100 Best Rock Songs of the '80s

Updated on February 21, 2019
Ansel Pereira profile image

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

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The ‘80s was a memorable decade in music. Rock music gained new momentum, spreading its roots globally. A number of bands from the late ‘70s made new pathways musically, pioneering new developments in sound. The hard rock and metal scene became prominent in the ‘80s, leading to a "whiplash" movement in bands emerging in rock subgenres. Glam metal, a heavy metal subgenre, reached dizzying heights. Fiery high-pitched vocals became the focal point of hair bands and glam metal bands during this decade of "lipstick and leather." Rock songs reached a wide audience. While mainstream rock bands did bag major record deals with recording companies, a number of indie rock bands also found cult followings.

A number of rock bands toured extensively in the ‘80s, performing at sold out venues. The AOR scene became magnanimous. Album-oriented rock, also referred to as arena rock and anthem rock, witnessed a rise in popularity with fans who were looking for softer, but more dramatic rock music. Rock songs became popular with youth around the globe. In the U.S., bands with a radio-friendly sound became exceptionally popular with audiences. Heavy metal continued its reign throughout the ‘80s, while soft rock and power ballads started gaining new ground. The strong emphasis on melodic elements, encompassed with anthem-like choruses, became the signature sound in rock ballads and power ballads of the decade. The soft rock feel (interspersed with hard hitting balladry) gave these rock love songs a unique identity.

Top 10 Best Rock Songs of the ‘80s

  1. "Sweet Child O’ Mine" by Guns n’ Roses
  2. "Back in Black" by AC/DC
  3. "Livin’ on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
  4. "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
  5. "With or Without You" by U2
  6. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
  7. "Jump" by Van Halen
  8. "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard
  9. "Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest
  10. "Is This Love" by Whitesnake

Best Rock Songs of the ‘80s #11-20

Song
Artist
11. "Rock You Like a Hurricane"
Scorpions
12. "Don’t Stop Believin’"
Journey
13. "I Wanna Know What Love Is"
Foreigner
14. "Another One Bites the Dust"
Queen
15. "Summer of 69"
Bryan Adams
16. "Keep on Loving You"
REO Speedwagon
17. "I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll"
Joan Jett
18. "The Final Countdown"
Europe
19. "Money for Nothing"
Dire Straits
20. "Start Me Up"
Rolling Stones

Best Rock Songs of the ‘80s #21-40

Song
Artist
21. "Welcome to the Jungle"
Guns N’ Roses
22. "Still Loving You"
Scorpions
23. "Here I Go Again"
Whitesnake
24. "Every Rose Has It’s Thorn"
Poison
25. "Dancing in the Dark"
Bruce Springteen
26. "One"
Metallica
27. "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For"
U2
28. "You Give Love a Bad Name""
Bon Jovi
29. "Ace of Spades"
Motorhead
30. "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)"
Aerosmith
31. "Girls Girls Girls"
Motley Crue
32. "The Flame"
Cheap Trick
33. "Rebel Yell"
Billy Idol
34. "18 and Life"
Skid Row
35. "Free Fallin'"
Tom Petty
36. "Should I Stay or Should I Go"
The Clash
37. "Hallowed Be Thy Name"
Iron Maiden
38. "Barracuda"
Heart
39. "Walk of Life"
Dire Straits
40. "(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight"
Cutting Crew

Rock Ballads and Music Promotion in the ‘80s

Acoustic intros in rock ballads and power ballads gave new meaning to song structure in the ‘80s. Rock ballads and power ballads became hugely popular with youth globally. A number of albums released by rock bands featured hard-hitting ballads that had chart-topping success. Music television channels, MTV in particular, helped a significant number of mainstream and non-mainstream bands during the ‘80s. While it was not easy to promote music independently, a number of rock bands sold their music at gigs and concerts to make ends meet. Certain rock songs became huge underground hits before they ever received commercial acclaim from critics.

