Glam Rock ‘vs’ Glam Metal

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?


  1. motleyguy Says:

    Good write up. I agree with alot of what you are saying and would like to add that there is a difference between the ’screamers’, those high pitched constant falsetto vocals and those that sang in normal range. The screamers didn’t make mainstream and perhaps the tag of Glam Metal is more suited to them. Calling Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Kiss, Poison or even Van Halen, Glam Metal doesn’t seem right to me……

  2. glennjb Says:

    Agreed about the metal part. The 80s bands were called metal ’cause of the long hair, rebellious image/lifestyle and hard/driving music. But that doesn’t make a band metal.

    However, I completely disagree on the glam thing. These 80s bands had even less in common with true glam than they did true metal! Again, it goes back to image: they were only called ‘glam’ cause of the make-up, theatrical shows etc. Musically they were worlds apart. eg: try and compare, say, Doctors of Madness and Pretty Boy Floyd! Completely and utterly diffeerent genre, no influece, no connection whatsoever. 80s bands are hair bands; there’s no other label that fits.

  3. mickmars Says:

    Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. has the most boss voice in the music buissness

  4. carroll13 Says:

    Technically, there is a musical difference between “Hard Rock”, which has an overt blues “swing”(bent notes, slightly off the beat) in the music, and “Metal”, which, while(being Rock) has a blues influence, is a bit less overt about the “swing”, and a bit more”square” in the phrasing.
    There’s a lot of crossover, obviously, but, for example: Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild is more of a Hard Rock song, regardless of the lyrics, because the music has that “swing” going though it.
    The mention of “Heavy metal thunder” is a Burroughs reference used to describe the sound of the motors of the vehicles mentioned in the song…not a genre “rally cry”.

    ..but getting that out of the way..
    “Glam” Metal is a bit of a mixed bag.
    Many bands grabbed aspects of the Glam image and theatricality, but went with a more metal/macho attitude.
    Bowie claimed to be gay and/or bi at the height of his Ziggy era, Marc Bolan displayed a somewhat effeminate personality, Jobriath called himself “A true Fairy”, and Wayne County became Jayne County.
    Whereas many(not all) of the Hair Metal set, while looking pretty, displayed macho, even homophobic attitudes(eg: Sebastian Bach wearing a shirt saying “AIDS Kills Fags Dead”), not to mention quite a bit of misogyny.
    In my opinion, more of the central musical, philosophical, and aesthetic ideals of the original Glam Rock scene carried over into the Punk, Goth and New Wave scenes naturally than those that ended up in the Glam Metal scene.
    Admittedly, there’s a bit of generalization in this… and I’m pretty fond of early Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, and a few other Glam Metal bands, so I’m not trying to paint with THAT wide of a brush, I’m just being music nerdy.

  5. iwp Says:

    To me, 80s glam kinda of falls under two categories: there’s glam bands that are on the more heavy metal side (Skid Row, Twisted Sister, Dokken, Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, etc.), then’s there’s bands that are on the more rock/hard rock side (Poison, Bon Jovi, Ratt, Def Leppard, Warrant, Cinderella, etc.)

  6. wildcat Says:

    Metal isn’t the way it was in the 80s and 90s.
    I’m 44 years old, so forgive me for writing about the 70s, 80s, and 90s, or at least what I know.
    In the 70s and 80s Metal went to Hair Bands, and those that played heavier went on to thrash metal.
    I don’t care for the metal of today, I like 70s,(KISS, and all), to the 80s,(Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Warrant).
    I don’t what it is classified as, I just know what I like.

  7. rkfs Says:

    Classic Rock isn’t really a genre, it’s just a radio format/period in popular rock music.

    Bands like Black Sabbath I think should still be considered Heavy Metal while most of the others like Zeppelin should be Hard Rock.

  8. mickangel Says:

    black sabbath is rock,kiss is rock never was n will be metal n glam rock n glam metal is all the same to me

  9. broncotwerp Says:

    I don’t really care what it is or was classified as. It is amazing music from an amazing time. I can only hope that the current generation can appreciate it like we did BIT Day.

