20 Best 80s Hair Metal Bands

20 Best 80s Hair Metal Bands
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In pop culture terms, the big hair bands of the 80s in some ways defined the decade. Back then, the hair was at least as big as the riffs. The makers of the best glam metal albums of the time were clearly keeping hairstylists and make up artists in business. Especially when they took part in photoshoots or went on tour. (I wonder if they looked like that when they popped out to the local shops?)

Most of the best 80s hair metal bands hail from across the pond – i.e. the US of A. America seemed to specialise in curly locks, equally long guitar solos, and androgynous frontmen. Many of their hits topped the global charts, and their legacy still dominates the airwaves when it comes to 80s radio stations the world over.

Whether you’re seeking a nostalgic hit, or want to know what music was all about when your parents (or grandchildren) were growing up, here is the ultimate 80s hair bands list.

Top 20 80s Hair Metal Bands

Vinnie Vincent Invasion

Biggest hit: Boyz Gonna Rock (1986)

This story is a really about a series of spin-offs. After guitarist Vinnie Vincent left Kiss, he formed another of the best glam metal bands of the decade. Vinnie Vincent Invasion made music between 1984 and 1989, when they broke up. After that, VVI’s bassist Dana Strum and singer Mark Slaughter came together as Slaughter.

Def Leppard

Biggest hit: Pour Some Sugar On Me (1987)

Def Leppard stand out because they’re from Sheffield in England, rather than the US. During the early 80s, the band became one of the key proponents of the new wave heavy metal movement in the UK. They’re still fronted by Joe Elliott, and still touring.

Pour Some Sugar On Me, from 1987, is their most iconic hit, and peaked at number two in the US. Outside of America, the highest chart position was number eight, in Ireland. In their native UK, the song reached number 18. Which might explain why the band currently focuses on touring the states!


Biggest hit: Wind of Change (1991)

European hair bands are fairly few and far between, but German rockers Scorpions were churning out crowd-pleasing tunes between 1978 and 1992. At one point, the band was almost a goner when singer Klaus Meine lost his voice in a major way, but after a couple of surgeries plus some therapy, Scorpions were back in business.

Their biggest hit, Wind of Change, wasn’t released until early 1991.

L.A. Guns

Biggest hit: The Ballad of Jayne (1989)

L.A. Guns has connections to more 80s glam rock bands than just Guns ‘n’ Roses, which Tracii Guns flirted with before returning to L.A. Guns. After that, Kelly Nickels from Faster Pussycat, and later Steve Riley from W.A.S.P., joined the band, as bassist and drummer respectively.


Biggest hit: Crazy Nights (1987)

Kiss – or KISS – are as well-known for their distinctive monochrome make-up as for their music. In late 2023, the band completed their farewell tour with a gig at Madison Square Gardens in New York. They have now made history by becoming the first US band to go virtual. Now, their rock ‘n’ roll avatars will follow in their live footsteps.

Kiss also completed a sale of their songs, likeness, brand, and intellectual property in spring 2024. This allows the Swedish owners to create AI-generated digital content.

Van Halen

Biggest hit: Jump (1983)

Active since 1973, Van Halen also originated in California, specifically Pasadena. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s guitar riffs have made him the hero of the hard rock group, not least on their most popular track of all, Jump.

Van Halen’s final album, A Different Kind Of Truth, was released in 1992. Eddie Van Halen died in 2020, after a lengthy battle with throat cancer.

Bon Jovi

Biggest hit: Livin’ on a Prayer (1986)

Hot lead singer Jon Bon Jovi – born as John Francis Bongiovi Jr. in 1962 – is a global icon. He’s also a prolific music-maker, with two solo albums and 15 Bon Jovi albums under his belt. Not content with that, his forays into acting also mean he has a list of film and TV credits to his name. His marriage to Dorothea Hurley, his high school sweetheart, has also lasted since 1989.

Livin’ on a Prayer was one of the 80s’ signature anthems, and came from the album Slippery When Wet. This was their third, and has sold over 28 million copies to date.


Biggest hit: Every Rose Has Its Thorn (1988)

A big 2022 world tour with Joan Jett, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue showed that Poison have still got what it takes. Their 1986 debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, displays what you’d be forgiven for thinking are portraits of four females – rather than Bret Michaels et al.

Released in 1988, the power ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn was the band from Pennsylvania’s biggest hit. It was number one in the US for three weeks, and their sole chart-topper stateside. It also made the top 10 in Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand. Here in the UK, it just missed out on the top 10, making it to number 11.

