100 Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s

Updated on October 21, 2019
Ansel Pereira profile image

I have been an online writer for over four years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

While the term "classic rock" is generally associated with rock songs from the '60s and '70s, music from the '80s and '90s are making their way onto these radio stations. See if your favorite songs made the list!
While the term "classic rock" is generally associated with rock songs from the '60s and '70s, music from the '80s and '90s are making their way onto these radio stations. See if your favorite songs made the list! | Source

While the term "classic rock" is generally associated with rock songs from the '60s and '70s, the development of this radio format took shape through the AOR scene in the early ‘80s. Typically, classic rock formats feature rock songs from the 1960s to the 1990s. A number of radio stations that sprung up in the ‘80s showcased songs of hard rock bands and blues rock bands. The AOR format helped propel classic rock in a new direction, focusing on commercially successful acts.

While the classic rock format has evolved over the years, the genre still relies heavily on nostalgia. The list below showcases an epic list of ‘80s and ‘90s classic rock songs. If you are a fan of music from these decades, you'll definitely want to share your thoughts. Feel free to share your views and opinions in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  1. “Every Breath You Take”—The Police
  2. “With or Without You”—U2
  3. “Sweet Child O’ Mine”—Guns N’ Roses
  4. “Radio Ga Ga”—Queen
  5. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—Nirvana
  6. “Eye of the Tiger”—Survivor
  7. “Open Arms”—Journey
  8. “Losing My Religion”—R.E.M.
  9. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”—Starship
  10. “Dancing in the Dark”—Bruce Springsteen

What Is Classic Rock?

While the origin of the term "classic rock" is hard to pinpoint, a number of music purists are of the opinion that the term was popularized by ‘80s radio shows. As album-oriented rock stations attempted to connect with adult audiences, the process helped classic rock stations emerge. These radio stations played an eclectic mix of commercially popular songs from past decades. This mixed format of rock songs, identified as classic rock, has become one of the most popular radio formats around the world.

Classic Rock Formats

Over the years, the radio-friendly sound of classic rock has become hugely popular with different age groups. While a number of radio stations in the 2000s avoided playing ‘90s alternative rock and grunge on classic rock formats, since 2010, newer classic rock formats have started including a broader spectrum of music from the ‘90s. New radio stations have also included commercially popular heavy metal songs in their classic rock formats.

Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s #11-20

11. “Walk Like an Egyptian”—The Bangles

12. “Under the Bridge”—Red Hot Chili Peppers

13. “I Want to Know What Love Is”—Foreigner

14. “Breaking the Law”—Judas Priest

15. “Creep”—Radiohead

16. “Wonderwall”—Oasis

17. “Enter Sandman”—Metallica

18. “Africa”—Toto

19. “More Than Words”—Extreme

20. “Loser”—Beck

Modern Day Classic Rock

Modern day radio stations that focus on a diverse set of rock songs are often labeled as "next generation classic rock." These formats include cult hits and commercially successful rock songs from the ‘80s to the 2000s. Presently, a number of internet radio stations showcase a diverse mix of classic rock and retro music. Much of today's psychedelic rock sound can be directly traced to the classic rock genre.

Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s #21-40

21. “Tears in Heaven”—Eric Clapton

22. “Zombie”—The Cranberries

23. “Faithfully”—Journey

24. “Total Eclipse of the Heart”—Bonnie Tyler

25. “Don’t Speak”—No Doubt

26. “Shine”—Collective Soul

27. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”—Def Leppard

28. “The Final Countdown—Europe

29. “Basket Case”—Green Day

30. “Waiting for a Girl Like You”—Foreigner

31. “Black Hole Sun”—Soundgarden

32. “Iris”—Goo Goo Dolls

33. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”—Bryan Adams

34. “(I Just) Died in Your Arms”—Cutting Crew

35. “November Rain”—Guns N’ Roses

36. “Everlong”—Foo Fighters

37. “Here I Go Again”—Whitesnake

38. “Got My Mind Set on You”—George Harrison

39. “Two Princes”—Spin Doctors

40. “Jeremy”—Pearl Jam

Advertising on Classic Rock Stations

While classic rock has connected with a wide range of audiences, it has also gained the interest of radio advertisers. The popularity of classic rock has led to a new form of marketing and advertising by companies and organizations on radio. Consumer-friendly advertisements aired on radio stations have made a big impact with people from all walks of life. Youth-centric advertisements, promoting college-specific products, have become hugely popular on classic rock stations. These advertisements have challenged preconceived notions that younger generations are not interested in the classic rock genre.

Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s #41-60

41. “Summer of 69”—Bryan Adams

42. “Don’t Stop Believin’"—Journey

43. “Welcome to the Jungle”—Guns N’ Roses

44. “Alive”—Pearl Jam

45. “Sara”—Starship

46. “Livin’ on a Prayer”—Bon Jovi

47. “Money for Nothing”—Dire Straits

48. “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”—Aerosmith

49. “Broken Wings”—Mr. Mister

50. “Living After Midnight”—Judas Priest

51. “Blaze of Glory”—Jon Bon Jovi

52. “Free Fallin’”—Tom Petty

53. “Nothing Else Matters”—Metallica

54. “Always”—Bon Jovi

55. “Right Here Waiting”—Richard Marx

56. “Turn Me Loose”—Loverboy

57. “Still Loving You”—Scorpions

58. “Black Velvet”—Alannah Myles

59. “Is This Love”—Whitesnake

60. “Crazy Train”—Ozzy Osbourne

Female Musicians on Classic Radio Stations

While in the past a number of classic rock radio stations were severely criticized for being gender bias and showcasing only male musicians, things have changed drastically in recent decades. Modern classic rock formats have showcased women in a new light. A number of radio stations now dedicate exclusive segments to female classic rock bands and female classic rock musicians. All female classic rock countdowns have become exceedingly popular on modern day radio stations.

Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s #61-80

61. “All I Wanna Do”—Sheryl Crow

62. “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”—The Offspring

63. “Lightning Crashes”—Live

64. “Please Forgive Me”—Bryan Adams

65. “Bitter Sweet Symphony”—The Verve

66. “What’s Up?”—4 Non Blondes

67. “I’ll Be There for You”—Bon Jovi

68. “Keep on Loving You”—REO Speedwagon

69. “Run to the Hills”—Iron Maiden

70. “Start Me Up”—The Rolling Stones

71. “The Flame”—Cheap Trick

72. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”—Green Day

73. “Poison”—Alice Cooper

74. “Holy Diver”—Dio

75. “If It Makes You Happy”—Sheryl Crow

76. “Drive”—The Cars

77. “Every Rose Has It's Thorn”—Poison

78. “The Unforgiven”—Metallica

79. “Jump”—Van Halen

80. “Paradise City”—Guns N’ Roses

Best Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s #81-90

81. “Another One Bites the Dust”—Queen

82. “Back in Black”—AC/DC

83. “Karma Police”—Radiohead

84. “Learning to Fly”—Pink Floyd

85. “Still Got the Blues”—Gary Moore

86. “Crazy”—Aerosmith

87. “No Rain”—Blind Melon

88. “You Oughta Know”—Alanis Morissette

89. “Semi-Charmed Life”—Third Eye Blind

90. “18 and Life”—Skid Row

91. “We’re Not Gonna Take It”—Twisted Sister

92. “Under Pressure”—Queen

93. “One of Us”—Joan Osbourne

94. “I Hate Myself for Loving You”—Joan Jett

95. “You Give Love a Bad Name”—Bon Jovi

96. “Heaven”—Bryan Adams

97. “Rock You Like a Hurricane”—Scorpions

98. “Livin’ on the Edge”—Aerosmith

99. “Working for the Weekend”—Loverboy

100. “Hunger Strike”—Temple of the Dog

Other Notable Classic Rock Songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  • “I Won’t Hold You Back”—Toto
  • “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”—Judas Priest
  • “Somebody”—Bryan Adams
  • “Linger”—The Cranberries
  • “Rainbow in the Dark”—Dio
  • “Have You Ever Needed Someone so Bad”—Def Leppard
  • “Mental Health”—Quiet Riot
  • “We Built This City”—Starship
  • “Rock the Night”—Europe
  • “When You Love a Woman”—Journey
  • “Janie’s Got a Gun”—Aerosmith
  • “Mr. Crowley”—Ozzy Osbourne
  • “Caught Up in You”—38 Special
  • “Thunderstruck”—AC/DC
  • “Walk of Life”—Dire Straits
  • “Spoonman”—Soundgarden
  • “Wind of Change”—Scorpions
  • “Eternal Flame”—The Bangles
  • “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”—Queen
  • “Not Now John”—Pink Floyd
  • “Do I Have to Say the Words?”—Bryan Adams
  • “The Price”—Twisted Sister
  • “Big Love”—Fleetwood Mac
  • “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”—U2
  • “No One Like You”—Scorpions
  • “Run To You”—Bryan Adams
  • “Higher Love”—Steve Winwood
  • “Bad Medicine”—Bon Jovi
  • “Harden My Heart”—Quarterflash
  • “Plush”—Stone Temple Pilots
  • “Twilight Zone”—Golden Earring
  • “Cryin’”—Aerosmith
  • “Scar Tissue”—Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • “Mama I’m Coming Home”—Ozzy Osbourne
  • “Crazy Crazy Nights”—Kiss
  • “Nothin’ But a Good Time”—Poison
  • “Bulls on Parade”—Rage Against the Machine
  • “Price of Love”—Bad English
  • “Runaway”—Bon Jovi
  • “Carrie”—Europe
  • “Don’t Close Your Eyes”—Kix
  • “Sad But True”—Metallica
  • “Cult of Personality”—Living Colour
  • “So Far Away”—Dire Straits
  • “Home Sweet Home”—Motley Crue
  • “Close My Eyes Forever”—Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford
  • “Panama”—Van Halen
  • “High Hopes”—Pink Floyd
  • “Keep the Faith”—Bon Jovi
  • “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”—Meat Loaf

  • “Don’t Look Back in Anger”—Oasis
  • “I Remember You”—Skid Row
  • “Hysteria”—Def Leppard
  • “Sailing”—Christopher Cross
  • “Always Gonna Love You”—Gary Moore
  • “Hazard—Richard Marx
  • “Cat Scratch Fever”—Ted Nugent
  • “Buddy Holly”—Weezer
  • “Amanda”—Boston
  • “Come As You Are”—Nirvana
  • “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”—Cinderella
  • “Cum on Feel the Noize”—Quiet Riot
  • “Are You Gonna Go My Way”—Lenny Kravitz
  • “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?”—Bryan Adams
  • “Moneytalks”—AC/DC
  • “Where You Goin’ Now”—Damn Yankees
  • “Bed of Roses”—Bon Jovi
  • “Far Behind”—Candlebox
  • “You Get What You Give”—New Radicals
  • “Bird of Paradise”—Snowy White
  • “Out of My Head”—Fastball
  • “I’ll Cry for You”—Europe
  • “I Wanna Rock”—Twisted Sister
  • “Never Tear Us Apart”—Inxs
  • “This Ain’t a Love Song”—Bon Jovi
  • “You’re the Inspiration”—Chicago
  • “Painkiller”—Judas Priest
  • “Two Steps Behind”—Def Leppard
  • “Love Walked In”—Thunder
  • “Hot for Teacher”—Van Halen
  • “What It’s Like”—Everlast
  • “Burnin’ For You”—Blue Oyster Cult
  • “One”—Metallica
  • “I Love You”—Climax Blues Band
  • “Hallelujah”—Jeff Buckley
  • “Love Bites”—Def Leppard
  • “Never Say Goodbye”—Bon Jovi
  • “Man in the Box”—Alice in Chains
  • “One”—U2
  • “Miles Away”—Winger
  • “Killing in the Name”—Rage Against the Machine
  • “Everybody Hurts”—R.E.M.
  • “Big City Nights”—Scorpions
  • “Kayleigh”—Marillion
  • “Angelia”—Richard Marx
  • “I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)”—Steelheart
  • “Champagne Supernova”—Oasis
  • “Fly”—Sugar Ray
  • “Hurts so Good”—John Mellencamp
  • “Rosanna”—Toto

