21 Most Iconic Rock Music of the 80s

The 80s is best known for punk rock, preppies, funk, New Wave, and big hair. Fashion was outrageous as the music people created. It gave birth to rap and breakdance many Millennials now consider old school.

However, the 1980s also marked some of the music kingdom’s most quintessential rock and roll masterpieces. Here are 21 of the most iconic rock music of the 80s worth listening to over again. 

1. Purple Rain by Prince

Prince surprised the music industry in 1984 with this power ballad that infused elements of orchestral and gospel music with classic R&B and rock. It defined Prince’s artistry and set the tone for the rock music of the eighties. 

2. Just Like Heaven by The Cure

This song is colorful, fussy, and fluttery, complete with romantic and pensive numbers. It blends Smith’s gently chiming melody with Williams’ strong and purposeful percussion. Just Like Heaven is a love song with a hard rock vibe.

3. Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses

One of the most famous rock bands of all time, Guns N’ Roses penned this song after Axl Rose met a homeless man in NY. With Slash’s phenomenal riffs, the group finished the piece in a record time of only three hours. The rest is history.

4. Back in Black by AC/DC

Who can ever forget the opening riff of this song? If you have seen Spider-Man: Far from Home, you will know this iconic song when Peter mistook this AC/DC song for Led Zeppelin’s. It looks like Mysterio knocked Peter’s Spider-sense real bad.

5. Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen

A favorite of pubs and music venues, this 1980s song is the epitome of American heartland rock. The chorus is as positive and patriotic as any national anthem, despite the lyrics painting a gloomy picture of the horrors of war.

6. Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie

The collaboration between rock juggernauts David Bowie and Freddie Mercury brought one of the most iconic tunes of the century to the world. The pulsating rhythm of Deacon’s catchy bassline became the blueprint of other great songs.

7. Every Breath You Take by The Police

Billboard’s top song for 1983 continued to enjoy substantial playtime on contemporary radio airwaves. This Sting-penned song is radio history’s most played song, enjoying more than 15 million radio plays and winning numerous accolades.

8. Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses

Slash’s mastery of the guitar is front and center in this 1988 piece. After all, this song happens to have the most recognizable riff of all time. Aspiring rock artists continue to look to this masterpiece for inspiration.


9. You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi

Many people mistake this song for Shot Through the Heart, one of Bon Jovi’s songs in their debut album two years prior. It has an electrifying vibe that makes you want to jump off your seat.

10. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey

Most rock songs have earth-shattering guitar riffs. This 1981 rock piece relies on its keyboard to provide a riff that is as timeless as Slash’s Sweet Child o’ Mine masterpiece. It also happens to be the Detroit Red Wings’ anthem.

11. Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams

One of Bryan Adams’ most successful songs ever, Summer of ’69 speaks of the dilemma between becoming a rock star and settling down. Almost everyone can relate to the message.

12. Money for Nothing by Dire Straits

A pop-rock song, Money for Nothing gave the world a very different kind of guitar riff to get hooked. The verses played permutations of the riff, making for a characteristic rhythm that anyone can hum to.

13. Another One Bites the Dust by Queen

One of Billboard’s All-time Top Songs, this 1980 funk-rock shows how a catchy bass can form the core and backbone of a song and still rake awards. With limited lyrics drowned by Deacon’s signature bassline, this is one 80’s song worth listening to again.

14. Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi’s signature song, Livin’ on a Prayer, enjoys more than 775 million YouTube views. Major music organizations recognize this 1986 masterpiece as one of the music kingdom’s greatest rock songs of all time.

15. Africa by Toto

This 1981 song is famous for its explosive choruses, a surprising departure from several lines of mellow verses. It has a catchy tune that prompted many media outlets to include it in their projects.

16. Photograph by Def Leppard

Topping Billboard upon its release, this 1982 Def Leppard creation is one of the most iconic rock music of the 80s. The song combines power pop, hard rock, and glam metal elements to create a piece that transcends generations.

17. Tom Sawyer by Rush

This hard rock classic is the Canadian rock band’s most significant contribution to the 80s rock scene. A Canadian Hall of Famer, Tom Sawyer continues to rock the music world via digital downloads and streaming platforms.

18. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

Fans of Rocky Balboa know this song by heart. After all, Eye of the Tiger provided the background music to Sylvester Stallone’s character as he prepares to slug it out with Mr. T’s Clubber Lang.

19. With or Without You by U2

The lyrics may sound cheesy, but there is no denying Bono’s phenomenal voice and Edge’s sustained guitar playing. When you add Clayton’s signature bassline, you get a song that endures because of its message and catchy hook.

20. Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler

Who said that the rock music scene is for testosterone-filled, guitar-wielding egos only? Bonnie Tyles thrived at a time when men dominated the concert stage and airwaves, bringing to audiophiles pop-rock music like no other.

21. The Final Countdown by Europe

A favorite of college and high school pep bands and sporting venues, Europe’s masterpiece is one of the most enduring songs ever to come out of the 80s. What is more astonishing is that the band never intended the song to make it beyond a concert opener.

Conclusion

These 21 most iconic rock music of the 80s defined a period when whammy bar abuse, pinch harmonics, and heavy distortion were the norm. From shred guitar to thrash metal, glam metal, and soft rock, the music of the 80s is as colorful as the people of the time.

This article is written by Charles Vallena, Managing Editor @ Guitar Junky.

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