With the long-awaited release of Chinese Democracy by Guns N' Roses (14 years that are gone forever, that I'll never have again), it makes sense to pay tribute the hair band era. I don't know if you know this about me, but I like hair band music. A lot. For me, the "Hair Band Era" started on July 25, 1980, which was the day that AC/DC released Back in Black (which, except for Michael Jackson's Thriller, has sold more units worldwide than any other album), and it ended for all intents and purposes on May 23, 1992, when Def Leppard's Adrenalize -- the last hair band album to reach No. 1 -- was knocked from the top of the album charts by, cough, Kris Kross's Totally Krossed Out. The nearly twelve years in between saw the release of some great and some not-so-great music from dudes who kept Aquanet and various distilleries and coca farms in business.
If someone came to me and was looking to start a hair band collection (and I encourage you all to do so), these are the ten albums I would tell them to purchase first.
10. Warrant - Cherry Pie (1990). It was a tough call between this one and Warrant's debut, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich, but I went with Cherry Pie in the end because I think it's a little more representative of the height of the Hair Band Era: decadent, full of sexual innuendo, and a little bit cheesy. Obviously, the title track is a classic, full of innuendo (apparenly "cherry pie" isn't literal, as I had previously believed), and the album also contains two of the band's more successful ballads, "I Saw Red" and "Blind Faith." In addition, some of the lesser-known tracks are pretty solid, including "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Sure Feels Good to Me," "You're the Only Hell Your Mama Ever Raised," and "Love in Stereo" (which is about a young rocker's first threesome -- how perfectly hair band).
9. Whitesnake - Whitesnake (1987). A reworking of a song off of their 1982 Saints & Sinners album turned Whitesnake into hair band legends. That song, of course, is "Here I Go Again," and the video featuring then-attractive-and-not-crazy Tawny Kitaen spread eagle on the hood of a car didn't hurt. In addition to that anthem, the album features the ballad "Is This Love" (whose video also featured Kitaen), the Zeppelin-influenced "Still of the Night," the hard-rocking "Children of the Night," and the solid "Straight For the Heart."
8. Skid Row - Skid Row (1989). I rediscovered this album six or seven years ago, and it's actually a pretty underrated album, especially considering it was Skid Row's debut. Sebastian Bach has some pipes, and bassist Rachel Bolan used to have a chain connecting his nose ring to his earring (which doesn't really bear on the music, but I just think it's badass). The album has anthems ("Youth Gone Wild"), ballads ("I Remember You," "18 and Life"), and straight-up rockers ("Big Guns," "Sweet Little Sister," "Here I Am").
7. Poison - Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986). The debut from these glammers includes "Talk Dirty to Me," "I Want Action," "Cry Tough," "I Won't Forget You," and the title track. I went with this over their more popular second album, Open Up and Say . . . Ahh!, because I like this album better. Deal with it.
6. Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood (1989). This album was made after the band attempted to get sober, and I think it is their best album. What other album features a song written about the songwriter's heart stopping due to a heroin overdose ("Kickstart My Heart")? The rest of the album is solid, too. Highlights include the title track (which is still a fun song to listen to after 19 years), "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S)" (my favorite Mötley Crüe song), "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," and "Without You."
5. Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet (1986). This is the album that vaulted Bon Jovi into superstardom, and with good reason. "Livin' On a Prayer," "You Give Love a Band Name," and "Wanted Dead or Alive" provide the backbone for the album, with "Never Say Goodbye" adding the heart, and "Raise Your Hands," "Wild in the Streets," "Let It Rock," and "Social Disease" filling in the gaps to form a pretty damn good album. It just too bad the original cover got canned for what is now recognized as a classic cover (which was written on a wet garbage bag).
4. Van Halen - 1984 (1984). I have vivid, if not haunting, memories of listening to this tape in my friend Sean Fitzgerald's house in Spring, Texas and loving it (and predictably jumping a lot while listening to it). I was seven, so I wasn't really aware of the whole controversy over Eddie playing synthesizer instead of guitar on some of the songs. Frankly, it was probably the first time I consciously knew I was listening to a band called Van Halen. All I knew is that "Jump" kicked ass and encouraged my love of jumping, "Panama" made me want to go to Panama to bang a chick, and "Hot for Teacher" still didn't really make me want to do Mrs. DeLeon, my first grade teacher. Again, I was seven. The concept of MILFs (or TILFs, I guess) was two or three years away. Anyway, in addition to the aforementioned songs, my favorite songs on the album are "Top Jimmy" and "Drop Dead Legs."
3. AC/DC - Back in Black (1980). After lead singer Bon Scott's untimely death, AC/DC regrouped with Brian Johnson at the helm and put out one of the best rock albums of all-time. From the title track to "You Shook Me All Night Long" to "Hells Bells" to "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution," this album is solid. And none of those are even my favorite songs on the album (that would be "Shoot to Thrill").
2. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction (1987). Forget hair band albums, Appetite is hands-down one of the best hard rock albums ever made. "Welcome to the Jungle," "Paradise City," and "Sweet Child O' Mine" are rock anthems, and the rest of the album simply kicks ass. My personal favorites are "Rocket Queen" (still my favorite GNR song), "My Michelle" (a true story about a friend of the band whose daddy worked in porno and mommy wasn't around due to a heroin overdose), "Mr. Brownstone," (Slash and Izzy's description of their normal days as heroin addicts), and "Nightrain" (an ode to cheap booze).
1. Def Leppard - Hysteria (1987). With seven Top 100 singles ("Animal," "Women," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Hysteria," "Armageddon It," "Love Bites," and "Rocket"), production postponed due to a lost arm, and a legendary supporting tour that has been compared favorably to Sodom and Gomorrah, this is the quintessential hair band album.
After that, go for these to continue to build your collection: Bon Jovi - New Jersey; Cinderella - Long Cold Winter; Def Leppard - High 'N' Dry; Def Leppard - Pyromania; Guns N' Roses - GN'R Lies; Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I; Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion II; Mötley Crüe - Girls Girls Girls; Mötley Crüe - Too Fast For Love; Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz; Poison - Open Up and Say . . . Ahh!; Quiet Riot - Metal Health; Ratt - Out of the Cellar; Tesla - The Great Radio Controversy; Warrant - Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin' Rich; Van Halen - 5150; Van Halen - For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.