Readers' Poll: The Best Hair Metal Songs of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The Best Hair Metal Songs of All Time

Your picks include tunes by Guns N’ Roses, Poison and Def Leppard

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Rock of Ages may not have done very well at the box office this weekend, but that doesn't mean people have stopped caring about hair metal; they just don't want to watch Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin sing the songs. They want the original artists; that's why Poison and Mötley Crüe keep playing to the big crowds, summer after summer. The music was dismissed as cheesy at the time, but many of those bands are doing much better on the road these days than some the grunge bands that supposedly vanquished them.

Last week, we asked readers to vote on their favorite hair metal songs of all time. Here are the results. 

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10. Guns N’ Roses, ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’

"Sweet Child o' Mine" was the last song that Guns N' Roses wrote for their debut album, Appetite for Destruction. It started with Slash screwing around on the guitar while the group was camped out at the dilapidated former estate of director Cecil B. DeMille in Los Angeles. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin liked the riff and began playing along; then singer Axl Rose overheard them from upstairs and began writing lyrics inspired by his girlfriend, Erin Everly.

 "It was an interesting sort of pattern," Slash tells Rolling Stone in the "Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" issue. "But Jesus Christ, I never thought it was going to become a song." He initially thought the track was too soft for the hard-rock group, but he wisely relented and the song became one of their biggest singles. "I hated playing that song for years," adds Slash. "It's easy now, but it was very daunting in the early days. Especially because I drank exorbitant amounts of alcohol and had other chemical things going on."

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9. Whitesnake, ‘Here I Go Again’

Former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale originally recorded "Here I Go Again" on Whitesnake's 1982 record, Saints and Sinners. Five years later, at the peak of hair metal, he cut a poppier version of it for Whitesnake's self-titled album. He also made the crucial decision to have his girlfriend Tawny Kitaen in the video, for which she rolled around on the hoods of two pushed-together Jaguars while wearing a white negligee. It was one of the most indelible images of the entire hair metal era and helped put the video into regular rotation on MTV.

Kitaen married Coverdale in 1989, but they split just two years later. Her tumultuous marriage to baseball player Chuck Finley, drug arrests and recent appearance on Celebrity Rehab have made her more famous than her former rock-star husband. 

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8. Poison, ‘Nothin’ but a Good Time’

If you had to boil hair metal down to one simple slogan, it may well be "Nothin' but a Good Time." Poison weren't trying to save the world with their music; they just wanted to dress up like women, write catchy songs, get laid and make a fortune in the process. There wasn't much metal to be found in their music, and they quickly became pariahs within their own community because they were perceived as sell-outs. Nevertheless, they had an amazing run from 1987 to 1990 before grunge hit them hard. They're still out there every summer, flogging their hits over and over and over – and to a large, nostalgic fanbase, they're still "Nothin' but a Good Time." 

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7. Motley Crue, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’

There's not much of a hidden message in "Girls, Girls, Girls." The guys in Mötley Crüe loved strip clubs and they wrote a song about it, forever immortalizing the Seventh Veil, the Dollhouse, the Marble Arch and other joints across the country. The 1986 single was their biggest hit up to that point, reaching Number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

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6. Warrant, ‘Cherry Pie’

Warrant frontman Janie Lane had complex feelings about the band's most famous tune. "I hate that song," he said in an interview with VH1. "I had no intention of writing that song. The record was done. It was called Uncle Tom's Cabin, and [Sony executive] Don Ienner called up and said, 'I don't hear a single. You have to give me a fucking single like 'Love in an Elevator.'' So that night, I wrote 'Cherry Pie.' He looked at it, and all of a sudden the album is called Cherry Pie. I'm doing cherry pie-eating contests. The single is 'Cherry Pie.' My legacy is 'Cherry Pie.' Everything about me is 'Cherry Pie.' I'm the 'Cherry Pie' guy. I could shoot myself in the fucking head for writing that song."

Lane said later that he was proud of the song and that VH1 caught him on a bad day. Sadly, he died in 2011 after a long battle with alcoholism. 

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5. Motley Crue, ‘Home Sweet Home’

It's hard to pinpoint the birth of the power ballad to any one song, but Mötley Crüe's 1985 single "Home Sweet Home" is a pretty good candidate. It showed a softer, more reflective side of the Crüe, and it got girls to start buying their music. Very quickly, it was practically a requirement for all hair metal bands to write at least one power ballad per album. None were ever quite as powerful as "Home Sweet Home," though. 

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4. Guns N’ Roses, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’

Long before he was famous, Axl Rose found himself in a Queens schoolyard being accosted by a crazed stranger. The man got into Rose's face and said, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle! You're gonna die!" The moment stuck in his mind, and he used the line when writing a new song about a newcomer to Los Angeles. "I wrote the words in Seattle," Rose said in the 1980s. "It's a big city, but at the same time, it's still a small city compared to L.A. and the things you're gonna learn… I just wrote how L.A. looked to me. If someone comes to town and they want to find something, they can find whatever they want. I consider this song to be the most representative of what we're like." 

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3. Guns N’ Roses, ‘Paradise City’

Guns N' Roses wrote "Paradise City" during a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. "I came up with the jangly intro to what became 'Paradise City,'" Slash wrote in his self-titled 2007 memoir. "Duff and Izzy picked it up and started playing it while I came up with the chord changes. I started humming a melody and played it over and over. Then Axl chimed in, 'Take me down to the paradise city.' I kept playing and tossed off some impromptu lyrics. 'Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty,' I sang. I thought that sounded totally gay. 'Take me down to the paradise city,' Axl sang again. 'Where the girls are fat and they've got big titties!' I shouted."

That line didn't make it into the final song, but it did become one of their biggest hits and the band's closing number to this day. 

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2. Def Leppard, ‘Photograph’

Rolling Stone readers have named Def Leppard tunes as the top two hair metal songs of all time. This may not feel like a huge victory to the band. "We may have once accidentally had one picture taken where we let the hairdresser run riot with the hairspray," frontman Joe Elliott told Rolling Stone in 2006. "But generally speaking, we were a long-haired band. If we’re hair metal, so are Led Zeppelin. Warrant and Ratt were hair metal, we’re not. We were always better than that. For a start, we didn’t come from Sunset Boulevard like Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Poison, Warrant, whatever. And we get lumped in with that – I don’t get it. It's lazy journalism and it gets annoying."

Call it whatever you want: Def Leppard's 1983 single "Photograph" was their first huge hit in America and it's been in regular rotation in Classic Rock radio for many, many years. 

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1. Def Leppard, ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’

Def Leppard have a lot of huge hits, but "Pour Some Sugar on Me" is undoubtedly their signature song. In 1988, MTV basically played the video every 15 minutes, and it was absolutely inescapable anywhere you went.

Just three years before its release, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident and the band was unsure how they'd carry on. Fortunately, the release of Hysteria turned them into one of the biggest bands on the planet. The hits dried up by the 1990s, but they have so much momentum from the 1980s that they've never struggled to sell concert tickets. This past year, they re-recorded "Pour Some Sugar on Me" in conjunction with the release of Rock of Ages. 

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