Mötley Crüe. Ratt. Poison. Bon Jovi. Def Leppard. Quiet Riot. Cinderella. Skid Row. The so-called “hair metal” era of hard rock, which lasted from about 1983 to 1990, produced more than its fair share of bands with deep catalogs of hits that dominated the decade and have stood the test of time. But for plenty of other bands with that outrageous look and bombastic sound, their MTV moment in the sun was considerably shorter-lived.
Actually, very few glam-metal bands were true “one-hit wonders.” Thanks to the common record label strategy back then of releasing one “rocker” single and one “ballad” single, many bands outside the genre's top tier, including Enuff Z'Nuff, White Lion, L.A. Guns and BulletBoys, became “two-hit wonders” instead.
Still, there are some groups from that era that gave us one notable, arena-worthy track, even if the rest of their material never quite achieved the same level of commercial success. (Often through no fault of their own — many of the bands on this list were victims of the early-’90s grunge explosion that virtually wiped out glam-metal overnight.) Some of the following 10 bands are more flamboyant than others, but all can be filed in the glam-metal folder, at least loosely — and these 10 tracks are still worth rocking out to.
10. Jetboy, “Feel the Shake” (1988)
The Jetboy single “Feel the Shake” peaked at a lofty No. 135 in December 1988, so it's somewhat of a stretch to call it a “hit.” Still, the song’s dark, Cult-like throb gets under your skin, and aspiration that “rock & roll is going to make the earth shake” is admirable for any guitar group. Fronted by mohawked, sneering singer Mickey Finn — one of three original members still part of the group — Jetboy started in San Francisco and initially featured on bass Guns N’ Roses pal Todd Crew, who died in Slash’s arms in 1987 at New York’s Milford Plaza Hotel after a long day of partying. Crew was replaced by Hanoi Rocks’ Sami Yaffa, who plays on “Feel the Shake.”
9. Bang Tango, “Someone Like You” (1989)
Like some Sunset Strip shapeshifter, Joe Lesté’s vocals morph between shamanic growl and larynx-tattering squawk. His Los Angeles quintet Bang Tango scored an MTV hit with the stylish, neon-laden video for “Someone Like You,” with Lesté slithering through the song’s laser guitars, angular bass and incessant drums. Few glam-metal bands played with dynamics this effectively on an uptempo track. If Billy Idol had recorded “Someone Like You” at his peak, it's easy to picture the song being a legitimate chart-topper.
8. Steelheart, “I’ll Never Let You Go” (1990)
After Steelheart’s Michael Matijevic gets 35 seconds of tasteful crooning out of the way, he lets loose with an eyeglasses-shattering vocal assault. Matijevic’s incredible pipes put the power into this power ballad. For further Steelheart listening, check out the Norwalk, Connecticut, combo’s anthemic rocker-chick ode “Everybody Loves Eileen.”
7. Pretty Boy Floyd, “Rock and Roll (Is Gonna Set the Night on Fire)” (1989)
In a charming way, this gem from Hollywood’s Pretty Boy Floyd sounds like an outtake from Mötley Crüe’s Too Fast for Love debut LP. Endearingly overblown late-’80s production, lipstick-dreamer lyrics, dye-job guitars and helium vocals — although guitarist Kristy “Krash” Majors’ trashy-rockabilly solo is much more C.C. DeVille than Mick Mars.
6. Kix, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” (1988)
Anti-suicide ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes” builds tension like a good teen-horror flick. Kix singer Steve Whiteman emotes over piano-drums pulse before the band’s nickname-brandishing guitarists Ronnie “10/10” Younkins and Brian “Damage” Forsythe burst through. The guitar solo evokes Joe Perry’s “Dream On” curlicues. As the track’s volume rises, Whiteman’s icy wail hints that The Song Remains the Same must have screened somewhere near Kix’s Hagerstown, Maryland, hometown. Among eyes-closed-themed 1988 power ballads, Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Close My Eyes Forever” overshadows “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” But Kix’s hit kicks, too.
