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Guns N' Roses backstage at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium after opening for Ted Nugent on Aug. 30, 1986 in Los Angeles, California. Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Mötley Crüe attends a birthday party in the 80s.Mötley Crüe/Facebook
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Poison prances around on stage during a 1987 concert at the Long Beach Arena in California.George Rose/Getty Images
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David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen allegedly collectively decided to cut Van Halen's bassist Michael Anthony out of royalties.
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Bon Jovi backstage at the Monsters Of Rock festival in Mannheim, West Germany. Aug. 31, 1986. Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images
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Guns N' Roses backstage before they perform their first sold out show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. Nov. 22, 1985. Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
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Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe with then-wife Heather Locklear. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images
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Starting in 1987, MTV aired a program called Headbangers Ball, which played glam metal.InternetKHole
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David Lee Roth on a video set. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images
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Bon Jovi plays cards on their private jet during their Slippery When Wet tour. May 26, 1987. Ross Marino/Getty Images
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Glam metal bands played music with catchy hooks, memorable guitar riffs, and singable lyrics. They were less violently angry than punk or hard rock, making it popular with suburban kids.InternetKHole
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A young James Hetfield of Metallica.InternetKHole
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Mötley Crüe's lead singer, Vince Neil, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter after driving drunk and killing one of his passengers, Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley of the band Hanoi Rocks.InternetKHole
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Lead singer of Ratt, Stephen Pearcy, talks to a young Drew Barrymore at a party in 1985. LGI Stock/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
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The basics of the glam look are teased hair, heavy make-up, gaudy clothing, and brightly colored accessories.InternetKHole
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A Van Halen photo shoot.Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images
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Guitarist Jay Jay French of American glam metal group Twisted Sister performs at the Reading Festival in England. Aug. 29, 1982. Michael Putland/Getty Images
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Guns N' Roses backstage on March 21, 1986 at the Fenders Ballroom, five days before they signed with Geffen Records. Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Guns N' Roses play at a UCLA frat party in 1985. They played "Welcome to the Jungle" a second time for $30 and some beer.Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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David Lee Roth of Van Halen with a broken nose at the Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands. May 26, 1980. (Photo by Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images
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In the 80s, KISS ditched their iconic makeup. Here they are on Nov. 2, 1983 in Munich. Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images
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Glam metal became wildly popular in the 80s, as it allowed a new generation of listeners — who may have been put off by heavy metal — to appreciate the party atmosphere and guitar sounds.InternetKHole
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David Lee Roth at the Palladium in New York City, circa 1985.Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images
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Eddie is the mascot for the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. He is a fixture of the group's artwork, appearing in all of their album covers and in their merchandise. InternetKHole
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Iron Maiden performs at the Holiday Star Theater in Merrillville, Indiana on May 25, 1982.Paul Natkin/Getty Images
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Van Halen and some of their iconic fashion choices. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Mötley Crüe had a major cockroach problem in the L.A. home they shared. Usually they would grab a can of hairspray and the nearest lighter to torch them.Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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Quiet Riot in Los Angeles. August 1983.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Ozzy Osbourne with a member of the band Master.InternetKHole
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Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe with a pig, circa 1985. Lester Cohen/Getty Images
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Van Halen's David Lee Roth at the Hollywood Palladium. He left the band in 1985 only to rejoin it in 2006.Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
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At the same time that the cult of glam is rising on the Strip, bands like Metallica and Slayer are busy creating thrash metal in the same So-Cal clubs. Rumor has it the two factions didn't get along very well. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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W.A.S.P. in the 80s.Wikimedia Commons
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After partying at the Rainbow, Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil were accosted by a group of bikers. Soon, the cops arrived on the scene, and Nikki accidentally hits one of them with a chain. He got a beatdown and some jail time. Motley Crue/Facebook
