I grew up in the 80’s. I drove the main highway in my hometown; windows rolled down and radio blaring. The music was loud and I felt free. As a newly independent adult there was a strong urgency to keep moving on and follow the road to the very end. Although introduced in 1982 Compact Discs (CD’s) had not become the norm until the mid to late 1980’s. Cassettes were still the popular choice for music distribution. The 80’s was a time of great bands. As a testament to the talent and energy of these bands many are still on tour. Some slightly reformatted, some in original form. Young adults today still seek out those bands that shaped the energy of rock.
Everyone has an opinion on the best of the best 80’s bands. It’s a matter of taste. Whatever degree of intensity or defiance you were looking for there was a band out there to suit it. They all had one thing in common. Bands were loud and they could belt out a beat. They could raise a roof, and they set the standard for a quality performance.
Let’s take a look at some of the top producing bands of the 80″s.
Boston: Highly energetic and demanding Brad Delp, lead vocalist for Boston, was insistent on doing things the right way. Boston’s self-titled first albums was released after years of work. It has been regarded as one of the all time best selling debut albums. The title was held for 11 years. Don’t Look Back and Only a Feeling remain two of the best known songs originally released in the 80’s. Boston had one number one hit and released five studio albums. When Delp passed away in 2007 the band stopped touring.
Foreigner: As one of several bands to transition from the 70’s into the 80’s Foreigner had strong roots. From 1977-1987 Foreigner released six studio albums. I Wanna Know Where Love Is continues to be one of the most played music videos. The song was also there only number one hit. Foreigner was almost sidelined when lead singer Lou Gramm was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fortunately the tumor was benign and the group resumed touring. They continue to tour with original members Lou Gramm and Mick Jones.
Queen: Very few people are unfamiliar with Queen’s We Are The Champions/We Will RockYou. The song is still an on-going anthem at sporting events. Although there were two number one hits for Queen in the US they spawned several more in Britain. The unique vocals of Freddie Mercury carried the music of Queen around the world. Queen released 15 studio albums. In 1991 Freddie Mercury passed away leaving Queen without a lead singer. No one in the band felt Mercury could be replaced. The suriving members continue to be active in performing with other acts.
Heart: Heart emerged at a time when female bands were still trying to make a breakthrough. It was very rare to award a female fronted band significant recognition. Ann and Nancy Wilson energized Heart. The strong, powerful vocals of Ann Wilson could leave you breathless. From 1976-1987 Heart released nine studio albums. The band suffered through many relationship issues, lineup changes and public scrutiny over Ann Wilson’s blooming weight. Heart achieved a total of five number one hits. They continue to remain true to there musical beginnings. They recently released a comeback album and launched a US tour.
REO Speedwagon: From 1974-1975 REO was lead by singer Mike Murphy. One of there most notable albums, Riding the Storm Out was released during that time. Kevin Cronin was added and REO began to realize a great amount of success. From 1976-1987 REO released a total of eight studio albums and become one of the top selling concert attractions. Although educated with a folk music background Cronin supplied just what REO needed to appeal to crowds. He appeared to be an adept writer also. REO continues to tour with Cronin as lead singer.
Styx: Styx found a cornerstone for success when guitarist Tommy Shaw was added. Tommy was a high profile player. However, from the beginning it appeared the bands artistic differences would be a downfall. Styx had a turbulent, highly publicized relationship. The conflicts surrounding musical direction eventually became the downfall of the band. Styx had one number one hit, and recorded a total of seven studio albums from 1975-1983. They continue to tour today with Tommy Shaw, but without former lead singer Dennis DeYoung.
Bad Company: Bad Company hit the road running. Their very first self titled debut album created hits for the band. After five successful studio albums in as many years Bad Company took a much need hiatus. The band was reformed three years later replacing the lead singer. With 12 studio albums and two number one hits the band continues to tour the US, although they have experienced several lineup changes.
38 Special: With the most unusual and unique blend of southern rock and arena rock 38 special provided some of the more memorable songs of the 80’s. 38 Special had two number one hits and eight studio albums from 1977-1988. 38 Special began by opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Not surprising considering the VanZant brothers fronted both bands. In 1981 Wild Eyed Southern Boys launched a series of successful hits. 38 Special continues to tour today. VanZant is still in the forefront with a few lineup changes made along the way.
Genesis: Phil Collins had great success with Genesis before he became a mega star on his own. Genesis is one of the top selling artists of the 1980’s. Collins was a former child star turned drummer. He did not originally provide lead vocals for Genesis, but did ad a few chords. Phil Collins eventually replaced former lead singer Peter Gabriel as vocalist. Genesis racked up a total of eight number one hits, and recorded a total of eight studio albums from 1976 to 1981. Genesis continues to tour today with three former members including Phil Collins.
Journey: Journey got a start in the early 70’s as a fusion jazz band. The group was originally formed by Neil Schon and Greg Rolie. Both were former members of Santana. After several unsuccessful recordings Journey finally found a niche when they recruited vocalist Steve Perry in 1977. Perry continues to be one of the most recognizable voices in music history. With Steve Perry as vocalist Journey recorded nine albums from 1975-1986. In 1996, with Perry again as lead vocalist, Journey released Trial By Fire which earned a Grammy nomination. While preparing to tour for Trial By Fire Steve Perry was in an accident which prevented a promotional tour. Journey opted to replace Perry and resumed touring in 1998. Neil Schon Ross Valory, and Jonathan Cain continue to tour with a reorganized Journey. Although Journey did not achieve a number one hit Open Arms was recognized as the number one power bald of all time. Journey became one of the largest selling arena rock bands. There music still fills the airways.
You don’t have to agree who the best was. These bands all proved there place in music history with hits and longevity. The 80’s wouldn’t have been the 80’s without them. No more than the 60’s would have been the 60’s without the Beetles or Elvis.