Best Rock Songs of the ‘80s #41-60

Song
Artist
41. "Faithfully"
Journey
42. "Poison"
Alice Cooper
43. "Living After Midnight"
Judas Priest
44. "Born in the U.S.A."
Bruce Springteen
45. "Run to the Hills"
Iron Maiden
46. "I Remember You"
Skid Row
47. "Dr. Feelgood"
Motley Crue
48. "Need You Tonight"
Inxs
49. "We’re Not Gonna Take It"
Twisted Sister
50. "When I See You Smile"
Bad English
51. "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now"
Starship
52. "You’ve Got Another Thing Coming"
Judas Priest
53. "We Didn’t Start The Fire"
Billy Joel
54. "Master of Puppets"
Metallica
55. "Amanda"
Boston
56. "Just Like Heaven"
The Cure
57. "Love Bites"
Def Leppard
58. "Crazy Train"
Ozzy Osbourne
59. "Paradise City"
Guns N’ Roses
60. "Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around"
Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

The Hard Rock Scene in the ‘80s

The hard rock scene, which was prevalent in the ‘70s, changed dramatically in the ‘80s. Guitar-driven hard rock that combined gut-wrenching riffs and blazing guitar solos became the quintessential rock sound of the decade. A number of shred guitar players became exceedingly popular for their guitar work. The '80s witnessed guitar players employing a wide-variety of guitar techniques. Different types of tapping techniques became hugely popular on hard rock songs. This pushed popular music into new dimensions, submerged in deep ethereal soundscapes. Drum solos and extended guitar solos were a prominent feature during live performances of hard rock bands during this decade.

Best Rock Songs of the ‘80s #61-80

Song
Artist
61. "How Soon Is Now"
The Smiths
62. "Angel"
Aerosmith
63. "Jack & Diane"
John Mellencamp
64. "Turn Up the Radio"
Autograph
65. "Shout"
Tears For Fears
66. "The Look"
Roxette
67. "Holy Diver"
Dio
68. "In the Army Now"
Status Quo
69. "Never Tear Us Apart"
INXS
70. "Headed for a Heartbreak"
Winger
71. "Janie’s Got a Gun"
Aerosmith
72. "Personal Jesus"
Depeche Mode
73. "Why Can’t This Be Love"
Van Halen
74. "Heaven In Your Eyes"
Loverboy
75. "Rock the Night"
Europe
76. "Cult of Personality"
Living Colour
77. "It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)"
R.E.M.
78. "Heaven"
Bryan Adams
79. "Abracadabra"
Steve Miller Band
80. "Africa"
Toto

Emergence of Extreme Subgenres in the ‘80s

During this decade, a number of extreme subgenres emerged through the underground music scene. Speed metal and thrash metal bands came into prominence in the ‘80s, paving the way for today's extreme music subgenres. A number of present-day rock bands associated with extreme metal genres cite speed metal bands and thrash metal bands of this decade as their major influences. This decade is notable for pioneering rock acts that have influenced a new wave of rock and metal. While the decade is long gone, its music continues to mesmerize and influence people from all walks of life.

Best Rock Songs of the ‘80s #81-100

Song
Artist
81. "Never Say Goodbye"
Bon Jovi
82. "You Can Do Magic"
America
83. "Another Brick in the Wall 2"
Pink Floyd
84. "Epic"
Faith No More
85. "Don’t You (Forget About Me)"
Simple Minds
86. "Balls to the Wall"
Accept
87. "You’re the Only Woman"
Ambrosia
88. "Invisible touch"
Genesis
89. "Don’t Close Your Eyes"
Kix
90. "You Shook Me All Night Long"
AC/DC
91. "Burnin’ For You"
Blue Oyster Cult
92. "Photograph"
Def Leppard
93. "Mountain Song"
Jane’s Addiction
94. "Can’t Fight This Feeling"
REO Speedwagon
95. "Broken Wings"
Mr. Mister
96. "Under Pressure"
Queen And David Bowie
97. "Love Song"
Tesla
98. "Rock the Casbah"
The Clash
99. "Sister Christian"
Night Ranger
100. "Hungry Like the Wolf"
Duran Duran

