These bands should have been huge. A baker’s dozen of Glam and Grit bands that should have been–would have been–huge.
As a pre-teen and teen I remember listening to KNAC when I would visit SoCal, the reception was weak, you would be cranking some Rock ‘N’ Roll and you’d go ½ a block either way and you would lose the signal! Can you imagine you rockin’ out to Armored Saint and then a complete loss! That is the equivalent to auditory ‘blue balls.’ Meanwhile in Oregon at the tail end of the 80s into the early 90s we were able to tune into the Texas based Z-Rock which was dedicated to Metal and 80s Hard Rock. It featured the likes of Extreme, Bulletboys, Sleeze Beez…and other discoveries. Z-Rock featured live performance broadcast from mobile units across the U.S. What memories…This inspired a list of bands, it’s not five, it’s not 10 or 12. We selected 13. It’s more rock ‘n’ roll I think.
But first a few words from Pariah Burke:
Motley Crue. Poison. Ratt. Warrant. Guns N’ Roses. Household name Glam and Grit bands. Everyone knows these bands and at least a handful of hits from each. Their songs soundtrack the high and low points in our lives, but these multi-platinum-selling bands weren’t the only ones scoring our adolescences. On the car radio as you peeled rubber off the light against some poser thumping out Bell Biv DeVoe, from your boombox, gradually dispelling your before-school sleepy haze, and from the stage, opening for the big name bands, there were dozens of other Glam Metal and Hard Rock bands whose music made us bang our heads, stomp our feet, and scream along until our throats burned. Here are some of the best of those bands, the ones that should have been huge, right up alongside Motley Crue, Ratt, and the rest. — Pariah Burke
2020 marked the 30th Anniversary of Little Caesar’s self-titled debut album, produced by the great Bob Rock the album. The album’s lead off single was a cover of the soul classic “Chain of Fools.” I was floored by a tattooed looking biker with long curly hair with an incredible soulful vocal. Armed with tracks like the aforementioned, “Cajun Panther,” “Drive It Home,” “From The Start” and “In Your Arms” this album is as solid as they come. Singer Rpong Young was featured in Terminator 2, he’s the biker that was thrown out the window by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the bar scene. ‘Little Caesar’ was reissued by Rock Candy Records based out of the U.K. a few years back.
This band had such a fitting name it fit their image, they were rough around the edges, sleazy, dirty, and loud. Junkyard has a little twang to their sound too, which sets them apart from the second wave of L.A. acts. Their self-titled 1989 Geffen Records debut featured nuggets like “Hollywood,” “Blooze,” “Hot Rod” and the ballad “Simple Man” which in my opinion tops Skynyrd’s ballad by the same name.
Circus of Power
New York City’s own Circus of Power first landed on my radar when I saw the video clip for “Motor” on MTV. Circus of Power released their self-titled debut on RCA in 1988. They had an image that rivaled Gun N’ Roses and a sound that was grittier, grimier and sleazier. They looked like they rolled up on the wrong side of the gutter, but had the songs and chops! Frontman Alex Mitchell had a Jim Morrison vibe to his vocals. Their no frills approach should have caught on like wildfire by the time the grunge movement rolled in. It didn’t. What a travesty. Their RCA albums are out of print but Rock Candy Records has reissued ‘Circus of Power’ and ‘Vices’ with new liners and bonus content.
This band was identifiable because of frontman Micky Finn’s blonde mohawk. Sure that set them apart, but they were a mix of sunset strip rock and European glam, so a cross between The New York Dolls and Hanoi Rocks. The band was signed in 1986 by Elektra Records who sat on the album, then eventually released the band. They were then picked up by MCA Records who released their debut album ‘Feel The Shake’ and eventually released a video for the title track. What a wonderful band and they’re still going strong today. They still bring it live too, this is another act that I saw in 2019 on The Monsters Of Rock Cruise.
I was familiar with Tora Tora long before I saw them live, they had received airplay on MTV with the bluesy “Walkin’ Shoes” these guys brilliant meshed the boogie of Van Halen with the blues sound of the mighty Led Zeppelin and Cactus. A&M Records released their debut ‘Surprise Attack’ in 1989 right before the Seattle wave helped devour the 80s rock scene. Armed with tracks like “Walkin’ Shoes,” “Phantom Rider,” “Life’s A Bitch,” “Guilty,” “28 Days” and “Being There,” made for one of the best debut albums of the genre. I saw them in 1990 when they were touring behind this album and they played the entire thing! Fast Forward to 2019, I saw them twice on The Monsters Of Rock Cruise and they were just as incredible! If you missed out on this sleeper band, don’t hesitate to seek out their music.
