The conventional wisdom is that Glam Rock was a 70s phenomena and Glam Metal an 80s one.
It is well accepted that the first mention of “heavy metal” as it relates to music, was the song “Born To Be Wild” which was a massive hit off Steppenwolf’s self-titled debut album in January 1968. From just about that point in time, hard rocking bands were classified as heavy metal, including Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Wishbone Ash, UFO & Blue Oyster Cult. The heavy metal designation lasted throughout to the 90s when for these bands, the term “Classic Rock” seemed to be a more appropriate classification as ‘metal’ had gained a new meaning.
From that time, metal splintered off into the emergence of a number of sub-segments including thrash metal, death metal, speed metal, melodic metal and so on. However what these types of ‘metal’ all have in common is that they are a niche and underground movements. With the exception of perhaps Metallica, and possibly to a very limited degree…Pantera, Judas Priest & Iron Maiden, true metal from the 80s, was never a mainstream form of music. It never climbed the popular music charts and it wasn’t until the early 90s with the arrival of the “nu metal” scene which included the likes of Linkin Park, Faith No More & Slipknot etc, that there was mainstream interest in it.
Glam Metal, on the other hand was a spectacularly successful phenomenon from the early through to the late 80s. It was wildly popular, impacted on mainstream social values, spawned superstars and sold out stadiums all over the world. While at the same time, heavy metal was struggling to find a place for itself in the mainstream world and it wouldn’t find that place until Glam Metal bowed out of the spot light and left a void that needed filling.
Since the dawn of civilization, the notion of “divide and conquer” has been the prevailing thought from those in a position to influence. Nowhere in music is this more prevalent than in Metal. It is so fragmented, splintered and confusing but does Glam Metal belong with it? In the 80s, the Glam version was commercially dominant but the truer metal version, had a neglible commercial impact.
It seems inappropriate to label 80s hair bands such as Kiss, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, White Lion etc, as Glam Metal. Perhaps at the harder edge of the spectrum, W.A.S.P., Slaughter et al, it may be appropriate as the bands of this ilk, did not achieve the same commercial successes.
Over time, the greats and the legends, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc, have been recategorized from Heavy Metal to Classic Rock, perhaps it’s time we acknowledge that our heroes from the 80s had little to do with underground 80s metal movement and that their showmanship, costume & image justify a more appropriate badge than Glam Metal.
Besides, the evolution from Sweet & Slade style Glam Rock to Van Halen, Warrant, Poison and even Motley Crue is quite obvious. Their evolution to Metallica and Linkin Park isn’t, so why group them in Metal?