Bang Your Head: The Hard Rock and Heavy Metal of 1983

As we’re walking through the music of the 1983 Billboard charts every Wednesday, we would be remiss if we didn’t take a minute and recognize the contributions made by hard rock and heavy metal bands that same year. Singles and albums released ’83 allowed bands in 1984 and beyond to crash the party of popular music (with a heavy dose of help from MTV, as well). Some of these albums are influencing bands still to this day. I’ve divided all the major album releases for 1983 into three groups based on success or influence and not my personal preferences. Here we go!

Group A: Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Dio

It was quite a year for Def Leppard. Their third album, Pyromania, produced three Top 40 singles (two of which climbed into the Top 20) and, with the help of MTV, made them somewhat of a household name. Quiet Riot, on the other hand, only had one single in ’83, “Cum On Feel The Noise”, but it went all the way to #5. That success helped push their album, Metal Health, to #1 and helped draw nationwide attention to the burgeoning Los Angeles metal scene. Both band’s chart success paved the way for other bands in their genre to experience the same kind of success. Ronnie James Dio and his band, Dio, didn’t have chart success but produced what many consider one of the best metal albums of the 80’s, Holy Diver, that in turn spawned two of the best metal songs of the 80’s, “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark”.

Group B: Night Ranger, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne

The bands in this group released albums and singles in ’83 but didn’t see success with those releases until 1984. Night Ranger released their second album, Midnight Madness, and one of the greatest rock anthems of the 80’s, “(You Can Still) Rock in America”, in 1983 but it didn’t even crack the Top 40. 1984, however, saw the band reach #5 with “Sister Christian” and #15 with “When You Close Your Eyes”. Motley Crue’s sophomore album, Shout At The Devil, had two promotional singles released in ’83, “Shout at the Devil” and “Helter Skelter”, but saw their biggest success from this album in ’84 when the videos for the singles “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love” blew up on MTV. Ozzy Osbourne released his first album since the death of guitarist Randy Rhodes, Bark at the Moon, and it’s first single by the same name late in 1983. By the beginning of ’84, the video for the first single was in heavy rotation on MTV.

Group C: KISS, Dokken, Metallica

The bands in this group had no chart success whatsover but are recognizable names in the hard rock/heavy metal genre. KISS released their first album sans their trademark makeup and stage outfits, Lick It Up, that produced one of their more recognizable songs from the 80’s, “Lick It Up”. Dokken released their debut album, Breaking The Chains. It was an album that had been out for a couple of years in Europe but was slow to release in the US. Boasting one of the most influential metal guitarists of the 80’s in George Lynch, the were an LA metal band that seemed to always be on the cusp of breaking big, achieving moderate success, but never getting over the hump. Metallica released their debut album, Kill ‘Em All, and it’s single “Whiplash”. The album is widely regarded as one of the most groundbreaking albums for thrash metal due to it’s precision and musicianship that combined a British metal sound with punk tempos.

Honorable Mentions

Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind – sandwiched between The Number of the Beast and Powerslave, it pales a little in comparision. Still a solid album though.

Steeler and their one and only album Steeler – a fairly forgettable album, the band gives us one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time, Yngwie Malmsteen, and boasts singer Ron Keel who will go on to form his own band, Keel, and later (when the metal scene dies) will become country rock singer, Ronnie Lee Keel. Yeah.

Slayer and their debut album Show No Mercy – It’s a brutal album like all Slayer albums are and it showed that the band didn’t have to build up to the level of fury they displayed in the late 80’s with albums like Reign in Blood and South of Heaven. They’ve always been that way.

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About Eric Vardeman 114 Articles
80's lover. Screenwriter. Cohost of The Greatest Lists podcast. Christmas enthusiast. Tulsa Curling Club founder. Cherokee. Guitar player. Boomer Sooner. Curator of 80's playlists (

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