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The hair metal scene was so competitive, you sometimes had to do anything to get attention. InternetKHole
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Ozzy Osbourne pours a bottle of water on his head while backstage at the Live Aid charity concert at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Pennsylvania. 1985.David McGough/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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In the book The Dirt, about Mötley Crüe, leader singer Vince Neil said that drummer Tommy Lee used to have sex with a particular unattractive groupie just to have access to her Jaguar XJS. The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
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Members of Poison sunbathing.Poison/Facebook
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Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe looking at photographs with then-wife Heather Locklear. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images
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Ratt backstage looking ready to party. Ratt/Facebook
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Mütley Crüe backstage at a Quiet Riot concert at the Forum on Sept. 29, 1984 in Inglewood, California. Ron Wolfson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Slash of Guns N' Roses backstage at the Troubadour where Tom Zutaut of Geffen Records was in the audience. Zutaut later signed them to a record deal. Los Angeles. Feb. 28, 1986.Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
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Stryper at the Bismark Theater in Chicago. May 2, 1986.Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty Images
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Tom Keifer of Cinderella onstage with a snow machine.Tom Keifer Official / Facebook
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Jay Jay French (left) and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister perform at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. 1980.Waring Abbott/Getty Images
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Tommy Lee at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City. 1985. Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images
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Van Halen.Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
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Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil in bed with his wife Beth Lynn at the 1984 American Rock Festival during Ozzy Osbourne's Bark at the Moon Tour on May 27, 1984. Ross Marino/Getty Images
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Van Halen at Osaka Castle Park in Japan. September 1979. Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images
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Whitesnake hamming it up. Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images
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Def Leppard in Dortmund, Germany. Jan. 12, 1983.Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images
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Rick Allen of Def Leppard onstage at London's Wembley Arena on April 12th, 1988, on the "Hysteria" world tour. He lost his left arm in a car accident on Dec. 31, 1984, but continued to play the drums.Pete Still/Redferns/Getty Images
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Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall of Poison. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images
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Members of the bands Metallica and Van Halen, circa 1988.Drums600/Wikimedia Commons
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Poison in concert at New York's Madison Square Garden on March 20, 1987.Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images
Big Hair And Wild Partying: Step Into The World Of ’80s Hair Metal
It started on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, around 1981 with Mötley Crüe leading the charge. Clubs like the Starwood, Whisky a Go Go, the Rainbow Bar & Grill, and The Roxy served as incubators. Every lamppost in downtown L.A. was plastered in tattered band flyers for club shows happening every night of the week.
Up until then, bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and AC/DC filled the airwaves of metal radio. But it wasn't long before a new take on metal spread across America, infiltrating the music scene.
Hair metal was about excessive everything, including occasional dare-based misbehavior, to which Tommy Lee and Ozzy Osbourne can attest.
Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe recalls crazy — and often disgusting — memories of touring with Ozzy Osbourne.
Musically, glam metal's shtick was to take traditional heavy metal and add a dash punk and a dash pop. Most song arrangements centered around lead guitar riffs and shredding solos — but having a large-coiffed, bare-chested frontman with great pipes never hurt, either.
To imply that hair metal was strictly about the music, however, is more wrong than what Ozzy did to that poor bat.
The competition was as tight as everyone's pants. "Within one-to-three square miles on a Friday, Saturday night, there were probably 50 to 75 bands playing," recalled Stevie Rachelle, frontman for Tuff. "Whatever you saw on Headbangers Ball [a music show on MTV] or in Metal Edge [a glam metal magazine], there were hundreds of those bands in Hollywood."
The genre enjoyed nearly 10 years of prominence, but near the end of the '80s, hair metal hit its saturation point. After Guns N' Roses released Appetite For Destruction in 1987, the number of clone bands hit an all-time high. The popular bands retained their fan bases, but there was no more room for newbies. The times were about to be a-changin'.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesMötley Crüe in the 1980s.
The Decadence Of Hair Metal
Let's be careful not to confuse these glam metal bands of the '80s with their predecessors of the 1970s — glam rock. Though it should be noted that without Queen, David Bowie, or the like — '80s glam metal probably wouldn't exist.
