The 20 greatest hair metal bands of all time
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The 20 greatest hair metal bands of all time

The hair, or glam, metal bands of the 1980s remain one of the true guilty pleasures in the history of music. The hair spray, makeup and catchy pop tunes touched up with distortion were made for MTV.

Though there really wasn't much substance to the music, the scene was popular to the mainstream nonetheless. So we've decided to rank our 20 hair metal bands of all time. 

But before we go on, bands like Def Leppard, Kiss, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Extreme and Tesla are not on this list. While, yes, some of these groups made massively successful pop-tinged metal albums during the '80s, they were either already successfully established hard-rock acts before this time and went for some easy money or were unjustly lumped into the genre thanks to MTV.

With that said, here we go. 

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20. Enuff Z'Nuff

Enuff Z'Nuff
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The pride of the Chicago south suburb of Blue Island, these psychedelic glam rockers never earned the consistent mainstream success as others on this list, but they certainly have some staying power. Thanks to hits like "Fly High Michelle" and "New Thing," Enuff Z'Nuff is still playing, with bassist Chip Z'Nuff leading the way, on the club and neighborhood festival circuits. 

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19. W.A.S.P.

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Like most of the bands on this list, W.A.S.P., in its current form, still pops up in bars, festivals and local parks. Back in the 1980s, it was one of the more creative and conceptually visual bands on the hair metal scene. Led by bassist/guitarist/vocalist Blackie Lawless, W.A.S.P. infused some macabre into its live sets and interesting costume choices. The band's music was a little darker than others in the genre but still friendly enough for MTV.

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18. Slaughter

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We'll talk more about singer/guitarist Mark Slaughter in his days before forming his own band. Slaughter as a band, however, arrived right at the end of the hair metal scene and was one the of last new acts of the genre to earn success. Paced by Slaughter's distinctively shrieky voice made for pop metal, his band struck it big with 1990s "Stick It to Ya," producing MTV staples "Up All Night" and "Fly to the Angels."  

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17. Stryper

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It was the yellow-and-black attack. While satanic imagery has traditionally been a big part of the metal scene, of any variety, Stryper sang about Christian values and was actually accepted by the mainstream. The yellow-and-black outfits were hair metal at its best, and the band was often the butt of plenty of rock jokes. But it did manage to generate a hit with the 1987 power ballad "Honestly."

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16. Britny Fox

Britny Fox
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This Philly-area four-piece group might have had the biggest and highest hair of all the hair/glam metal bands. Britny Fox was relevant for just a short time in the 1980s, specifically after its self-titled 1988 release, which, compared to other stuff on the scene at the time, was actually above-average and more rock-orientated. "Long Way to Love" and "Girlschool" were the band's most notable hits.

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15. L.A. Guns

L.A. Guns
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L.A. Guns has quite the history. Originally co-founded by longtime guitarist Tracii Guns, the project was ultimately put on hold when Guns and bandmates Ole Beich and Rob Gardner joined up with two L.A. transplants from Indiana, Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, to form Guns N' Roses. Guns, however, couldn't get along with Rose and split. L.A. Guns was revived and went on to enjoy some decent success in the 1980s and continued playing shows in various formations well after. Cocked & Loaded (1989) is arguably the band's most commercially successful effort.

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14. Kix

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Hailing from Hagerstown, Maryland, Kix was making music and garnering a following in the early 1980s, but it was not until 1988, when its release "Blow My Fuse" generated some mainstream love thanks to MTV favorites "Cold Blood" and "Don't Close Your Eyes." While Kix was not full-on big hair and lipstick, its influence seemed to draw more from early Aerosmith, and its sound was (and still is) more raw most of the time.  

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13. Dokken

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Dokken probably should have been a bigger band within the hair metal genre than it was, mainly because guitarist George Lynch and bassist Jeff Pilson are actually good musicians. The band was even nominated for the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1989. Lynch doesn't necessarily consider Dokken a full-blown hair/glam metal band, but he certainly had the coif to fit in. Frontman Don Dokken still takes his version of the group on the road, playing hits like "Alone Again" to those interested in listening.

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12. Faster Pussycat

Faster Pussycat
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If there was a sub-category to the hair metal movement, one might be called "sleeze" metal, and Faster Pussycat would be atop of that list. A good number of the band's catalog featured songs about sex, debauchery and good times — perhaps more unabashed than any other on the Sunset Strip. However, it matured a bit musically with its sophomore effort, "Wake Me When It's Over" (1989), the group's most commercially successful album that featured the hit ballad "House of Pain."

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11. Hanoi Rocks

Hanoi Rocks
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Led by flamboyant frontman Michael Monroe, this late 1970s-early '80s Finnish outfit was much more successful in Europe and Japan than in the United States but has often been cited as a serious influence on more popular bands like Guns N' Roses and Poison. Though Hanoi Rocks achieved some modest U.S. success with its 1984 cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival smash "Up Around the Bendand the underrated "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Unfortunately the band is probably known most for drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley's death via an automobile accident caused by Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil in 1984. That essentially ended the band's potential rise.

