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Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Part 1 1982-85

by Rich Catino

Note: Thanks to fellow Metal Hall writer Jack Mangan for your input and suggestions, and guitarist Jack Frost (Seven Witches, Aldo Nova, ex Savatage) to remember those who were an influence.

Don’t Call It Hair Metal is a new book by Canadian guitarist Sean Kelly currently from the Lee Aaron band and Cony Hatch. I have chose to use the title of his book (which is a great read) for my article in defense of the branch on the heavy metal tree. Which I don’t understand why I have to, but still many make the term “hair” metal out to be somewhat negative on some levels regardless of the bands selling hundreds of thousands to millions of copies of albums, sold out clubs and arenas during the decade, timeless songs, and now a station dedicated to this music on Sirius XM, Hair Nation. Because of the feminine fashion, makeup, big hair, lyrics (mostly) about sex, girls, rock n roll, partying, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  But it was the 80s, it was part of the lifestyle (for some), attitude, and show, and everyone in hard rock and metal had lots of hair teased or not. And more importantly, the music is positive, fun, uplifting, connected to great times and memories for millions. Who doesn’t want that.

But before I do that let me tell you about the book and this

period 82-85. What Kelly did over the course of three hundred pages is tell his story about his love for the music, personal experiences and how they connect to the music, while talking about the history of and defending the bands and songs. For example, by page four and I quote, “My 50 years of life have been charmed. Up to the point of Dad’s passing”. Going on to site a Mr. Big song, ‘Defying Gravity’, recalling the lyrics and how it helped his grieving. And he does something that I am always doing when talking about these bands, and again I quote, “Mr. Big is so much more than one song”, and he goes on.

Sean also starts at the beginning with the chapter Visible Roots, siting electric blues, U.K. bands, to 70s hard rockers who were considered heavy metal at the times (the pioneers) like Zepplin, Sabbath, Purple, Kiss, UFO, etc, to the world of AOR and Foreigner and Boston with their magical twin guitar harmonies and big melodies. Kelly also pulls many comments and quotes from musicians and journalists in the industry.  Like Brian Damage Forsythe from one of the best and underrated from the genre Kix who discusses the band’s influences mixing Bowie, the Stones, Aerosmith, and Cheap Trick. And Rik Emmett from Triumph, a band who was able to crossover into mainstream melodic hard rock.

There is a chapter just covering 1981-82, and Ozzy going solo, to the beginnings of Motley Crue, Dokken, Twisted Sister, and Leppard, some crossover of the New Wave of British heavy Metal, and again Kelly brings in his own life experience today in 2018 touring with Steve Harris’ band British Lion and Coney Hatch as openers. By the 1985-86 chapter he continues to connect more dots, between Accept, Kiss without makeup, Bon Jovi following in groundwork by Aldo Nova and Billy Squiers, and fellow Canadian’s Helix first two major record label albums “No Rest for the Wicked” and “Walkin the Razors Edge”.

Now on to my thoughts….the music was called Heavy Metal before the term “hair” was applied. Also referred to as Glam Metal at the time, especially for the bands from the LA sunset strip which is fine. But only pertains to some bands like obviously Poison, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Theater of Pain era Crue, Cinderella’s “Night Songs”, Whitesnake 87, Bon Jovi, Dokken “Under Lock n Key” are good examples. But the feminine fashion did not apply to everyone, or all the time, or for every album. Some never dressed up in spandex and wore makeup, like Tesla, Night Ranger, Def Leppard, Badlands, Dirty Looks, and Dangerous Toys who wore t shirts, denim and leather. It is the music that defines what the band are about, not the fashion. And this music may have had commercial appeal, but was harder than Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Boston, Heart, Survivor and others.

Yes, I know, by the end of the decade beginning of the 90s there were too many of these bands, and it got lighter with less metal edged, too much keyboards and more AOR pop hooks. Rockers and ballads from Warrant, Slaughter, Winger (who were always more than ‘Seventeen’ but that’s for another article), Trixter, Extreme and Mr. Big also both bands who were more than an acoustic hit ballad, Firehouse, and Danger Danger. But many still had their hard and heavy songs too. Don’t judge a “hair” band by the amount of hair or ballads. Yes? The end was when I heard those from the last wave…Tuff, Nelson, Southgang, Ugly Kid Joe, etc that’s when I said “yeah, this is not Metal”.

So, what are the takeaways? What have you learned? There is a reason why all the above, plus 80s Kiss and Scorpions are played on Sirius XM’s Hair Nation. Queensryche obviously the odd inclusion, but I get it they make the cut. Also, check out the Deep Cuts channel its excellent, includes everything but the hits and more names like Helix, Saigon Kick, Lillian Axe, and Sleeze Bees. Pre dated by a couple years with Van Halen, Hanoi Rocks, and Y&T as influences, AC/DC and Aerosmith, whether it is the forerunners from the first wave 82-85, the second wave 86-89, last wave 90-93, all have the same ingredients. Many had the guitar hero delivering big heavy and catchy guitar riffs and searing solos, a singer with a melodic (sometimes edgy) voice, big hooks and chorus’ you can sing to and can’t get out of your head to this day. The hair is only part of the music’s identity.

