The 80s were the time of punk with so many different bands becoming famous as they grabbed onto the rebellious time in music. If you’ve been trying to think of some of the top punk groups from this decade, keep reading as we talk about the 27 best 80s punk bands!
1. Dead Kennedys
One of the top 80s punk bands was the Dead Kennedys, which had a knack for mixing punk rock with politics, and they were one of the first to address important social topics in their lyrics. They would sing about police brutality, racism, the nuclear threats that existed, and other topics, which weren’t common back then.
In 1980, they released their debut album, which was Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, and then their subsequent albums landed at the top of the charts. Some of the most popular songs from the band include Holiday In Cambodia, Kill The Poor, We Got A Bigger Problem Now, and Police Truck. While they haven’t released new music in years, they still play concerts here and there.
2. Minor Threat
Minor Threat wasn’t around that long, but they were one of the big punk bands from the 80s that left a lasting impression. It was this group that made straight edge cool and brought it into punk, and at that time, it was the opposite of what punk was being portrayed as.
Some of their best songs include Straight Edge, Guilty Of Being White, I Don’t Wanna Hear It, and Stand Up. They ended up breaking up in 1983, but the band members continued to be a part of the punk scene, although they never achieved as much success as when they were together.
3. The Misfits
Next is The Misfits who released their first album in 1982, and they combined the doo-wop sound with punk sounds and mixed that with vintage horror movie music from both the 50s and 60s. They had a sound that was different from others because they had darker lyrics that had elements of violence and gore. Glenn Danzig was the lead singer of the band, and in 1982, when they broke up he went solo. You may know some of their classic songs such as Horror Business, Last Caress, Die Die My Darling, and Where Eagles Dare.
Recommended: Best punk bands of all time
4. Green Day
Green Day is one of the 80s punk bands that most people know well since they are still a band recording music and doing live shows. Even though they formed in the 80s, it wasn’t really until the early 90s when they really hit their stride and became popular. Pop and punk styles mixed is what the band is known for, and they’ve had hits such as Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends, and When I Come Around.
Recommended: Top punk bands of the 90s
The Ramones are one of the most iconic and well-known punk bands because they were one of the first to really make punk popular, Thought to be one of the founders of the movement, they released a lot of songs that had hooks that were catchy and also ones that were quick-paced compared to what was out at the time. In 2002, they got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some of their most notable hits include I Wanna Be Sedated, Pet Sematary, Beat On The Brat, and Rockaway Beach.
6. The Clash
Next is The Clash, which was a band that had a lot of energy and was one of the groups that got into social justice and activism early on. They had a sound that was unique since it blended rockabilly, ska, rock, and reggae. Combat Rock was their biggest album and that was released in 1982, although the group broke up in 1986. Some of their songs you probably know include London Calling, White Man, Clampdown, and Straight To Hell.
7. Bad Religion
A punk band from the 80s that we know you’ve heard of is Bad Religion since they are still going out and making music to this day. The melodies are really fun and catchy, but their lyrics really dig into important topics including politics and religion.
In 1982, they released their debut album, and that’s all we needed to know how good this band really was. They still stay true to punk rock and have always been consistent. Their songs that were popular include American Jesus, Stranger Than Fiction, Into The Night, and Faith Alone.
8. The Damned
The Damned is known for some of the best punk songs ever including New Rose, Smash It Up, Love Song, Life Goes On, and Nasty. They had that fast and hard style that really started the punk scene, and just in the 80s, they released four different albums. While they went through some changes with personnel, they have continued to tour and are still incredibly popular regardless of the multiple iterations of the band.
9. Black Flag
Black Flag makes our list because they are one of the more influential punk bands that started out before most of the others since they were formed in 1976. Songs that they are known for include Nothing Left Inside, Slip It In, In My Head, and Police Story. Their sound mixes classical and jazz with rock and heavy metal to give you that rawness in their punk music. They released six albums but Damaged from 1981 was not only their biggest but also one of the best punk albums of all time.
