The 80s were cool, weren’t they? I thought so anyway. I grew up in them. We had some of the best British Pop groups.
It was a time where attitudes were changing and the music was some of the best we had ever heard, especially in the UK.
Many bands of the time rivalled even the best offerings from the USA and the rest of the world.
The 80’s British Pop Groups and their followers, known as New Romantics, or New Wave in America, was a force to be reckoned with.
The British Invasion was fully underway and the music went worldwide – we’d probably say ‘viral’ now!
To this day I have friends with teenage sons and daughters that are blasting out Britpop music from 1980-something; it makes me smile every time.
So, put on a fluffy sleeved shirt, grab your eyeliner, put some sparkly highlights in your hair, and let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Here are some of the most popular British Pop Groups, bands and solo performers of the 1980s.
How many of these do you remember?
Bursting on to the scene with the song Girls on Film, Duran Duran (named after a character from the sci-fi movie Barbarella) an electrical, synth-pop beat and a catchy refrain from our very own Simon Le Bon.
This breakout hit landed at number 1 shortly after its 1981 release. It may have been helped by the accompanying video which was still a relatively new music medium back them.
It featured several scantily clad girls in a wrestling contest and was even banned by the BBC.
Duran Duran followed up the hit with songs such as Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf and Union of the Snake to become one of the most popular and best-selling British pop groups of the decade.
From 1980 on Duran Duran have placed 14 records in the UK Top 10 Singles Chart and have sold in excess of 100 million records.
Probably Duran Duran’s biggest rival in the 80s was London based Spandau Ballet. Also darlings of the New Romantic movement featuring brothers Gary and Martin Kemp and frontman Tony Hadley.
The band has had 8 UK Top 10 albums and performed at Live Aid. It was at the event that the long-running rivalry with Duran Duran was finally put to rest.
Spandau Ballet’s first record was ‘To Cut a Long Story Short’ released in 1980. It was followed by Top 10 hits, ‘Gold’, ‘True’, and ‘Chant No1’.
Tony Hadley is no longer with the band and was replaced by a new lead singer in 2018.
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Formed in 1976 the band Ultravox had performed as ‘Tiger Lily’ in the year prior.
After a bit of a reshuffle and replacement of band members, the group seemed like it was almost on the outs until frontman Midge Ure joined the line up in 1979.
The album ‘Vienna’ was released and yielded the band’s first top 40 hit with ‘Sleepwalk’.
The title track of the album was released third and in 1981 ‘Vienna’ reached number 2 on the pop charts making it Ultravox’s biggest ever hit.
They were prevented from reaching the top spot by John Lennon’s ‘Woman’
Formed in London in 1981 pop duo Alison Moyet and Vince Clark produced some of the best-known songs of the 80s.
Sadly they only lasted about 18 months then split on not very friendly terms.
However, Yazoo (known as Yaz in the USA) produced 2 albums including ‘Upstairs at Erics’ which received critical acclaim.
Clarke went on to join Andy Bell and form the group Erasure while Moyet embarked on a successful solo career.
The duos most popular hit ‘Only You’ reached the number 2 chart slot in 1982 quickly after its release.
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Probably the best-known duo of the ’80s was good looking floppy-haired singer George Michael, and quiet, broody and (now we know) non-instrument playing Andrew Ridgeley.
The group formed in London in 1981 churned out a string of popular hits.
In 1985 Wham! became the first western pop group to make a visit to the communist country of China.
Wham! sold more than 30 million records worldwide and was one of the most successful acts of the 1980s.
George Michael continued on to a very successful solo career until his recent death in 2016.
Ridgeley moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career without much success and returned to England in 1990.
Adam and the Ants
No-one in the ’80s was quite as swashbuckling as Adam Ant, frontman and lead singer for group Adam and The Ants.
In just a few years the group racked up 10 Top Ten hits. Known for flamboyant outfits worn during songs ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Prince Charming’.
Adams wardrobe ranged from military-style, to highwayman, to royal robes. Adam (real name Stuart Goddard) also is involved in acting and has appeared in multiple films.
Adam and the Ant had 2 number 1 hits during their career and a number 1 album.
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Tears for Fears
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith teamed up in 1981 to form pop duo Tears for Fears. It took until their 3rd single “Mad World” to start gaining popularity but after that, the hits kept coming.
Sadly, the duo never made it to the number 1 slot with a single but gained a huge following having over 17 hits in the top 40 charts, 17 of which made it to the top 10.
The album charts were a different story with Tears For Fears reaching the number 1 spot twice with The Hurting(1983) and The Seeds of Love (1989).
Pop duo Annie Lennox and Dave Stuart rocketed to fame with the release of their 1983 single Sweet Dreams. The song was a hit, reaching number 1 in multiple countries including the UK and USA.
The Eurythmics have won MTV and Grammy Awards and have been inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
The duo has sold a mega 75 million records worldwide. After splitting in 1990 Annie Lennox went on to achieve a massively successful solo career.
Dave Stuart had a hit with Lily Was Here in 1990 and became involved in writing soundtracks for film productions.
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Ok, Ok, so they’re actually American. I’m just making sure you’re paying attention! This rock band had been around prior to the 1980s but achieved most of their success before splitting in 1991.
Talking Heads led by Dave Byrne became recognised on the music scene with the release of “Once in Her Lifetime@ in 1981.
The track was voted as one of the most influential songs in rock and roll and peaked at number 14 on the music charts.
The band never had a number 1 single or album but due to their slightly offbeat lead singer, and their original sound, they developed a solid British following.
Formed in 1977 and producing a string of hits until disbanding in 1986 each member of The Police went on to their own solo careers.
The most recognisable being lead singer Sting who is still currently performing and has had many notable solo hits.
During their time together the band racked up 5 number 1 singles, and a massive 6 number 1 albums, quite an achievement!
The Police‘s popularity may be due to their sound. They originally began as a rock group but over the year have incorporated pop, reggae, punk and new wave for their unique sound.
This is by no mean an exhaustive list, the groups, bands, and successful solo artists of the 1980s are simply too many to list. These are some of the most popular ones of the decade that we knew and loved.
For more reading check out Best British Pop Groups of the 70s. If you would like to see other groups added to this list then leave a comment.