Stephen Pearcy from Ratt, Don Dokken, Twisted Sister, Rudy Sarzo and Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot), Stryper, Lita Ford, and Tony Harnell singer for TNT are inducted. All from that first wave in the early 80s, and obvious choices at that. Do I think many from the second and especially third wave are Metal Hall inductee worthy? No. But yes, there are some.

So, who else should to be inducted? I’m going to give my suggestions. And as it says in my logo collage image, let’s call it Hard Rock Metal, because it is hard rock with a metal edge.


I know Y&T are not considered “Hair” metal by most, but dammit don’t they have so many great hard rockers and headbangers that qualifies. Like the obvious ‘Summertime Girls’, ‘Keep On Runnin’, and that infectious ‘Contagious’ , ‘LA Rocks’. They should be played more often on Sirius XM’s Hair Nation (they do on Deep Cuts), as with Ozzy’s Boneyard. Big catchy riffs, melodies, singer and guitarist Dave Meniketti’s leads with soulful to scorching solos. Did you know they were called Yesterday and Today and released two albums in the late 70s, were playing around the club scene in California with Van Halen and Quiet Riot. Well, they are not in the Metal Hall yet, and surely should. ‘Hurricane’, ‘Dirty Girl’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Black Tiger’, ‘Open Fire’, ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Mean Streak’, ‘Midnight in Tokyo’, ‘Lipstick & Leather’. You remember the songs, the MTV videos. Meniketti with original classic lineup members bassist Phil Kennemore, guitarist Jory Alves, and drummer Leonard Haze. Cast your vote, people.

Motley Crue

You know their history, the book and movie The Dirt, their rise on the LA sunset strip, the classic debut “Too Fast For Love” first released in 1981 under Leathur Records, then in 1982 with Elektra, including the hit ‘Live Wire’. “Shout At The Devil” followed in 83 (after an appearances at the US festival), solidifying Crue as a force to be reconned with. The video for ‘Looks That Kill’ on MTV an instant hit and statement, encompassed everything the band was about…metal riffs, pounding rhythm, a good looking singer with a melodic voice with attitude, a look; makeup, leather studs and spikes with high heal boots, edgy occult stage production (pentagrams, fire, etc), and songs to raise your fist and bang your head to.

But let’s talk about those deeper tracks on the follow up glam commercial album “Theater of Pain”, which includes hit ballad ‘Home Sweet Home’. Because we all know Crue are known for a dozen greatest hits in every setlist every tour.  Mick Mars the one member that just did his job, staying away from the press and drama, underrated when it came to guitarists in the 80s, brings that bluesy sleezy riff and groove to ‘City Boy Blues’, and ‘Keep Your Eye on the Money’, snazzy ‘Use It or Lose It’, and ‘Tonight (We Need A Lover)’. “Girls Girls Girls” is an uneven album but ‘Five Years Dead’ and anthem ‘All In The Name Of’ deserve another listen. And on “Feelgood” with the band clean and sober the album reaching the top of the Billboard 200 chart is overall solid. But let’s not forget about the self-tiled 94 album with John Corabi singing, regardless of being darker and more a sign of the times it’s got great playing and songwriting.


Yes, Maryland based Kix were never a multi-platinum arena band but still important and influential. Like Aerosmith and Cheap Trick had a son but with harder guitars. They were playing the clubs selling out shows for years on the east coast before graduating to arena headline openers. Did you know the debut was released in 1981? Second album “Cool Kids” was a little more commercial, but they bounced back hitting hard with the title track to “Midnight Dynamite” a song deservedly played on U68 video tv channel here on the east coast pre Headbangers Ball. By 1988 they became household names, in regular rotation on MTV going platinum with “Blow My Fuse” on the strength of ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, title track, and ‘Cold Blood’. Two more albums followed in the 90s before the band broke up until reforming in 2003 without original member and main songwriter Donnie Purnell. If you have never seen Kix live you have missed out, because after 40 years they are retiring in September 2023 playing their last show.

Great White

Yes, they are bluesy hard rock since “Twice Shy” in 1989 going forward, the one band with this defining their style to this day. But Great White did not always sound like this. Singer Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall go all the way back to 1977 making music playing the LA clubs prior to the self-titled debut in 1984, an E.P. titled “Out of the Night” the year before. Now, if you are familiar with these two releases you know they started writing straight ahead heavy metal songs with the guitar sound – ‘On Your Knees’, ‘Stick It’, Nightmares’, ‘Streetkiller’. “Shot in the Dark” followed in 86 incorporating more keyboards and commercial sound. But the follow up “Once Bitten” found a balance between the metal edge guitars, keyboards, and melodic parts, see singles ‘Rock Me’, Lady Red Light’, and ballad ‘Save Your Love’. So for all these reasons, their roots, longevity (still playing live to this day, but without Russell), I say are Metal Hall worthy. Or at least the first and third albums.


