If the '80s were notable for one thing, it's their bigger-is-better attitude. In hair metal, everything was all about having the most outrageous image, the slickest, biggest production, and selling the most. So here are the Top 10 biggest albums, a balance of big sales and big sound… but which is the really big album?
#10 Quiet Riot Metal Health Aside from having Randy Rhoades in their original line-up, Quiet Riot have never really done anything of note. Oh, well they were the first metal band the top the Billboard album chart (although this must be a very interesting definition of "metal" if Quiet Riot are but the '70s metal bands aren't). In the process, they sold a few million, but let's not forget that it was only on the back of a cover: Slade's already classic "Cum On Feel the Noize". US Sales Certification: 6 million.
#9 Guns n' Roses Appetite for Destruction With more copies of this album sold in the US alone than most bands, even successful ones, will sell in their career, there's no denying that this album was and is really big. However, it is the largest documented case of mass insanity in history; Appetite sucks bricks. It is included here simply because it is worth it to avoid angry emails from enraged Guns fans that would surely pour in if it were left out. Anyway, all credit to Guns; a musical generation later they're still considered cool when all their peers are the targets of cheap shots. US Sales Certification: 15 million.
#8 Poison Open Up and Say… Ahh! There had been hit ballads before "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" but it was that song which made the power ballad central to, and almost synonymous with, hair metal. After it, the formula for rock success was invariably to have a hit ballad. Really, it has a lot to answer for, especially since OTT power ballads are a huge part of why hair metal is so reviled. Nevertheless, "Every Rose" along with rock hits like "Nothin' but a Good Time" lifted Poison into the rock A-list of 1988, making Open Up quintessential hair metal. US Sales Certification: 5 million.
#7 Skid Row Skid Row Jon Bon Jovi felt like making himself even richer so he found a band, Skid Row (including his old school friend and former Bon Jovi guitarist Dave Sabo) and signed them. The deal was that Skid Row got the break every rock band dreams about, and BJ got most of the money. As soon as "18 & Life" hit and Skid Row started shifting millions all over the world, the Skids changed their mind about this deal and got entangled in a pretty heavy lawsuit. Skid Row are still remembered for being absolutely massive at their peak though, touring with Aerosmith and Guns n' Roses while looking set to take over the world. Shame they didn't, really; it might have led to a Bill & Ted style rock & roll future. US Sales Certification: 5 million.
#6 Whitesnake Whitesnake 1987 With a band chosen to look good on MTV and a porn star in his videos, David Coverdale (let's not pretend Whitesnake were ever more than David Coverdale & band) prepared himself to take on the American market. No one really expected it to be quite so successful. "Still of the Night" pulled in the metalheads, rockers came on board with "Here I Go Again", and finally the girls joined in after "Is This Love". Hey, it's only appropriate to make sexist remarks when discussing Whitesnake! It was a formidable (and oft-copied) strategy. US Sales Certificaton: 8 million.
#5 Aerosmith Pump Unlike the other bands on this list who broke in the '80s, Aerosmith started in the '70s. Unfortunately, there weren't 10 really big albums from '80s bands. Still, no one is denying that Pump was not so much really big as absolutely vast, and it took its cues from some of the younger bands at the same time. Importantly, more than half the album (including "Love in an Elevator" and "Janie's Got a Gun") was written without outside input , answering those critical of the band's use of songwriters. With four huge hit singles and a thoroughly rejuvenated band back on the road, Aerosmith led the young upstarts by example. US Sales Certification: 7 million.
#4 Van Halen 1984 Van Halen are responsible for the two most important albums to '80s rock: Van Halen and 1984. With Diamond sales for each, Van Halen combined artistic acclaim with commercial success. Edward would never admit it, but along with Hysteria, this was the album that White Lion and co were nicking their licks from. From Eddie's guitar style to the dynamic pop metal, the inferior imitations wanted to produce 1984 but just couldn't do it. With Roth's tongue-in-cheek ensuring that things would never get pompous and a US number 1 in "Jump", 1984 became the biggest rock album of the first half of the '80s. US Sales certification: 10 million.
#3 Mötley Crüe Dr. Feelgood It sold less than anything else in this lists' top 10, but if there were any justice, it would be this and not Appetite for Destruction which became the definitive sleazy hard rock album. It took 'em almost 10 years, but Motley Crue finally made the album they were capable of. Bob Rock produced, which to the informed is an automatic guarantee of quality. Funky ol' Aerosmith grooves (Steven Tyler gets a credit: "Special thanks… for giving "Slice of Your Pie" a kick in the ass"), blazing hard rock, and an overall pop metal direction add up to one thing: a blockbuster album that never sounds intentionally commercial. Leering and dirty and utterly rock & roll, the album is more bad boy, sleazier and more rocking than Guns could ever be. Did Steven Tyler ever sing backing vocals on a Guns record? I think not. US Sales Certificaton: 6 million.
#2 Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet Was it rock or was it pop? Has anyone ever discovered? Bon Jovi blurred the line so that the distinction would never exist in quite the same way again. In 1986, Bon Jovi rocked harder than they have since and remained completely accessible to the pop crowd. The result was 24 million copies sold worldwide, an impressive statistic, but a number so huge that no one can really get their mind around just how many it is. The production was perfect for the time, and so unfortunately hasn't aged as gracefully as some other albums in this list. What Bon Jovi did manage, more than any other band on this list, was to have rock hits so massive and enduring that they would be engrained into the psyche of future generations of rock fans around the world. Anywhere and in any company, sing "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame," and someone will finish the line off. Fourteen year old kids on Europe who weren't born when Slippery came out know "Livin' on a Prayer". The album continues to finish high in "100 Greatest Albums" polls, too. The proof of its supreme big-ness, though, is that the choruses to these perfect rock anthems were so huge that they could contain both Jon Bon Jovi's hair and his ego. Gigantic indeed. US Sales Certification: 12 million.
#1 Def Leppard Hysteria At the 1990 MTV awards, Hysteria won the "Really Big Album" category (and that isn't where I stole this article's name from… honest!). There's a good reason, too. Slippery When Wet was an outstanding rock album. Hysteria was more than that. Hysteria was a revolution. It set new standards in production. Prog rock tried to be symphonic, but with their infinite layers of overdubs, Def Leppard really did it. It was a perfectly accessible pop album, yet it rocked like a beast, and it had an almost epic quality. There was so much depth to the songwriting, production, and arrangements that it became majestic… more a masterpiece than an album. It was really big not just in terms of commercial success but in scope, vision, and intricacy. At points in songs there could be 12 guitar and 18 vocal tracks but it was never too dense. In an unmatched feat for a rock band, they released seven singles and had hits with all of them. The album epitomised the time and was subjected to more cloning than even Van Halen's 1984. Worldwide sales of around 17 million mean it is outstripped by both Slippery When Wet and Appetite for Destruction, but that's not the point. It was a monster creation and a blockbuster smash, and mad scientist Mutt Lange would never produce Def Leppard again, unable to top his great creation. US Sales Certification: 12 million.