Decadence is definitely a fitting adjective to describe the antics of hair metal band members. In the '80s, drugs got harder, the hair got bigger, and morals went completely out the window. Mötley Crüe is especially known for its capers — perhaps thanks to a best-selling book and a Netflix biopic.
"We went to this Russian place until 4am," Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx says. "All of a sudden eight waiters come out with silver platters, take the lids off and there's lines of cocaine with silver straws for us for dessert."
On Dec. 23, 1987, Sixx was declared dead for two full minutes after a heroin overdose. Paramedics revived him and took him to the hospital, but he escaped to run home and immediately shoot up heroin again. Now, he says it's a "miracle" that he and the rest of the band are still alive.
Guns N' Roses perform their classic 'Sweet Child O' Mine' in 1986 — wearing assless chaps, of course.
Appetite For Destruction
Guns N' Roses was definitely a major player in the hair metal scene. Frontman Axl Rose was working at a Tower Video on the Sunset Strip when he made his club debut on March 26, 1985.
The GNR original lineup included original Tracii Guns on guitar — hence the name Guns N' Roses — but Guns says "things had become really intense in the band and I wasn't having fun anymore." He went back to his original band, L.A. Guns.
On June 6, 1986, the Guns N' Roses lineup we all know and love — including lead guitarist Slash – debuted at the Troubadour. The rest, as they say, is history.
In October 1989, the band was filming a video for the track "It's So Easy" at the club The Cathouse. During the shoot, Axl's then-girlfriend Erin Everly was costumed in bondage gear. David Bowie showed up drunk and started hitting on Everly, making Rose see red.
"That was when David Bowie was in the band Tin Machine," recalled Riki Rachtman, co-owner of the club and the host of Headbangers Ball. "So Axl was running [down the street], yelling, 'I'm gonna kill you, Tin Man!'"
The band's first manager, Vicky Hamilton, described her six months living with the band as like "having a heart attack every day" with an endless stream of parties, girls, drinking, drugs, and mayhem.
In Penelope Spheeris' 1988 documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, she examines the hard-partying lifestyles of '80s rock-n-rollers.
The Various Flavors Of '80s Hair Metal
Of course not every metal band was cut from the same cloth in the '80s. Most members of Van Halen, for example, never fully embraced the glam look — though lead singer David Lee Roth made up for what the rest of them lacked with his flair-packed wardrobe.
That doesn't mean Van Halen was without debauchery. The band's original manager in the 70s, Marshall Berle, apparently taped the band having sex with groupies. According to tour manager Noel E. Monk, Berle taped "several hours" of indiscretions, not surprisingly with Roth in "75 percent of the X-rated films."
Other bands fancied themselves to be on the harder edge of metal. Metallica, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden all had the hair and started gaining popularity at the same time. Perhaps they were less glam, but they often carry the label of hair metal when their early music is referenced.
Def Leppard is another band sometimes classified as '80s glam metal, even though they were already rocking Britain in the 70s (like Van Halen was in the U.S.). Nonetheless, even after their drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in an accident, they released the album Hysteria in 1987.
Rolling Stone called it the greatest hair metal album of all time, but guitarist Phil Collen says, "When Hysteria came out a lot of people went, 'This isn't rock. It's wussy.' But it had the absolute effect it was supposed to have had. Because the point was to not just play to the rock audience but rather to play to everybody."
'They hail from Southern California,' said a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent in 1982, 'and it seems someone in Edmonton wishes they had stayed there. An unidentified caller phoned police last night to say the group would be done away with while they were performing.'
The 90s Approacheth
Like all good things, '80s hair metal had to come to an end.
The kids that grew up inundated with glam and hair bands were becoming teens and were searching for something that spoke to a new generation. As it turns out, this something was almost the polar opposite of glam: grunge.
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several published book covers in her career as a graphic artist.