The 1980s saw the age of blockbuster film flourish in theaters across the United States. Think The Raiders of the Lost Ark, AND the extra-terrestrial, The breakfast cluband Return of the Jedi. And, at the same time, music was undergoing its own cultural transformation. Disco music had been on a decline in popularity since its peak in the 1970s, but new wave music and glam metal music were picking up speed on the road to cultural prestige.
So, to really immerse ourselves in all the pomp and circumstance of the 80s, join us in taking a look at some influential rock bands that debuted during that decade.
1. Bon Jovi
Named after its leader and founder Jon Bon Jovi, the band recently released their 15th studio album in 2020. Bon Jovi has been making music since 1983 and achieved worldwide recognition in 1986 with their third album. Slippery when wet. And throughout their many songs, albums and performances together, the band have continued to introduce their hard rock and glam metal sound to new generations.
2. Guns N’ Roses
Formed in 1985, Guns N’ Roses originally consisted of vocalist Axl Rose, guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler. Today, after seeing a few additions and changes to the lineup, the band continues to perform. And, quite frankly, there’s nothing like hearing the guitar openings on “Sweet Child O’ Mine” or “Welcome To The Jungle” to get your adrenaline pumping.
REM got its start at the start of the decade, in 1980, and its founding members met while students at the University of Georgia. Singer Michael Stipe reportedly picked the group’s name at random, and the rock quartet released their first single, “Radio Free Europe”, in 1981. REM later achieved mainstream success with the song “The One I Love” in 1987. REM disbanded in 2011.
4. Hot red peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the best known alternative rock bands. Since their genesis in 1983, the Chili Peppers have won six Grammy Awards, become Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers and are the proud owners of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And they did it while bringing some much-needed levity to the genre.
Famed Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl joined Nirvana in 1990, but founding members Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic started the band in 1987 in Aberdeen, Washington. The band became known for Cobain’s vocals and rock-solid speed of instrumentation, all of which are particularly evident in the band’s breakthrough album, Not serious. Unfortunately, Nirvana’s legacy is also plagued by the tragedy of Cobain’s suicide.
6. Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins was born in 1988 thanks to founders Billy Corgan, D’arcy Wretzky, James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin. The band has since undergone several line-up changes but remains a prominent player on the rock scene.
7. Green Day
Widely known for their influence on the punk scene, Green Day have more than a little rock woven into their sound. Founded in 1987 by Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, Green Day has continued to evolve with the rock and punk scenes while maintaining their cheeky nature.
8. Nine Inch Nails
Another band formed in the second half of the decade was the rock band Nine Inch Nails from Cleveland, Ohio. First assembled in 1988, Nine Inch Nails has often been cited as one of the reasons for popularizing industrial rock music. It would indeed be hurt not to include these rockers in a roundup like this.
(Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)