What Were The Top Rock Bands of the 1980’s?

Coming up with a list of the “best” rock bands in the 80s can be a very contentious topic. After all, it’s highly subjective. But assessing the “top” rock bands should be easier. After all, some rock bands were simply more popular than others.

U2

The #1 rock band of the 80s wasn’t from the US, and they weren’t from the UK either. They were an Irish band from Dublin.

They started getting a lot of attention when they released their third album War, which included “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. This was the album that replaced Thriller from the top of the UK charts, and it reached #12 in the US Charts.


u2
A young U2 in 1980

But it was the 5th album The Joshua Tree which would set their mark in the US and all over the world. It included “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, which were the first #1 hits in the US for U2. This album is what helped U2 land on the cover of Time Magazine. From then on, they would dominate the 80s and the 90s as well.


“With Or Without You” By U2 1987

U2 sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, and they have received 22 Grammys, which is quite a feat.

The Police

These guys started out in the 70s as a reggae band, but they transformed themselves into a rock band by the 1980s. Their 6th album, Synchronicity, became one of the bestselling albums of all time, and it cemented their position as one of the top rock bands of the decade—even though the band broke up in 1986. This album sold 8 million copies just in the US, and the band sold more than 75 million albums in the world.


the police
The Police

Van Halen

It was their single “Jump” in the album 1984 which started it all, and which catapulted David Lee Roth and Van Halen to worldwide fame. The band actually started back in the early 1970s, but it was the release of 1984 that truly changed things. This album sold more than 12 million copies just in the US, and the band has sold more than 80 million albums.


van halen
Van Halen

Then they replaced David Lee Roth, and everything just went downhill from there.

Bon Jovi

Led by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, this band has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. Their worldwide success was due to the third album Slippery When Wet which contained the #1 hits “Living on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”.



“Livin On A Prayer” By Bon Jovi 1986

Guns N’ Roses

GNR was formed in 1985, and they quickly became a sensation. Led by Axl Rose and Slash, their first album Appetite for Destruction was a smash hit in 1987, and it sold 18 million copies in the US and 28 million worldwide. It was the bestselling debut album of all time in the US. Although the next album would be part of the 90s, with Appetite for Destruction GNR established itself as one of the top rock bands of the 1980s.


guns n roses
Guns N Roses

Those are our picks for the most iconic bands in the 1980s. What were some of your favorites? 🙂