When you think of eighties music you think of big hair, big sounds, big theatrics, and big guitar riffs – but what about big influence?
The 80s were a pivotal decade, and they were the halcyon days of MTV and popular youth culture. The 80s is something of a byword for the emergence of a distinctly individualistic, campy, self-indulgent sensibility.
It marked the flourishing of an era of heretofore unheard of or unexplored genres: dream pop, shoegaze, hair metal, grunge, and post-new wave.
Whether it’s back to the future or back to the past, the eighties is an enduring decade for rock enthusiasts everywhere.
Today we’ll explore 75 of the most popular rock bands of the 80s.
Table of Contents
- 1. New Order
- 2. Journey
- 3. Bon Jovi
- 4. The Police
- 5. Def Leppard
- 6. Motley Crue
- 7. REO Speedwagon
- 8. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
- 9. Aerosmith
- 10. The Smiths
- 11. Dire Straits
- 12. The Clash
- 13. ABBA
- 14. Megadeth
- 15. Jesus and Mary Chain
- 16. The Vaselines
- 17. Van Halen
- 18. Queen
- 19. Poison
- 20. Siouxsie and the Banshees
- 21. Depeche Mode
- 22. Talking Heads
- 23. Rush
- 24. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions
- 25. INXS
- 26. Whitesnake
- 27. Toto
- 28. KISS
- 29. Guns N’ Roses
- 30. The Cure
- 31. The Cult
- 32. U2
- 33. The Cars
- 34. Iron Maiden
- 35. Blondie
- 36. Duran Duran
- 37. Sonic Youth
- 38. DEVO
- 39. Tears For Fears
- 40. Warrant
- 41. Skid Row
- 42. Foreigner
- 43. Scorpions
- 44. The Bangles
- 45. Pixies
- 46. Twisted Sister
- 47. Huey Lewis & The News
- 48. Winger
- 49. Metallica
- 50. R.E.M.
- 51. Survivor
- 52. Quiet Riot
- 53. Europe
- 54. The Psychedelic Furs
- 55. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
- 56. Culture Club
- 57. Love and Rockets
- 58. A Flock of Seagulls
- 59. A-Ha
- 60. Dead Kennedys
- 61. Misfits
- 62. Echo & The Bunnymen
- 63. Galaxie 500
- 64. Bauhaus
- 65. Simple Minds
- 66. Asia
- 67. Pet Shop Boys
- 68. Tom Cochrane and Red Rider
- 69. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
- 70. Motorhead
- 71. Yes
- 72. RATT
- 73. The Go-Go’s
- 74. Styx
- 75. 38 Special
- 80s Rock Bands – Final Thoughts
1. New Order
It is hard to pin down British 80’s rock band New Order.
They blended a new wave flavor with dance pop, electronica, and post-punk.
The band comprised of the former members of Joy Division, who regrouped after lead singer Ian Curtis’s suicide.
They transformed the synth-pop landscape with their magisterial 1983 album Power, Corruption, and Lies.
The best 80s band? You decide.
Theatrical, dare we say, melodramatic; Journey’s hits beg out to be sung at full volume.
Imbued with endearing pathos and scintillating riffs, their songs captured the aspirations and desires of a generation.
Nothing beats playing their 1981 masterpiece Escape with the windows rolled down.
Any list of the best 80s bands must include good ol’ Journey.
They are the 25th best selling American band of all time.
3. Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi are more than just wild hair and wild attitudes, they are true blue American rockers that doled out hit after hit.
Jon Bon Jovi et al never shied away from sentimentality or emotional expression and their best songs reflect their unrestrained style.
Who can go to a karaoke bar these days without hearing “Living on a Prayer” or “Bad Medicine”?
When it comes to the greatest 80s bands? Think Bon Jovi.
4. The Police
Sensual, subdued, and erudite, The Police had a daring sound that captivated both mainstream and alternative listeners.
Sting’s honeyed voice paired elegantly with the band’s throbbing, haunting instrumentals to create a dark romantic mood.