Motley Crue

Biggest hit: Dr. Feelgood (1989)

Since guitarist Mick Mars left the band in 2022, Motley Crue have continued performing with his replacement John 5. They were very active throughout the 80s, too, releasing five albums during the decade.

Drummer Tommy Lee’s personal life made him more famous, not least as he wed Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson in 1995, only four days after they met. The union lasted for three years, and resulted in two sons.


Biggest hit: Can’t Get Enough (1990)

Fronted by Kip Winger, this band from New York were going strong from 1988 into the 90s. In 2023, they released SevenWinger‘s seventh album. Before the band, Kip Winger had an interesting past, with stints as a bassit with Alice Cooper, and having studied both ballet and classical music.

Twisted Sister

Biggest hit: We’re Not Gonna Take It (1984)

Slapstick-style humour and drag artist-esque make-up ensured Twisted Sister stood out. In the case of this glam rock act, the frontman sported long, blonde, curly locks. And must have spent a fortune on slap.


Biggest hit: Here I Go Again (1982)

Like Def Leppard, Whitesnake is a British hair metal band. They were formed in 1978 in London, after David Coverdale left Deep Purple. Originally, the band was only intended as a short term backing group for Coverdale, but they’re still together today.

As well as their biggest hit, Here I Go Again, Whitesnake have made some other outstanding tracks, such as Is This Love, one of the most understated and underrated ballads of the 80s. IMHO, anyway.

Alice Cooper

Biggest hit: Poison (1989)

Perhaps Alice Cooper doesn’t belong on this list, as he’s a solo artist, but how could he not be included? He embodies much of what the 80 rock and metal scene was all about. And also has a completely unique look.

As well as songs like Poison, No More Mr Nice Guy, and School’s Out, Alice Cooper is also known for his tongue in cheek bids to become US president. Well, after Donald Trump, you never know…


Biggest hit: Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) (1988)

As a band, Cinderella were most active between 1986 and 1994. But frontman Tom Keifer still performs solo, and released albums in 2013 and 2019. Cinderella’s music had a more bluesy edge than many other famous hair bands of the 80s era.

Guns ‘n’ Roses

Biggest hit: Sweet Child O’ Mine (1987)

The joining of L.A. Guns and Hollywood Roses created Guns ‘n’ Roses, one of the biggest 80s bands of any genre. They were one of the most popular hair bands of the era – and in fact, of all time. Some tracks, such as Sweet Child O’ Mine, still get a huge amount of airtime.

The track featured on their 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction, which is widely regarded as one of the best hair metal albums ever. With more than 30 million copies sold to date, it’s also among the most successful.


Biggest hit: How Much Love (1990)

The only female group of all the glam metal hair bands on this list, Vixen could certainly give their male counterparts a run for their money. It took the St. Paul ladies eight years, between 1980 and 1988, to hit the big time.

Skid Row

Biggest hit: I Remember You (1989)

Skid Row were one of the heavier of the 80s hair bands. Sebastian Bach’s dulcet tones and vocal range gave their heavy metal songs a touch of real class, and he was backed by some solid musicians, too. With their debut album appearing in 1989, Skid Row were a little late to the party, but a sound addition nonetheless.


Biggest hit: Breaking the Chains (1981)

Californian band Dokken dates back to 1978, but by 1989, had broken up. Frontman Don Dokken has since put a band back together, and by 2012 they’d released a dozen albums. Their live album, Beast from the East, released in 1988, was nominated for the Best Metal Performance Grammy.

Quiet Riot 

Biggest hit: Cum On Feel The Noize (1983)

Like L.A. Guns and Guns ‘n’ Roses, Quiet Riot hail from Los Angeles. The band’s 1983 album, Metal Health, was a smash hit, and the band are said to have been the first of the heavy metal genre to top the US billboard. Their version of Cum On Feel The Noize, originally performed by British band Slade, sold over a million copies in their homeland.


Biggest hit: Heaven (1989)

Warrant‘s lead singer Jani Lane lived a pretty full life. It was cut short due to alcohol poisoning when he was only 47, but before that he had three marriages and an equal number of children. Warrant were a late 80s success story, with their productive years stretching from 1989 to 1996.

The glam metal band’s biggest hit was the 1989 power ballad Heaven, the second single from their adjective-packed debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.

Which Are Your Best 80s Hair Bands?

When it comes to the top hair bands of the 80s, it was something of a different story here in the UK than in the US, where most of them came from. While I loved Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Van Halen, and Whitesnake, I’d never heard of Dokken, Winger, or Warrant back then.

Whether you want to screech out the lyrics at the top of your lungs, play air guitar in the mirror, or glam up like your favourite frontman, I can highly recommend listening to any of the above 80s metal bands!

Marcy x

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