37 Best 80s Rock Bands

37 Best 80s Rock Bands

If you want to know all about the best 80s rock bands we listened to when I was a child and then a teen, you can find out more right here! The classic rock genre enjoyed commercial success back then, with both British and American bands doing very well indeed.

Whether you prefer soft or hard rock, heavy metal or new wave, rock songs of the 80s included something to please pretty much everyone. Many a rock or metal band sold multi-million copies of their singles and albums, when music came on vinyl, cassette or CD. We still have, and listen to, some of the latter that we bought back then.

Some of the best bands of the 80s were rockers. They often had long, unruly locks, were clad in leather and denim, moved with a swagger and sometimes used a little (or a lot) of make-up too. In general, their music was so good that it’s still often played today.

Read on to discover 22 of the best 1980s rock bands – plus another 15 worth mentioning.

22 of the Best 80s Rock Bands

AC/DC

With Back in Black, AC/DC had the biggest selling album of the 80s in the US. So they’re very worthy of kicking off this list of notable rock groups of the 80s.

Aerosmith

Aerosmith were big in the late 80s, especially around the time their albums Permanent Vacation and Pump were released, which was in 1987 and 1989. The singles you may know best include Love in an Elevator and Dude Looks Like a Lady.

The Bangles

The Bangles had some huge hits here in the UK during the 80s. Including Manic Monday, Walk Like an Egyptian and Eternal Flame. Different Light (1986) was the album the first two came from, and Eternal Flame was a track on Everything (1988). The girl group won a Brit Award in 1987 for Best International Group.

Blondie

Blondie’s 80s songs include Call Me, Atomic and The Tide is High. Debbie Harry also went onto solo success later in the decade, after the lady-led rock band split. Atomic: The Very Best of Blondie is an album that still gets played in our house.

Bon Jovi

Slippery When Wet was one of the classic 80s rock albums. And tracks like Wanted Dead or Alive, You Give Love a Bad Name and of course Livin’ On a Prayer still get plenty of airtime. Especially the latter. It’s become something of a Gen X anthem, in fact, as now we’re all ‘halfway there’ ourselves.

The Clash

Though some of The Clash’s seminal tracks – like London Calling – were released during the late 70s, tunes like Rock the Casbah (1982) and Should I Stay or Should I Go (1981) came later. The latter was of course featured in the pool hall Levi’s ad. Those ads were phenomenal back in the day, and into my 20s I would only wear that brand of jeans! The Essential Clash contains all those top songs, and many more.

Dire Straits

Dire Straits produced the soundtrack for a certain part of my life back in the 80s. Brothers in Arms came out in 1985, and for months my dad played little else. Money For Nothing is the track I hear most often nowadays, but my favourite was Walk of Life. Dad may have been biased, as we – like the band – are from the north east of England.

Foreigner

I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner is possibly my favourite 80s ballad of all. The band was a collaboration between American and British musicians, and other tracks such as Waiting for a Girl Like You show off their penchant for power ballads.

The Go-Gos

Belinda Carlisle was my very own 80s and 90s doppelganger – or so I was told, fairly frequently, during my late teens. In fact I posted a photo of her with Michael Hutchence on social media recently, and a couple of people asked when I’d met him! I wish. Heaven Is a Place on Earth (1987) – and other hits by Belinda Carlisle – and Jane Wiedlin’s Rush Hour (1988) are the tracks I know members of The Go-Gos best for. Well that and the fact that they allegedly bed-hopped with members of INXS during a US tour when the latter provided support… lucky girls 😉

Guns ‘N’ Roses

For me, Axl Rose and Jon Bon Jovi are the two who come to mind when I think of 80s rock or metal bands. Like Livin’ On a Prayer, Sweet Child O’Mine from Appetite for Destruction often graces the airwaves to this day.

Heart

If I had to listen to I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner or Heart’s Alone, I don’t know which I’d pick. Both, ideally. This song, above all, proves that women could do 80s rock just as well as their male counterparts.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden are more of a heavy metal band than many in this list. They were particularly popular and successful towards the end of the decade. My favourite tracks are Can I Play With Madness (1988) and Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter – even though the latter was actually released in 1990.

Kiss

You’ve gotta love Gene Simmons and co for that trademark stage make-up. In our collection is a photo of Mister done up just like that, ready for a Kiss concert he attended in Australia. The cover of Kissworld, their greatest hits album, features this trademark look. God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You is my fave, though it was covered in 1991 and originally written in the 70s.

Metallica

Again, my favourite song from this heavy metal band is actually from 1991. Enter Sandman is a classic, and you can find both live and studio versions on the remastered version of The Black Album.

