25 Coolest 80’s Bands We Won’t Soon Forget

Posted by , Updated on November 21, 2023

There’s no denying the 1980’s had several unique styles of music. From the dawning of synth-pop to hair bands, the 80’s were an eccentric and colorful time, full of memorable bands. While many of these bands lived and died in the 80’s, others found a way to live on and remain relevant. Still, whether they continued passed their defining decade or not, all of these bands are remembered for this decade. Ready to look back and jam to some righteous tunes? Here are 25 Coolest 80’s Bands We Won’t Soon Forget.


Beastie Boys

beastie boysSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-popular-and-jazz-biographies/beastie-boys

When the Beastie Boys released their debut album Licensed to Ill in 1986, they became an instant sensation, and the album earned multi-platinum sales. Of their singles, “Fight for Your Right to Party” will forever be embedded into all our musical memories.


The Clash

clashSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-clash-mn0000075747/biography

While they got their start in the 70’s, The Clash was at the height of their popularity in the mid-80’s, releasing major hits like “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah.” They’ll forever be remembered as a major influence on punk rock and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.



whamSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/led-zeppelin-mn0000139026/biography

Igniting an 80’s pop revival, Wham! featured George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. For years, they found success as a pop group with hits like, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” But, the real reason we can’t forget them, despite perhaps trying very hard, is their seasonal song, “Last Christmas” playing like clockwork on the radio at Christmastime.



eurythmicsSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/eurythmics-mn0000206241/biography

How could anyone forget the classic pop group Eurythmics? Their catchy song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” continues to get airtime today. Its music video played consistently on MTV, making the pop group especially popular at the time.



journeySource: https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/journey

Getting their start in the 70’s, Journey didn’t hit their stride until their hit single, “Don’t Stop Believin,” a song that became a staple at sporting events and karaoke bars. It didn’t stop there; they continued busting out larger than life ballads with their follow-up album Frontiers.


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

bruce springsteenSource: https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/e-street-band

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have been making music for quite a long time, but it was their 1984 album Born in the U.S.A., with all its wonderful hits, that will live on in our hearts and minds forever.


The Smiths

the smithsSource: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/oct/02/smiths-morrissey-fans-changed-lives

Getting their start in 1982, The Smiths tapped into teenage angst with albums like The Queen Is Dead and Meat Is Murder. They may have only lasted until 1987, but their appeal has endured among old fans and new listeners. Their quality music and smart lyrics have helped give them a multi-generational appeal, keeping their music alive.


Men at Work

men at workSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/men-at-work-mn0000873085/biography

Coming out of Australia’s New Wave movement, Men at Work became an overnight success with the release of their 1982 album Business As Usual. Looking back, their sound is a bizarre and otherworldly mix of everything and that’s what makes it so memorable. Of course, out of all their songs, “Down Under” is the clear winner of their most recognizable.


Van Halen

van halenSource: https://www.biography.com/people/eddie-van-halen-9542559

Forming in 1974 when the Van Halen brothers got together with singer David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony, Van Halen had made a name for themselves in the early Los Angeles scene. They finally made it big when Gene Simmons discovered them and financed their recording session. Still, they didn’t reach superstar status until their 1984 album that featured the major hits “Jump,” “Hot for Teacher,” and, of course, “Panama.”



metallicaSource: https://www.metallica.com/band/history

Metal band Metallica got their start in 1981 when Lars Ulrich placed an ad in the paper and the world hasn’t been the same since. Known for their trashing guitars, insane arpeggios, and killer drum beats, they hit the early music scene hard and met almost instant success. Of their hits, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Master of Puppets” will forever resound in the annals of rock history.



aerosmithSource: http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-popular-and-jazz-biographies/aerosmith

During the 70s, Aerosmith had been a major player in the Rock & Roll music scene but saw diminishing returns in the 80s when newer heavy metal bands eclipsed them. From 1981 to 1986, things didn’t look too good for the band…until the release of a cover of the hit song “Walk This Way.” Then, we all fell in love with them again in 1987 when they released their album Permanent Vacation. 


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

tom pettySource: https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/tom-petty-and-heartbreakers

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also sang the ode to the everyman, consistently writing about working people problems. They had been rocking for quite a long time, and when the 80’s came around, they kept their classic rock riffs but occasionally adopted the synth-pop sound common at the time found in their album Southern Accents. 