  10. maverickman302 Says:

    very good points abound…. myself, I have always defined it as the following:
    SABBATH defined and maybe created METAL
    KISS took metal to an entire population that otherwise would have missed it.. and they made it GLAM-esque.
    FFWD to 80’s… QUIET RIOT made HARD ROCK/METAL cool again, and bands like TWISTED SISTER who weren’t that great musically ( IMHO ) raised the bar with the GLAM influence.
    for God’s sake, GUNS N ROSES had to resort to teased hair and mak up to get an audience in the LA scene!!!!!

    GLAM has had an undenieable influence in nearly EVERY genre of music…..


  11. glamno1 Says:

    lets get it straight glam metal is bands like motley crue, skid row ect. bands like poison are just people who ruined the 80s

  12. glamno1 Says:

    we all love good music and thats the main thing

  13. RJ Says:

    I wouldn’t agree with saying that glam never made mainstream. While Hair Bands never really did 70s bands like Foreigner and Journey were certanly very popular. Most people nowadays don’t consider that hard rock and it isn’t but it had influences on it especialy the ballads. Just because its not hard rock or metal doesn’t make it not Glam. P.S. I have to agree with the comments above me. I think Motley Crue is awesome and I hate Poison with a passion.


  14. BillyAcid Says:

    I think that the glam metal bands don’t get the the respect that they deserve. To me their music is the only music that is worth a damn.

  15. ZiggyWamBam Says:




    Song Title Highest UK
    Chart Position Year Highest U.S.
    Chart Position
    “You Better Run” - 1966 -
    “Genesis” - 1969 -
    “Wild Winds Are Blowin’” - 1969 -
    “The Shape of Things to Come” - 1970 -
    “Know Who You Are” - 1970 -
    “Get Down and Get With It” #16 1971 -
    “Coz I Luv You” #1 1971 -
    “Look Wot You Dun” #4 1971 -
    “Take Me Bak ‘Ome” #1 1972 #97
    “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” #1 1972 #76
    “Gudbuy T’ Jane” #2 1972 #68
    “Cum on Feel the Noize” #1 1973 #98
    “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” #1 1973 -
    “My Friend Stan” #2 1973 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” #1 1973 -
    “Everyday” #3 1974 -
    “The Bangin’ Man” #3 1974 #91
    “Far Far Away” #2 1974 -
    “How Does It Feel?” #15 1975 -
    “Thanks For The Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam)” #7 1975 -
    “In For A Penny” #11 1975 -
    “Let’s Call It Quits” #11 1976 -
    “Nobody’s Fool” - 1976 -
    “Gypsy Roadhog” #48 1977 -
    “Burning In The Heat Of Love” - 1977 -
    “My Baby Left Me – That’s All Right” #32 1977 -
    “Give Us A Goal” - 1978 -
    “Rock n’ Roll Bolero” - 1978 -
    “Ginny Ginny” - 1979 -
    “Sign O’ The Times” - 1979 -
    “Okey Cokey” #88 1979 -
    “Live at Reading EP” (Live at the ‘Reading Festival’) #44 1980 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-recording) (Slade & The Reading Choir) #70 1980 -
    “We’ll Bring The House Down” #10 1980 -
    “Wheels Ain’t Comin’ Down” #60 1981 -
    “Knuckle Sandwich Nancy” - 1981 -
    “Lock Up Your Daughters” #29 1981 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-entry) #32 1981 -
    “Ruby Red” #51 1982 -
    “(And Now The Waltz) C’est La Vie” #50 1982 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-entry) #67 1982 -
    “My Oh My” #2 1983 #37
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-entry) #20 1983 -
    “Run Runaway” #7 1984 #20
    “All Join Hands” #15 1984 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-entry) #47 1984 -
    “Little Sheila” - 1985 #86
    “7 Year Bitch” #60 1985 -
    “Myzterious Mizter Jones” #50 1985 -
    “Do You Believe In Miracles?” #54 1985 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-issue) #48 1985 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-entry of re-issue) #71 1986 -
    “Still The Same” #73 1987 -
    “That’s What Friends Are For” #95 1987 -
    “You Boyz Make Big Noize” #94 1987 -
    “We Won’t Give In” - 1988 -
    “Let’s Dance ‘88″ - 1988 -
    “Radio Wall of Sound” #21 1991 -
    “Universe” - 1991 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-mix) (Slade vs. Flush) #30 1998 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (2nd re-issue) #21 2006 -
    “Merry Xmas Everybody” (re-entry) #20 2007 -

