The 80s were alive with new and exciting musical genres and sub-genres inspired by icons of the 60s and 70s, and this era gave us some of the most influential bands of all time. Here are our picks for the top 10 bands from the 80s.
Influenced primarily by 70s punk bands and still playing sold-out shows nearly five decades later, The Cure introduced their own brand of alternative rock and unintentionally inspired a gothic rock movement. Many consider the band’s eighth studio album, “Disintegration,” one of the greatest records ever released.
2. Guns N’ Roses
Categorized under various rock sub-genres, from hard rock to glam rock and metal, Guns N’ Roses became an instant success with their breakout studio album “Appetite for Destruction” in 1987. This popular band gave us some of the best love rock anthems of the 80s, from “Welcome to the Jungle” to “Paradise City,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Mr. Brownstone.”
Bono’s unmistakable vocals, The Edge’s unique echoing guitars and each album’s brilliant songwriting make U2 one of the best 80s rock bands. Among the band’s most monumental albums is “The Joshua Tree,” released in 1987. However, “October” (1981) and “The Unforgettable Fire” (1984) were also impactful and critically acclaimed 80s releases.
4. Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden is famous for producing hard rock and metal songs that benefitted from founder and bassist Steve Harris’s lyrical storytelling and Bruce Dickinson’s operatic vocals. This band has influenced multiple other groups through the years, like Muse, My Chemical Romance and Metallica.
5. Van Halen
Van Halen’s fierce, upbeat rock melodies and larger-than-life presence throughout the 80s are undeniable. Considered one of the greatest guitarists ever, Eddie Van Halen packed a punch with every mind-blowing riff and carefully crafted solo bedazzled with masterful harmonics. Their album “1984,” released in 1984, elevated the band to new heights with global hits “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher” taking center stage.
6. Tears for Fears
Like many on this list of 80s bands, Tears for Fears duo Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith have touched the hearts of many over the decades. In particular, hit singles like “Shout,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Head Over Heels” from the band’s 1985 album “Songs from the Big Chair” have made an impact.
Formed in the mid-80s, the Pixies released several inspiring albums, including 1988’s “Surfer Rosa” and 1989’s “Doolittle.” This alternative rock band significantly influenced legendary bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Radiohead.
Led by Ann and Nancy Wilson — formidable vocalists, multi-instrumentalists and sisters — Heart released a long list of hit singles over the 80s, with their 1985 self-titled album being a fan favorite. Ann’s vocals are synonymous with the band’s signature female power rock sound, and Nancy’s evocative guitar riffs and solos are some of the most memorable of the decade.
9. Depeche Mode
Often labeled a new wave band, Depeche Mode was instrumental in steering synth-pop toward the dark and moody. Their acclaimed 1987 release, “Music for the Masses,” is considered an iconic album and is indicative of the innovative use of electronic instruments throughout the decade.
10. Dead Kennedys
The Dead Kennedys perfectly represented the essence of 80s punk with their hard-hitting basslines, catchy riffs and politically charged lyrics. Their debut release, “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables,” in 1980 laid the groundwork for the band’s evolution into hardcore punk pioneers.
Find Your Favorite Bands of the 80s at Record Head, Milwaukee
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