Some of the most popular rock bands of the 1980s include The Pretenders, R.E.M. and The Smiths. These bands experienced both commercial and artistic success throughout the decade, paving the way for more adventurous rock music in the succeeding decades.
Formed by singer and bandleader Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders combined the driving rhythms of punk with complex, varied songwriting, winning fans and praise from both the mainstream and the underground. Originally from Ohio, Hynde lived in London throughout the 1970s, where undistinguished work as a part-time rock critic eventually led her to start her own band. The band’s self-titled debut, along with the follow-up, “Pretenders II,” won both fame and critical acclaim.
R.E.M.’s wistful, jangling alternative rock initially found few fans in the artsy music scene of Athens, Georgia, but albums such as “Murmur,” “Reckoning” and “Life’s Rich Pageant” brought an increasingly large audience, propelling the band out of the college-rock underground and into the mainstream. The band’s mixture of folk, rock and country took equal parts influence from The Byrds and The Velvet Underground, and lead singer Michael Stipe’s cryptic lyrics set a model for many future alternative vocalists.
English band The Smiths straddled the line between arty sophistication and pure pop songwriting. Led by guitarist/songwriter Johnny Marr and vocalist Morrisey, the band’s blend of hooky, angular guitars and Morrisey’s literate croon found chart success on both sides of the Atlantic.