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Rock bands that made their mark on music of the 1980s and 1990's

Updated on May 14, 2013
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Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

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Rock music. Many of us cannot do without hearing our favorite bands or deny that we have been touched by them in some way. A popular musical genre, it started as rock and roll in the 1950‘s and 60‘s, branching into the more specific areas of jazz, rhythm and blues, rap and hip hop.

Rock music is ever evolving, with artistes and bands constantly coming into the scene and fading into the background with the passing of time. Evergreen or not, though, many of these bands, popular during the 1980’s and 90’s, certainly shaped the music scene of the decade. They would have had tremendous influence on our personal musical tastes too.

Here is a compilation of some favorite bands that have shaped our lives over these two awesome decades. This list is definitely not exhaustive, because there are certainly so many bands that have touched our lives with their music.

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Sweet Child of Mine

Guns and Roses

“Oh..Oh..Oh sweet child of mine...’ the slightly nasal voice of Axl Rose with his evergreen hard rock hit will never fail to get anyone moving. Formed in 1985, lead singer Axl, together with famed rock electric guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradin and drummer Steven Adler, signed with Gelfen Records in 1986. They released six studio albums and accumulated sales of over100 million albums worldwide. Appetie for Destruction in itself has sold in excess of 28 million copies.

Their heady influence comes in the artful way they infuse eclectic and powerful sounds into their music that I daresay are unforgettable to many a rock fan. Their heavy duty drum beats, blues styled metal guitar, the punk influenced bass guitar and of course, Axl’s talented falsetto won them the nickname of “most dangerous band in the world. They were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame this year.

For myself, their music brings many fond memories to mind as a music teacher. I remember jamming and performing Sweet Child of Mine in several concerts, serving as the keyboardist/vocalist with another adept male teacher doing Slash justice on the electric guitar. I had fun trying to emulate Axl’s vocals. It was certainly a way for me to connect with teens!

Extreme's vocalist, Gary Cherone.
Extreme's vocalist, Gary Cherone. | Source

Extreme More Than Words

Extreme

Extreme is certainly a rock band that had a definite hold over the music industry in the late eighties and early 1990’s. Helmed by frontmen Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt. Cherone, however, joined Van Halen in 1996.

They recorded their self titled debut album and released it in 1989, with their first single, Kid Ego, gaining mention. Sales were enough to support a second release, and the band came up with Extreme II in 1990.

Though the album showcased Bettencourt’s mixture of punk, pop and glam metal guitar playing, it was the acoustic love ballad More Than Words that became one of the band’s greatest hits, unsurprising because of its beautifully weaved harmonies.

They made waves the world over with their Funky Metal brand of rock, blending classical rock influences with post grunge and alternative forms. They certainly made romantic waves as well with More Than Words, which is still one of the most popular wedding songs to date.

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Nirvana Oh Me

Nirvana

Nirvana came into the Grunge music scene with the release of its first album Bleach under the independent record label sub pop in 1989. They found unexpected success with Smells Like Teen Spirit, a single from their second album, Nevermind in 1991, after signing on with major record label DGC records. Their music was outstanding because of dynamic contrasts. Loud choruses are often contrasted with quiet verses, giving their music that attractive, unpredictable nature.

Their success was important to the music industry as it raised the popularity of alternative rock. In fact, they are widely considered to be the flagship band of Generation X. Their run was brief, with the unfortunate death of Cobain in 1994, but with post humous releases overseen by Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love and other members of the band, they have sold 75 million copies of their albums worldwide.


Pearl Jam in concert
Pearl Jam in concert | Source

Pearl Jam Yellow Ledbetter

Pearl Jam

One of the flagship bands of the grunge movement of the early 1990’s, Pearl Jam was formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990. The band included members like Eddie Vedder on the vocals, Stone Gossard on the guitar, Jeff Ament on the bass and Mike McCready on the guitar. Matt Cameron is their current drummer.

They broke into the mainstream with their debut album, Ten. The album generated singles like Jeremy, Even Flow and Alive. WIth that release, they became a key band responsible for popularizing the widely growing grunge movement of the time. Early in its career, the band became known for its intense live performances and refusal to make music videos for their songs, even though they knew that this was important for album sales.


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Everybody Wants to Rule The World

Tears For Fears

Tears for Fears is an English New wave band that rocked the music scene of the 1980’s. Formed by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, was associated with the New Wave Synthesizer bands of the 1990s. Their platinum selling album, The Hunting, reached number one on the UK album chart, while their second, spawning hits like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout,” won the award for best British Album. They produced a third platinum selling album, The Seeds of Love, which reaped a hit single of the same title.

