How Hair Metal's Five Biggest Bands Desperately Tried to Survive Grunge

How Hair Metal’s Five Biggest Bands Desperately Tried to Survive Grunge

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In 1991, the whole musical world changed with the arrival of grunge. Rock and roll transformed overnight and bands swapped their eyeliner and leather jackets for ripped flannel. But what happened to some of the kings of the Sunset Strip?

While the Seattle sound may have driven hair metal off the map, the giants of the genre hung on for years and tried to adapt to the times. While some of them were up for the challenge, some fell flat on their stomachs.

This is just a sampling of the hair metal bands that have changed over time, stayed true to themselves, or prayed for the Nirvana era of rock and roll to end.

Spoiler alert: it wouldn’t.

Def Leppard

In the world of hair metal, few sound cleaner than Def Leppard. While Motley Crue thrived on sounding dangerous, Hysteria was the closest genre to pop music in its own right. So… what happens when you try to mix this sound with Pearl Jam?

Although Def Leppard came early before grunge Adrenalize, Slang This is where they started wearing alternative influences on their sleeve. While Joe Elliot argues they were trying not to copy each other, there’s an alternative to songs like “Work It Out” that sound weird coming out of the band “Photograph.”

Even newcomer Vivian Campbell didn’t quite agree with the rest of the project, remarking later “I remember thinking ‘we’re spending a fortune here, and nobody’s going to buy this album.'”

Leppard was able to rebound during the latter half of the 90s, cashing in on the boy band craze and returning to their original sound on Euphoria. Leppard had already achieved hair metal perfection, but that sound couldn’t compete with the Age of Irony.

Motley Crue

Motley Crue is patient zero for all things hair metal. Although the Crue had no intention of launching a new wave of music, their brand of theatrical rock became the breeding ground for the Sunset Strip rock flavor. Once Nirvana arrived, The Crue were ready to give their grunge sound a fair chance with Vince Neil out of the picture.

While fans couldn’t get on board with the John Corabi iteration of the Crue, their self-titled album is far stronger than most post-1990 hair metal records. Corabi had a much hoarser voice and “Hooligan’s Holiday” has a deeper groove influenced by heavy bands like Pantera.

The writing was on the wall that Neil was to return, but their attempt to blend into the alternate scene on Generation Pig turns a deaf ear. After trying to become Pantera, the group tried to be Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Pantera during an album.

The following years saw the band go in different directions, with Tommy Lee eventually forming Methods of Mayhem which explored more nu-metal soundscapes. All roads led back to Hollywood, and the Crue closed the chapter of their recording career with Saints of Los Angeles, returning to the traditional sounds of their glory days.


Even in a genre as flashy as glam rock, no one was more into presentation than Poison. While Bret Michaels may have grown up on Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, their rock and roll style was more in tune with pop music than Judas Priest or Black Sabbath. So when it came time for a change, the Kings of Sunset were already lost in the woods.

After firing guitarist CC DeVille, Poison hired Mr. Big guitarist Richie Kotzen to Native language. While the band wanted to shed their reputation as a party band, they had no clear direction to follow, ranging from blues to gospel to world music. In retrospect, Kotzen thought the record sounded much closer to any of his solo records than anything Poison would have done.

It was clear that Kotzen was the wrong choice, and after he was caught having an affair with drummer Rikki Rokkett’s wife, Kotzen was fired. As the band tried to smooth things over with Blues guitarist Saraceno for crack a smile and more, DeVille found his way back into the band during power to the people.

While the band hasn’t released anything outside of a cover album in the past decade, Rokkett seems to live on goodwill saying, “Right now, we’re an act of nostalgia. I mean I have to be honest with myself. We are not posting anything new. »


The worst thing a hair metal band could do in the 90s was make a hair metal album. Although skidrow was a latecomer to the hair metal scene, their 1990 debut kicked off the genre with classics like “18 and Life”. Since the ground was already moving, they decided to get heavier with age.

While most hair metal bands tried to wear grunge as a costume, Skid Row’s slave of the grind is one of the heaviest albums by a hair metal band. After spending time on the road with Pantera, Snake Sabo channeled that heaviness into songs like “Monkey Business,” with a swagger reminiscent of Led Zeppelin.

Even when hair metal was read into its final rites, Skid Row continued to push forward into the ensuing decade. Their third album subhuman race was even heavier than their previous effort, tapping into something grittier to rival White Zombie.

As the band’s star grew, tension between each other grew, leading Sebastian Bach to leave the band after canceling a concert premiere for KISS on one of their touring dates. feedback.

As the band continues with new vocalists, nothing has captured the same intensity of their 90s run. Despite being one of hair metal’s latest gasps, Skid Row have found the easiest way to exceed its genus name. Just remove the “hair” from the title.

Guns N’ Roses

Before Seattle ruled the world, Guns N Roses was the first sign that things were changing. While growing up in the same Sunset clubs, Guns channeled the swagger of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith rather than T Rex. However, when they entered the 90s, Axl Rose considered grunge rockers his nemesis.

After making the bomb Use your illusion project, Rose was offended that bands like Nirvana refused to tour with him. Kurt Cobain had thought Guns N Roses’ brand of rock was misogynistic, but Rose wasn’t going to take that on the chin.

During the guns Illusion tour, Rose destroyed Nirvana when he had the chance, even getting close to Cobain during an MTV Awards show. By the time Guns’ ended his self-destructing roadshow, the writing was on the wall.

Apart from a decent set of covers on “The Spaghetti Incident?” the rest of Guns pulled out, leaving Axl as the only member of the group. Grunge may not have helped GNR’s case, but they’ve always been their worst enemy.

Was it all worth it?

Although not all hair metal bands deserved such a cruel fate, the death of the genre was necessary at the time. Hard rock fans were tired of flashy rock and roll, and bands like Nirvana brought authenticity back to the genre.

Even after some of these bands fell to Earth, most of them gave their credit to grunge rock. Before Nevermind exploded, Nikki Sixx defended grunge rockers sayingI said, “This is an important rock album. I never understood bands saying Nirvana had anything to do with derailing their careers. Maybe these groups just didn’t have the goods.

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen also took a diplomatic approach, saying, “We ended up with these awful headbands, which we didn’t really think we were a part of anyway. So when Nirvana came on, it was like, “Yeah, this is going to fuck us up a bit”, but it was also good music.

Some hair metal bands took the opportunity to clean up their numbers once they hit rock bottom. Bobby Dall credited grunge music with helping him change his life after touring saying (30:34), “I ended up taking a long vacation. God bless Seattle.

Even though each of these groups spent their time in the sun, they found their way to the other side. Def Leppard went on tour with KISS and Motley Crue is enjoying a renaissance with the release of his film Dirtiness. While hair metal may live on the nostalgia circuit these days, that doesn’t change the quality of these bands during their glory days.

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