The 1980s was a decade that was truly diverse, musically. From synth-influenced to indie music, rock bands had never been so eclectic, and here are 10 of the ’80s best.
Few rock bands utilised synthesizers as effectively as this band in the 1980s. Led by Midge Ure, Ultravox produced a string of moving but catchy songs in the decade, including the sumptuous Vienna.
9. Simple Minds
At one point in the 1980s it was Simple Minds against U2 for the title of ‘Best young stadium rockers’. But, though this Scottish band were left in the wake of U2 by the end of the decade, they had made their mark on both sides of the Atlantic by then.
8. The Stone Roses
In our list because of their meteoric rise to fame in 1989, The Stone Roses fused psychedelia, funk, pop and rock to make an intoxicating mix of music in the 1980s and into the 1990s. With the excellent musicianship of drummer Reni, guitarist John Squire and Mani on bass, and a cool singer in Ian Brown, The Stone Roses rank high on many people’s list of the greatest British rock bands of all-time. Respect for the group has also grown over the years – helped by their 2012 reunion tour.
7. The Cure
It’s hard to argue against The Cure being the most important goth band of all. Plus, in the shape of guitarist/singer-songwriter Robert Smith, The Cure had someone who would become a goth idol. The group’s unique twist of jaunty pop and Smith’s unusual vocals meant too that The Cure would enjoy a successful ’80s, with hits like The Love Cats.
Helped by their drummer and singer Phil Collins becoming a solo star, Genesis made a big impact in the 1980s. Their 1986 album, Invisible Touch, was their most commercially successful album after almost 20 years together, and the band were one of the must see stadium rock bands of the decade. For the more thoughtful type of rock fan, Genesis really filled the void left by a declining Pink Floyd in the ’80s.
5. The Jam
The Jam were one of the most successful acts of the punk and new wave era, and they found even greater success in the early ’80s. With the gifted Modfather himself, Paul Weller, writing the group’s material, The Jam had four singles reach the top spot in the UK between the spring of 1980 and the end of 1982. Though The Jam failed to attract any major interest in the US the group were one of the most loved groups in British music history.
4. The Smiths
One of the most interesting of all British rock bands, The Smiths in the ’80s were a curious combination of often bleak lyrics, but uplifting music, fuelled by Johnny Marr’s stylish guitar playing. The charismatic Morrissey remains one of rock’s great frontmen and, as a lyricist, few have ever been able to match him. The Smiths are often thought of as the greatest indie band to have come out of the UK, and they were the trigger for independent music to really flourish by the end of the decade.
3. New Order
Emerging out of the ashes of the fabulous Joy Division, New Order had a lot to live up to. That they did so was largely down to their ability to reinvent themselves and combine dance music with rock in an innovative way. Their 1983 song Blue Monday was seen as ground-breaking at the time, but they produced a series of acclaimed albums in the ’80s, with bassist’s Peter Hook’s distinctive sound very much to the fore.
2. Duran Duran
As with fellow teen idols The Beatles and T-Rex, Duran Duran’s music was not the type of slushy pop that is often associated with bands with a huge following of teenage girl fans. Duran Duran were very skilled at moving between different musical styles, with notable examples being the raucous The Wild Boys, the contemplative Save a Prayer, and the sophisticated A View to a Kill, which was one of the best of the James Bond theme songs.
Queen were the biggest British rock group in the ’80s and they finally made it big in the US. Their versatility also reached new heights, and they embraced influences including electronic music and disco. At Live Aid in 1985, as one act among the most famous gathering of rock and pop stars ever assembled, Queen stole the show. Becoming masters of stadium rock all over the world in the ’80s, sadly, their successful decade was not to be replicated in the 1990s as singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991. But, out of all the British rock groups of the ’80s, the decade really belonged to Queen.