They were instrumental in popularizing the new wave movement in the 1980s, together with greats like the Pet Shop Boys, A Ha, and of course, Queen. Their songs are familiar ones used as team cheers.

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Queen-Bohemian Rhapsody Live

Queen

Queen stormed into the music scene in London in 1971. It originally consisted members Freddie Mercury on the lead vocals and piano, John Deacon on the bass guitar, Brian May supplying the guitar and vocals, and Roger Taylor providing the drums and vocals. They were originally influenced by progressive rock, but later produced radio friendly tunes and brought more diverse styles into their music.

The band released its eponymous debut album in 1973. This, together with the follow up

Queen II, enjoyed success in the UK. The album, A Night at the Opera, produced the hit single Bohemian Rhapsody, which got millions the world over shouting “Galileo let me go..” It became their first hit on the US Billboard Top 100.

Their foot stomping, catchy tunes like We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions became sports anthems all over the world. The songs have been used as a cheer at numerous sporting events.

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I still haven't found what I'm Looking For

U2

An Irish Rock Band from Dublin, U2 is helmed by frontman Bono, the musically versatile The Edge on keyboard, guitar and vocals, and Adam Clayton on the Bass Guitar. Originally a post punk band, U2 grew to incorporate many influences from many musical genres.

After the release of their debut album, Boy, they became a top international act. They succeeded more as concert performers than selling records, until their breakthrough album, Joshua Tree was released with hit singles like With or Without You and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. After some stagnating, the group reinvented themselves with the release of Achtung Baby, integrating dance, industrial and alternative rock influences into their sound.

Their music has contributed to the versatility of rock music with its willingness to experiment and constantly recreate its unique sound. Joshua Tree remains one of the world's best selling albums, winning grammies for Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group in 1988.

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Bad Medicine

Bon Jovi

An American rock band from New Jersey, Bon Jovi is helmed by lead singer and namesake Jon Bon Jovi. Guitarist RIchie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan and Drummer Tico Torres form the rest of the band. Hugh McDonald replaced bass player Alec John Such in 1994. between 1986 and 1995. They have been rocking the world of rock from the 1980s to the present day.

Bon Jovi achieved 13 U.S. Top 40 hits between 1986 and 1995, including Wanted Dead or Alive, Bed of Roses, Living on a Prayer, Bad Medicine and I’ll be there for you. More recent hit albums include The Circle and Lost Highway, which reached number one as well.

What makes the band stand out is its versatility with music styles. Lost Highway included country numbers.

They have released eleven studio albums, three compilations and one live album, selling 130 million records world wide. Testimony to their influence was their induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006. They received the Award of Merit at the American Music Awards in 2004. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora themselves have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as songwriters and collaborators.


Conclusion

These bands have all shaped the world of rock music with their contributions to progressive, grunge, dance or alternative, new wave forms. They have been, undoubtedly, leaders in the field of 1980’s and 1990’s rock music, which will stay in our minds and hearts for years to come.


Copyright (C) by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

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    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Michelle, interesting hub and some very influential bands featured here. I am not a Guns n Roses fan but enjoy all of the other bands featured here. Whatever happened to Extreme? I saw Queen live in 1982, they were amazing!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You have included two groups from our area....Nirvana and Pearl Jam are legends in the Olympia/Seattle area....I have done gardening at Cobain's former house here in Olympia, and seen his antique car that still sits in his old garage. Wonderful choices of groups here; Queen will always be one of the greatest.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      A review of some rock bands that made an impact on the music scene in the 1980’s and 90’s.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, I was a fan of most of these bands and loved how you included the clip of Nirvana from their MTV Unplugged, as I must have watched that unplugged about 100 times in my heyday and even owned the CD, too. Great job here and have of course voted up and shared all over!!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I was hoping Bon Jovi made the cut for this rocking hub and they did!!! Woot!! Guns & Roses is another favorite of mine as is Queen!! Well done Michelle!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Jools! Extreme sort of fizzled out after Cherone joined Van Halen. Always loved More Than Words, still sing it like crazy today. And Queen...you won't believe the number of times the kids I taught made fun of We Will Rock You...leave that one to the imagination! These bands produced songs that will forever ring in our minds. Thanks for sharing!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Sort of knew those would strike a chord with you, BIll! Pity about Cobain. Glad you like these choices...thought they'd make the greatest impact!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Nirvana is one of the rock greats, and won't forget them, of course, Janine, don't worry. LOL!. Glad you liked the unplugged. Thanks for coming by!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Won't ever forget, BJ, Sunshine.....without them a hub on rock music wouldn't be a hub. Gosh. Playing Living on a Prayer on the keys is cool. Love the sound! And G & R rocks...easier for me, I guess, because girls can reach the high notes easily. Love Queen, gave it good to the kids who made fun of We Will Rock You...leave that to the imagination! LOL! Thanks for coming by!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      I've always been a rock and roll girl. In fact, I am wearing my Guns and Roses t-shirt today!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wow! G and R has always, always been a favorite with me. Gives you that kick when you sing along!! And when you perform it, it is really electrifying. Woot to you being a fan, Deb!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I'm ecstatic you included Tears for Fears, they are one of the 80s bands I think more people should pay attention to. My other two faves are U2 and Queen. Voted up and awesome and interesting!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Always rooting for the ones who are mentioned less, Alecia, and try to weave them in when I write music hubs. Love U2 and must listen to Queen! Thanks for coming by!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Good job Michelle! Happy to see that my once favorite band: Queen and Tears for Fears made it to your list. Love all their songs (even now). Looks like, you and me are feeling nostalgic these days. I've just released something about the Jukebox and it's all nostalgic for me.

