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Glam-metal (also known as sleaze rock, hair metal and cock rock) is one of the great guilty musical pleasures of the 80’s. Popularized by bands like Mötley Crüe and Ratt, it combined 70’s British Glam, hard rock, and punk, resulting in raunchy tunes from musicians with teased hairdos, mascara and leather pants. But many underrated 80’s U.S. glam metal bands slipped through the cracks on the Sunset Strip.
Why? Partly due to an oversaturated market, the breakout success of Guns N’Roses (who gave the genre more authenticity before transcending it altogether), and the rise of Grunge in the early 90’s.
So let’s look at 6 80’s glam metal bands worthy of being rediscovered and cranked up at high volume.
Essential Tracks: ‘All The Time In The World’, ‘Hollywood’, ‘Back On The Streets’, ‘Simple Man’, ‘Clean The Dirt’, ‘Hands Off’
Essential Albums: ‘Junkyard’, ‘Sixes, Sevens and Nines’
This L.A. based group mixed elements of Southern rock with AC/DC stadium crunch on tracks like ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Hands Off’. Interestingly enough, their lineup sported a punk pedigree with members from groups such as Dag Nasty, Minor Threat and Bad Religion.
As of 2015: The band had a busy summer in 2015, releasing two new singles: ‘Faded’ and ‘The River’ and performing at L.A.’s Cathouse Live Festival.
Essential Tracks: ‘Scared’, ‘Teas’n Pleas’n’, ‘Sport’n A Woody’, ‘Gunfighter’, ‘10 Boots (Stompin’)’, ‘Take Me Drunk’, ‘Loser’, ‘Hard Luck Champion’
Essential Albums: ‘Dangerous Toys’, ‘Hellacious Acres’
Hailing from Austin, TX, Dangerous Toys added Lone Star charm to glam fueled tracks like ‘Scared’, and ‘Teas’n and Pleas’n.’ But over-the-top lyrics on apostrophe heavy titles like Ten Boots (Stompin’)’ and ‘Sport’n A Woody’ reveal a band unafraid to punctuate their rock anthems with corny off-color jokes.
As of 2015: Frontman Jason McMasters still performs with several other projects, including the band Broken Teeth, while guitarist Jason Lidell plays with the group Adrenaline Factory. Dangerous Toys usually regroup for at least one show each year.
Essential Tracks: ‘Bathroom Wall’, ‘Cathouse’, ‘House Of Pain’, ‘You’re So Vain’, ‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Babylon’, ‘Slip of the Tongue’, ‘Where There’s A Whip There’s A Way’, ‘Bottle In Front of Me’
Essential Albums: ‘Faster Pussycat’, ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’, ‘Whipped’
Fronted by gravelly voiced Taime Downe, Faster Pussycat (named after the Russ Meyer exploitation flick ‘Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill! ) were local favorites at L.A.’s infamous Cathouse club. Their lusty songs about blues and booze never achieved huge international success, although they had moderate hits with ‘Bathroom Wall’, ‘House of Pain’ and their cover of Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain.’
As of 2015: Where to start? Downe formed the industrial rockers The Newlydeads, and still performs as Faster Pussycat. Former guitarist Brent Muscat had his own version of the band, but disbanded after a legal dispute with Downe and formed Sin City Sinners. And after several years of public feuding, both members briefly reunited in 2012 for charity.
Essential Tracks: ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, ‘Cold Blood’, ‘Blow My Fuse’, ‘Cool Kids’, ‘Cold Shower’, ‘Midnight Dynamite’, ‘Kix Are For Kids’, ‘Girl Money’
Essential Albums: ‘Cool Kids’, ‘Blow My Fuse’, ‘Hot Wire’
Formed in Baltimore, Maryland, Kix played no-frills rock that split the difference between Aerosmith-esque dirty blues guitar and 60’s British Invasion hooks.
Fronted by the wisecracking charismatic vocalist Steve Whiteman, the band crafted escapist anthems like ‘Cold Blood’, ‘Blow My Fuse’ and ‘Cool Kids.’ But the band expressed a more somber side with their biggest hit, the anti-suicide power ballad ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes.’
As of 2015: The group (featuring much of the original lineup) still tour regularly, and released the well-received 2014 album ‘Rock Your Face Off.’
Essential Tracks: ‘Someone Like You’, ‘Breaking Up A Heart of Stone’, ‘Wrap My Wings’, ‘Love Injection’, ‘Soul To Soul’, ‘I’m In Love’, ‘Dancin’ On Coals’, ‘Dressed Up Vamp’, ‘Don’t Stop Now’, Sweet Little Razor’
Essential Albums: ‘Psycho Café’, ‘Dancin’ on Coals’
Bang Tango melded traditional glam metal hooks with funk rhythms and a pinch of Goth thrown in for good measure. This unholy fusion resulted in unique moody tunes like ‘Soul to Soul’ and ‘Breaking Up A Heart of Stone.’ Despite a modest hit with ‘Someone Like You,’ their left-of-center approach didn’t gain widespread success, but their crazy quilt approach makes them one of the more distinct bands from that era.
As of 2015: Frontman Joe Leste had brief success in 2001 with the group Beautiful Creatures, but reformed Bang Tango shortly thereafter, functioning as the sole original member. Several former members toured briefly as Bang Tango Redux in 2010.
Essential Tracks: ‘Never Enough’, ‘Ballad of Jane’, ‘Malaria’, ‘Magdalene’, ‘No Mercy’, ‘Sex Action’, ‘One More Reason’, ‘Rip and Tear’, ‘Electric Gypsy’, ‘Bitch is Back’
Essential Albums: ‘L. A. Guns’, ‘Cocked and Loaded’
Founded by fleet-fingered guitarist Tracii Guns, L.A. Guns combined sweet, nasty riffs with the granulated punk snarl of vocalist Phil Lewis (who replaced Axl Rose after he left to form Guns N’Roses).
They stood out from the spandex crowd with their black clad image (self-dubbed as glam’n’gloom). While they had moderate hits with songs like ‘Sex Action’ and ‘The Ballad of Jane,’ internal discord and the rise of Grunge muted their success.
As of 2015: L.A. Guns are yet another example of a glam band existing in two incarnations (Phil Lewis’s L.A. Guns and Tracii Gun’s L.A. Guns). In 2012 the former released ‘Hollywood Forever’ while the latter called it quits. Tracii Guns currently plays in glam supergroup Devil City Angels.
Hope you enjoyed my list of underrated U.S. glam groups! If you’re looking for a place to get started, crank up the first two albums by L.A. Guns, you can’t go wrong with either. And you can revisit all of the aforementioned acts on YouTube if you’re feeling nostalgic for metal music videos from the MTV era.
Now it’s your turn: what underrated glam metal bands do you think deserve greater exposure, either from America or around the world? Tell us in the comments. And be sure to check out fellow itcher writer Sunday Simmons’ list of underrated 90’s hair metal bands, and my list of underrated 80’s New Wave bands for more cult acts to rediscover.
And you can check out my list of bands of honorable mentions that barely missed the cut below:
Honorable Mentions: Circus of Power, Steve Stevens and the Atomic Playboys, Y&T, Enuff Z’nuff, The Four Horsemen, Mother Love Bone, Rock City Angels
Loved this. Mother Love Bone at the end, in mentions? Chloe Dancer, c’mon. Grin. Looking forward to a second installment.
‘Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thornes’…what a great song! Mother Love Bone are perhaps the only band that existed in both the glam metal and grunge camps. Truly unique. Glad you enjoyed the piece!