“Wrapped Around Your Finger”, “Roxanne”, and “Every Breath You Take” remain some of the most sophisticated songs of the decade.
One of the most popular 80s bands, and one of the most iconic.
5. Def Leppard
Def Leppard played a major role in putting that quintessentially eighties genre, hair metal, on the map.
When people think of 1980s rock bands, they think of Def Leppard.
The British rockers paraded around with an intoxicating stagemanship, outrageous vocals, and high-impact riffs.
You are guaranteed a great time with restless hits like “Hysteria”, “Same Old Situation” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.
6. Motley Crue
Los Angeles 80’s band Motley Crue have sold over 100 million albums during their tenure.
Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil proved that shamelessly campy hair metal was the symbol of the eighties.
Melodrama and hair-raising vocals will get you everywhere – songs like “Home Sweet Home” prove it.
When it comes to hair metal, they might just be the most popular band of the 80s.
7. REO Speedwagon
REO Speedwagon are the unparalleled kings of heartbreak and lovesick ballads – their album Hi Infidelity (1980) sold 40 million copies alone.
They hold nothing back, and their songs are corny, outlandish, and spirited enough to spawn thousands of imitators (and a cult following to boot).
Delightfully exaggerated songs like “Take it on The Run” and “Keep on Loving You” are simply golden, and have lost none of their charm.
8. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
They don’t make new bands like they did 80s rock bands.
Florida rock icons through and through, these legends are best remembered for their restless, youthful, wide-eyed hits.
They blended the wonders of the road with the candor and melancholy of adolescent heartbreak. “You Got Lucky”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, and “Refugee” are staples of the Southern and heartland rock genres.
What do you think of when you think of ‘rock bands of the 80s’?
Aerosmith are the unparalleled masters of breezy, playful, anthemic eighties tunes.
Consisting of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford, they cut their teeth throughout the 70s but truly hit their stride after 1980.
With hits like “Janie’s Got a Gun” and “Dude” they are unmatched emperors of the stadium.
10. The Smiths
How to introduce 80s band The Smiths?
Morrisey et all changed the landscape of British alternative.
Surly, unapologetic, raw, and noncompliant, The Smiths were irrevocably themselves at every turn.
Their moody, rainy day sound paired effortlessly with their scathing socially critical lyrics.
British dark humor at its lyrical, melodic best – take “This Charming Man” for a spin and see how you feel.
11. Dire Straits
British rock band Dire Straits are musicians through and through and one of the best bands of the 80s.
They produced complex, technically mesmerizing melodies that have not been matched since.
Every chord, every riff was intentional, elaborate, and captivating.
“Walk of Life” and “Romeo and Juliet” are two of the most tender, uplifting, emotive examples of their eighties sound.
12. The Clash
The Clash were giants in the British punk rock scene.
They pioneered a brazen new sound, infusing their punk with ska, reggae, and dub flavors.
They distinguished themselves with intelligent, biting critiques of society, politics, and war.
Their lyrics were always clever, and always paired with addictively-good riffs and melodies.
One of the biggest bands of the 80’s for the punk and underground lovers among us.
When it comes to great 80’s bands, ABBA are simply irresistible.
They pioneered a sound all their own and churned out hit after hit.
ABBA reveled in their campy, kitschy lyrics and theatrical sounds.
When they veered into melodrama they did it with a wink.
It is impossible to go to a karaoke bar or an eighties night without hearing countless odes to their classic hit: “Waterloo”, “Take a Chance on Me,” “Mamma Mia” and more.
Megadeth are one of the foremost thrash metal bands, and played a foundational role in the growth of the genre into the nineties.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1983 by Dave Mustaine and David Ellefso, Megadeth is renowned for speedy, relentless riffs and cheeky, subversive lyrics and motifs.
One of their best loved albums was called Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? (1986), which should give you pretty good insight into their intransigent style.
