Popular Groups of the 80s


Not only by the medium of sound, but also the newer medium of video affected music in the 1980s. With the explosion of MTV, musicians were now broadcast to the houses of viewers like never before. The decade saw a wide range of genres, from rap to heavy metal, make their mark on the music scene.


  • Rock music continued to be an integral part of popular music. Irish rockers U2 scored a huge hit with the 1987 album "The Joshua Tree," which sold 25 million copies and was listed by Rolling Stone magazine as the 26th best album of all time. Dire Straits rose to popularity in the decade, scoring a huge hit with their 1985 album "Brothers in Arms." Pink Floyd released multiple albums in the 1980s, "The Final Cut," its last with Roger Waters as a member. The Rolling Stones remained popular throughout the decade and were introduced into into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Heavy Metal

  • Heavy metal is rock music amplified, distorted, hard and loud. Metallica was one of the genre's headliners. Their 1980s releases included "Ride the Lightning" in 1984 and "Master of Puppets" in 1986. Heavy metal acts Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Slayer all had a steady following during the 1980s.

Hair Bands

  • Hair metal, or glam metal, which combined hard rock mentality with an exaggerated colorful look, flourished in the 1980s. The decade's most popular hair bands included Poison, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. Guns N' Roses emerged at the end of the decade to score phenomenal success with their 1988 album, "Appetite for Destruction."


  • With its stripped-down, raw sound and lack of flamboyant appearance, punk rock was the antithesis of hair glam. The Clash, The Fall, Bad Religion and The Misfits were all popular punk groups that had large followings in the 1980s. The Ramones were one of the most popular of all punk bands. Spin magazine called them the second best music group of all time, behind only the Beatles.


  • Rap emerged as a popular genre of music in the 1980s. Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys both shot to prominence, scoring chart-topping hits. Social-political rappers Public Enemy, featuring members Chuck D and Flavor Flav, saw fame with the 1988 album "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." Gangsta rap, a subgenre of rap, flourished under N.W.A, a Los Angeles group that sung about the crime and poverty prevalent in ghettos.

New Wave

  • New wave incorporated several genres of music, including electronic, punk and pop. Several top acts of the '80s were part of the new wave music movement, including The Cars, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Blondie and New Order. The Police were one of the best-selling new wave acts. Their 1983 album " Synchronicity" went platinum eight times, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

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