The rock bands that shaped my 80s - Rock giants that left a lasting mark and raised the bar of 80s rock
The voice of a Generation
Music, lifestyle, culture, freedom, or simply just an excuse to let your hair down – for those with enough of it to do the move – or justify annoying your parents, neighbours and teachers. That is Rock n' Roll.
Loved, loathed, condemned, but by no means ignored, since its inception in the mid fifties, Rock music, like it or not changed the way humanity and society viewed the world.
It did not come out of the blues, just like that, it evolved and developed from blues music. Taking in all the good – and for the same measure, the bad – of all the different variations and styles of music, past and contemporary, rock n’ roll became the banner of a generation. a generation that wanted change, a break from conventional wisdom and the establishment.
Despite its many detractors, many would agree it has had a better influence on society than what politics or religion has had throughout human history. How many people have killed and died in the name of rock n’ roll, compared to those who have killed and died in the name of religion and politics?
What cannot be denied, is the fact that rock n’ roll has managed to create more freedom of thought and action than centuries of religious dogma and political brainwash.
So here I am, bringing out this little rocker in me - without the hair to flaunt it but my imagination more than makes up for it! - and sharing with you my favourite rock bands of the 80s. Bands and songs that inspired me, made me laugh, cry and why not, do many a stupid thing once in a while... or twice in a while as well.
Drugs, alcohol, sex? Oh yes, there has been plenty of that in rock n’ roll, but then again, politics, religion, science, banking and you name it have all been immersed in that as well.
Why, you may ask would a travel commentator write about Rock music? Well, amongst many bands and artists I listened to during those ten years while growing up (or at least attempting to), I reckon that certain songs from these great outfits, somehow played a great influence in me at one stage or another.
So come with me, let’s go down that old memory lane and review some of the bands that made that bit of difference in our lives.
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Owner of a lonely heart - Yes' biggest hit of the 80s
North of the US border
One of Canada’s finest if not their finest act. This trio still defies the test of time in their almost unchanged line-up. Each member, a genius in their instruments in their own right, Rush have created the most memorable blend of prog, hard and classical rock and are the perennial geek favourites in this genre – me included!
My favourites LPs of the 80s – Moving Pictures, Exit...stage left, Signals, Power Windows.
Favourite songs: Red Barchetta, Spirit of Radio, Analogue kid, Territories.
Relatively famous in Canada, well known in Central Europe, some of the ex-Soviet satellites and many Latin American countries, this Prog band was the first one I actually saw live back in the olden days in 1982.
Sadly, they were vastly underrated in the markets that count, nevertheless they had a cult following in other parts. Formed by the Crichton brothers (Jim & Ian) and Welsh-born singer Michael Sadler in 1978, their career has spanned over almost five decades with mixed fortunes. Still though, they remain one of my all-time favourites.
My favourite LPs of the 80s: Silent Knights, Worlds Apart
Favourite songs: How Long?; What’s it gonna be tonight?; No Stranger; Too much to lose (Ch VII).
Across the pond
This English band really made an impression upon me the first time I heard them in the early 80s. I became an instant follower since.
Often derided as a Genesis copy or offshoot, they nevertheless managed to muster a healthy fan-base and have evolved and morphed throughout their nearly four decades.
Originally fronted by Scottish singer Fish, they recorded some memorable records, including the multi-million selling Misplaced Childhood of 1985.
Even when he left the band, being replaced by the very talented Steve Hogarth in 1989, Marillion evolved effortlessly into the 90s with renewed force and energy.
My favourite LPs of the 80s: Misplaced Childhood, Clutching at straws, Fugazi, Seasons End .
Favourite songs: Sláinte Mhath, Fugazi, Heart of Lothian
Well, what can one say about Yes, the perennial Lords of Prog? Exit the 70s, they found themselves thrown into the 80s with a rudderless ship after the departure of their front-man Jon Anderson as well as their keyboard whiz Rick Wakeman.
Their 1980 Drama, featuring multi-talented producer Trevor Horn as their unlikely vocalist, was almost sent to the stake by their hard-line, fundamentalist, puritan fan-base, but in my humble opinion, I think this is one of their finest material.
Fast-forward to 1983 and more tectonic movement within the band’s membership core saw the addition of one South African multi-instrumentalist kid called Trevor Rabin as guitarist, songwriter, and arranger, as well as the return of Jon Anderson in charge of the mike and long departed keyboardist Tony Kaye. Produced by Trevor Horn, they created 90125 with a more bold and aggressive style that catapulted them into the 80s with renewed strength and a new and younger fan base. They followed that success with a more elaborate Big Generator in 1987.
My favourite 80s record: Drama, 90125.
Favourite 80s songs: Does it really happen, Leave it, I’m running, Tempus fugit.
Well, to be honest, this is my favourite band of all times – yes, the geeky rocker in me cometh to light – and I must try to be as short in my comment as I have been with the other aforementioned bands.
Like Yes, they exited the 70s slightly dated, although their less dense and fresher style made it easier for Phil Collins and co to embrace the 80s with no change to their line-up and even adapt their music to the new decade.
Duke signified their entry into the new decade with a style that left the tired 70s and took the new 80s with a fresh perspective yet retaining the subtle virtuosity that characterised this West-London band.
Abacab broke the odd rule or two and the title song became a staple of their live performances throughout the decade and into the 90s. Three Sides Live followed blending the old Gabriel-era classics with the new material in great harmony. Then followed Genesis in 1983, with strong material and innovative drumming. Invisible Touch in 1986 turned them more radio-friendly yet saw them mellow down in terms of creativity.
My favourite 80s LP: Abacab, Three Sides Live.
Favourite 80s songs: Abacab, Dodo, Illegal Alien, Home by the sea, Second home by the sea, Do the Neurotic.
Over the pond again and the USA contribution
Another widely underrated band, this San Francisco based band broke every single boundary in terms of showmanship, musicality and well, how would you class them? Rock, punk, new wave ... or simply a blend of all the above?
Mix that together with Fee Waybill’s powerful and versatile voice, as well as his weird stage antics and you had a band whose members were the ultimate entertainers. As someone wisely said, they were great musicians but lousy businessmen, which was the reason they never got the proper recognition they truly deserved.
Their masterpiece record was The Completion Backward Principle released in 1981 that contained a shipload of great songs, their main hits includingTalk to ya later, together with great pieces like Sushi girl, Mr. Hate, Amnesia, all packed with their fair share of satire, irony and a cheek in tongue caricature of American society in general.
My favourite 80s LP: The Completion Backward Completion.
Favourite 80s songs: Talk to ya later, Mr Hate, Sushi girl.
Journey were the quintessential American AOR super-band. They were bloody good as well! Fronted by the fantastic Steve Perry whose raspy high pitch howl belted out hit after hit during the decade, equally comfortable with power ballads as well as fast-pounding rock blasters. Filling out stadium after concert halls, they were one of the top bills of the 80s.
Esc4p3, released in 1981 was their highest ever selling album and produced numerous hits such as Don’t stop believing (no, this song did not debut on X-Factor), Escape, Dead or Alive, Still they ride to name but a few.
Frontiers followed in 1983. It was a good album, but the bar set up by Esc4p3 was probably a pretty hard act to follow.
My favourite 80s album: Esc4p3
Favourite songs: Keep on running, Escape, Stone in Love, Dead or Alive.