15. Jesus and Mary Chain
One of the most underrated eighties bands, these Glaswegian rockers absolutely transformed the world of alternative, shoegaze and dream pop.
Their 1987 album Darklands remains one of the best of the decade, with haunting vocals, alluring melodies, and an almost disarming sincerity.
They mixed in garage riffs and surf pop nostalgia to create a sound that has hardly been matched since.
An 80s rock band that only got better as the years progressed.
16. The Vaselines
Scottish alternative rockers The Vaselines epitomized all that was wonderful with the burgeoning underground scene during the mid and late eighties.
Dreamlike, mysterious, and authentic, their music resonated with the gritty, delicate sounds of a Glaswegian basement bar.
Kurt Cobain later said they were his favorite songwriters of all time. Now that’s an honor.
Proof that 1980s rock bands weren’t all mainstream camp and big guitars.
17. Van Halen
High voltage and full of verve, California bred Van Halen are the consummate eighties power rockers.
Their songs enliven and uplift and their killer guitar riffs resonate long into the night.
They flirted with hair metal but they never veered too far into campy territory.
They maintained an edge throughout, keeping listeners on their toes, captivated through and through.
The sound of great 80s bands sounds a lot like Van Halen to our ears.
Queen were the masters of stagemanship, camaraderie, and soulful, spirited anthems.
They gained worldwide success in the 70s but they lost none of their spark into the new decade.
Their 1981 Greatest Hits compilation is the best selling British album of all time.
Freddie Mercury is remembered for his performative image and four-octave vocal range.
Queen are one of the most famous 80s rock bands and there is no sign of their influence waning anytime soon.
Trashy and delightful guilty pleasures par excellence, Poison is a veritable eighties treasure.
Straight out of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Bret Michaels and the crew are unpretentious, unstudied glam rockers who prioritize crazy days and wild nights over social commentary or deep musical meditations.
Throw some “Talk Dirty To Me” and “Fallen Angel” on for a riot of a time with your fave 80s rock band.
20. Siouxsie and the Banshees
British gothic rockers Siouxsie and The Banshees embraced post-punk and art rock to create a daring and bewitching sound.
Their rhythms were unexpected, discordant, and occasionally ethereal.
Their 1988 album Peepshow remains their most enduring, critically noteworthy work.
21. Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode’s synthy, edgy sound seemed to harken in a new computerized, electronic era.
They delighted in subversive instrumentals and provocative lyrics. Give their 1987 Music For the Masses a listen and revel in the strange magic.
They remain one of the greatest 80’s bands in the popular imagination.
22. Talking Heads
Formed in 1975 in New York City, Talking Heads are lauded as one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 80s.
Their neurotic, introspective silhouette, paired with their subversive, countercultural lyrics and synthy sound created a unique listening experience.
Three of their songs were included in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 songs that shaped rock n’ roll.
Canadians rockers Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, and Alex Lifeson are the undisputed emperors of quirky progressive rock.
Their songs were packed with obscure science fiction references, nostalgia, and wistful youth memorabilia.
The band’s creative, eclectic output throughout the 80s was unparalleled.
Go get your hands on Moving Pictures (1981), Signals (1982), and Grace Under Pressure (1984).
24. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions
Underrated crooners Lloyd Cole and The Commotions put Brit-rock on the map.
The melodies were lively, often touchingly beautiful, and filled with a restless zest for life.
They are considered an example of ‘jangle rock’ – a style of music that emphasizes jangly guitar riffs and jaunty melodies.
Their 1984 album Rattlesnakes is well worth a listen.
These Sydney, Australia raised rockers brought bewitching vocals and complex guitar riffs to the world rock scene.
‘In excess’ truly was their guiding principle: loud, carnal, animated songs fit for both the pub and the stadium.
Their 1985 album Listen Like Thieves remains the best example of their eighties output.
They are one of the most iconic Australian groups, and one of the most popular 80s rock bands.
Formed in London in 1978, Whitesnake were brazen hair metal rockers made for the cultural currents of the 80s.
