When R.E.M. entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, it appeared that acts which were highly influential in the 1980s would finally be getting their due. Yet even for the Georgia band that influenced everyone from Pearl Jam to Radiohead their Hall entry was met with a lukewarm reception while Van Halen was the celebrated entrant that year.
In the years that followed, hardcore enthusiasts of alternative, goth, and new wave have been perennially disappointed as a bevy of great artists have gone unrecognized from the genre they love.
Will things change for the Rock Class of 2013? It’s unlikely. Most 80s bands have failed for nomination into the Hall never mind actually having an opportunity to enter it.
Nonetheless, here are a list of the six most influential and worthy artists from a decade of big hair and makeup the Hall should be considering:
Duran Duran has sold over 100 million albums and owns 21 Top 100 U.S. hits according to Billboard. With tunes such as “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “The Reflex”, and “Save a Prayer” they became an international sensation and a headliner at Live Aid. Perhaps their greatest contribution came during the MTV/music video revolution of the 80s as clips such as “Girls on Film” and “Rio” changed the way music would be viewed (and listened to) forever.
Are they rock, new wave, or pop? It simply didn’t matter when it comes to Cheap Trick – they are just plain infectious. From “Surrender” to “Dream Police”, Cheap Trick was the darling of cover bands and rock radio everywhere and, like The Cars, represented the fun side of rock and roll.
While not a household name, Daniel Ash was nonetheless one of the most influential artists of the 1980s. A member of Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets, Ash played guitar and offered vocals on some of the decades most memorable songs including “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (Bauhaus), “Go” (Tones on Tail) and “So Alive” (Love and Rockets). Ash remains one of the most underrated artists of his time.
The ultimate party band, the B52s formed in 1976 and hail from Athens, Georgia. They had minor hits with songs such as “Planet Claire” and “Private Idaho” while making some early noise with “Rock Lobster” which was their first U.S. charting single. However, it was 1989 when the band discovered commercial success with hits such as “Love Shack” and “Roam”. Though they have produced just eight studio albums, the B-52s have come to symbolize the decade.
Billy Idol produced five top-20 hits and three platinum (and one gold) albums in the 1980s. In total he has released 36 singles and 26 videos. Like Duran Duran his influence and look influenced MTV, style, and radio. “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” remain some of the most memorable videos ever. Born from the 70’s band Generation X, Billy Idol took punk and made it more listenable to the masses. Love him or hate him, he remains an 80s icon.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Remember those annoying “Frankie Says RELAX Don’t Do It” tee shirts? If you were around in 1985 you most likely owned one or knew someone who did. Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a minor success in the U.S. but in the U.K. they were rock royalty. In 1984 FGTH debuted with three consecutive number one singles on the British charts, the first band to do so in over 20 years. “Two Tribes” lasted nine weeks at the top of the British charts while “Relax” went to number one for five weeks. It was followed to the top by FGTH’s third single, “The Power of Love”. “Relax” currently ranks at seventh on Britain’s all-time singles sold list.