    Title Highest UK
    Chart Position Year Highest Australian
    Chart Position Highest U.S.
    Chart Position
    Slade Alive! #2 1972 #1 #158
    Slade Alive, Vol. 2 - 1978 - -
    Slade On Stage #98 1982 - -

    Title Highest UK
    Chart Position Year Highest Australian
    Chart Position Highest U.S.
    Chart Position
    Beginnings - 1969 - -
    Play It Loud - 1970 - -
    Slayed? #1 1972 #1 #69
    Old, New, Borrowed and Blue #1 1974 #6 #168
    Slade in Flame #6 1975 #25 #93
    Nobody’s Fools #14 1976 - -
    Whatever Happened To Slade? - 1977 - -
    Return to Base - 1979 - -
    We’ll Bring the House Down #25 1981 - -
    Till Deaf Do Us Part #68 1982 - -
    The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome #49 1983 #50 -
    Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply
    (U.S. only) - 1984 - #33
    Rogues Gallery #60 1985 - #132
    Crackers: The Party Album #34 1986 - -
    You Boyz Make Big Noize #98 1987 - #133

    “Slade was certainly our greatest influence; not only in the crafting of rock songs but also as performers. Before Slade, no one really knew shit about how to make an audience riot. We really got off on that. There would probably never have been us without them.” – Gene Simmons (Kiss)

    “I spent most of the early 70s listening to Slade Alive! thinking to myself, “Wow – this is what I want to do. I want to make that kind of intensity for myself. A couple of years later I was at CBGB’s doing my best Noddy Holder.” – Joey Ramone (Ramones)

    “Slade never compromised. We always had the feeling that they were on our side. I don’t know but I think we were right.” – Steve Jones (Sex Pistols)

    “They are a good group. I wanted to join them!” – Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Blackmore’s Night)

    “I couldn’t do the heavy rock thing anymore. Noddy Holder was around kicking every singer in the ass. I never wanted to be a pop singer. Christ, how I hated Noddy!” – Tom Jones[citation needed]

    “Slade was the coolest band in England. They were the kind of guys that would push your car out of a ditch.” – Alice Cooper

    “Slade was never pretentious. It was just music to them. Pop, rock, soul….it was all the same to Slade. They wrote great songs. And, besides, I’d like to raid their wardrobe.” – Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

    “The whole punk rock thing really happened because of bands such as Slade and the like; rock bands that wouldn’t back off.” – Paul Weller (The Jam/The Style Council)

    “Absolutely. Slade! A band that would never bend over.” – Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)

    “Slade was pretty much the only thing metal about glam rock in the 70s.” – Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe) Ironically, Slade would replace Mötley Crüe as the opening act for Ozzy Osbourne.

    “Whatever happened to bands that rocked liked Slade? Y’know, that no-bullshit, fuck you, in your face, we’re bad-as-hell-and-we-know-it kind of band?” – David Coverdale (Whitesnake)

    “All right? You look like Dave Hill from Slade” – Karl Pilkington, referring to his girlfriend’s abysmal haircut, on the Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant & Karl Pilkington XFM Radio show, 08 November 2003 (transcript [1])

  16. Sikki_Nixx Says:

    KISS is not an 80’s band so much….they got started in ‘73 and quickly became popular in 1975-76. They fit the description of Glam Rock/Metal very well, but were around before the 80’s were.

  17. freddiemercurygal1 Says:

    For me i really enjoy glam metal. The only glam rock exceptions i make are queen and alice cooper and a few others.