  • “When I’m With You”—Sherriff
  • “Photograph”—Def Leppard
  • “Epic”—Faith No More
  • “Would”—Alice in Chains
  • “Alone Again”—Dokken
  • “Kyrie”—Mr. Mister
  • “Legs”—ZZ Top
  • “Alone”—Heart
  • “Biggest Part of Me”—Ambrosia
  • “The Boys of Summer”—Don Henley
  • “Heaven’s on Fire”—Kiss
  • “When I See You Smile”—Bad English
  • “Send Me an Angel”—Scorpions
  • “Rebel Yell”—Billy Idol
  • “Time”—The Alan Parsons Project
  • “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”—Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Bark at the Moon”—Ozzy Osbourne
  • “I Won’t Forget You”—Poison
  • “Dreams”—Van Halen
  • “Walk”—Pantera
  • “Big Log”—Robert Plant
  • “Love Is on the Way”—Saigon Kick
  • “Hook”—Blues Traveler
  • “This Could Be the Night”—Loverboy
  • “Civil War”—Guns N’ Roses
  • “Foolish Heart”—Steve Perry
  • “You’re the Only Woman (You and I)”—Ambrosia
  • “Now and Forever”—Richard Marx
  • “Take Me for a Little While”—Coverdale/Page
  • “Mixed Emotions”—The Rolling Stones
  • “Give It Away”—Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • “The Search Is Over”—Survivor
  • “Screaming in the Night”—Krokus
  • “Will You Still Love Me?”—Chicago
  • “Road to Nowhere”—Ozzy Osbourne
  • “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”—Chicago
  • “Oh Sherrie”—Steve Perry
  • “Who Made Who”—AC/DC
  • “High Enough”—Damn Yankees
  • “Can’t Fight This Feeling”—REO Speedwagon
  • “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Girls Girls Girls”—Motley Crue
  • “I’ll Stand By You”—Pretenders
  • “Patience”—Guns N’ Roses
  • “Hard Habit to Break”—Chicago
  • “I Live My Life for You”—Firehouse
  • “1979”—The Smashing Pumpkins
  • “Born in the U.S.A.”—Bruce Springsteen
  • “I See You in My Dreams”—Giant
  • “Romeo and Juliet”—Dire Straits

  • “Little Lies”—Fleetwood Mac
  • “Headed For a Heartbreak”—Winger
  • “I’ll Be Over You”—Toto
  • “Midnight Blue”—Lou Gramm
  • “Runaway Train”—Soul Asylum
  • “Without You”—Motley Crue
  • “Don’t Cry”—Guns N’ Roses
  • “Smooth”—Santana featuring Rob Thomas
  • “Even Flow”—Pearl Jam
  • “When the Children Cry”—White Lion
  • “Silent Lucidity”—Queensryche
  • “All I Want”—Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • “The Way”—Fastball
  • “Almost Paradise”—Mike Reno and Ann Wilson
  • “Heat of the Moment”—Asia
  • “Sharp Dressed Man”—ZZ Top
  • “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”—Simple Minds
  • “Urgent”—Foreigner
  • “She’s Gone”—Steelheart
  • “Love of a Lifetime”—Firehouse
  • “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection”—Nelson
  • “Paranoid Android”—Radiohead
  • “Sister Christian”—Night Ranger
  • “To Be With You”—Mr. Big
  • “Fantasy”—Aldo Nova
  • “The Best of Times”—Styx
  • “Heaven”— Warrant
  • “Kickstart My Heart”—Motley Crue
  • “Heart-Shaped Box”—Nirvana
  • “Push”—Matchbox 20
  • “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”—Crash Test Dummies
  • “No More Tears”—Ozzy Osbourne
  • “When I Look Into Your Eyes”—Firehouse
  • “Owner of a Lonely Heart”—Yes
  • “Live and Let Die”—Guns N’ Roses
  • “Pull Me Under”—Dream Theater
  • “Heaven in Your Eyes”—Loverboy
  • “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”—Deep Blue Something
  • “Why Can’t This Be Love”—Van Halen
  • “More Than Words Can Say”—Alias
  • “The Deeper the Love”—Whitesnake
  • “Take It Easy on Me”—Little River Band
  • “Let’s Make a Night to Remember”—Bryan Adams
  • “Holding Out for a Hero”—Bonnie Tyler
  • “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”—Bryan Adams
  • “When Love and Hate Collide”—Def Leppard
  • “Run-Around”—Blues Traveler
  • “Cherry Pie”—Warrant
  • “Angel”—Aerosmith
  • “Don’t Let It End”—Styx

Which Is the Best Classic Rock Song of the ‘80s and ‘90s?

See results

© 2019 Ansel Pereira

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