Last year A.D.D. unleashed a list of ten great hard rock anthems from the Eighties. It’s been one of our most popular posts, so we decided to follow it up with more tunes from that era — twelve instead of ten because there were so many to choose from — although this time with a lot more tracks that you might not be familiar with but certainly need to check out. You will hear few of these on the radio, and you might catch some of them on VH1 Classic, if you’re lucky. But they are collected here all in one spot for you to rock out to.
The first half of the Eighties in particular produced some amazing rock bands and songs. The mainstream could use some of that musical magic today.
KANSAS “Fight Fire With Fire” — The first song I heard by Kansas after “Dust In The Wind” — which I swear played over the radio every time I visited the dentist’s office when I was a kid — was this intense number. You can hear the same kind of aggression that the band exhibited in “Carry On Wayward Son,” but this was more streamlined and modern sounding for the time. The fever dream video was moody and fun, too. Love that giant mosquito. And I hate mosquitos.
KIX “Cold Shower” — This bluesy band from Baltimore combined snarling guitars with funkalicious rhythms and were one of the most distinct American hard rock bands of the Eighties. While they scored big with the dark ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” this swaggering tune about not getting some action was much more what the quintet was known for. Some fans feel they were criminally underappreciated, and they still tour today.
MADAM X “High In High School” — Recognize the drummer? Yeah, that’s future Vixen member Roxy Petrucci rocking along with her guitar shredding sis Maxine Petrucci in this short-lived Eighties rock brigade. They liked their songs short ‘n’ sweet, which made their album We Reserve The Right fun to listen to. Singer Bret Kaiser is now in an Elvis tribute band called Bret Kaiser’s Speedway.
RAINBOW “Death Alley Driver” –While more people know the singles/videos for the ballads “Stone Cold” and “Street Of Dreams,” this chugging anthem is classic Rainbow and this cheeky video a lost gem. You’ve got to love Richie Blackmore as the personification of Death chasing down a lone motorcyclist. I actually wish Rainbow had lasted longer and Richie and Roger Glover had not gone back to Deep Purple at the time. The Joe Lynn Turner line-up of Rainbow was fantastic.
THE RODS “Hurricane” — This legendary New York trio have always been a straight-ahead kind of band, straddling the line between hard rock and metal, an amalgam of the no-frills stadium anthems of AC/DC and the rapid fire aggression of Judas Priest. This was pure adrenaline rock, all meat and potatoes but fun to listen to. To check out a low-res copy of the video, click here. The Rods recently reunited and recorded with their first album in twenty years, the forthcoming Vengeance, which features the late Ronnie James Dio, cousin to Rods frontman David “Rock” Feinstein, singing on one track.
SAGA “On The Loose” — One of my favorite bands of all time with a catalog that spans nearly 35 years, this powerhouse Canadian quintet had their lone U.S. hit with this catchy single. Saga have always married the chops of progressive rock with staccato guitars, racing keyboards and memorable melodies, and this is one of their classic tunes, although they have plenty more where this came from. Frontman Michael Sadler recently reunited with the group after a four-year hiatus.
SHARK ISLAND “Paris Calling” — I have only ever repeatedly heard this one tune from L.A. rockers Shark Island — one of the many long-maned bands to break through from that town post-Bon Jovi and Whitesnake — but it’s an Eighties classic. I guess I really should track down Law Of The Order, one of their four albums, from which this hails.
SPYS “She Can’t Wait” — I saw this video a few times at the dawn of MTV (in 1982, specifically). Like Saga, SPYS married hard rock power with progressive flourishes while remaining radio-friendly. They only released two albums (reissued on one now out-of-print CD), and this is from their self-titled debut, which is one of the most underrated and best rock albums of the Eighties. For a non-music video clip with better audio quality, click here.
STREETS “Don’t Look Back” — After departing Kansas for a time, keyboardist Steve Walsh did two albums with the AOR band Streets in the early to mid-Eighties. This infectious hard rockin’ anthem offers the big hooks and slick sound of rock at the time, and the video utilizes classic music video elements from back in the day, like shadowy streets, a dramatic police chase, a trash can on fire (!) and a hot babe. I confess I never saw this on MTV when Streets were together. Praise be to YouTube that I can watch it now.
TKO “I Wanna Fight” — This gritty song, album cover and Seattle-based band were pretty un-PC, yet I played In Your Face relentlessly when I first bought it. This fist-pounding manifesto (in more ways than one) is perfect to let off some steam to or for psyching yourself up for a battle in your life. I don’t know why, but Brad Sinsel‘s raspy voice makes me think of a hard rockin’ Mick Jagger. Interesting trivia: Members of TKO went to on play with Alice Cooper, House Of Lords, Chastain, Fifth Angel, War Babies and Q5.
TOTO “Angel Don’t Cry” — While this group of respected session musicians was known for hits like “Rosanna” and “Africa,” they went through a power pop phase with Isolation, bringing on board singer Fergie Fredrickson to replace the ousted Bobby Kimball. This one’s a guilty pleasure, and I love it. Isolation is fairly diverse and a strong addition to Toto’s catalog, even if it seemed like a radical shift to some fans at the time. Before he passed away from cancer in 2014, singer Fergie Frederiksen re-recorded the song for his final solo album Any Given Moment.
TSUNAMI “Fire Water” — Tsunami were a potent heavy rock band from California whose Enigma Records debut is an underrated Eighties masterpiece. The opening number, the raunchy (and yes, sexist) “Fire Water,” is indicative of their style, although the group recorded a couple of awesome ballads about deception (“The Runaround”) and a lonely warrior (“Ninja”). Somebody reissue this great album out on CD. NOW.