Love On Ice
Portland, Oregon’s own Love On Ice mixed some of the best elements of hard rock and alternative and created a unique, edgy form of hard rock. Check out their record ‘Nude’ released in 1992. Also you can find “Showdown” on the ‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’ soundtrack where you will hear the tune “Showdown” which was on their demo shopped to labels and was cut exclusively for the soundtrack. “Showdown” should have been on ‘Nude’ if you ask me, it was that good and a fan favorite in their live set.
This band would have been the second coming of Led Zeppelin had their album ‘Every Dog Has It’s Day’ not hit the streets in 1990. They were two year away from Kingdom Come who landed a gold album in the United States and an opening slot on Van Halen’s ‘Monsters Of Rock Tour’ that hit stadiums across the U.S. The band named after a fruity adult beverage of vodka grapefruit, served in a tall glass, salted of course, missed their shot by months. The album featured hard hitting tracks like “Come Along” and “Ring My Bell” along with a killer cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Spoonful.” Geffen Records lack of promotion buried this album and it quickly hit the cut-out racks. Have no fear as part of their domestic campaign, Rock Candy Records issued an expanded version complete with new liners and some pre production demos. Salty Dog should have been bigger than Kingdom Come…
I could just say this band features John Corabi who landed the Motley Crue gig based on the strength of this record and a couple of guys that were in Racer-X. Their debut album ‘Let It Scream’ is an Aerosmith influenced rocker that is an event from beginning to end. With tracks like “Outlaw,” “I Believe In Me,” “Mand In The Moon,” “Never Loved Her Anyway” and “Love’s Got A Hold On Me” featuring Badlands’ Ray Gillen. Everything you just read should be enough, right? Did I mention it was produced by the great Eddie Kramer? ‘Let It Scream’ was issued by Hollywood Records in 1991, then reissued by Spitfire Records in the 00s and again by U.K. label Rock Candy Records in 2018.
If you look up on YouTube and search “Richard Black & Axl Rose” you will no doubt be directed to a video clip of Shark Island performing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll. In said clip, Black is slithering around on stage like you saw Axl doing on the “Welcome To The Jungle” video. You bear witness to Rose mimicking Black’s movements, not yet refined, but definitely something he ‘borrowed’ from Black. Shark Island released their debut album ‘Law Of The Order’ on Epic Records in 1989. The lead off single was “Paris Calling” a great mix of AOR and Sunset Strip rock ‘n’ roll. They also covered Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” which was a brilliant addition to the album.
I absolutely love their debut album ‘Psycho Cafe’ issued in 1989 on MCA Records, the album was preceded by an independent live EP titled “Live Injection” also in 1989, that is worth owning. Bang Tango had a chance at a bite of the apple as the decade came to a close, their gritty, aggressive, groove oriented hard rock should have had mass appeal, but the label didn’t know what to do with this band in terms of marketing it and MCA dropped the ball. When their sophomore album was released ‘Dancin’ On Coals’ the scene was in the midst of an overhaul and the fact that the band leaned toward a gothic image and sound, just totally alienated what base was left–don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great record, but doesn’t match ‘Psycho Cafe.’ Some of the highlights from the debut album are “Someone Like You,” “Breaking Up A Heart Of Stone” and “Attack Of Life.”
Seattle’s own War Babies featuring former TKO frontman Brad Sinsel the band received some air play on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, with “Blue Tomorrow” (a tribute to Mother Love Bone front man Andrew Wood and “Hang Me Up” (which was co-written by Paul Stanley of KISS as well as “Cry Yourself To Sleep”).
The strength of the singles enabled them some air play on radio in and around the Pacific Northwest, but not enough to break them from the stigma of a band with an 80s sound. If you look on eBay you can score yourself a copy of their 1992 self-tilted Columbia Records debut album. The album was reissued by Bad Reputation Records out of France in 2007 with bonus content. Now out of print but available via Bad Reputation Records who re-issued a deluxe version in 2004 with a couple of bonus EPs.
Using a play on ‘outpatient’ which as you know is a reference to rehab. This So Cal act features Guns N’ Rose protégé West Arkeen on guitar, brothers James Hunting on bass, who would later play with John Corabi in Union and his brother Joey Hunting on guitar. Their album ‘Anxious Disease’ wasn’t released in 1996 and in 1997 Arkeen died from an opioid overdose. The Outpatience disbanded shortly after and this album did not receive its due as a result. Track down a copy of this out of print gem, it features appearances from Guns N’ Roses members Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan as well as Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens.
The Sea Hags
This band was the Bay Area’s answer to what was happening in L.A. with bands like L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat and of course the mighty Guns N’ Roses. Their long out of print self-titled album (1989), produced by Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses, Megadeth) was reissued by Rock Candy Records in 2007 with bonus content and new liners. To get a taste of The Sea Hags check out “Half The Way Valley” on YouTube.
What Do You Think?
What do you think of Ruben’s list? Did you discover a band you hadn’t known about? What Glam or Grit Metal bands do you think should have been huge? Tell us in the comments below and help others discover the bands you love!