As a high school headbanger I had no internet for keeping up with my favorite bands and the town I lived in was so small it didn't have MTV, so there were few ways to find out about new bands or even what was up with the bands I followed. I actually used to bring videotapes when I visited my sister Traci in college because she had MTV, and I'd record Headbanger's Ball to see videos of my favorite bands. I'd play those tapes over and over.
With no access to MTV, and living in a part of the country where the odds of hearing my kind of metal on the radio was impossible, I had two outlets remaining for learning more about 'my' bands. The first was the very reliable 'word of mouth'. If you had a buddy who liked a band you could always borrow the records and sample their music for yourself. If a group was good, you could then go out and buy the cassette or you could fire up the dual cassette deck and do a little peer to peer music sharing, analog style. The other information outlet I relied on lived on the racks of the local grocery and convenience stores, the heavy metal magazines. They had names like Rip, Circus, Creem, Metal Edge and my rag of choice, Hit Parader.
I never subscribed to any of these mags, but I would pick them up off the newsstand at the grocery store or Stop 'N' Shop (later C-Mart), if one of the bands I liked appeared on the cover. Hit Parader was always on the stands, where Rip and Circus were only occasionally available, and Metal Edge was expensive if I recall. I don't think I ever saw more than one or two issues of Creem in my life. So Hit Parader was usually it.
Hit Parader heavily focused on the 'hair bands' of the era, and I read the magazine in hair metal's heyday from about 1987-1991. I think they were legally obligated to put Brett Michaels (of Poison), Jon Bon Jovi, or Vince Neil (of Motley Crue) on the cover 9 months out of 12. When Iron Maiden or AC/DC made a cover you could bet I'd buy it. In fact I specifically remember having this issue featuring Angus Young of AC/DC on the cover:
I loved the magazine for being the only source of music news I could get my hands on. My sister Pam had a subscription to Rolling Stone, but it rarely featured metal even when metal was extemely popular, so it wasn't good for my needs. In a addition to news, Hit Parader had lots of filler in the form of pinups. My bedroom was plastered with pictures of AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Tesla, and of course the lovely ladies Doro Pesch, and Lita Ford.
The magazine was also well known for intellectual debates, like 'Who Rules Heavy Metal?':
These debates often played out in Hit Parader's letter page where a metalhead would write in and explain in very passionate terms why Dio 'rules', and Ozzy 'sucks'. The editor of said letters page would then usually make fun of the writer. Poison vs. Motley Crue and Metallica vs. Megadeth were also extremely popular in these diatribes, and seemed to account for about half the letters published in the magazine in any given month.
My other favorite thing about these metal mags were the ads for upcoming releases. I'd often see some horrific image coupled with a scary band name, and a release date. I bought at least a few albums based on these ads alone, music unheard. One album I specifically remember buying was 'Another Return to Church Hill' by Artch. I remember the ad being a black and white image of the albums cover, and I thought it looked totally cool, so when I saw the cassette shortly after seeing the ad I bought it immediately. It was a decent power metal record, and while I don't have it anymore I do have an MP3 of the title track.
I just learned today that Hit Parader ceased publication a little over a year ago, Circus and Rip are also gone, but Metal Edge still seems to be in publication. Maybe those high prices paid off after all.