Their punchy hard rock anthem “Here I Go Again” is unarguably one of the best examples of the genre.
Their lyrics abounded with innuendos and double entendres and they didn’t shy away from provocation.
Some might argue that the zany, unlikely hit “Africa” is the song of the decade, and we’d be apt to agree.
Named after Dorothy’s canine sidekick in The Wizard of Oz, Toto has sold over 40 million albums, thanks mainly to their masterpiece TOTO IV (1982).
The American rockers combined elements of jazz and progressive to create a dynamic, surprising sound.
KISS are unchallenged masters of the hair rock genre.
They were in on the joke of their own excess and they committed fully to their theatrical, carnal public image.
Their songs were devious and provocative and their instrumentals were sheer riotous glee.
One of the top rock bands of the 80s, and one with a reputation that precedes them.
29. Guns N’ Roses
The bad boy kings of the eighties, Guns and Roses is frequently cited as one of the most influential American rock bands of all time.
Emotionally riveting, technically complex guitar riffs and melodies powered their raw, operatic ballads.
At times defiant, at times plaintive and melancholic, their hits, like “Sweet Child O Mine” and “November Rain” always hit the mark.
30. The Cure
The Cure was one of the best gothic bands of the 80s, indeed, of all time.
Haunting, evocative, and strangely alluring, Robert Smith’s vocals echoed over dreampop melodies and unnerving chords.
Their corpus is stocked with idiosyncratic lyrics, dense symbolism, and dreamlike sequences of spirited arrangements.
Our vote for best albums goes to The Head on The Door (1985) and Disintegration (1989).
31. The Cult
Alternative rock innovators The Cult produced haunting, tender, cerebral songs that recruited the mind and heart of listeners.
The music was raw, carefully crafted, and structured with an artist’s care and vision.
The gothic and post-punk overtones in the band’s work cemented their reputation in the U.K underground scene before they took on the world in the mid-eighties.
Irish band U2 are legends both in their homeland and abroad.
Bono’s melodic, emotionally riveting vocals paired beautifully with the tender melodies and sophisticated tempo of their countless hits.
U2 were courageous in both the content and delivery of their songs, never shying away from being too much, or too raw.
Some of their best 80s songs include “With or Without You”, “New Year’s Day”, and “All I Want is You”.
33. The Cars
Looking for popular rock bands of the 80s? Look no further.
Alluring and lively, The Cars created a sound that captured the hearts of listeners in the 70s and 80s.
They blended youth culture with a sophisticated, complex sound.
Their music had a tantalizing edge, and love songs like “Drive” always had an elusive, melancholic edge.
34. Iron Maiden
Formed in London in 1975, Iron Maiden have produced 41 albums during their tenure and completely reimagined the landscape of heavy metal.
They embraced occult, gothic themes and symbolism and they cultivated a campy, horror-tinged aesthetic that sparked hundreds of imitators.
New York punk and new wave legends Blondie, under the leadership of Deborah Harry were staples of the late 70s and early 80s music scene.
They had an eclectic musical style that incorporated elements of jazz, rap, and disco.
“Atomic” and “Rapture” are two original, unprecedented examples of their fearless musical style.
36. Duran Duran
British new wave group Duran Duran are further proof that new wave was the genre of the eighties.
They blended synthy instrumentals with playful lyrics and cheeky music videos to create an enduring image.
They were considered foundational to the New Romantic movement that emphasized flamboyant style and literary flourishes.
37. Sonic Youth
Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, and Lee Ranaldo absolutely dominated the alternative rock scene of the eighties.
They perfected a blend of angst-driven vocals, mesmerizing riffs, and unexpected instrumentals to create a noise rock sound.
They heavily influenced the indie and grunge sounds of the 90s and 00s.
Idiosyncratic Ohio art-rock, new wave legends DEVO crystallized the best and brashest of the eighties.
The band combined deadpan, geeky humor and references with incisive social commentary.
Their sound was experimental, occasionally discordant, and always outrageous.