Tears for Fears

tears for fearsSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/tears-for-fears-mn0000019892/biography

Synth pop band Tears for Fears always had something to say. Combining their introspection with catchy pop music turned out pretty well for them, especially in 1985 when they released Songs from the Big Chair, the album that had hits songs like, “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”


The Cure

the cureSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-cure-mn0000137390/biography

Over the course of the 80’s, The Cure, fronted by ghoulish-looking Robert Smith, had played a variety of genres from punk to pop to goth, but they always seemed to do it in their own fashion. Many of their albums had become hits, reaching the billboards in both the UK and the US. It seems like the 80’s was their decade. By the time they released the album Disintegration, one of their most popular and arguably well-known, they soon fell apart in the 90’s and lost their popularity.


Bon Jovi

bon joviSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/bon-jovi-mn0000069534/biography

In the 1980’s, Bon Jovi and their titular leader Jon Bon Jovi epitomized hair bands with their soaring rock ballads that roared inside every bar across America. With the release of Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi gave America a new soundtrack with big hits like “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”



foreignerSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/foreigner-mn0000987621/biography

Forming in the 70’s, Foreigner did fairly well in that decade but did even better in the 80’s with hits like “Urgent” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Their soft-rock ballads proved easy to listen to, and the 1984 ballad, “I Want to Know What Love Is” became an MTV sensation.


Depeche Mode

depeche modeSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/depeche-mode-mn0000239921/biography

Depeche Mode came out of the new romantic movement in the 70’s but transitioned to electro-pop in the 80’s. They made a gradual climb to success with their 1987 release Music for the Masses selling over a million copies. Of course, after the 80’s, they continued toward greatness. But their distinctive poppy hooks and catchy lyrics in the 80’s was a sound of its own.


Duran Duran

duran duranSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/duran-duran-mn0000128440/biography

For some, Duran Duran’s music stands as a solid example of the unique sound that came out of the 1980’s. Much of their appeal came from their unique and quirky sound along with their leveraging MTV music videos. With hits like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Wild Boys,” they certainly set themselves apart, making them unforgettable.


Def Leppard

def leppardSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/def-leppard-mn0000193320/biography

Another hair band that dominated in the 80’s, Def Leppard owed much of their sound to the rock of the 70’s, but they incorporated the hair band ballads that defined the 80’s. The 1983 release of Pyromania and their full-scale utilization of MTV made Def Leppard put them on the map. However, it was the 1987 Hysteria that released one of their defining songs, “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” cementing their 80’s greatness.


Huey Lewis & the News

huey lewisSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/huey-lewis-the-news-mn0000829122/biography

Huey Lewis & the News owned the 80’s with their positive riffs and energetic ballads, connecting with everyday Americans with songs like “Workin’ for a Livin’.” But, let’s be honest, it’s likely their hit song, “The Power of Love” is the only thing you really can remember.


Guns N'Roses

guns n rosesSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/guns-n-roses-mn0000540883/biography

You can’t talk about the 80’s without at least mentioning Guns N’Roses. Their sleazy, white trash rock infused with their gritty vocals and ballads made them a huge 80’s sensation. They released some of the biggest hits of the decade with “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Paradise City,” among many more. But like a death knell, the advent of Nirvana in 1991 suddenly made Guns N’Roses uncool and irrelevant.



acdcSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/ac-dc-mn0000574772/biography

While they got their start in the 70’s and released a few hits in that decade, their biggest hit of all time Back in Black was released in 1980. With new lead vocalist Brian Johnson, AC/DC made a whole new brand for themselves in the 80’s and was one of the largest rock bands of the decade in the world.



u2Source: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/u2-mn0000219203/biography

U2 originally started as a cover band of the Beatles and the Stones called the Feedback. They later changed their name to the Hype before finally ending at U2. Their rise to stardom was slow and much of their early music owed to the post-punk movement with hits like, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day.” Of course, they’ve carved out a solid music career, finding ways to stay relevant today. Still, their music in the 80’s is arguably their defining moment.


The Police

the policeSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-police-mn0000413524/biography

The Police started out in the late 70’s but really hit it big at the dawn of the 80’s. While some might call them punk music, The Police were far more skilled and experimental with their sound. They eventually broke up in 1983 but not before giving us, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take.”



queenSource: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/queen-mn0000858827/biography

Queen reached the height of their popularity when they released one of their best albums The Game in 1980 with hits like “Another One Bites the Dust.” They tried to remain relevant with “Under Pressure” featuring David Bowie, but the floor fell out from under them. They toured primarily in international markets for most of the 80’s and their activity waned with Freddie Mercury’s declining health. However, how will we ever forget them?

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