MTV's 'Headbanger's Ball' Put Metal in the Mainstream

Riki Rachtman on 'Headbanger's Ball'
Photo Credit
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

On April 18, 1987, MTV debuted Headbanger's Ball, a hard-rockin’ block of video programming which would prove to be one of the network’s signature series, running for the better part of a decade in its original incarnation.

The origins of the Ball can be traced to a series called Heavy Metal Mania, a monthly program which premiered in June 1985 and was hosted by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider. Over time, the popularity of heavy metal within MTV’s playlists made an expansion of the program an inevitability, resulting in the series adding live interviews with bands.

Bearing its new title, Headbanger’s Ball debuted with an iconic host named...Kevin Seal? Yes, it’s true. Mind you, Seal didn’t last long, passing the torch to Adam Curry in 1988, but in 1990 the reigns for the show were handed to Riki Rachtman, whose name soon became synonymous with the Ball. Indeed, he was there until the show closed up shop in 1995. Admittedly, the rise of grunge dealt a tremendous blow to the original artists who helped build the popularity of the Ball, but Rachtman did his best to combine the more popular hard rock artists with the lesser-known names.  

In honor of Headbanger’s Ball, here’s a look back at the original playlist for the first episode, along with a handful of those very videos.

  • Cinderella, “Somebody Save Me”
  • Dokken, “Dream Warriors”
  • Aerosmith, “Let the Music Do the Talking”
  • Motorhead, “Mean Machine”
  • AC/DC, “Who Made Who”
  • Shy, “Break Down the Walls”
  • Poison, “Talk Dirty to Me”
  • Ratt, “Slip of the Lip”
  • Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”
  • Accept, “Balls to the Wall”
  • Motley Crue, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”
  • Twisted Sister, “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll”
  • Whitesnake, “Still of the Night”
  • W.A.S.P., “I Don’t Need No Doctor”
  • Ozzy Osbourne, “The Ultimate Sin”
  • Krokus, “Ballroom Blitz”
  • Def Leppard, “Rock of Ages”
  • Warlock, “Fight for Rock”
  • Yngwie J. Malmsteen Rising Force, “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”
  • Kiss, “Tears Are Falling”
  • Quiet Riot, “Cum on Feel the Noize”
  • Autograph, “Loud and Clear”
  • Motorhead, “Ace of Spades”

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