One of the best 80’s bands when it comes to sheer weirdness and whimsy.
39. Tears For Fears
English pop band Tears For Fears released one of the defining songs of the decade “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and their harmonious, melodic sound lives on in playlists around the world.
Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal proved that synth-pop could be sophisticated and pared-down, to great effect.
One of the best 80s rock bands, hands down.
Hollywood-based glam rockers Warrant continued in the wild and theatrical footsteps of Motley Crue and Def Leppard.
Their sound was brash, bold, and delightfully addictive.
They donned leather and teased hair like it was going out of style and they embraced their campy look without an ounce of restraint.
41. Skid Row
New Jersey bred hair metal rockers Skid Row pioneered a sound heavy in emotive lyrics and riffs.
Their music was pure energy, pure excess, and pure fun.
We would argue that their 1989 classic “I Remember You” remains one of the best power ballads of the decade.
They are often left off lists of famous 80s rock bands and we can’t imagine why.
Popular 80’s rock bands like Foreigner defined the decade.
Who could forget the New York based band’s anthemic, riveting power ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is”?
They mastered a stadium-rock style that capitalized on catchy melodies and a raw, carnal theatricality.
They have sold over 80 million albums, making them one of the most critically successful bands of all time.
Sensual, alluring, and strangely intoxicating German-bred rockers of the 80s Scorpions never shied away from creating raw and enticing sounds.
Smooth and sultry instrumentals paired with entrancing, assertive guitar and drum riffs.
“Still Loving You” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, both released in 1984, are the best examples of their unique sound.
44. The Bangles
The gal-band The Bangles epitomized the vivacious, plucky, youth culture that dominated the charts during the decade.
MTV darlings through and through their songs were tongue-in-cheek, raucous, and designed for dancing.
It’s impossible not to bop along to “Manic Monday”, even four decades later.
A great band from the 80s that could only really have thrived in that consumer-friendly, mall-crazy decade.
Indie rock heavyweights Pixies were hipster before hipster was a thing.
They carved out their own niche within the alternative rock scene of the eighties with sugar sweet vocals and self-assured, quirky melodies.
They were offbeat, surrealistic, and idiosyncratic without fail.
The surf-pop hit “Here Comes Your Man” from 1987 is one of their best.
46. Twisted Sister
Campy, flamboyant, and delightfully trashy, Twisted Sister satirized and reveled in the excesses that defined the decade.
Wild party hits like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” best highlight their mischievous, devil-may-care approach.
No 80s bands list would be complete without their inclusion.
47. Huey Lewis & The News
The unsurpassed kings of adult soft rock, Huey Lewis and The News updated a retro golden age sensibility with a thoroughly eighties edge.
Often considered an example of blue-eyed soul, the group was charismatic and almost endearingly ‘square’.
Their gregarious 1985 hit “The Power of Love” remains one of their best.
American rockers Winger combined elements of glam, hard, and progressive rock.
They were a laid back, nonchalant hair band that focused on masterful guitar riffs and catchy melodies above all else.
Their 1989 hit “Seventeen” is a cheeky road trip anthem if we’ve ever heard one.
Los Angeles bred Metallica are arguably one of the most critically successful metal bands in history.
Haunting, melodic anthems punctuated their rebellious, subversive hard rock hits.
Razor-sharp, dizzyingly complex riffs and guitar solos paired with provocative lyrics defined their early style.
Moody and erudite, R.E.M. were the sleeper hits of the alternative rock scene.
They maintained a nonchalant composure with their obscure lyrics and downpared aesthetic approach.
Their thought-provoking themes inspired the plaintive alternative sounds of the nineties.
Could there be a more quintessential eighties hit than “Eye of the Tiger”?
Formed in Chicago, Survivor perfected powerful, electric guitar-driven sounds and bold vocals.
Their songs played major roles in Rocky III and The Karate Kid, ensuring they would live on in popular culture.