Other Notable Rock Songs of the ‘80s

  • "Forever Man"- Eric Clapton

  • "Working for the Weekend"- Loverboy
  • "Run to You"- Bryan Adams
  • "No One Like You"- Scorpions
  • "The Boys of Summer"- Don Henley
  • "I Want to Make the World Turn Around"- Steve Miller Band
  • "When Doves Cry"- Prince
  • "Runaway"- Bon Jovi
  • "When It’s Love"- Van Halen
  • "Dancing With Myself"- Billy Idol
  • "For Whom the Bells Toll"- Metallica
  • "Shock the Monkey"- Peter Gabriel
  • "Bad Medicine"- Bon Jovi
  • "Hysteria"- Def Leppard
  • "Pretending"- Eric Clapton
  • "I Won’t Hold You Back"- Toto
  • "Unskinny Bop"- Poison
  • "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"- Pat Benatar
  • "I Wanna Rock"- Twisted Sister
  • "Real Wild Child"- Iggy Pop
  • "We Built This City"- Starship
  • "Caught Up in You"- 38 Special
  • "Alone"- Heart
  • "Walk Like an Egyptian"- The Bangles
  • "Total Eclipse of the Heart"- Bonnie Tyler
  • "Carrie"- Europe
  • "I Melt With You"- Modern English
  • "When Love Comes to Town"- U2 and B.B King
  • "Tom Sawyer"- Rush
  • "Bark at the Moon"- Ozzy Osbourne
  • "Love in an Elevator"- Aerosmith
  • "Oh Sherrie"- Steve Perry
  • "Drive"- The Cars
  • "Owner of a Lonely Heart"- Yes
  • "Sunday Bloody Sunday"- U2
  • "Hold On"- Santana
  • "Learning to Fly"- Pink Floyd
  • "When the Children Cry"- White Lion
  • "Hells Bells"- AC/DC
  • "Devil Inside"- INXS
  • "It’s in the Way That You Use It"- Eric Clapton
  • "Twilight Zone"- Golden Earring
  • "I’ll Be There for You"- Bon Jovi
  • "Big Log"- Robert Plant
  • "Who Wants to Live Forever"- Queen
  • "Pictures of You"- The Cure
  • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"- Tears For Fears
  • "Take My Breath Away"- Berlin
  • "She Sells Sanctuary"- The Cult
  • "Centerfold"- The J. Geils Band

  • "Jessie’s Girl"- Rick Springfield
  • "Hot for Teacher"- Van Halen
  • "Addicted to Love"- Robert Palmer
  • "King of Pain"- The Police
  • "Fade to Black"- Metallica
  • "Higher Love"- Steve Winwood
  • "Uptown Girl"- Billy Joel
  • "Waiting for a Girl Like You"- Foreigner
  • "Open Arms"- Journey
  • "Got My Mind Set on You"- George Harrison
  • "Hurts So Good"- John Mellencamp
  • "Say You Will"- Foreigner
  • "Close My Eyes Forever"- Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne
  • "Juke Box Hero"- Foreigner
  • "Your Wildest Dreams"- The Moody Blues
  • "Kyrie"- Mr. Mister
  • "Teen Age Riot"- Sonic Youth
  • "Sledgehammer"- Peter Gabriel
  • "Mixed Emotions"- The Rolling Stones
  • "Heaven"- Warrant
  • "Sharp Dressed Man"- ZZ Top
  • "The One I Love"- R.E.M.
  • "Holding Out for a Hero"- Bonnie Tyler
  • "I Want to Break Free"- Queen
  • "Roll With It"- Steve Winwood
  • "Mr Crowley"- Ozzy Osbourne
  • "Fantasy"- Aldo Nova
  • "The Spirit of Radio"- Rush
  • "Midnight Blue"- Lou Gramm
  • "Don’t Know What You Got (Till I’ts Gone)"- Cinderella
  • "Heat of the Moment"- Asia
  • "Waiting on a Friend"- Rolling Stones
  • "Talk to Me"- Stevie Nicks
  • "Stone Cold"- Rainbow
  • "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free"- Sting
  • "Patience"- Guns N’ Roses
  • "Shake It Up"- The Cars
  • "Panama"- Van Halen
  • "No Way Out"- Jefferson Starship
  • "Urgent"- Foreigner
  • "No Reply at All"- Genesis
  • "Danger Zone"- Kenny Loggins
  • "Metal Health"- Quiet Riot
  • "Touch of Grey"- Grateful Dead
  • "She’s So Cold"- The Rolling Stones
  • "Nothin’ But a Good Time"- Poison
  • "Don’t Change"- INXS
  • "Wanted Dead or Alive"- Bon Jovi
  • "Cherry Pie"- Warrant
  • "New World Man"- Rush

Which Is the Best Rock Song of the ‘80s?

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    © 2019 Ansel Pereira

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