Mötley Crüe

Drummer Tommy Lee was just about as famous for his wives during the 80s and 90s – Heather Locklear and then Pamela Anderson from Baywatch. Dr Feelgood (1989) from the album of the same name is the best Mötley Crüe track for me.

Pink Floyd

Though their music is more psychedelic and progressive than that made by the average 1980s rock band, the makers of one of the best selling albums ever definitely belong on this list. The Dark Side of the Moon was made in the 70s, but The Wall was almost as successful. Though released in late 1979, it certainly made its mark on the early 80s.

Queen

One of the top bands of the 80s was Queen, a British group fronted by Freddie Mercury. They had seemingly endless hits both here in the UK and across the world. Another One Bites the Dust, the theme from Flash Gordon and A Kind of Magic are just three Queen songs from the 80s.

The Rolling Stones

You (like me) may associate Mick Jagger’s band The Rolling Stones with earlier eras, but their hits during the 80s included Harlem Shuffle, and of course, Start Me Up.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I first heard Free Falling when travelling around New Zealand as a backpacker during the 90s. That and I Won’t Back Down both inspired me to buy Full Moon Fever, one of many 80s CDs I still play to this day.

U2

Being a massive INXS fan my favourite US track is of course Stuck in a Moment, which was written about Michael Hutchence. The theme being an imagined conversation between the two friends. The Irish band dominated the charts during the 80s, though, with hits like With or Without You and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (both from The Joshua Tree) doing phenomenally well.

Whitesnake

Here I Go Again (1987) was one of Whitesnake‘s biggest 80s hits – and is my favourite for an air guitar or loud vocals moment. Or even karaoke, after a few drinks. Some of those 80s bands with big hair sure did like to record a powerful tune or two. All together now… “down the only road I’ve ever known… like a drifter… I’ve made up my mind…” and so on.

Van Halen

Jump by Van Halen was one of those decade-defining rocks songs of the 80s. Did you know, though, that the B side was House of Pain? And that a band of that name made a song called Jump Around in 1992? Also a great track, in my humble opinion.

15 more top 80s rock bands

  • The B52sLove Shack, baby. Yeah!
  • The Cure – Fronted by Robert Smith, it’s Friday they’re in love.
  • Def LeppardLet’s Get Rocked – or covered in sugar – by this Sheffield band.
  • Duran Duran – More new wave than rock, I’d say, but a very successful 80s band with an edge.
  • Europe – Famous for The Final Countdown. Need we say any more?
  • Fleetwood Mac – On the poppier side, but a popular rock band of the 80s nonetheless.
  • Huey Lewis and the News – Known for the phenomenal Power of Love from Back to the Future.
  • INXS – My favourite band ever, bar none. A unique blend of rock, new wave, funk and more.
  • Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ is one of the finest 80s karaoke hits ever.
  • MotorheadAce of Spades seems to turn up on so many 80s compilations.
  • Poison – Glam metal band best known for Every Rose Has Its Thorn.
  • The Pretenders – Is there a cooler rock chick than lead singer Chrissie Hynde?
  • The Smiths – More indie than rock, but a band that paved the way for 90s music.
  • Survivor – The band that recorded The Eye of the Tiger for Rocky III.
  • ZZ Top – This Texan outfit were happy to give you all their lovin’.

80s Rock Bands FAQs

Was rock music popular in the 80s?

Rock music was hugely popular during the 80s. From new wave to thrash metal, sub-genres included punk rock, heavy metal, hard rock, glam metal, alternative rock and more. Some of the biggest singles and albums of the 80s were from rock acts, including Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Queen, Survivor, U2 and many more.

What are some 80s rock bands?

Some of the biggest 1980s rock bands are Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, Foreigner, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Queen, Whitesnake and Van Halen. Female bands like The Bangles, Blondie, Heart and more were also very successful.

Which 80s rock bands are still touring?

Rock bands of the 80s still touring today include Bon Jovi, Blondie, The Cure, Def Leppard, Duran Duran, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Metallica, U2 and Whitesnake.

Who were the biggest rock bands of the 80s?

So who was the highest selling 80s rock band, and which 80s rock band made the most money? The biggest bands include Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Blondie, The Cure, Def Leppard, Dire Straits, Duran Duran, Foreigner, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Queen, U2, Whitesnake and Van Halen.

Who was the biggest British rock band of the 80s?

Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits was the biggest selling album of the 80s in the UK. Queen’s Greatest Hits album also made the top 10. Both had phenomenal success during the 1980s.

Who Were the Best 80s Rock Bands for You?

80s alternative bands, British bands of the 80s, 80s hard rock bands and more… all are some of the top 80s rock bands. 80 rockers sure knew how to make music that’s stood the test of time.

Marcy x

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