s going to be so big.’” So that’s exactly what they did.
RATT – ROUND AND ROUND (ATLANTIC, 1984)
Ratt’s biggest hit is one of those songs that will get stuck in your head for the remainder of the day whether you like it or not. To some, it was the song of Spring 1984, and to others it’s like a really bad cover of Metallica classic For Whom The Bell Tolls. But few can deny just how gloriously ’80s this video is – especially when guitarist Warren DeMartini crashes through the ceiling of a black-tie dinner he clearly wasn’t invited to.
TWISTED SISTER – WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT (ATLANTIC, 1984)
If rock fans needed a role model in the mid-’80s, they didn’t need to look far. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Van Halen were at the height of their fame, but no one was quite like Twisted Sister’s loudmouth frontman Dee Snider – an outspoken cross-dresser that definitely wasn’t going to take it. A man of his word, the following year he gave testimony to the Senate in order to fight PMRC censorship, after the organisation had targeted his band for making obscene music.
BON JOVI – BAD MEDICINE (MERCURY, 1988)
Easily one of the heaviest tracks Jon Bon Jovi has ever lent his voice to, Bad Medicine is the kind of song made for filling rock club floors before last orders. Tapping up co-writer Desmond Child, who had also worked with them on 1986’s career-launching predecessor Slippery When Wet, as well as KISS on disco hit I Was Made For Lovin’ You, paid off well for the East Coast rockers. Keen to prove there was plenty more in the tank, this was one of five top-ten hits from 1988’s New Jersey.
KISS – LICK IT UP (MERCURY, 1983)
Following the success of 1982’s return-to-roots tenth album Creatures Of The Night, KISS decided to continue in the same vein but ditch the makeup for next year’s follow-up. The video for its title track depicts the band walking through their local tip and chancing upon a gang of feral glam rock queens that enjoy fixing broken water mains and starting fires. You couldn’t make it up.
DEF LEPPARD – POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME (MERCURY, 1987)
Def Leppard went through the unthinkable in the years that built to landmark fourth album Hysteria. First came the struggles securing producer Mutt Lange and the unfruitful attempts finding a worthy replacement, then drummer Rick Allen lost his arm after a car accident. But the Sheffield rockers chose to persevere, and ended up making one of the biggest selling rock albums of all-time – thanks to this sexually charged chart-topper and no less than six other singles.
POISON – NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME (ENIGMA, 1988)
In the video for Poison’s biggest hit, a metalhead gets scolded by the boss of the restaurant he works at for not doing the dishes quickly enough. So he throws off his apron and kicks open the nearest door, only to find Poison singing this joyful number about living life to the max. Best of all, by the end of the song all the dishes are miraculously done.
W.A.S.P – WILD CHILD (CAPITOL, 1985)
The opening track on W.A.S.P.’s second full-length, The Last Command, could easily be one of the finest anthems of the ’80s. Frontman Blackie Lawless is less of a wild child these days, choosing to retire fan-favourite Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) and the fake blood famously used in their live shows on account of their conflict with his ideals as a born-again Christian.
SKID ROW – YOUTH GONE WILD (ATLANTIC, 1989)
So strong was singer Sebastian Bach’s faith in his band’s music, that he got the title of this lead single tattooed across his right forearm long before they were signed. And who could blame him – their 1989 debut would become one of the essential glam metal albums of its decade, this rebellious call-to-arms for the disenfranchised youth tailor-made for heavy MTV rotation.
VAN HALEN – PANAMA (WARNER MUSIC GROUP, 1984)
Van Halen’s sixth effort, titled 1984, would bring an end to their early golden years with frontman David Lee Roth – who would go off and start his own group while his ex-bandmates continued with replacement Sammy Hagar. There couldn’t have been a better album to end the run, thanks to stadium-conquering hit singles Jump, Hot For Teacher and Panama – in which the singer professes his love for a stripper and the car they are sat in: ‘You reach down, between my legs… Ease the seat back’.
CINDERELLA – GYPSY ROAD (VERTIGO, 1988)
There are many reasons enjoy Cinderella’s lead track from second album Long Cold Winter — from the country-metal riffing to singer Tom Keifer’s ear-piercing shriek. It’s a bit like hearing Back In Black-era AC/DC covering your favourite songs by ZZ Top, which is no bad thing at all.
AEROSMITH – DUDE (LOOKS LIKE A LADY) (GEFFEN, 1987)
Though initially reluctant to work with an external songwriter, Aerosmith pair Steven Tyler and Joe Perry began writing with Desmond Child – who already had KISS and Bon Jovi hits to his name by 1987. The song title was born from a night out with Mötley Crüe, though whether it directly comments on frontman Vince Neil’s androgynous looks has never been completely verified. In Walk This Way: The Autobiography Of Aerosmith, Steven Tyler said it came from the younger band “all going, ‘Dude this’ and ‘Dude that’, everything was Dude. [The song] came out of that session.”
Words: Amit Sharma
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