Let’s take a trip back to a time before grunge took over and the world, when momentous guitar solos reigned supreme, leather draped everything and you really didn’t need much else other than a good time.
Yep, we’re throwing it back to when hair metal was king.
’80s hair metal holds such a unique place in the musical zeitgeist – its iconic sound and instantly recognisable look has been the soundtrack to many wild nights and crazy parties since.
One of the most iconic bands of this genre is Def Leppard, a band that truly embodied the essence of hair metal. With their anthemic sound, tight musicianship and total knack for writing hook laden heavy tunes, there’s a reason that they’re hailed as kings of the genre.
With Def Leppard coming to Australia to play their classic album, Hysteria, in full, we’ve decided to take a look back at the history of hair metal, and what exactly made the music scene so exciting.
Picture this; it’s 1983, MTV was at its peak, kids in the suburbs were eager to pick up their flying V guitars, shred till their fingers bled and make their way to Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.
Influenced of the glam rock stylings of ’70s acts like KISS and Alice Cooper, bands like Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, and Poison conjured up a new era that screamed youthful rebellion in rock n roll and pure fun.
In the late ’70s, Van Halen started to lay the foundations for blending the theatrics of guitar mastery. Catchy hooks and driving musical structures – all brought together with powerful vocals – the otherworldly guitar solo featured on ‘Eruption’ laid the perfect foundation for a total mainstream metal takeover.
1983 was a breakout year for the genre.
Quiet Riot released the album Metal Health which quickly shot to number one on the Billboard charts, Night Ranger dropped Midnight Madness featuring the hit ‘Sister Christian’ and genre legends Mötley Crüe released their second album, Shout At The Devil. The music was loud, and the bands were proud: it was a wild time to be a music fan.
In the same year, Britain’s Def Leppard dropped Pyromania, with the album’s success seeing hair metal’s status as a bubbling craze solidified.
The album went on to sell over 10 million units and featured tracks like ‘Foolin’, ‘Photograph’, and ‘Rock Of Ages’ – a total archetypal hair metal banger.
In the music video for the track, frontman Joe Elliot’s leather pants paired with the tracks synthy undertones, hand clapping chorus and face melting solo make for an epic time – it’s a tale of debauchery and basking in the all encompassing fiery glory of rock and roll. It’s hair metal at its most pure.
It’s fair to say the album’s flair went onto have a pretty significant impact across the Atlantic.
The Sunset Strip
Over in California, a scene was bubbling along the sunset strip with iconic clubs like Whisky A Go Go and The Trip beginning to book bands that played hair metal instead of punk.
As you probably know, it wasn’t the most wholesome of music scenes.
Riddled with drugs, Jack Daniels and groupies it truly wasn’t for the faint of heart – you had to be dedicated to rockin all night and partying all day. The Whisky A Go Go acted as a major launch pad for bands like Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, and Van Halen, truly making it an unofficial home for the genre.
Mötley Crüe loved the venue so much, they set up home base at an apartment across the road, with guitarist Nikki Sixx saying when the band sold out the club, it was the highlight of their career.
The band were notorious for the crazy parties that were held there, with stories of the time so wild that, well, let’s just say they wouldn’t be allowed to get away with any of that sort of thing these days.
By the mid-’80s, hair metal was a total phenomenon.
In 1986, Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet, an album that took the genre to its most pop-focused and anthemic extreme, spawning universal mega hits like ‘Living On A Prayer’, which widened the genre’s appeal even more.
A year after, Mötley Crüe released the sleaze-drenched Girls, Girls, Girls, an album that documents the band’s hard style living and dedication to nothing but riding their Harley’s down Californian highways, clubs, and whiskey.
The drumming was tight, the riffs were bluesy yet crunchy, and the vocals begged to be yelled back by sweaty fans. That same year, Def Leppard happened to drop a little album by the name of Hysteria. Its most famous single, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, pretty much summed up hair metal as a whole, conquering it at its peak.
It’s an ode to the high life, of excess and indulgence. Its saccharine drenched chorus, and sticky, iconic opening guitar riff, has transcended generations and will feature as a part of the band’s live set forever. Not only is it one of the best hair metal tracks ever, but one of the best rock songs of all time.
Guns N’ Roses then came through with a grittier, punk focused take on the genre with Appetite For Destruction, with their popularity ticking over into the ’90s.
All Hail Hair Metal
There’s a reason we all still belt out ‘Kickstart My Heart’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ at any given karaoke night or still fumble over learning those solos.
Hair metal, although at times a little over the top, summed up what rock and roll and youth was all about and we’ll never have anything like it again
Def Leppard 2018 Australian tour
Tickets on sale through Live Nation
Friday, November 2nd
Perth Arena, Perth, WA
Sunday, November 4th
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, SA
Tuesday, November 6th
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday, November 8th
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday, November 10th
ICC Sydney Theatre, Sydney, NSW