  18. RatScare Says:

    I dont stick strictly to a category as such, if i had to classify the glam, rock, sleaze, heavy metal etc bands i love i’d just call it music from THE era. 20 odd years of pure gold early 70’s to early 90’s. The great thing is some survivors are going strong and a new era is beginning, i feel musically alive again!

  19. fffitgc Says:

    Thank you for calling into question the propriety of labeling hair bands as “metal”. But you didn’t juxtapose it with what glam really was. In the early 70’s glam, which was mostly out of England, was a loud, sometimes trashy, sometimes gender questioning, but always outrageous form of rock that held influence from comic books, sci-fi b-movies, silver screen classics, original rock n’ roll/rockabilly, the space program, glitter, heroin, sex, and Andy Warhol. The biggest bands, most of whom have become general rock icons, were T. Rex, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop (and The Stooges), Slade, Sweet, Roxy Music, The New York Dolls, and Mott the Hoople. As was stated above, the real glam rockers twisted homo and hetero sexuality in such a way that glorified not either-or but both into what could be called just plain sexuality. Think of the lyric from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (a glam classic), “Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.” Simply put, real glam is music for, not sex, not making love, not sleeping together, but fucking. (”Penetrate me”–Iggy Pop) Who cares who is penetrating or getting penetrated, just put on some glitter, shiny/bright colored clothes that are not meant for your sex (not gender, sex), crank up the stereo, and freak out in a moon-age daydream.

    Oh, and fuck all those loser hair bands from the 80’s. They all were just ripping off the sound of Def Leppard which is a band that didn’t have the balls to be Judas Priest.

  20. luigi thompson Says:


  21. Powershifter1803 Says:

    Let’s get one thing straight. This so called Nu not Metal! It has nothing in common with Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead, the bands who gave metal it’s anchored establishment that most of us know and love. But anyway, let’s keep it relevant. I firmly believe that glam metal is more metal and is more deserving of being known as metal than Nu Metal! Glam Rock for me at least is stuff like Queen, Slade, Sweet and The New York Dolls and I appreciate all of these bands and they sure laid the foundations for what bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Ratt, Dokken and WASP would later establish as glam metal.

  22. cubby97 Says:

    There are some bands that have been labeled “Nu Metal” that are actually Metal such as Disturbed, Metallica on St.Anger, and Judas Priest on Demolition, and they have alot in common with the triditional Metal bands you mentioned, Metallica and Judas Priest being Classic Metal in the 80s and 90s but around the early 2000s they had a different sound and Disturbed sounding the same.

  23. MotleyJoviNRoses Says:

    glam rock and glam metal have two completely different sounds the only similar thing about it is the makeup and stage performances if u listen to hair nation on xm 41 you will see that glam metal gets more metal than you think they do some of it is as heavy as metallica and slayer so some is metal some is pop metal and some is hard rock it depends on what the band and producer wanted it to sound like motley crue and hanoi rocks were really the founders of glam metal then came ratt and quiet riot then w.a.s.p then poison and the rest of the mainstreem acts it just got more popular and finally fell when cobain came but it never died now it is back and on the rise again!!!

  24. Rebel in the FDG Says:

    I have a hard time calling W.A.S.P. “glam.” I call them what they are, HEAVY METAL. While I would say they were musically unique, if they had to be compared to anyone, it would be with bands such as Accept, Warlock, Metal Church and Savatage – and that’s just being vague, considering those bands aren’t much alike either. Even their early image wasn’t very glam. Look at them in 1984, if the image is all it takes to be “glam metal” then we may as well put Venom, Infernal Majesty, King Diamond, Impaler or Show No Mercy era Slayer in the same category.

    I will say that they did flirt with Glam during the “Inside The Electric Circus” period but that isn’t enough. Celtic Frost were even glammier on “Cold Lake” but do we generally classify Celtic Frost as “glam” just for one album? By “The Headless Children”, W.A.S.P. stripped down their image. Only to bring it back for a short time in the late 90’s and even then, they looked like something out of “The Crow.”

    A band like W.A.S.P. could never be in the same genre as Poison and Def Leppard.

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