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Glam metal

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Glam metal

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Glam metal
Stylistic origins: Heavy metal, Glam rock, Punk rock
Cultural origins: Late-1970s–Early- 1980s, United States
Typical instruments: Electric guitar - Bass guitar - Drums
Mainstream popularity: Extremely popular throughout the 1980s
Shock rock
Other topics
Timeline of heavy metal

Glam metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal music, that arose in the late 1970s in the United States. It was a dominant genre in popular rock music throughout the 1980s.

The genre is referred to by detractors as hair metal (a term popularized by MTV in the 1990s), due to the bands styling their long hair in a teased fashion. Sometimes, it is referred to by the more derogatory terms cock rock, or butt rock. During its heyday the genre was often referred to as heavy metal or simply metal.



The genre is influenced heavily by 1970s rock and heavy metal bands, such as Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, New York Dolls, KISS, The Sweet, Aerosmith, and others.

A few bands experimented with mixing "Glam rock" and "Heavy metal" before the 1980s hit. Angel, Starz, and Legs Diamond were prime examples. However, it wasn't until the early 80s that the genre truly began to gather speed.

Some credited Van Halen as the first glam metal band, but others argued that the movement on the Sunset Strip was kick-started largely by Mötley Crüe. Either way, both bands played a prominent part in the genre's direction.

In 1980, a year prior to Mötley Crüe forming, a UK band known as Wrathchild, fronted by Rocky Shades, also emerged playing Glam Metal style music and having a similar image. However, they did not gain the same level of fame as their American contemporaries. [1]

First wave of glam metal

In the early 1980s, heavy metal spawned several sub-genres; glam metal became its most popular manifestation. The first wave of glam metal bands included the likes of Mötley Crüe, Van Halen, Twisted Sister, Ratt, W.A.S.P., Dokken, and Quiet Riot. Their music was less melodic than their younger contemporaries, like Cinderella, whose music and image ultimately became synonymous with the genre.

Cinderella Cinderella

One of the first massively successful glam metal albums was Def Leppard's Pyromania, released in 1983. Under the guidance of producer Mutt Lange, the album was a gritty hard rock record contained within polished mainstream-friendly production. The success of the album influenced much of the hard rock scene of the era to pursue a more mainstream sound than some of their predecessors, and opened the door to what would become the popular era of glam metal.

A year later, Van Halen released 1984, which was immensely successful, containing hit singles "Jump", "Panama", "Hot For Teacher", and "I'll Wait". Ozzy Osbourne went glam and made the album The Ultimate Sin, which hit number six on the Billboard 200 and became his highest charting album up to that point.

Glam metal was aggressive, with lyrics often focusing on girls, drinking, drug use, and the occult. Musically, glam metal songs often featured distorted guitar riffs, "hammer-on" solos, anthemic choruses, frenzied drumming, and complementary bass. Glam metal performers became infamous for their debauched lifestyles, their long, teased hair, and use of make-up, clothing, and accessories, traits somewhat reminiscent of glam rock.

By the mid-1980s, glam metal could be defined by two major divisions. On the mainstream side were bands such as Bon Jovi, whose 1986 album Slippery When Wet was a huge success at Top 40 radio and MTV, and Europe, whose single "The Final Countdown" hit number one in 26 countries. On the other side came the more insular Los Angeles scene around the Sunset Strip, which eventually spawned such bands as Poison, Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, and Guns N' Roses.

The visual aspects of glam metal made the music appealing to music television, particularly MTV. During the mid-to-late 1980s, glam metal tracks were in heavy rotation on the channel. Glam metal bands often resided at the top of MTV's daily Dial MTV countdown, and bands eagerly appeared on the channel to help promote their music.

While glam metal was highly successful at MTV, the genre found occasional problems at radio. While a handful of major-market radio stations, such as KNAC in Los Angeles, heavily played glam metal music, most medium and small markets lacked stations that specialized in new rock. Even rock stations in markets such as New York tended to focus on classic rock. In many cities, glam metal tracks were often relegated to Top 40 stations, who spun only the most popular tracks. However, even with that limiting factor, the popularity of those tracks meant that glam metal music was virtually ubiquitous by the late 80s.

Glam metal enjoyed widespread success during the 1980s, but bands often found themselves on the wrong end of critics and the music industry. One notable example came in 1987 with the release of Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls. Before the establishment of Soundscan in 1991, Billboard's album chart was decided by a combination of reports from retailers, wholesalers, and industry professionals, rather than on actual album sales. As the band related on MTV's Week in Rock, the week that Girls, Girls, Girls peaked at #2 on the Billboard chart, it was actually the highest-selling album of that week. However, the industry professionals gave extra weight to Whitney Houston's sophomore album, allowing it to retain the top spot. In the band's opinion, the industry simply wouldn't allow their album to hold the #1 spot. (The band eventually conquered the top spot with their next album, Dr. Feelgood, which became the biggest album of their career.)

Glam metal continued to grow its fanbase as the 80s progressed. Def Leppard's 1987 album Hysteria spawned numerous successful singles, and eventually sold more than ten million copies in the US. Poison's second album Open Up And Say...Ahh! spawned a huge single in "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", and eventually sold eight million copies worldwide.

As more glam metal bands found success, a discernible formula emerged in the way that glam metal bands were marketed. Labels would start off by releasing a hard-rocking anthem, then follow it with a power ballad. From Poison ("Nothing But a Good Time" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn") to Warrant ("Down Boys" and "Heaven") to White Lion ("Wait" and "When the Children Cry") to Winger ("Seventeen" and "Heading for a Heartbreak"), the formula became so commonplace that it began to be seen as a glam metal cliché. Fans of the genre balked as well, noting that, of the pair, the power ballad typically received far more airplay on mainstream radio. They feared that the genre would be known only for the ballads.

