Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs: 1980s

Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean. Let’s step it up a decade and move onto the ‘80s, when the heavier genres began to conquer the music world! For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of a track’s success, popularity and their ability to represent the decade in question. We’re limiting it to one song per artist per decade, but you still might see some overlapping of artists over the decades. This is part of a series of videos spanning hard rock and heavy metal music from the 1970s to the 2000s. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top ten hard rock and heavy metal songs of the 1980s. Special thanks to our users akt, Jimmy Kowaleski, 7AMart1, Mitch Deans, SuperMonkeyGyrados, Godslayer79, billthecat2011, OskarTheSwde and jman1980s for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean.

Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs of the 1980s


Let’s step it up a decade and move onto the ‘80s, when the heavier genres began to conquer the music world! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten hard rock and heavy metal songs of the 1980s.

For our series on the Top 10 Decade Defining Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Songs Per Decade, we’ve based our choices on a mix of a track’s success, popularity and their ability to represent the decade in question. We’re limiting it to one song per artist per decade, but you still might see some overlapping of artists over the decades. This is part of a series of videos spanning hard rock and heavy metal music from the 1970s to the 2000s. With that said, get ready to jam with the grandfathers of rock and metal!

#10: “Dr. Feelgood” (1989)
Mötley Crüe

We start off our list with the hell-raisers of hard rock. Dr. Feelgood wasn’t only a kickass album that managed to push the band from their glam rock roots into the mainstream, it also managed to smash charts in the U.S. and the UK. While it may have been their last album until the late ‘90s with frontman Vince Neil at the helm, it also was the beginning of Mötley Crüe’s descent into the heavier side of rock, and its title track was at the forefront of it all – becoming the band’s first U.S. top 10 and a gold-certified single.

#9: “You Shook Me All Night Long” (1980)
AC/DC

AC/DC’s legendary album Back in Black produced a whole roster of incredible songs, and our pick goes to this one. The memorable “You Shook Me All Night Long” benefited from the vocal talents of then-new frontman Brian Johnson. With a chorus that even casual fans will recognize, this is a landmark hard rock track that didn’t only make AC/DC a worldwide phenomenon, but is also a band live staple and top 40 Hot 100 single.

#8: “Ace of Spades” (1980)
Motörhead

You can’t think of Motorhead without thinking of this song. With Lemmy’s signature gravelly vocals, and a speedy style of guitar play, you get a recipe for a classic rock tune with a metal twist. This heavy combination ensures that “Ace of Spades” is a simple yet effective anthem, and that’ll it go down in music history as one of the greats of heavy metal.

#7: “Jump” (1984)
Van Halen

Here’s another song that managed to propel its band into mainstream success. Breaking free of its glam metal roots, Van Halen pulled out all the stops with this track off their sixth studio effort. With some truly exceptional guitar and keyboard performances, along with David Lee Roth’s infectiously happy vocals, “Jump” became their first and only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 and proved that these guys were here to stay.

#6: “Photograph” (1983)
Def Leppard

This song comes straight out of the band’s highly successful third album, Pyromania. While many fans and critics consider their next album, Hysteria and the single “Pour Some Sugar on Me” as classic Def Leppard, this precursor and its lead single stand on their own as examples of decade-defining music of the ‘80s. Reaching the top 20 on the Hot 100, “Photograph” perfectly blended hard rock and heavy metal and has been covered by multiple artists since its release.

#5: “Peace Sells” (1986)
Megadeth

A landmark in heavy and speed metal, this song helped propel Megadeth from Dave Mustaine’s dream project into a reality, especially since it was released following their signing to a major label record deal. Able to hold its own against the most renowned thrash metal tracks, “Peace Sells” is regarded as a classic of the genre. The opening bass line, along with the sharp vocals, are all you need to hear before the song takes hold!

#4: “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987)
Guns N’ Roses

This song took the hard rock and heavy metal worlds by storm in the late ‘80s. The second single off their debut Appetite for Destruction, “Welcome to the Jungle” introduced a fresh sound into the genres and became a Hot 100 top 10 smash for Guns N’ Roses. The raw talent of Slash’s guitar solos, matched with Axl Rose’s intense vocals, gave us a precise yet powerful tune that’s not only a band live staple but is consistently cited as one of rock’s greatest.

#3: “Run to the Hills” (1982)
Iron Maiden

Known among rock and non-rock fans, this song is the beginning of a new era for the band. With the introduction of Bruce Dickinson as lead vocalist, Iron Maiden released several epic and genre-defining tracks. While “The Number of the Beast” is certainly up there, it’s “Run to the Hills” from the former’s parent album that steals the spot, thanks to its galloping bass line, classic heavy metal sound and vivid imagery of America’s violent history.

#2: “Crazy Train” (1980)
Ozzy Osbourne

While Ozzy’s origins in Black Sabbath may have made him a household name, it was this single that broke him into the United States as a solo artist. Meanwhile, Randy Rhoads’ main guitar riff on “Crazy Train” is legendary. Now one of the Prince of Darkness’ most popular tunes, it also became a top 10 on Billboard’s Rock Tracks Chart during the early ‘80s. And honestly, what more would you expect from the Godfather of Heavy Metal? Keep that crazy train rolling, Ozzy!

Before our number one pick takes center stage, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “You Give Love a Bad Name” (1986)
Bon Jovi
- “Holy Diver” (1983)
Dio
- “Still of the Night” (1987)
Whitesnake
- “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984)
Twisted Sister
- “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (1984)
Scorpions
- “Raining Blood” (1986)
Slayer

#1: “Master of Puppets” (1986)
Metallica

Though we considered the power ballad “One,” it’s this Metallica single that really changed the face of thrash metal and the band’s career as we know it. With its heavy speed and heavier sound, “Master of Puppets” stopped fans of the genre dead in their tracks. The sharp vocals dealing with the all-consuming nature of drugs, and its unforgettable guitar riffs all combine to deliver an 8-and-a-half-minute number that’s since become a Metallica signature tune, a live concert and pop culture staple, as well as one of heavy metal’s most indispensable singles.

Do you agree with our list? Which hard rock or heavy metal song embodies the ‘80s for you? For more rocking top tens published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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