5. Tora Tora, “Walkin’ Shoes” (1989)
Rollicking leather boogie from Memphis quartet Tora Tora. Frontman Anthony Corder brings a refreshing bluesy feel to his very 1989 shrieking. “Walkin’ Shoes” peaks during the tune’s extend instrumental middle section: Patrick Francis’ walking bassline and drummer John Patterson’s cowbell shuffle set up a saw-toothed guitar solo, courtesy of Keith Douglas. Tora Tora’s moody Aerosmith-meets–Def Leppard ballad “Phantom Rider” is solid. But the band’s signature hit is definitely “Walkin’ Shoes,” basically an old Muddy Waters song acid-washed and given a blow-dried hairdo.
4. Junkyard, “Simple Man” (1989)
Junkyard’s gutter-rocker “Hollywood” flickered across MTV screens, but this L.A. band fared better on the mainstream rock chart with “Simple Man.” Though the track is not a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic of the same name, it feels like its spiritual sequel. With eloquent slide guitar and Ronnie Van Zant–isms like, “You can take a boy out of the filth but that don’t make him clean,” “Simple Man” would’ve fit nicely on eventual tour-mates The Black Crowes’ 1990 debut album. Junkyard may be more famous for Axl Rose wearing one of the band’s T-shirts than for their own music, but knowledgeable ’80s-rock fans respect the band's no-nonsense grit and the scorching leads of guitarist Brian Baker, formerly of Minor Threat and now of Bad Religion.
3. Trixter, “Give It to Me Good” (1990)
The most down-home glam-metal ever got. In the music video for Trixter’s “Give It to Me Good,” the band rocks out in an innocuous garage instead of on a pyro-blazed stage. Later in the clip, these Paramus, New Jersey, dudes ride dirt bikes and pickups, not Harleys and Corvettes. As a song, “Give It to Me Good” comes across as the missing link between Tesla’s denim strum and Blind Melon’s jammy ’90s rock. The year before Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten, was released, flannel-clad Trixter singer Peter Loran looks like a foxier Eddie Vedder and sings like the Sebastian Bach–next-door. Trixter made other blips on MTV with their “One in a Million” and “Surrender” videos. But those songs were boilerplate glam-metal fare compared with the exuberant, excellent “Give It to Me Good.”
2. Bonham, “Wait for You” (1989)
As strong as anything Robert Plant or Jimmy Page released during the ’80s, Bonham’s “Wait for You” rides a groove from Zeppelin scion Jason Bonham worthy of his father John’s vaunted name. Having legendary producer Bon Ezrin on board certainly didn’t hurt “Wait for You,” either; witness the dramatic accents and majestic strings, as well as artful pre-echo on Bonham singer Daniel MacMaster’s Plant-like purrs. Guitarist Ian Hatton’s whammy-bar bends send “Wait for You” further up the misty mountaintop. Three years later, Bonham’s “Guilty” and “Change of Season” pierced the outskirts of the mainstream rock charts, but they lacked the exotic swagger of the band’s signature song.
1. Vinnie Vincent Invasion, “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” (1986)
Former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent goes completely bananas all over “Boyz Are Gonna Rock.” He opens with gnarly feedback before launching into madman thrash, UFO whirl and lightspeed finger-tapping. Vocalist Robert Fleischman, briefly a member of Journey and co-writer of “Wheel in the Sky,” stabs holes in the upper clef for the next two minutes. Fleischman soon parted ways with the Invasion and Mark Slaughter took over the mic for a suitably over-the-top “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” music video. By the time the track gets to the guitar solo, Vincent’s ax is screaming like it's ingested a Chateau Marmont–sized pile of speed. During the outro, Vincent’s fretboard and fingers practically seem to disintegrate. It doesn’t end well for your stereo speakers, either.