10. Social Distortion
Up next is Social Distortion, which you probably have heard of because of their iconic song Ball And Chain. They really became one of the biggest punk bands of the 80s and continued their success into the 90s. Mike Ness, the lead singer, is what made the group stand out because of his low vocals and the mix of both punk and rock. With other songs such as Lawless, Prison Bound, and Mommy’s Little Monster, you can hear why they have become one of the most successful punk bands of all time.
11. Circle Jerks
The Circle Jerks make our list because they had staying power that a lot of the punk bands didn’t have. They formed after the band Black Flag disbanded their original lineup. They have a more humorous approach to music and also were very aggressive for their time. Keith Morris was the first singer for Black Flag and then formed Circle Jerks, so you can hear similarities between the two bands. Some of their biggest hits include Live Fast Die Young, World Up My Ass, Don’t Care, and Beverly Hills.
Fear is a band you may not have heard of before, but frontman Lee Ving will make sure that once you have heard them, you’ll remember their punk rock sound for ages. With hit songs like I Don’t Care About You, Beef Bologna, Disconnected, and New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones, their talent, anger, and brilliant lyrics made them a force to be reckoned with.
13. Bad Brains
On our list is Bad Brains who was a band that mixed both reggae and punk with rap and metal to create some of the best sounds of the 80s. What’s interesting about them is that they were black, which was uncommon since most of the punk bands were all white musicians. When they released the album I Against I, they became even more famous and played at the CBGB venue in New York regularly throughout the decade. They had hit songs such as Stay Close To Me, I Against I, Rock For Light, Banned In DC, and We Will Not.
14. Siouxsie and the Banshees
Next is the band Siouxsie And The Banshees who stood out in the 80s punk scene with hit songs including Spellbound, The Passenger, Happy House, and Christine. This group didn’t fit the mold of just punk because they also mixed alternative rock and new wave into their tracks to create a unique sound and style. The band was known for their showmanship, and the lead singer had such an amazing voice that it was easy to see why they gained fans and their songs were consistent chart-toppers.
Descendents are on our list because they wrote songs dealing with common topics you want to have in punk music such as relationships, teenage angst, and not fitting in with the jocks. Milo Goes To College was their debut album, which dropped in 1982, and it was thought of as one of the most important albums of the 80s in the punk and rock scene. When you listen to songs such as Silly Girl, Suburban Home, and I’m Not A Loser, you can easily see why they influenced bands like Green Day and Blink-182.
16. The Vandals
The next band we want to talk about is The Vandals, which was a punk group that formed in 1980 in California. They use humor in their songs, which helped make them popular, although they only released a couple of albums throughout the 80s. Anarchy Burger and Urban Struggle are two of their biggest hits from that time, but other tracks like My Girlfriend’s Dead, I Am Crushed, I Have A Date, and Pizza Tran also were fan favorites and funny.
17. Agent Orange
Agent Orange makes our list because they were one of the original bands to combine surf music with punk, and they had some of the sickest bass lines in the genre. They released their debut EP in 1980, Bloodstains, and this helped catapult them into the punk rock history books. They only released a few albums, but had several different EPs and compilations come out over the years, and are known for songs such as Secret Agent Man, In Your Dreams Tonight, and This Is Not The End.
18. Angry Samoans
Next is Angry Samoans who were much nastier and harder than other punk bands on this list, and likely one of the most unique out of the hardcore punk bands. They had funny songs including I’m A Pig and My Old Man’s A Fatso, but Gas Chamber and Steak Knife are also worth mentioning. Their tracks aren’t for everyone and some would consider them offensive, but they utilized satire, and it’s definitely a different take on the scene than what was on radio at the time.
We can’t have a list without mentioning D.O.A. because they are one of the most political out of all of the punk bands, and they are from Canada, which is also different from other bands on our list. They were hardcore punk and talked about important social topics such as environmentalism, freedom of speech, and racism. They had a lot of songs that were powerful and popular including Slumlord, Unknown, I Live In A Car, and Smash The State.
