Headbangers Ball debuted on MTV in April 1987, and by 1988 it was entrenched as required viewing for adolescent and adolescent-at-heart metalheads from sea to poison sea (and eventually beyond), sometimes running three hours long on late Saturday nights. Hair metal still paid MTV's bills at the time, and blow-dried golden-god host Adam Curry (not replaced by seemingly more legit metal dude Riki Rachtman until 1990) looked pretty darn glam (and pretty darn pretty) even when wearing leather, but he had no problem plugging heavier and thrashier stuff as well -- music that wouldn't have come near MTV's regular rotation at a time when even Metallica hadn't yet had a Top 40 single.
Anyway, it may be impossible to verify whether all 40 of this playlist's songs actually got played on the show that year; a couple might conceivably have been deemed too alternative, a couple others maybe too obscure. Or maybe not. Excerpts from the show on YouTube confirm that a lot of them showed up (mostly as videos, though a couple as live performances), and almost all the rest at least had videos ready to go. (Danzig's "Mother" had a video, too, but MTV deemed it too bloody and violent in its pre-1993-hit-version form, so we've bumped that for a different Danzig tune.) Either way, at a bare minimum, all these songs surely would have fit on the show, between head-on train-crash intros and demonic vine-strangulating dungeon animations and Sam Kinison doing that annoying scream of his or whatever.
Headbangers Ball didn't last forever: MTV got rid of it in 1995, brought it back on MTV2 for a few years in 2003, and started acting suspiciously ambivalent about again in 2007, hiding it away in the wee hours of Tuesday morning and eventually on the Web. But in 1988, it still ruled the roost like a cock-rock cock of the walk. Consider this playlist a tribute.