80s Rock Bands
A list of bands that changed the musical landscape of the 1980s and beyond.
Pay no attention to the order, as it's alphabetized for ease.
A list of the Best 80s Rock Bands
No band in the hair genre was more commercially driven than the great Bon Jovi. And if that's the case, then all we can do is applaud, as the majesty of 1986's Livin' On a Prayer would never have connected with our souls without the Jersey band's singular focus on penning the single greatest tune in the history of rock.
The Jovi machine was unstoppable, churning out pop metal hit after hit like they were prisoners making license plates for the Tri-State area. One thing that made them stand out, besides Bryan's excellent ivory-tickling and Sambora riffage, was the latter's frontman-quality vocals. Sambora was a Top 20 guitar player AND rock vocalist in the world during the mid to late 80s.
Then there's the secret weapon that the band had on payroll, the songwriting mastery of one, Desmond Child. How do you fail when you have Jovi's looks, Sambora's presence, and Child's writing?
Easy, you don't.
- Albums: Bon Jovi, 7800° Fahrenheit, Slippery When Wet, New Jersey
- Songs: Runaway, In and Out of Love, You Give Love a Bad Name, Livin' on a Prayer, Wanted Dead or Alive, Lay Your Hands on Me, Bad Medicine, I'll Be There For You
Def Leppard had countless excellent songs. We're fairly convinced that Def Leppard's lack of overt commercial attention on any given single, outside of Pour Some Sugar On Me, is part of what helped them survive as a band. But what really separated them from their peers is that they wrote and produced one of the best albums of all-time with Hysteria.
The boys from Sheffield, along with living legend producer, Mutt Lange, knew how to craft an album. They knew how to put on a live show. They knew how to overcome adversity, like losing guitarist Steve Clark to an overdose and losing the drummer's left arm. For real, what kind of rock band endures the loss of the drummer's whole arm?!
- Albums: On Through The Night, High N' Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria
- Songs: Bringin' On The Heartbreak, Photograph, Rock of Ages, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Armageddon It
It's almost impossible to argue against The Crue being the biggest Hair Metal Band. They had the looks (that kill), the sound, and the attitude. They could shake a stadium as much as they could shake a tour bus post show. Their antics on tour were Hall of Fame level.
But you don't get to the upper echelon of rock without songs that rocked, and The Crue covered all of the bases.
- Songs about Sex ✔️
- Songs about Drugs ✔️
- Songs about Rock & Roll ✔️
- Songs about Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll ✔️
Motley Crue lived up to their name in every way. They fought, caroused, damaged, drugged and destroyed more often and more efficiently than all of their peers. The fact that all four original band members are still alive is sheer lunacy.
- Albums: Too Fast for Love, Shout at the Devil, Theatre of Pain, Girls, Girls, Girls, Dr. Feelgood.
- Songs: Live Wire, Shout at the Devil, Looks That Kill, Home Sweet Home, Wild Side, Girls, Girls, Girls, Dr. Feelgood, Kickstart My Heart
Guns N’ Roses
Guns N' Roses ... do we really need to explain how ridiculously awesome they were?
Along with Def Leppard, G'N'R had their own seven single album, except for them it was their debut album. Appetite for Destruction is hands down the best debut album ever.
- Albums: Appetite for Destruction, G'N'R Lies
- Songs: Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child O' Mine, Mr. Brownstone, Paradise City, Rocket Queen, Patience
If not for the Crue, Poison would be the top Hair Band. Poison is the band where party lyrics meets party riffs meets power ballads. If they were debuting today, they'd be a country band. Drinking beers and hitting on babes was all the band cared about.
And be honest, do we really expect more out of our heros?
- Albums: Look What the Cat Dragged In, Open Up and Say ... Ahh!
- Songs: I Want Action, Talk Dirty to Me, Nothing But a Good Time, Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Fallen Angel
The music of Skid Row is the sonic equivalent of giving the middle finger. It was the sound of telling some punks to not set foot in your neighborhood again. It was the sound of telling some guy to stop staring at your girl, lest he find out why. Skid Row was the most rebellious that commercial rock in the 80s got - and we'd gladly put them against any Indie Bands that thought they were Dukes of Disobedience.
It didn't hurt that they had two great guitar players to shred the riffs. They also had the best of the Hair Band vocalists. Near limitless range, idyllic timbre for the genre, flawless looks, Sebastian Bach (Bierk) was the perfect choice for frontman for the collection of rogues known as Skid Row.
The dude even jumped into the crowd at a show in Springfield, Massachusetts to settle a score with a fan who threw a bottle on stage. Unfortunately, Bach's aim was poor and he injured a girl attending the show. Not a great move.
Musically, the band could do it all, as evidenced by the 3 hit songs off of Skid Row's debut album, Youth Gone Wild, 18 and Life, and I Remember You.
Amazingly, the band went harder on their follow up album, Slave to the Grind. We can't think of another Hair Metal band that did that (or even considered). Skid Row was special.
Well, until Bach was shown the door.
- Albums: Skid Row (Self-Titled)
- Songs: Youth Gone Wild, 18 and Life, I Remember You
Tesla had a twin guitar attack that rivaled any other 80s band's firepower.
- Albums: Mechanical Resonance, The Great Radio Controversy
- Songs: Modern Day Cowboy, Little Suzi, The Way It Is, Love Song, Paradise
The incomparable Van Halen appears on a list of the best 80s rock bands 11 times out of 10.
- Albums: Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, 1984, 5150, OU812
- Songs: And the Cradle Will Rock, Everybody Wants Some!!, Unchained, Jump, Panama, Hot for Teacher, Why Can't This Be Love, When It's Love
One could make the argument that Whitesnake was almost a 70s band. But that would be amazingly wrong, as The Snake's biggest hits came out in the 80s.
The band owns one the most memorable videos of all-time with mega hit, Here I Go Again. You remember that one, right? The Jaguars and Tawny Kitaen?
- Albums: Ready an' Willing, Come an' Get It, Saints & Sinners, Slide It In, Whitesnake, Slip of the Tongue
- Songs: Fool for Your Loving, Still of the Night, Here I Go Again, Is This Love, The Deeper the Love
Warrant might be the weakest inclusion of this list of all-time 80s rock bands. Their two big albums weren't as powerfully charged as every other band on this list. Their rockers didn't rock harder, and their ballads weren't ... ballad-y-er. But what Warrant did have was a songwriting powerhouse in Jani Lane.
He went fast (Sure Feels Good to Me).
He went slow (I Saw Red).
He went big (Cherry Pie).
And he went home ... to wherever the Down Boys go.
Popular 80s Warrant Albums & Songs
- Albums: Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich
- Songs: Down Boys, Heaven, Cherry Pie, Uncle Tom's Cabin, I Saw Red, Blind Faith, Mr. Rainmaker
2nd Tier 80s Rock Bands
- Damn Yankees
- Faster Pussycat
- Mr. Big
- White Lion
Other 80s Rock Bands
- Bad English
- Danger Danger