Rock Bands of the 80s: The Golden Age of Music

Rock Bands of the 80s: The Golden Age of Music
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The Rock bands of the 80s stood out for taking music to a very high quality level, so for many, it is the golden age of music.

The 80s, creative explosion of Rock

Undoubtedly, the 80s were a decade of contrasts, changes and a creative explosion in music that left an indelible mark on rock history. It was an era that saw the rise of iconic bands, the consolidation of subgenres, and a profound influence of the electric guitar on the development of rock music. In this article, we’ll explore the exciting ’80s in music, highlighting some of the most influential rock bands of the time and their impact on music culture.

Also, we recommend that you visit our selection of the best Rock bands of the 60s.

Rock Bands of the 80s: Characteristics and Influence of the Electric Guitar

The 80s were a decade characterized by an extraordinary level of quality and maturity of music. The 1980s saw the rise of arena rock, with bands filling arenas and stadiums around the world. Electric guitars became more prominent in the compositions, driving memorable riffs and virtuoso solos like those of Slash from Guns ‘n Roses. But also, the evolution of effects technology also allowed for a broader palette of sounds, from wild distortion to clean and ethereal.

Do not miss our selection of the best Rock bands of the 70s.

The Best Rock Bands of the 80s

  • Guns N’ Roses
  • Metallica
  • Nirvana
  • R.E.M.
  • The Smiths
  • Depeche Mode
  • Bon Jovi
  • Whitesnake
  • Mötley Crüe
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Primal Scream
  • Poison

Guns N’ Roses

In 1985, a band called Guns N’ Roses was formed in Los Angeles. His debut album, 1987’s “Appetite for Destruction”, became one of the best-selling records in history. Slash’s fiery guitar, complete with his trademark top hat and bob, became an icon of rock and the Gibson Les Paul. Actually, Slash is considered one of the  best guitarists in the history of Rock. Songs like “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” remain rock anthems to this day.


One of the most iconic bands of the 80’s was Metallica. Formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, this Thrash Metal band left an indelible mark on rock history. With an aggressive style and deep lyrics, Metallica became the reference band of the genre. Their 1986 album “Master of Puppets” is considered one of the greatest metal records of all time. The iconic guitars of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett defined the sound of Metallica and became an influence on countless musicians.


Nirvana emerged in 1987 in Seattle, Washington, led by Kurt Cobain. Their second album, 1991’s “Nevermind,” was a cultural phenomenon that changed the direction of rock. Though considered part of the ’90s grunge explosion, Nirvana began shaping their sound in the ’80s. Cobain’s unique style on guitar and his rebellious attitude marked an entire generation.


Originally from Athens, Georgia, REM formed in 1980. Their indie and alternative sound made them pioneers of a musical movement that would gain steam in the ’90s. Throughout the ’80s, they released notable albums like 1983’s “Murmur.” and 1984’s “Reckoning”, featuring Peter Buck’s jangle guitar as an essential part of his distinctive sound.

Also, we recommend that you read our post about the best most famous guitar riffs in Rock.

The Smiths

The Smiths, led by Morrissey and Johnny Marr, formed in 1982 in Manchester, UK. His introspective and melodic music captured the anguish of a generation. Johnny Marr’s guitar playing brought a unique element to their sound, with clean riffs and arpeggios featured prominently on songs like “This Charming Man” and “How Soon Is Now?”

Depeche Mode

Originally from Basildon, Essex, Depeche Mode formed in 1980. Although initially associated with electronic music, they creatively incorporated electric guitars into their compositions throughout the 1980s. Songs like “Personal Jesus” showcased their ability to meld elements electronics and guitar in a unique sound.

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi was formed in 1983 in New Jersey. This melodic rock band had explosive success in the ’80s with albums like 1986’s “Slippery When Wet” and hits like “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Richie Sambora’s guitar playing brought melody and passion to their music, contributing to the band’s status as rock icons.

You may also be interested in our selection of the best easy songs to play on the guitar for beginners.


Whitesnake, though formed in 1978, experienced its greatest success in the ’80s. Frontman David Coverdale, the band released notable albums like 1987’s “Whitesnake”, which includes the iconic ballad “Here I Go Again”. John Sykes’ fiery guitar playing contributed to the band’s distinctive sound.

Mötley Crüe

Originally from Los Angeles, Mötley Crüe formed in 1981. They pioneered glam metal, a subgenre characterized by its flamboyant visual style and riotous attitude. Mick Mars’ guitar playing added a distinctive edge to his sound, which was reflected on hits like “Dr. Feelgood” from 1989.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed in 1983 in Los Angeles. Throughout the ’80s, they fused rock with funk and punk in a fresh and bold way. John Frusciante’s unique style on guitar lifted his music to new heights.

Primal Scream

Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Primal Scream formed in 1982. During the ’80s, they experimented with a variety of styles, including psychedelic rock and indie. His 1991 album “Screamadelica” would be a career highlight, but his roots in the ’80s are central to understanding his evolution.

We recommend that you also read our post on the history of the guitar, from classical to electric guitar.


Poison, another Los Angeles-based band formed in 1983, became a glam metal sensation. His image and CC Deville’s guitar style influenced the aesthetic of the decade. Hits like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Fallen Angel” catapulted them to fame and made them an iconic band of the ’80s.

The Legacy of the Rock Bands of the 80s

The ’80s were a decade of creativity and musical diversity in the world of rock. Bands like Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, REM, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primal Scream, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and Poison left an indelible mark on music history. Notably, the electric guitar reached an extraordinary level of expression, reinforcing itself as a symbol of artistic expression and rebellion, driving unforgettable riffs and virtuoso solos that still resonate in our hearts.

The legacy of these bands lives on in today’s music, where their influence can be heard in a wide variety of genres and styles. The ’80s gave us some of the most iconic and exciting songs in rock history, and their innovative spirit continues to inspire musicians and music lovers around the world. In short, the ’80s were a golden age for electric guitar and rock, and their impact will live on for generations to come.

We recommend that you visit our selection of the best 15 cheap electric guitars for beginners.

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Ronnie Ronston

Ronnie is a musician with vast experience. He has two solo albums released. Also, he has done work as a composer and session musician for various artists. In addition, Ronnie has won the award for best Band and best guitarist of the 3rd Latin American Beatle week, thanks to which he went to play in Liverpool. While in England he lived there as a musician. He has also played a season with "Dios Salve A La Reina" (God Save The Queen), one of the most successful Queen tribute band.

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