52. Quiet Riot
Los Angeles Quiet Riot was formed in 1973 by Randy Rhoads and bassist Kelly Garni.
They were best known for their tongue-in-cheek, exuberant 1983 hit “Cum on Feel the Noize”.
The band was unstudied, pert, and bold as brass.
Swedish rockers Europe brought some Scandinavian flair to the hair metal scene.
Their operatic megahit “The Final Countdown” and “Rock the Night” best epitomize their loud and flashy sound.
Their tunes were made for the full-throttle atmosphere of a packed stadium.
One of the best rock bands of the 80s to come out of, well, Europe.
54. The Psychedelic Furs
Best remembered for their song “Pretty in Pink” from John Hughes brat pack film of the same name, The Psychedelic Furs were preeminent post-punk innovators.
The British band toyed with art-rock techniques and new wave undertones to create a spirited, youthful sound.
One of the most popular 80s bands and a hit on both the radio and in the cinemas.
55. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
British electronic, new wave pioneers OMD originated a minimalist, futuristic sound that was at once seductive and curiously disconcerting.
Their synthy, dance-pop melodies were operatic, stylistically intriguing, and often surreal.
“If You Leave” and “Enola Gay” best capture their sophisticated, bewitching sound.
A memorable, bewitching band with arguably one of the more puzzling 80s band names.
56. Culture Club
Formed in 1981 in London, Boy George and Culture Club were icons in the New Romantic scene, and were pioneers in the pop-dance niche.
Boy George was renowned for his flamboyant style of dress and his dynamic voice.
They’ve sold more than 50 million albums.
57. Love and Rockets
Formed in England in 1985, Love and Rockets created a dreamy, haunting underground sound.
They flirted with gothic elements in their spirited, anthemic songs, producing a sound that was brazen and distinct.
The epic 1985 song “The Dog-end of a Day Gone By” is their dizzyingly ambitious best.
58. A Flock of Seagulls
Formed in Liverpool in 1979, A Flock of Seagulls were kings of the British new wave scene.
Their electronic instrumentals and trippy, alluring melodies hit hard and fast.
They are best known for their 1982 hit “I Ran (So Far Away)” but their entire catalog is chock-full of unusual, spirited hits.
A Norwegian new wave band from the 80s, A-Ha bounded onto the scene with their 1985 debut Hunting High and Low.
Their sound was kitschy, endearing, and packed with the jubilant verve of youth.
“Take on Me” is possibly one of the most iconic songs (with the most iconic music videos) of the early MTV era.
60. Dead Kennedys
San Francisco punk rockers Dead Kennedys were uncensored, defiant, and completely uncontrived.
They had underground flair and a political sensibility that elevated their music beyond the basement into the mainstream.
Their songs were stuffed with pop, youth culture, and social references.
They may not have been one of the most popular bands of the 80s commercially but their legacy still lives on in underground circles.
Gothic horror-lovers owe the Misfits a huge debt.
They fearlessly indulged in the morbid, the occult, and the grotesque.
This is not the kind of music you listen to in polite society.
The Misfits are the best example of a band committing totally to their silhouette, and infusing all of their output with their unmistakable brand.
80s groups don’t come more fearless than the Misfits.
62. Echo & The Bunnymen
Sensual and alluring, Echo & The Bunnymen were formed in Liverpool by Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson, and Pete de Freitas.
Their music was famed for haunting melodies, and downtempo harmonies.
They never deviated from the obscurist elements that distinguished them from their peers.
63. Galaxie 500
Dream pop, shoegaze rockers Galaxie 500 came on the scene in 1987 before fading away only three years later.
In that time they left an indelible impact on the alternative rock genre.
Their nonchalant, downtempo hits like “Isn’t it a Pity” and “Flowers” hit a resonant emotional chord.
Most popular 80’s bands lists often overlook Galaxie 500, but we won’t make the same mistake.
Gothic rockers Bauhaus were pivotal in the emerging alternative rock scene of the eighties.
Formed in England the band consisted of Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, Kevin Haskins, and David J.