Like Crue and the first two albums, when I was watching MTV in 1983/84, buying Circus and Hit Parader magazines in the early 80s the image of the self titled debut W.A.S.P. album in ads, videos for ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’ and ‘Love Machine’ made such an impact strengthening my love for heavy metal music. Same with videos for ‘Blind In Texas’ and ‘Wild Child’ from the excellent followup “The Last Command”. It was next level Alice Cooper meets Kiss, with some Mercyful Fate. W.A.S.P., like Motley, wore the leather and spandex with chains and studs, but were even more theatrical, like an evil circus. Singer/bassist Blackie Lawless (with blue streaks in the hair was a nice touch) even had a buzzsaw codpiece and wrist bands, and he drank blood from a skull on stage. Guitarist Randy Piper with his exhaust pipes guitar which emit smoke and his skull and cross bones guitar. Chris Holmes high energy and blood-stained yellow guitar, also a main songwriter. And how about that Live at the Lyceum VHS concert in 1984, what a stage production; skull backdrops on the speakers, the W.A.S.P. sign on fire, a girl tied to the torture rack, Lawless throwing raw meat into the crowd.

Night Ranger 

The San Francisco Cali five piece have been around since 1982 and the debut “Dawn Patrol” with MTV hit single ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ in heavy rotation and ‘Sing Me Away’. Different from everyone at the time, when did you see the bass player (Jack Blades) also the singer? And the drummer, Kelly Keagy, sharing lead vocals sometimes. Also, the two guitar team of Brad Gillis dropping dive bombs trading off leads and solos with Jeff Watson two hand tapping away. More big melodies and hits followed the following year on “Midnight Madness”, arena anthem ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’, ‘When You Close Your Eyes’, and ballad ‘Sister Christian’. Three more albums followed in the 80s before Jack Blades left in 89 to form Damn Yankees. The band reformed in the late 90s and have released eight more albums, down to two original members Blades and Gillis and still on the road today.

Def Leppard

This one is a no brainer even though the band have distanced themselves more and more from their New Wave of British Heavy Metal roots with each album since Pyromania. The NWOBHM debut “On Through The Night” and songs ‘Rock Brigade’, ‘Hello America’, and ‘Wasted’ hold up the best of the bunch. A year later in 1981 already maraging AC/DC meets Thin Lizzy for edgy riffs and melodies “High N Dry” is perfect heavy rockers front to back. ‘Let It Go’, title track, ‘Another Hit and Run’, ballad ‘Brining On The Heartbreak’ into instrumental ‘Switch 625’ a perfect side one. And “Pyromania”, WOW, massive success with the mainstream breakthrough of hits ‘Photograph’, ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Foolin’ on MTV and radio. “Hysteria” in 1987 would see the band become even more successful but much more melodic and produced by now. Although live they were keeping the music hard, the guitars were not lightened up at all even with the inclusion of Rick Allen’s modified electronic drum kit. Leppard also one of the few bands to still have 4/5th of the classic lineup still together; singer Joe Elliot, Rick Savage on bass, Rick Allen (drums), Phil Collen since Pyromania, and Vivian Cambell replacing Steve Clark who passed away in 1991.

Sammy Hagar

Before his time in Van Halen there was his first band Montrose, another name an influence (inductee worthy) for this sound and style of rock, sometimes AOR sometimes harder. Hagar also had eight solo albums before joining Van Halen, and several hits on his own. ‘There’s Only One Way To Rock’, ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Three Lock Box’, ‘Baby’s On Fire’, ‘You’re Love Is Driving Me Crazy’, and title track to the album “VOA”. With twenty solo albums, collaborations with others, multiple music related businesses, still out there rocking to this day playing live at 75.


No, they were not a “hair” band, but they did have five albums that fall under the umbrella, and guitar wizard Akira Takasaki’s considered at the time Japan’s answer to Eddie Van Halen. MTV (and for those here on the east coast tri state area U68) hit ‘Crazy Nights’ off “Thunder In The East” an instant classic, that bubble gum ear candy hook to ‘Let It Go’ from the 1986 album “Lightning Strikes”, and “Hurricane Eyes” in 88 with the driving ‘S.D.I.’, ‘This Lonely Heart’, and two albums (“Soldier of Fortune’, “On The Prawl” with Mike Viscera singing.  Another band with a long history going back to the debut (only released in Japan) in 1981, and twenty albums.

More to come in Part 2: 1986-89 and my picks who else should be inducted….


For the past 21 years, Rich Catino has been the director and a journalist for the Heavy Metal music webzine, Metal Asylum, ( where, along with staff, has the opportunity to review, interview, and photograph legends from the past, but more importantly giving attention to the present and future of the hard rock and heavy metal music scene. He is also a contributor at Bravewords from Canada alongside known journalists like Martin Popoff and Mark Gromen, and at Sea of Tranquility ( from time to time. Catino’s artistic resume includes special effects makeup for several independent films, and theater, writing and directing an original short horror film. Dressing the photo shoot for the goth/metal band The Bronx Casket Co. seen in the booklet for “Sweet Home Transylvania” in 2001. Also, building the miniature set as seen on the packaging for the Hellraiser toy line, to props and sets for haunted attractions.

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