I came of age at a very weird time in music history. Basically, when I entered high school, guys had long hair, ripped jeans, earrings, and terrible, terrible taste in music, but by the time I’d left high school, we were all wearing flannel and Doc Martens and bathing had become less of a priority. It was a very schizophrenic few years that saw the complete annihilation of an entire subgenre of music by one single song, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I honestly don’t know if the music industry has ever seen a shift so sudden and so devastating: One day, a band like Extreme was selling millions of albums, and the next, they couldn’t sell a line of coke to a prostitute.
But when you’re young, from a small town, and you don’t know any better, there’s a tendency to get caught up in the music of the times, and for few of my formative years, I listened to all of that awful, terrible, no good, lousy music. Most of those glam bands were essentially boy bands with big hair putting pop harmonies to the notebook scribblings of lovesick high-schoolers. About the only thing you can really say for it is that, at least it wasn’t auto-tuned. Most of the hair metal of the late 80s/early 90s isn’t even enjoyable for novelty purposes. Listen to it now, and you may get a quick nostalgia rush, but it usually wears off by the time the guitar solo rolls around.
Everyone knows the big hair metal bands: Poison. Def Leppard. Cinderella. Motley Crue. Bon Jovi (who, god bless, can still sell out a stadium). But this is about the deep cuts. It was crap time for music, and these were the crappiest flash-in-the-pans of the hair metal era, and believe it or not, because of nostalgia, most of them are still touring and recording albums today.
Trixter — These guys kind of came in the tail end of the glam metal era, and their unbuttoned flannel shirts basically foreshadowed their demise. There’s almost nothing separating these guys from a boy band except their long hair, but My God, what glorious locks they were.
Where Are They Now? After separating and splintering for years, the original lineup reformed and went on tour in 2008. They even put out an album last year.
Firehouse — Basically the Christopher Cross of glam metal, Firehouse used enough Aquanet to single-handedly burn a hole through the ozone. Their biggest hits were ballads, and even their “rock” singles were mid-tempo mewls with all the profundity of rejected Rebecca Black lyrics.
Where Are They Now? They’re still around, believe it or not, and they’re HUGE in Asia. They released an album as recently as 2009.
Saigon Kick — A huge MTV band for about 6 weeks in 1992 with their poseur psychedelic vibe, Saigon Kick was the Simon and Garfunkel of glam metal (although, that title probably more accurately belongs to Kik Tracee. How’s that for a deep cut?). Saigon Kick’s big album, The Lizard, was on constant rotation in every Trans Am in America for about three months.
Where Are They Now? — They broke up in 2000, but had a mini-reunion of sorts earlier this year with a small club tour. The lead singer, meanwhile, spent his downtown publishing poetry, because of course he did. I’m sure it is very profound.
Nelson — The twin grandsons of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Nelson represented something of the tipping point for hair metal, an acknowledgement that “metal” was a hugely dishonest label for the subgenre. REALLY? You’re going to put people like Nelson in the same general category as Pantera? Funny story: Back in high school, my car was broken into one night and the thieves stole about 50 casette tapes, but they specifically left the Nelson cassette behind. Why? Because they had STANDARDS.
Where Are They Now? They mostly disappeared, but released three albums in 2010 of repurposed material (demos, live recordings, etc. from their huge album, After the Rain) from their heyday and went on a 20th Anniversary tour in Europe. They have also performed tribute songs for their Dad, the more famous and respectable Ricky Nelson.
Slaughter — A huge band in 1990 thanks to three massive glam hits, Slaughter managed to be prettier than most of the make-up glam bands even without the cosmetics. Their lead singer, Mark Slaughter, typified an era when the male falsetto could actually be appreciated (though, no one was a match for Steelheart. To be honest, it was a pretty good voice, too: He’d have done great on American Idol had it been around in 1990.
Where Are They Now? They’re still kicking it with two of the original members (including Mark Slaughter), mostly on those massive reunion rock tours with lots of similarly situated rock bands capitalizing on glam-metal nostalgia.
Kix — Bands during the glam era just loved to write songs about suicide (see also, Ozzie Osbourne and Lita Ford’s “Close My Eyes Forever”) because it made them sound so deep. The song below was their biggest hit (hitting #11 on the Billboard charts). Basically, this band’s whole schtick was essentially inspired by the kids’ cereals: Kix and Trix. That is not a joke (although, it’s one stop above Jackyl, who shtick was using a chainsaw as a musical instrument).
Where Are They Now? They reunited and signed a record deal in 2012, releasing a live album, and have plans to release a studio album sometime this year.
Great White — Like the much bigger band, Cinderella (who actually put out a couple of decent blues albums after the fall of glam), Great White brought some blues flavor into their bubble gum glam, and honestly, their big hit still holds up nicely (“Once Bitten, Twice Shy”). It’s a testament to the times, however, that “Once Bitten” was nominated for Grammy for Best Hard Rock song, both because it got nominated for an EMMY, and because anyone thought that “Once Bitten” was “Hard Rock.”
Where Are They Now? Sadly, Great White became far more popular in later years for tragedy than their music when pyrotechnics ignited a fire during one of their club tours in Providence, Rhode Island, killing 100 people, including the bassist. The band kind of fell apart after that — the lead singer, Jack Russell, became heavily addicted to cocaine during the tour meant to raise money for the victims of the fire. However, the band reformed in 2010 with Warrant’s Jani Lane (RIP) filling in for the lead singer Russell, while Russell himself attempted to start his own band, “Jack Russell’s Great White.” Basically, neither band really worked out for legal and artistic reasons (the death by overdose of Jani Lane probably didn’t help matters, either).
White Lion — A Danish/American hybrid band, they actually had one legitimately kind of OK song, “Wait,” though their biggest hit would be “When the Children Cry,” a song so maudlin that Sarah Mclachlan would call them pu**ies. Nothing says hard rock like guys with big hair singing acoustic rock on a children’s playground, am I right?
Where Are They Now? — The band disbanded in 1992, but flirted with reunions in the mid aughts. However, lead singer Mike Tramp is back to making albums as a soloist now.
Winger — True story: At some point in the 1990s, I saw Winger open for KISS, and it being the era that it was, most of us didn’t even bother to stick around for the headliner (I think the other band on the tour was actually Slaughter). Terrible, awful, no good band, but their guitarist, Reb Beach, is actually a wicked talented, classically trained musician (full disclosure: He’s also my wife’s cousin). Fun Fact: Reb Beach’s brother, John Beach, is one of the more popular voice-over guys. If you’ve ever watched an Animal Planet or National Geographic documentary, you’ve no doubt heard his voice.
Where Are They Now? They last released an album in 2009.
Mr. Big — I don’t even understand how these guys could even categorize themselves as “metal” or “rock.” They were basically terrible coffee shop acoustic musicians with big hair. Seriously, watch the video for “To Be With You.” They’re harmonizing like a goddamn barbershop quartet, and the drummer is sitting in the back clapping his goddamn hands. Mr. Big basically existed so that we’d better appreciate modestly talented bands like Tesla.
Where Are They Now? They’re still around, still touring, and popular in India and the Philippines.