Most people will argue that some of the best rock music was made during the 1980s. We had some of the most successful and popular bands. And many of them are still active today. Even the 80s rock bands that are not active, their music remains popular.
The 80s were a period of massive rock domination, from genres like new wave, classic rock, hair metal, glam rock, and everything in between. They opened the doors for many new artists and also proved a healthy ground for bands that were formed during the late 1970s.
During the 1980s, technology played a key role in shaping rock. Electronic keyboards first appeared in the 1970s, but they expanded in the 1980s with digital synthesizers, programmable drum machines, and much more.
Given the abundance of worthy nominees for the best rock bands of the 1980s, we had a hard time coming up with the final list. Here we go.
Most people recognize Jon Bon Jovi as a solo artist. But he was also the lead singer for the American rock band Bon Jovi. Formed in 1983 in New Jersey, the band released its first two albums in 1984 and 1985.
Many music critics praise the band for bridging the gap between heavy metal and pop with style and ease.
So far, they have released 15 studio albums, five compilations, and three live albums. The band has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. During the course of their music career, they have performed for more than 2,700 concerts in over 50 countries.
We said rock in the 1980s included heavy metal as well. Motley Crue was one of the most successful and famous heavy metal bands during that time. Formed in Los Angeles in 1981, the group’s star was the lead singer Vince Neil.
They have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and achieved seven platinum or multi-platinum certifications.
Fans loved them for their hedonistic lifestyle and androgynous personae they maintained on and off the stage.
In 2018, after a few years of inactivity, Neil announced that the band had reunited.
Guns N’ Roses
If you want to listen to some good old rock ballads, a few groups can compete with Guns N’ Roses. Many fans know them by the abbreviation, GNR. They are an American band from Los Angeles, formed in 1985.
Vocalist Axl Rose and lead guitarist Slash made all the headlines for the band. But GNR is much more than Axl and Slash.
Their debut album, Appetite for Destruction reached Number 1 on the Billboard 200 just one year after its release in 1987. That album contains some of the best rock songs to this day, including Sweet Child o’ Mine and Paradise City.
This album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and remains one of the best rock albums in history.
In the early years, the band’s hedonism and rebelliousness drew comparisons to the early Rolling Stones. That earned them the nickname, “the most dangerous band in the world”.
U2 started its career in 1976. But they were most productive during the 1980s. The Irish rock band from Dublin consists of Bono as lead vocals, the Edge as lead guitar, Adam Clayton at bass guitar, and Larry Mullen Jr. at drums and percussion.
Their musical style has evolved throughout the years, but they have managed to maintain an anthemic quality built on Bono’s expressive vocals.
With more than 150 million records sold worldwide, they are one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
You cannot have a list of 80s rock bands without Queen. They started in the 1970s but also lived throughout the 1980s. Formed in London in 1970, the band was built on the strength of one of the best vocals of all time, Freddie Mercury.
Roger Taylor at drums, John Deacon at bass, and Brian May at guitar complemented Freddie perfectly. In the early years, they were influenced by progressive rock, heavy metal, and hard rock.
But Queen slowly ventured into more conventional and radio-friendly music, playing arena rock and pop-rock.
As for the 1980s, the band had one of the most iconic live performances of all time. Fans all around the world remember their performance in January 1985 at the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, as well as their mesmerizing performance at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in July 1985.
The band has remained a global presence in popular culture for more than four decades. In the past several years, band members played with Adam Lambert.
The Rolling Stones
The English rock band was formed in London in 1962. Yet, somehow, they managed to live and produce music for more than five decades. They have remained relevant with new music to this day.
The Rolling Stones diverged from the pop-rock of the early 1960s, paving the way and pioneering the heavier-driven sound that defined hard rock.
With talents like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts, you cannot expect anything less.
Jagger and Richards became the primary creative force behind the band. To this day, the band has sold more than 240 million records, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
The Police were an English rock band formed in London in 1977. They had a short life span, with lead singer Sting starting a solo career shortly after.
But their debut studio album in 1978 has some of the best songs that fans sing to this day. For example, the Outlandos d’Amour album contained the hit single Roxanne and Can’t Stand Losing You. The second album had other hit singles like Message in a Bottle and Walking on the Moon.
And then in 1983, they released their final studio album with one of the best singles of all time, Every Breath You Take.
During the 1980s, The Police were the leaders of the Second British Invasion of the US.
Formed in London in 1977, Dire Straits were a British rock band active from 1977 to 1988 and then again from 1991 to 1995.
Fun fact: their most famous song to this day is their first single. That would be the song Sultans of Swing from the debut self-titled album in 1978.
They draw inspiration for their sound from country, folk, and blues-rock. Many fans consider them the biggest British rock band of the 1980s.
Next on our list of 80s rock bands is The Cure, an English rock band formed in 1978 in Crawley, West Sussex. The band has had numerous lineup changes through the years, but songwriter Robert Smith remained the only constant member.
In 2019, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When you talk about popular rock bands, you cannot have a list without the Australian rock band. Formed in Sydney in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young, the band has played hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal. Yet, the band members call their music rock and roll.
They have gone through several lineup changes even before releasing their debut album High Voltage in 1975.
With their eighth studio album, For Those About To Rock We Salute You in 1981, they reached Number 1 in the United States.
During their music career, the band has sold more than 200 million records worldwide. That puts them at Number 9 on the list of best-selling artists in the United States and 16th in the world.
Here is another rock band that loved playing rock ballads. Formed in Boston in 1970, the American band consists of Steven Tyler as lead vocal, Joe Perry at guitar, Tom Hamilton at bass, Joey Kramer at drums, and Brad Whitford at guitar.
Their style, rooted in hard rock, also incorporated elements of heavy metal, glam metal, and pop-rock. Aerosmith has inspired many subsequent rock artists in the world.
Many fans refer to them as the Bad Boys from Boston. They are also considered America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.
They are the best-selling American hard rock band of all time, with more than 150 million records worldwide and 70 million records in the US. They have 25 gold, 18 platinum, and 12 multi-platinum albums. As such, they hold the record for most certifications by an American group.
Whitesnake is another hard rock band from England. Formed in 1978, the group was initially a backing band for singer David Coverdale who left Deep Purple. But they quickly developed their own entity. Throughout their history, Coverdale remains their only constant member.
They enjoyed success mainly in the UK, Europe, and Japan. By the 1980s, they wanted to breakthrough in the US. Thanks to the American label Geffen Records, they released their eponymous album in 1987, their biggest success to date. That album had singles like Is This Love and Here I Go Again.
The English heavy metal band was formed in London in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. Over the years, the band has released 40 albums, 16 of which are studio albums and 13 live albums. They also have 27 singles and 20 video albums.
Iron Maiden is the pioneer of the new wave of the British heavy metal movement. With more than 100 million records sales, the band has earned Grammy Award, Brit Awards, Juno Awards, and many more.
Fans love them for the lyrics that cover topics like history, war, mythology, religion, society, and literature.
As of the summer of 2021, they have played more than 2,500 live shows.
The American rock band was formed in 1973 by former members of Santana. They enjoyed their biggest success between 1978 and 1987 when Steve Perry was their lead vocalist. Fans loved their songs because of Steve’s voice.
Their most successful hit remains Don’t Stop Believin, released in 1981. In 2009, the song became the top-selling track in iTunes history among songs not released in the 21st century.
With Journey, we finish off our list of 80s rock bands. Hopefully, we had your favorite band here as well.