      Not that I'm stuck in the past but it always feels good to look back and specially listen to the great music of yesteryears. They are after all, true music for me not that kind of "blah, blah, blah" in the songs of today. Lol!

      Rated up and away I sing...."we will, we will rock you"!

    • lisa42 profile image

      lisa42 4 years ago from Sacramento

      I listened to many of these bands when I was in high school. I really loved Tears for Fears. Glad they made your list.

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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Michelle, another amazing hub, love your choice of rockers, I'm not what you would call a rock chic, but I still enjoy listening to Guns and Roses and Bon Jovi. I'll be keeping this and sharing.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Miss these guys, CrisSp. I still listen to their songs too. Very much a G&R, Queen and BJ fan....maybe it's something about having to learn to play their music on the keys as well. That's what really got me started liking them. I agree, it really does feel good to connect with something from your past! Blessings!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Tears for Fears is a great but underrated band, so I thought I'd give them some mention, Lisa. Thanks for coming by and I am glad you like this.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Beautiful tribute.

      My fav's are U2 and bon jovi.

      voted up as interesting and useful.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Ruchira, thank you! I love both those bands as well. Thanks for the votes!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Michelle,

      You selected some of the best of the best...Tears for Fears, Queen, U-2

      are my favorites that made your list.

      Great job! Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Good job. Yes, I remember those days. $10.00 got you in to see some of these bands and 2 others. saved me from the expense of disco.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant read and thank you for sharing

      Eddy.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Maria.....glad you like these choices! Thanks for coming by!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Hatter. Yes, we got more value for our money then! So different now! Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the compliment, Eddy!

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      ignugent17 4 years ago

      I am not really into rock but I listen to them. I like the song of Bon Jovi and some of the songs of Queen.

      Thanks for the information. :-)

      Voted up and more!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, kindly, Meldz! Glad you can identify with some groups! Thanks for coming by!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Freddy Mercury was the most awesome performer. I miss him very much.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Me too, Nancy. Wish he was still around. Classic rocker!

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 4 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      It is indeed great to know bout rock bands, In India the trend has just started, let's hope for the best.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Let's hope it picks up, GIrishpuri! Thanks for coming by!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      whew! amazing artists and bands

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      They are amazing indeed! Thanks Spy!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

      You are a great music critic! I am impressed with the way you explained the appeal and the sound of these acts. You know your stuff.

      I love U2 and Pearl Jam in particular but all these groups are excellent. Sometimes I sing "Black" at karaoke. :-)

      Thank you for a marvelous journey. Well done!

      James

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks very much, James! Correct indeed, there are reasons why these acts have such great appeal for us all. Never get enough of them! My favorite is U2 as well. All the numbers these guys produce really rock it! Thanks for sharing, James!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      Enjoy your hubs, and Queen, Guns 'n Roses, and Bon Jovi have some memorable tunes in my life. Thanks for the memory. Up, interesting and sharing!

    • theframjak profile image

      theframjak 4 years ago from East Coast

      Plenty of great memories here. These bands would make up the soundtrack to my 20's. Thanks for the great hub!

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Nirvana, Queen and U2 are my favorites out of your picks, but all of them were great groups.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      HI again, Cybershelly! I love all these bands, and they've really created unforgettable tunes! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi thefranjak, thanks for coming by and commenting! I am glad you've liked this hub as I have enjoyed bringing it to you. THanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      They are all great indeed! Thanks for coming by and commenting, mperrottet!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      This was a good hub to read. I generally agree with you, although I believe that Cobain started a trend that led to depression in the young and I was indeed glad to learn that by doing to himself what he did, he proved my point. Sorry about this opinion.

