In this article we will list out the best 80s rock songs.
In the 1980s, rock music was at its peak, making it an epic decade for music. There were so many great songs released from this decade that it is difficult to narrow down a list of just 41. It’s been many years since the 80s music scene went from having a few famous bands to being one of the most popular genres in America.
This playlist will take you back to your youth with these incredible tunes. Turn on some good headphones, turn off your phone, and enjoy!
1. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns n’ Roses
The song was inspired by a poem Axl was working on, and it was about his girlfriend. The bass guitar is to die for and played a vital part in making the song a huge success. They had the sound and energy needed for the 1980s rock songs.
2. Pour Some Sugar on Me – Def Leppard
Once again, Rick’s mastery can be seen as he uses the electric pedal to bring out the snare effect. The lyrics are metaphorically sexual, and the beats will keep you on your feet. It is a catchy song, and you will get excited when you listen to it.
3. Jump – Van Halen
The song was successful and reached number one on the billboard for eight weeks. The solo for the song is undeniably one of the best. The song has an electrifying effect that will keep you on your feet and energized. Eddie will be remembered as a great guitarist, thanks to this song.
4. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
Many people can relate to the song since there comes a time when all you can do is pray. It is a beautiful and weird song since rock and prayer don’t seem like a good combo, but Bon Jovi proves us wrong. If you find yourself trying to imitate the talk box guitar at the beginning of the song, know you are not alone. The music is excellent to listen to and is one of the best 80s rock songs.
5. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
The four members of the band took part in writing the song. Deacon handled most of the instruments, and unlike their other songs, there are no synthesizers on this one. The beats are repetitive throughout the song, especially the handclaps. The increasing and decreasing sound is sure to capture your attention. This is one of the best classic rock songs ever released.
6. When Doves Cry – Prince
The unique feature of this song is that it doesn’t have bass. Prince was writing the music for his movie and played all the instruments. The song topped the charts for five weeks. The unique percussion that Prince used in the song will have you dancing along to it.
7. Rock You Like a Hurricane – Scorpions
The song is in their 1984 album Love at First Sting. It is about attitude and sexuality and makes a great rock anthem. Bassist Francis Bucholz wrote the song, and it has become one of the most popular songs among fans. The chords resemble their other music, No One Like You, only that the sequence is different. The song has been featured on several TV shows, and it is one tune that will be stuck in your mind for a while.
8. Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
The song is about the dark side of the road to fame. It’s a hard rock anthem and will have you feel the adrenaline rushing as the band screams their lungs out which is normal in LA especially if you don’t know your way around. The blazing guitars will have your head swinging violently from side to side.
9. Money For Nothing – Dire Straights
The song is about an actual conversation of delivery men who were complaining about their jobs. Mark wrote the lyrics of the song. Money For Nothing’s video has a very interested story behind it. The censored word in the music doesn’t need a genius figuring it out. Beats and tunes in this song are all in line, making it one of the greatest hits.
10. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
The song is structured differently, with the chorus coming up only at the end and in the title. This is Journey’s most famous song. The instrumental is captivating and will have your attention. The main goal of the music was to create a connection between the band and their fans; they achieved this goal. This is one song that you will not forget easily.
11. Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar
The song was charted no. 9 on the US list and came out in their album Crimes of Passion. Eddie Schwartz was a struggling guitarist and attending therapy when he got the inspiration for the song. He approached ATV, who wanted to hear a demo, and that is how he was signed up. It is pretty catchy and was played heavily on the radio when John Lennon murder took place in 1980. It contains one of the best guitar solo’s in rock n roll history.
12. Wanted Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi
The song is a fan favorite and will have you singing along in no time at all. It uses the old west cowboy theme to narrate the lonely life of a rockstar. The song is about performing for lots of people who hit it off immediately despite being strangers. They shot the video in black and white which ended up being a good decision. It has a lot of slow motions giving one a chance to catch on their breath before continuing to dance to the songs.
13. Rock the Night – Europe
This was the second single released by the band. It was a mega-hit and reached no. 36 on US charts, making it one of Europe’s best songs. Europe is a Swedish rock band and was formed in Stockholm back in 1979. It has an epic opening with the guitar riff. The band sold over 25 million copies of the song worldwide, and it is one of their most successful hits to date.
14. Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
This song was released in 1984 and became an instant hit with fans around the world. It was the first song by an American rocker to hit number one on both US Mainstream and Rock Charts at the same time. The lyrics are about the bad phase that America was going through back then. The song is patriotic and nationalistic, which makes for an exciting combination.
15. Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
Gaye wrote this song while in Belgium, and it became his biggest hit after Let’s Get It On. The song is about a man his wife has abandoned, but sexual healing is the only way to get back on his feet. The singer’s vocals are excellent, and he tells us how much pain someone goes through when they lose the love of their life. The song has a very sensual vibe, and it is one of Marvin’s best hits for sure.
16. Back in Black – AC/DC
The song was released five months after the death of lead singer Bon Scott. It was the first album to feature new lead singer Brian Johnson. It received positivity from fans worldwide. The song’s theme is dark since it talks about Scott’s death. It is a tribute to him and his legacy as an artist. The song has some great drum solos and is one of the best songs from AC/DC.
17. I Wanna Know What Love Is – Foreigner
This iconic track is all about feeling a deep desire to connect with someone an fall in love. Have you ever been lonely and worried that love didn’t exist? This track can certainly resonate with many of us who just want to feel that connection deeply, and that’s why it’s one of the absolute best rock songs of the 80s!
18. Every Breath You Take – The Police
The song is about an obsessive stalker who will go to any lengths to get the love of his life back. It reached no. one on Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for eight consecutive weeks. It was the best-selling single of 1983 and is one of The Police’s biggest hits to date.
19. With or Without You – U2
This song is about a tortured relationship that Bono is finding hard to escape from. He describes the feelings of the protagonist in detail, and it is very relatable. The Edge has some excellent guitar work after using a distortion device referred to as the Infinite Guitar. It produces the wailing sound that you can hear in the song.
20. I Love Rock N Roll – Joan Jett & Blackhearts
The song was initially recorded by the British band Arrows in 1975 but failed to become a hit. Jett was inspired and made her rendition of the song in 1981, and this time around, it was an instant hit. It has been starred in a few movies over the years and is one of Jett’s most popular songs to date.
21. Hungry Like a Wolf – Duran
The band members wrote the song, and it is about a woman who changes into a werewolf after she gets bitten by one. The lyrics are very suggestive, and it talks about the desire that the protagonist has for the woman who is now a werewolf. It rose no. 3 on the US Billboard Chart and was loved by fans around the world.
22. Don’t You (forget about me) – Simple Minds
The song was featured in the movie The Breakfast Club and was released as a single in 1985. It stayed at no. one on the UK Singles Chart for three consecutive weeks and is the best-selling Simple Minds song to date. The music video showed the protagonist from Breakfast Club, a prisoner in a school being bullied by schoolmates.
23. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
The song was the theme song for the hit movie Rocky III, and it became an instant hit with fans around the world. It has been played during various sporting events, including WWE, NFL games, and even the Olympic games. The song has a very catchy beat and is one of those songs that will not get out of your head quickly. The music is considered one of the band’s most popular songs and was released in 1980.
24. The Final Countdown – Europe
This song was written by the bassist of the band, John Norum, and has an 80s sound. It was released in 1986 and stayed at no. one on US Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks, which is a record that the band still holds today. The song became a hit in various countries worldwide and made Europe one of the biggest rock bands of that time.
25. Is This Love – Whitesnake
This song showcased the sensitive side of Whitesnake and was released as a single in 1987. The song narrates how the protagonist finds it hard to let go of someone who has been in his heart for a long time. The protagonist asks the person if she loves him and why she has to leave without saying goodbye. The music features some great guitar solos that are sure to get you hooked.
26. Start me up – Rolling Stones
The song is not too specific about what it is talking about, but many believe it talks about a prostitute. It has been one of the most popular songs in recent times and is excellent to listen to. They modified the song to fit the new album after being stashed away. The song was set to be a reggae one but later on, changed to rock.
27. Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
The song was part of the album Dare. It has excellent vocals and an infectious beat, and the lead singer Phil insists the song is not about love but power and politics. This is the first single that the band release in US. It hit no. 1 in 1983 and stayed on top for three weeks.
28. Planet Rock – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force
Bambaataa has often been referred to as the “Godfather of Hip Hop.” He is known for creating hip hop, breakbeat, and electro music. This song was released in 1982 and was one of the first songs to combine rock with rap. Kevin’s knowledge of music was among the things that contributed to the success of this song. The song’s beats are hard not to dance to. It is a universal song accepted everywhere and by everyone. This is one song that you can listen to over and over without getting bored.
29. Photograph – Def Leppard
The album was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, known for working with artists like AC/DC and The Cars. It was the first album that Def Leppard released that reached number one. The song is about a guy crazy about a girl but has nothing on her except a photo. The song’s release was delayed for a few years because of Lange’s schedule, and the drummer was in an accident that cost him a limb. Despite the setbacks, the song performed well and became famous and will continue to be popular for years to come.