Their 1982 album The Sky’s Gone Out was a critical and commercial success and marked them out as eclectic, experimental musicians to watch.
65. Simple Minds
Best known for their hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, the leitmotif to John Hughes 1984 masterpiece The Breakfast Club, Simple Minds were far from one hit wonders.
These Scottish rockers embraced an art-rock, new wave sound and it sure paid off: they had five number one albums during their career.
British supergroup Asia was composed of seasoned musicians from King Crimson, ELP, and Yes, and they brought all of their talent and panache to this new ensemble.
Their lively, energetic 1982 anthem “Heat of the Moment” is their best known song, and best encapsulated their confident, vigorous style.
67. Pet Shop Boys
This English synth-pop duo sold more than 50 million albums during their careers.
Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe combined plucky lyrics with high-energy instrumentals to create a highly-charged, trendy pop sound that was uniquely eighties.
They are best remembered for their criminally catchy songs “Always on My Mind” and “West End Girls”.
They are a popular 80s band for good reason.
68. Tom Cochrane and Red Rider
Canadian country-rock icons Tom Cochrane and Red Rider reached success with a rural, backroads folk sound all their own.
They blended themes of adventure, rebelliousness, and coming-of-age to create a nostalgic, earnest sound.
“Can’t Turn Back”, from the 1983 album Neruda, is one of their best.
69. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Unapologetic rebel with a cause Joan Jett helped put defiant female rockers on the map.
She was a master at cultivating a symbiosis between her aesthetic and musical style and she never deviated from her iconoclastic silhouette.
Her 1980 hit “Bad Reputation” sums up her admirable insouciance.
British metal band Motorhead were formed in 1975 but reached the pinnacle of their success in the 80s.
Their speedy, relentless style captivated fans of the hard rock genre. They were shameless in their thematic interests: promiscuity, drugs, and gambling are just a few examples.
They embraced their inflammatory image wholeheartedly.
Yes was not only a progressive rock powerhouse of the 70s, they were veritable heavyweights in the 80s, as well.
Indeed, their highest selling album was 1983’s 90125, with the hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.
Their sound evolved and expanded throughout their tenure, proving the dynamic soul that underpinned all of their musical decisions.
Glam metal rockers RATT are the poster boys of the eighties hair scene with their outrageous, teased locks and neon, skintight aerobics wear.
Their sound was defined by Pearcy’s raspy vocals and their white-got guitars.
They were MTV darlings with their vibrant hit “Round and Round”.
Ratt were rockers from the 80s with pizzazz and attitude.
73. The Go-Go’s
Breezy, sunny, and tongue-in-cheek The Go-Go’s epitomized the youth culture of the early 80s.
Their catchy pop choruses and sugary vocals catapulted them to the top of the Billboard charts.
“Our Lips are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat” retain all of their original charm four decades later.
Styx demonstrated that acoustic guitar had a place within the hard rock corpus.
Their inclusion of synthesizers in their spirited power ballads made for an intoxicating, compelling sound.
Styx truly was at a crossroads between eras, melding the best of their progressive roots with their arena aspirations.
75. 38 Special
Formed by Donnie Van Zant and Don Barnes in Jacksonville, Florida, 38 Special blended playfulness and bravado to create a distinctly Southern sound.
Their songs were brazen and packed with innuendo.
Their sensibility was best summed up by their cheeky bestselling 1981 album Wild-Eyed Southern Boys.
80s Rock Bands – Final Thoughts
Proof that popular (and not so popular) 80s bands rock? Hopefully you’ve found that proof in this list.
The eighties were an eclectic decade, and more dynamic and complex than most people give it credit for.
While the hair metal and glam rock that defined the time was eminently catchy, and has endured despite its brazen campiness, it isn’t the whole picture.
Alternative, new wave, and metal also flourished, forever enriching the musical landscape and spawning the bands that followed in their footsteps.
We hope you enjoyed this 80s bands list, and take inspiration from some of our suggestions.