      Also, if you look at global trends of 80s, there were some other bands who made big impact too. For instance, who can ignore Scorpions playing to millions of Russians post fall of the Iron Curtain?

      AC/DC was popular all over the world and there gigs across the globe were more successful than anybody else.

      Metallica carved their own niche and became very popular indeed.

      And then there were Def Leppard and their signature music and songs.

      How about those Aerosmith? Kiss? Europe (still playing big in Europe)?

      Thanks for sharing and letting me vent my feelings lol.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      No worries, Suhall, vent away. There are indeed so many bands that left such a great impact that it is not possible to list all of them in a hub. Your choices, though, do give me an idea for a Part 2!! I understand about Cobain too, so no fear. Thanks for coming by and sharing!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for reminding me how old I really am.. lol. I grew up listenting to most of these bands and they were my gateway to loving heavy metal. These are some great bands.

    • frantisek78 profile image

      frantisek78 4 years ago

      You left out Depeche Mode, who pretty much started the whole electronic/dance movement in 1980 and are still going strong. Probably the most popular underground band in the world.

    • SkeetyD profile image

      SkeetyD 4 years ago from Barbados

      Love this hub! Nirvana, U2 and Pearl Jam are my favourites on this list. Your list reminded me of some other bands that like as well but I'm not sure if they would have a place there. Bands like Queens of the Stoneage, Foo Fighters and Dishwalla.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Heavy metal is a great way to de stress, Tammy! I admire heavy metal guitarists too. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, frantisek, thanks for commenting. I agree, and will look into it. DM is indeed an influential band in the industry, as is Duran Duran as well! Thanks for sharing!

    • Music-and-Art-45 profile image

      Music-and-Art-45 4 years ago from USA, Illinois

      I really like Queen, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana from this list. There are so many good bands to mention I'm sure you would have had a hard time putting them all on one hub. This is a good list for what you had to narrow it down to. Great hub.

    • jasonmstyles profile image

      Caleb 4 years ago from Wichita, KS

      Great list and good hub. My favorite has to be Queen, hands down. Rated up.

    • Pete LeBeef profile image

      Peter Mckeirnon 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Great. Pearl Jam were and still are, one of the great American Rock bands of all time.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Music and Art! Oh yes, it was hard to choose, because music and art are things that really depend so much on taste!! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Jason, I'm definitely with you on Queen. We will Rock You has stayed with me forever! Thanks for sharing!!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      They definitely are great, Pete! Thanks for sharing!

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

      Oh memories, with our folks' friendly rivalry because of their favorite bands -- for big-haired rockers, and flannel-shirted grunge artists on the other. Nice hub you've got. :)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, FullOFLove!! Yup, I remember that too! Our own with our friends as well, always bickering about whose favorite band was the best!! Thanks for coming by!!

    • Marie-Renee profile image

      Renee 4 years ago

      Wow, totally reminds me of the good old '80s music, which I still love until now. Miss Kurt Cobain but your right that their music lives on. My son could not believe that I knew the music he was listening to, lols. Imagine, some of Nirvana's songs are on his playlist. Just goes to show that music in the 80s were really great. Missed seeing Sting and the Police in your list. Good job on this. Voted up and across.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Marie!! Yes, I miss these bands too, especially Bon Jovi. Glad to hear that your son and you connect over music! Thanks for sharing!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      You have some of my favorites here! I am a rocker somewhere inside of me!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Audrey!

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      beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

      Oh wow! I miss those bands. Most of them still rings a bell to this day. That's how good they were. Their songs will be staying with us for a long, long time still.

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

      Oh wow! I miss those bands. Most of them still rings a bell to this day. That's how good they were. Their songs will be staying with us for a long, long time still.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Miss them as well, Being Well. I remember jamming to all of their songs! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Bon Jovi and U2 are my picks. I still like to go find a Bon Jovi video with that long blond hair and just wow...relive the day...You Give Love a Bad Name...the best! lol

      Thanks for the memories. ^

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jackie!!

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      Scott 2 years ago

      Tears For Fears and U2

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      I love them too, Scott.

    • Dave Smiles profile image

      Dave Smiles 2 years ago from Melbourne

      Interesting article. I'm a massive Guns N Roses fan. Have been since I was 8 years old. I've been asking for years where have all the supergroups gone? There hasn't been a new one for far too long.

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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      There hasn't indeed, Dave. The best these days is One Direction.

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      Dave Smiles 2 years ago from Melbourne

      What a sad state the industry is in. I put it down to people no longer buying CD and record companies having no choice but to market their product to pre teens.

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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      It's sad indeed, Dave.

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      Bob Smith 15 months ago from Plymouth, MI

      Interesting that you would include Queen. They really peaked between 1974 and 1977.

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