Sleaze glam

In 1987, Guns N' Roses completely changed the direction of glam metal. They incorporated the sounds of blues and punk into the music, while keeping some of the images of glam rock. Other bands arose during this time following a similar musical path, such as Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Roxx Gang, and Dangerous Toys. This offshoot of Glam Metal was dubbed "Sleaze Glam," and more recently, "Sleaze Metal."

In the United Kingdom, a similar movement was emerging although more Hanoi Rocks and Johnny Thunders influenced sound than their American contempories, bands included Dogs D'Amour, London Quireboys, Soho Roses, Kill City Dragons, and others. Around this time British band The Cult moved their music away from their post-punk roots and began playing a more AC/DC Sleaze influenced sound and toured the United States with Guns N' Roses.

Decline of glam metal

In the early 1990s, glam metal's popularity rapidly declined, after over a decade of success. While several factors played a role, the most often cited was the surge in popularity of grunge music from Seattle, such as that performed by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. (Ironically, Alice in Chains started as a glam metal band, and opened for Van Halen on their 1991 tour in support of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.)

One element in the decline was the significant role that music television played in glam metal's success. While alternative rock was more serious in tone, it contained many of the elements that made glam metal so ideal for music television, including its own visual style in the way of "grunge" fashion. As MTV shifted its attention to the new style, glam metal bands found themselves relegated more and more often to Headbanger's Ball and late night airplay, and almost entirely disappeared from the channel by early 1994. Given glam metal's lack of a major format presence at radio, bands were left without a clear way to reach their audience.

Another factor the contributed to the decline of glam metal was the general "out with the old" attitude often held by the status quo whenever a new decade comes around (not unlike the popular hatred of disco in the early 1980s). With the influx of alternative music as the "new" genre, rock bands that did not adhere to the format were often dismissed as passé. Even bands who altered their style to match the new sound found themselves dismissed as "80s bands".

As grunge grew to greater success, many glam metal bands discovered that their labels were no longer supportive. Many major labels felt they had been caught off-guard by the somewhat surprise success of Nirvana's Nevermind, and had begun turning over their personnel in favor of younger staffers more versed in "alternative" music. Jani Lane of Warrant commented on the change in a late-1990s interview with MTV, noting that he knew his band was in trouble when he walked into his label's offices and noticed that the prominent Warrant display had been replaced by one of Alice in Chains. Nearly all of the popular glam metal bands found themselves dropped from their respective labels by the middle of the 1990s.

In a notable irony, many grunge and alternative music bands, who had established their careers by professing anti-corporate attitudes, wound up signing contracts with major record labels. At the same time, many glam-metal bands, once considered proponents of "corporate rock", ended up signing with independent labels. Labels such as CMC International and Perris Records were aware that glam metal had an audience, and were more than willing to help bring the music to its fanbase.

The decline in glam metal was further compounded by many key 80s metal bands, glam or otherwise, coincidentally either breaking up, losing significant band members, and/or releasing new albums that largely displeased existing fans. For example, Ozzy Osbourne announced his retirement, Vince Neil was briefly fired from Mötley Crüe, C.C. DeVille left Poison, and Guns N' Roses released a cover album and essentially disbanded.

Some critics wondered if the state of the country in the early 1990s may have had an effect on glam metal's popularity. Given that the US was going through a major recession at the beginning of the decade, several critics wondered if music fans had simply rejected the high-spirited nature of glam metal for the more serious attitudes put forth by grunge bands. Where glam metal as a genre tended to avoid topics such as politics, new bands such as Pearl Jam placed themselves at the center of the political battles associated with the 1992 US Presidential election.


During the late 1990s, however, several glam metal bands of the popular era began to assert themselves again. Mötley Crüe reunited with Vince Neil, recorded the 1997 album Generation Swine, and embarked on a successful US tour. Poison reunited with C.C. Deville, and embarked on a successful 1999 tour of amphitheaters. A 2000 package tour featuring Poison, Slaughter, Cinderella, and Dokken sold extremely well.

By the early 2000s, a handful of new bands began to revive glam metal. The successful British band, The Darkness, was one example, albeit in a more tongue-in-cheek manner, somewhat reminiscent of early Queen. Newer glam metal bands, such as Murderdolls, Gemini Five, and Private Line, have been growing their fanbase. Until their vocalist died in early 2006, Crashdiet were also gaining popularity and were the first band of the genre to sign to a major label in over a decade. Some unsigned and lesser-known bands of the genre that formed during glam metal's popular years are now being signed to smaller labels such as Perris Records and releasing material. Beautiful Creatures, a band formed by ex-Bang Tango frontman Joe Leste, even signed a major label deal with Warner Brothers Records in 2000. Other bands that have been formed in the late 90's, early millenium have taken a certain amount of influence from Glam Metal, including Buckcherry, Damone, and RCA Records' Bullets and Octane.

And, even as newer bands adopt glam metal, many of the most popular glam metal bands continue to perform. Bands such as L.A. Guns, Ratt, and W.A.S.P. have appeared in package tours together, and Mötley Crüe and Poison are continuing to record material and tour. The Monster Ballads compilation series has sold well, with the first volume peaking at #18 on the Billboard 200. Even Guns N' Roses is signalling a return in 2006, given the leaking of new material and the booking of festival dates, potentially leading up to the long-awaited release of Chinese Democracy.

Related genres

Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
Other topics
Fashion - History

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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