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10. Vinnie Vincent Invasion

Vinnie Vincent Invasion
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Before Mark Slaughter had his 15 or 20 minutes with his own band, he fronted one of the more underrated hair metal groups founded by former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent. VVI released just two albums, its self-titled 1986 project featuring one-time Journey frontman Robert Fleischman on vocals and 1988's "All Systems Go" with Slaughter at the mic. It was the latter that garnered mainstream attention thanks to the combination of Slaughter's unique voice and Vincent's solid guitar work on tracks like "Love Kills" and "That Time of Year." While there are different versions as to why the band failed to continue, the tension between Slaughter and Vincent seems to be one issue both sides generally agreed upon.

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9. Skid Row

Skid Row
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Some might question Skid Row's inclusion on this list, and that's understandable. The band was more hair than glam and actually featured pretty good musicians. Plus, it had one of the best and wide-ranging voices in all of metal with Sebastian Bach — at least during its heyday. Skid Row broke through with its self-titled 1989 debut that made them MTV staples thanks to hits "Youth Gone Wild," "18 and Life" and widely popular power ballad "I Remember You," which truly showed off Bach's range. Its 1991 follow-up, Slave to the Grind, was more raw and reinforced the band's collective talent. However, hair/glam metal was a sinking ship and Skid Row, unfortunately, was going down with the rest.

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8. Ratt

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Ratt was one of first true giants of the hair metal scene thanks to its breakout debut, "Out of the Cellar" (1984), which produced the hit "Round and Round," one of the most popular and recognizable songs to come out of the scene. Though former lead guitarist Warren DeMartini is one of the top guitar players out there, frontman Stephen Pearcy drew most of the attention with his good looks and sense for pop-metal fashion. Truly one of the bands that defined this era in music.

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7. Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot
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Originally co-founded by late metal guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads, Quiet Riot — sans Rhoads — is often credited with putting hair/glam metal on the mainstream map after 1983's "Metal Health" became the first metal album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard chart. The jewel of that release was a cover of the Slade track "Cūm On Feel the Noize." However, the title track was a quality original.

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6. Warrant

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Another band that milked every ounce of MTV's obsession with hair metal, it's almost as if Warrant was the boy band of the movement. Matching outfits with their names on the sleeve, choreographed moves and the focus on the video and not necessarily the song. Come on, if ever there was a song made for MTV, it was 1990's "Cherry Pie." Give the band credit, however. Warrant knew how to follow a formula, and retro fans still want to hear it.  

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5. Cinderella

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Jon Bon Jovi helped give this Philadelphia-area band its break, and it delivered three quality albums during this era in "Night Songs" (1986), "Long Cold Winter" (1988) and "Heartbreak Station" (1990). Though Cinderella looked the part of hair rockers, its overall sound seemed to have more meat than other bands of the era, mostly because of Tom Keifer's raspy voice and blues-infused guitar work.

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4. Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe
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Mötley Crüe was like the Madonna of the hair/glam metal scene, consistently reinventing its look. Leather-clad, New York Dolls wannabes ("Too Fast for Love," 1981), Satan worshipers ("Shout at the Devil," 1983), hair rockers ("Theatre of Pain, "1985) and bikers ("Girls, Girls, Girls," 1987). The Crüe was all about conceptualism and stage presence, and it took it all to the hilt while becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.

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3. Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister
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Though legendary frontman Dee Snider thinks Twisted Sister should not be considered a hair metal band, it definitely qualifies. Yes, it was established before the scene took off but certainly looked the part and used MTV and the overall hair/glam rock movement to score its only commercially successful album with "Stay Hungry" (1984). Plus, this was a band that never took itself seriously and had a good time with the music and videos, as evident by the smash "We're Not Gonna Take It."

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2. Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi
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Bon Jovi is another band that might be on the line when talking about whether it belongs in the hair metal category. We think it does, and if that's the case it needs to be near the top of the list. Even back in the "Runaway" days of 1984, the hair was teased and the stage coats were long. Of course, Bon Jovi was also a group made for MTV. Its songs were the perfect combination of arena rock and pop metal, capturing a mainstream audience of both female and male fans. The success of 1986's "Slippery When Wet," featuring the anthemic "Livin' on a Prayer," made Bon Jovi one of the biggest acts in the world. More than anybody else on this list, it's been able to remain relevant and even earn induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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1. Poison

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Musically, Poison is far from the greatest hair metal band of all time, but when the genre is brought up, this should be the first group that comes to mind. Bret, Rikki, Bobby and C.C. lived the hair metal life like nobody else. From the teased hair, makeup, clothes and good times on stage and off, Poison was the epitome of the hair metal scene. The best part: The band never apologized for it. As bassist Bobby Dall said during an episode of VH1's "Behind The Music," "I never aspired to be a musician. I wanted to be a rock and roll star, and that's what I became." And fans can still catch Poison on the road today, having "Nothin' but a Good Time."  

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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