Up next is Buzzcocks, which formed in the UK while the band members were in college. While they were one of the good punk bands of their time, they often had sexual lyrics and references, which made it hard for them to get as much attention as they deserved. One of their songs Orgasm Addict was not played on the BBC because of its content, but it only made them more popular with the young crowd. Promises, Boredom, and Ever Fallen In Love are regarded as some of their best tracks.
Next is Slapshock who is one of the punk bands that combined some surfer sounds to create a different type of western punk, which was inspired by the fact that they were from California. What was great about this band is that because they also used surf music, it allowed them to become popular with not only the punk crowd but the skater and surfer crowd too. They had a lot of popular songs such as Step On It, In Your Face, and No Friend Of Mine.
22. 7 Seconds
With songs such as 99 Red Balloons and We’re Gonna Fight, we had to include 7 Seconds on our list because they were a hardcore punk band that had a huge influence on punk. Speaking of hardcore, they called themselves that and likely were the first band to use that terminology for punk. They formed in 1980 and released several albums and EPs, but also went through many lineup changes through the years.
Fugazi is up next on our list, and they were formed in the later 80s but still kept with that aggressive and energetic punk vibe that went mainstream in the early 80s. The band didn’t want to conform and would go against culture every chance they got with their lyrics. They were the very definition of hardcore punk, and with songs such as Waiting Room, I’m So Tired, Glue Man, and Bulldog Front, you can hear that sound loud and clear.
24. Marginal Man
Up next is Marginal Man who were similar to Minor Threat in that they had two guitars and were one of the early hardcore punk bands to come out of Washington, DC. The name of the group spawned from the idea of not being part of just one group but having friends that were in more than one group, which made you not really fit in anywhere. Emotional Scars, Double Image, Torn Apart, and Someone Cares are a few of their best songs.
If you like more indie punk bands then MDC is one you should check out because they weren’t as big as Social Distortion or Bad Religion, but they were just as nasty, fun, energetic, and rocking. They were more aggressive and brutal than some of the other punk bands, and it was the fact this band would go after icons such as John Wayne that made them stand out.
They were able to create loyal fans because they didn’t want to conform to anything and mocked all of it. Kill The Light, No More Cops, I Remember, and Nazis Shouldn’t Drive were some of their popular songs.
T.S.O.L. is a punk band from California, and they sort of had a goth sound in the beginning, but the primary elements of punk and amazing guitar riffs helped this band stand out from the crowd. The downside to them is that by the late 80s, they were going into the glam and hair metal direction after a lineup change, which turned a lot of people off.
During the early and mid-80s, they were really one of the best punk bands around, and with songs such as Sounds Of Laughter, Code Blue, and Red Shadows, it’s easy to see why they were so awesome.
27. Hüsker Dü
Lastly is Hüsker Dü, which is a band that became famous after forming in 1976 and getting rotation on college radio. They were from Minneapolis, and with their energy and hard sound, they captivated younger men who were into aggressive and loud music. In 1987, the band broke up but not before releasing hit songs including Sorry Somehow, Green Eyes, It’s Not Funny Anymore, and Turn On The News.
From the time she was little, Florence loved listening to music and quickly learned how music can make you happy and feel fulfilled. One of her favorite memories is being in the garage with her dad working on classic cars with the local rock station blaring in the background. Ever since Florence was 3, she loved grunge music and spent hours listening to bands such as Alice in Chains, Mad Season, Soul Asylum, and Soundgarden.
She also enjoys classic rock, modern rock, nu metal, alternative rock, and old 90’s R&B. Her love of music grew as she got older, and used music to help her get through tough times in her life. More often than not, you’ll see Florence with earbuds in while she’s writing, cooking, cleaning, and doing other tasks. She also loves to debate music with her friends such as which lead singer is the best vocalist, the most iconic guitar solos in music, and what songs are really the best of the decade.