10 Glam Metal Albums Every Rock Guitarist Needs to Hear

By: Jim E James

Glam Metal. These two words have had a long and strange journey over the years. From their stint in the ’80s when Glam Metal ruled the world, to the disastrous decade of the ’90s when Grunge killed this once fabled genre, and back to the present day where Glam Metal is making a resurgence across the U.S. and around the world.

Guitar teacher and writer Jim E. James has compiled a list of 10 Glam Metal album that all rock guitarists should have in their collections. If you think we’ve missed some, or want to add any to this list fell free to comment below.

And now the list.

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RattOut of the Cellar

This was the breakthrough album for these mainstays of the LA glam scene. Guitarists Robbin Crosby and Warren Demartini had guitar tone on this album is to die for, and the songs make clever use of modal shifts so subtle and seamless that to the casual listener you don’t realize you’re hearing them. The album cover features Tawny Kitaen, later to appear in several Whitesnake videos and marry David Coverdale.

Mötley CrüeShout at the Devil

Perhaps Rock and Roll’s most notorious band, Mötley Crüe made their major label debut with this, their second album. Mick Mars in particular always stood out from other guitarists from the glam scene, being inspired to learn the electric guitar by the likes of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Jeff Beck, rather than the usual Van Halen and KISS clones. This album was heavier and darker than other albums of its type, and features some of the most memorable guitar riffs in rock.

Skid RowSkid Row

Though the face of this band is Sebastian Bach, most of the music on this, their first and most successful album was actually written by guitarist Dave “The Snake” Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan. Sabo, along with Scotti Hill have some spectacular guitar work throughout this disc, playing huge riffs where they have the chance, and simple chord work when that’s all the song calls for.

PoisonLook What the cat dragged In

This 1986 album was unsuccessful at first, being out more than a year before peaking at #3 in the billboard charts. It’s often remarked upon for its famous and attention-grabbing cover, with the members of the band featured in full drag. Inside though are 10 of some of the best, dirty but catchy, hard driving pop-rock songs. C.C. Deville, while rarely given much credit for it by the music press or the shredderati, manages to be one of those rare electric guitar players who can combine fast and technical playing with extraordinarily memorable phrases that even non-musicians can’t help but sing along to.

David Lee RothEat ‘em and Smile

Steve Vai was firing on all cylinders with this 1986 album. Produced by Ted Temple man, the producer behind the Roth-era Van Halen albums, this is often referred to by fans as “the best album Van Halen never recorded”. And while Steve Vai definitely quotes readily from the Gospel of St. Eddie, this whole record manages to be adventurous, unafraid and wildly original, with Billy Sheehan’s crazy bass antics and Roth’s affinity for the Rat Pack putting a bold, fun and trashy new spin on Rock.

Twisted SisterStay Hungry

Twisted Sister front man never really accepted the Glam tag for his band, saying “I don’t think Twisted Sister is ‘Glam’ because that implies glamour, and we’re not glamorous. We should be called ‘Hid’ because we’re hideous.” Nevertheless, with their breakthrough album containing timeless anthems of rebellion We’re Not Gonne Take It and I Want to Rock, they became standard bearers of the genre. For bonus ’80s points, check out the music videos for these two songs, with the introductions almost as long as the songs.

Whitesnake1987

The English band’s first album with ex-Thin Lazy guitarist John Sykes saw the band take the move from blues and soul-influenced rock to full-fledged Glam. It also saw the band see new heights of commercial success, particularly in the USA, where this album was released not under the name 1987 but as a self-titled album.

Faster PussycatFaster Pussycat

This cult band rejected shred guitar and virtuosic vocals to just crank out sleazy rock. With a singer that could barely sing, and a band that could barely hold time, this shouldn’t have worked. But the sheer attitude and bluesy dirt of this band, combined with the amazing choruses they could write, make this album into something improbably special. After this album, the band gradually turned into an industrial band.

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Guns N’ RosesAppetite for Destruction

What is there to say about Guns N’ Roses that hasn’t been said? Loud, mean, brash, confident and sublimely disheveled, they were at their best on this album. coming in at a time when Glam bands were steadily becoming more polished and produced, and spitting right in their faces. Having sold 28 million albums worldwide, it’s easy to forget that this was only a modest seller to start with. The album really broke through after the band toured with Mötley Crüe on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour.