30. We’re not gonna Take It – Twisted Sister
If you are planning to fight authority, then this is the song you want to listen to. It is not customised to any specific power, making it perfect for all situations requiring defiance. The song was popular among teens since they used it to communicate their defiance. It was released in 1984 and became a staple at their concerts. The song was supposed to take on the tune of “Come All Ye Faithful”, but things took a different turn.
31. You shook me all night long – by AC/DC
The song’s beats are quick and straightforward, making it an excellent piece to work out to. It was their first single after the death of Scott, and they gave it their all. The beats are great, and everything rhymes well with each other. Tye inspiration from the song came from seeing women thighs in the Bahamas talk about men being visual creatures.
32. Here I go again – Whitesnake
The song was written while on tour to the UK in 1981, only to be released in 1982. However, five years later is when it topped the charts after a revamping of the band. The song has great beats and is easy to catch on. You can play it on any occasion and dance as long as well. The music performed well in America after a tour promoting the band and their songs.
33. You give love a bad name – bon Jovi
They wrote the song in the basement of Richie Sambora’s mother. Child was responsible for the title of the song. The song featured on an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”. It is great to sing to, and the lyrics are easy to master. This makes it famous among people of all ages. Jovi performed well with the instruments making the lyrics come to life. The song is popular among people from the ’80s, and you can’t get it off your mind quickly.
34. One – Metallica
Metallica did great in this song with the beats and lyrics. It was released in 1988 and performed well on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song is about a soldier who gets into an accident. A mortar blows off on his face, and he goes into a coma. On regaining consciousness, he has lost almost all his senses and keeps having convulsions. No one seems to pick up what he says until a fellow soldier deciphers the code and explains the soldier prefers being killed. It’s a tragic story, but the beats will make you forget that.
35. Girls Girls Girls – Mötley Crüe
The song was released in 1987 and was written by Nikki Sixx. It is a tribute to seven night clubs mentioned in the music. The lead singer had a tattoo of the song’s title and also owned a strip club in Japan with the same name. You can find yourself swaying to the beats of the music because of the extraordinary rendition they have. The tempo is right with the occasional rise and fall of the beats. The producer was responsible for recording the motorcycle sounds that you could hear in the song.
36. Every Rose has its Thorn – Poison
The song is viral and has been covered by numerous artists. It is about the loss of love and how it makes you feel bad, but that feeling goes away over time until nothing is left. The song was in response to his failed relationship with his girlfriend Tracy. The thorn was his career which was costing him his girlfriend. It is one of the first songs that combined heavy metal with an electric sound and got fans excited about Poison.
37. Angel – Aerosmith
Aerosmith did their rendition of the song in 1993. Charlie Rich initially performed it, but Aerosmith made it their own with Steven Tyler taking over lead vocals instead of Joe Perry. Steven wrote the song alongside Desmond, one of the most successful songwriters of that period. The music is a bit different since it lacks the typical humour depicted in their other songs.
38. The Look – Roxette
In this song, Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle sing about memories of the past. They talk about how they tried to forget someone, but that person kept popping up in their memory. This song is featured on Roxette’s debut studio album, “Look Sharp.” Before picking up in the US, the song was a hit in Roxette’s native home, Sweden.
39. Africa – Toto
Palch wrote the song without having set foot in Africa. The song’s lyrics talk about being with a woman he must leave behind if he wants them to be together. The chorus of the song has been subjected to debates time and time again because of different interpretations. The beats tune-up well with the vocals, especially the chorus, making it easy to catch and hum along.
40. Breaking the Law – Judas Priest
The beats of the song are addicting, and the lyrics are catchy. It was released in 1980 on Unleashed in the East album, one of Judas Priest’s most famous albums. The song is about a person who decides to rob someone but gets caught and is thrown in jail. It would be hard not to dance or sing along to this rock song. You can feel the adrenaline rushing as you picture yourself making the words come into reality.
41. Ace of Spades – Motörhead
The lyrics are about a person dying, but he isn’t afraid to go down with guns blazing. The piece starts slow and then speeds up, which is a great transition. It was released in 1980 on the album Ace of Spades, but it didn’t receive much recognition until it was used as a background song in the video game Grand Theft Auto. The speed of this song is perfect for those who are looking to get pumped up. It is an excellent song choice to listen to when you are feeling down and need some motivation.
These are just some of the top 1980s rock songs, if we missed any let us know!
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.