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.
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 Crüe – Shout 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 Row – Skid 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.
Poison – Look 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 Roth – Eat ‘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 Sister – Stay 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.
Whitesnake – 1987
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 Pussycat – Faster 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.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite 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 Invasion – Vinnie 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.