Vinnie Vincent InvasionVinnie Vincent Invasion

Vinnie Vincent’s first album with his own band is not widely known, and that’s a shame, because of all the albums in a genre known for being over-the-top and taking things way too far, this is probably the one that took things further than any of them. The vocals are ridiculously high, the guitar solos insanely excessive and all the songs are about girls, parties and the glories of rock ‘n roll. What differs this album from the likes of Nitro et al. is the brilliant songwriting contained throughout, huge hooks, enormous choruses and shamelessly catchy guitar riffs from the guy who twice rescued KISS in the 80s.

18 Comments

  1. Mister B (4 years ago)

    Great list! And very difficult to keep it down to just 10!
    One band that springs to mind, and a band who still tour and blew me away when I saw them recently, fronted by a Mister Blackie Lawless…….. W.A.S.P.!

  2. Publisher (4 years ago)

    Absolutely, W.A.S.P area a classic metal band, you don’t get better than that!

  3. Jim E James (4 years ago)

    Yes.. the first W.A.S.P. album especially is a tour de force, if you’ll allow the cliche. Other bands that were difficult to leave out were Dokken, LA Guns and Cinderella. I wasn’t really trying to write a “10 best” list, rather I chose 10 that would be interesting from a guitar playing perspective.. with a healthy divergence of approaches to playing, from the shreddy to the sleazy to the downright sloppy lol

  4. Josh @ Fretterverse (4 years ago)

    Jim,

    Have to disagree with Poison, especially considering that Dokken didn’t make the list.

    Of course, everyone’s mileage varies! :)

  5. Publisher (4 years ago)

    Josh: Yeah I imagine it was a tough list to put together, kind of like a 25 great jazz guitar album list! lol ;)

  6. Ardiril (4 years ago)

    I don’t remember Whitesnake as a glam band, but then, I never watched many videos.

    Two to add from the 70s are Sweet’s “Desolation Boulevard” and BeBop Deluxe’s “Sunburst Finish”. If you include Whitesnake, why not had “Blizzard of Ozz”?

  7. Publisher (4 years ago)

    I would say Whitesnake was borderline glam, kind of a bridge between ’70s stadium rock and ’80s glam/radio rock. Sweet is a good addition, do you think they’re more ’70s rock or glam or both? Blizzard of OZZ could be considered Glam as well, but again it’s another borderline album, Glam is such a hard word to define unless it’s Poison!

  8. Ardiril (4 years ago)

    I grew up with Alice Cooper and David Bowie, and then in 1976, in addition to Kiss I discovered the British glam scene with Sweet, Wizzard, BeBop Deluxe and Steve Harley among many others. I wouldn’t have considered half the bands listed in the article above as glam. Pop metal, definitely, but glam is pushing the envelope.

  9. Publisher (4 years ago)

    I think there’s an issue with the labels from that era. Glam was used for Bowie et al, which is one type of music, but Glam Metal was used to describe L.A. bands in the early-mid ’80s such as Motley Crue and Faster Pussycat, which have no relation to Bowie’s music, or at least very little. Maybe the solution is to use one of the other moniker’s such as Hair Metal, though that has negative connotations as well.

  10. Jim E James (4 years ago)

    Glam Metal and Glam Rock are different sorts of music. Glam Metal came later and brought in different influences. Alice Cooper and KISS both dabbled in Glam Metal during the 80s but Bowie and Sweet are way off the mark.

  11. Ardiril (4 years ago)

    Another problem label is “metal” itself. Who is more metal, Zeppelin or Slayer? With that consideration, listen to live versions of “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City” as well as “Sweet FA” from Desolation Blvd.

  12. necramonium (4 years ago)

    Just to make a change, Vinnie co-wrote on the KISS albums Creatures Of The Night in 1982 and in 1992 on Revenge… So that is not the 80’s. ;)

  13. Jim E James (4 years ago)

    hey you’re right! I should have checked that..

  14. Mister B (4 years ago)

    ‘Theatre of Pain’ was the first Motley Crue album I heard, and I think it’s still my favourite. There’s some classic tracks on there.

  15. Jizzy D'Ville (3 years ago)

    Subtract Vinny Vincent Invasion, and add “Tooth and Nail” from Dokken. I’d also add “Thunder from the East” by Loudness as a “must have” in place of the Faster Pussycat pic.

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  18. Dan (2 years ago)

    No Dokken? need to hear under lock and key.

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