We all have them: our list of annoying 80s rockers we love to hate. But do we agree on our top five?
The 80s were prime time for mainstream hair metal. Over-the-top fashion, fighting, and lude tomfoolery were celebrated in music videos and rock magazines.
We’re looking back at our pick of annoying 80s classic rockers.
Let’s jump in!
What Makes Music 80s Rock?
The 80s were marked by the beginning of the subgenre phenomenon. Once upon a time, you had country, jazz, and R&B. Then along came rock ‘n roll. And while disco was making its way onto dancefloors across the globe in the late 70s, so was punk.
This was the first of opposing splits, which would later find harmony in the electro-pop sounds of the early aughts and music of today.
But in the 80s, the guitar was king, and so was this new thing called MTV. Music television needed content, which meant that every band under the sun had to have a look. The glam rock of the late 70s led the way to glam metal, also known as hair metal.
What says the 80s more than five grown men wearing spandex, lipstick, and more hairspray than your great aunt Sally could ever wear?
Hair/glam metal brought us the likes of Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Poison, and Twisted Sister. British bands like Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest kept things more tied to the music than the hair.
But they also added pyrotechnics and massive stage puppets (like Eddie from Iron Maiden). The arena rockers’ subgenre was the slightly softer yet equally as boisterous cousins, like Styx, Rush, and Journey.
New Wave and Alternative Rock
Coming from the underbelly of rock were the subgenres of new wave and college rock. New wave and post-punk were what the cold war plus the end of punk gave us. Bands like The Eurythmics, Duran Duran, and A Flock of Seagulls had that art school edge. And MTV lapped it up.
Bands like R.E.M and The Pixies were college rock because they were the bands that college radio dared to play. All these groups eventually fell under the classification of alternative rock.
Stylistically, the 80s brought us ripped jeans, heavy make-up, biker gloves, and fishnet stockings. The flood of cocaine coming into the United States and the glorification of owning things made excess all the rage.
In the MTV years of rock metal, women were considered one of those things that would be great to have. That is not to say that every 80s classic rocker was a jerk. But we’ve got to be realistic about the times.
All of these goodies, or not-so-goodies, were a perfect storm for the creation of some incredibly annoying 80s classic rockers.
The Most Annoying 80s Classic Rockers
Let’s face it. The 80s were an explosion of possibilities, a decade of big neon love and outlandish indulgences. Of course, this meant the annoying aspects of the 80s were equally as grand.
We’ll have to talk about shoulder pads in another blog. For now, we’re honing in on the most annoying 80s lead singers. Although this list could be three times as long, here are our top picks.
Axl Rose – Guns N’ Roses
We’re surprised Axl Rose is not an official synonym for ‘completely irritating’ yet. His shenanigans are more notorious than the eyelashes of Tammy Faye. Rose is the lead singer of the legendary 80s hard rock band, Guns N’ Roses.
Although the band has released six studio records, it was their 1987 debut album Appetite For Destruction that set the world on fire. The singles Sweet Child of Mine, Welcome to the Jungle, and Paradise City are hard rock standards.
Appetite For Destruction is the best-selling debut album of all time. It’s also a fitting description for the central issue of Axl Rose. He has been arrested over 25 times for various minor offenses.
He’s notorious for getting into fights and throwing show-stopping temper tantrums. He started a riot in 1991 after brutally insulting a fan who was taking pictures. By 2006, aged 44, Rose was still getting arrested for doing things like biting the leg of a hotel security guard.
There are other things like how he dresses, the tape put around backstage chairs, and he’s afraid of seaweed. We love rock and roll and know that wild times come with it.
But this guy. His degradation of women is something extra. As Rose said in a Rolling Stones article: “It’s really hard to maintain a one-on-one relationship if the other person is not going to allow me to be with other people.”
Even his bandmates can’t escape his extreme lack of accountability or interest in the well-being of others. Axl Rose is notorious for ditching rehearsals. Their shows start hours late because he’s always late. It’s a wonder that Guns N’ Roses is on tour in 2022.
Ozzy Osbourne – Black Sabbath
The thing about Ozzy Osbourne is it seems like he just can’t quite get it together. Ever. He’s like that cousin that you want to love. But you can’t help cringing every time they invite themselves over. Where did it all go wrong?
Ozzy Osbourne was the lead singer of the seminal band Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath is more important to rock than most people know. They essentially invented heavy metal in 1968. Their 1970 debut album, Black Sabbath, literally scared people.
The world wasn’t ready, but heavy metal’s birth was never meant to be easy. War Pigs, Paranoid, Sweat Leaf, and Iron Man remain top metal essential singles today.
But Ozzy Osbourne was a mess from day one. He was drunk or drugged up more days than not and often ditched rehearsals. He quit Black Sabbath in 1979, and when he tried to come back three days later, the band effectively said, ‘Nope! You had the right idea fella.’ So Osbourne moved on and started his solo career.
The 80s Ozzy
Osbourne recorded twelve solo albums starting in 1980. And although his first seven records received multi-platinum certifications, it was this 80s period where Osbourne became incredibly annoying.
He was a classic rock star womanizer. He glorified his drug and alcohol abuse and is notorious for pissing in public. In fact, a riot broke out in 1982 after local Texans saw him pissing near the Alamo monument.
He also has some history with birds. When his first wife Thelma bought him a chicken coop with little chickens to take care of, he got mad, shot them, and lit the cage on fire. In 1981, he bit the head off a dove during a business meeting with record executives.
Osbourne followed that one up by biting the head off a bat on stage during a concert. Does anyone want to guess how many times animal rights activists have gone after this guy?
In 2002 MTV execs decided it would be a great idea to start a reality tv show called The Osbournes. The show centered around an aging Ozzy Osbourne, his second wife Sharon, and their children Kelly and Jack.
Although the series received the highest ratings in MTV history, the whole thing was annoying. Osborne was hopped up on Vicodin most of the time. The fun factor of getting a glimpse into the day-to-day life of millionaire rock stars could never evade the cringe factor.
Jon Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi is the lead singer of the rock band, Bon Jovi. And there we have the first annoying 80s thing about Jon. He named his band after himself. Sure, this is common. But it’s somehow irritating in this case.
Bon Jovi hit the big time with their third album Slippery When Wet. Released in 1986, the album shot to the top and turned pop-metal into a radio-friendly format.
The singles, Livin’ On a Prayer and You Give Love a Bad Name, made Bon Jovi instantaneously famous. MTV gave the videos were given heavy rotation on MTV, giving us overexposure to his ridiculous fashion choices. The leopard print tights, the bulge blasting daisy dukes, or the skin-tight jeans with a black leather crotch.
He set the queasy 80s trend of leather fringe jackets sans shirts. We guess it’s okay if you’re a rock star flying through the air in a music video. But, the outfit should come with a warning label, “Do not try this at home.”
But here’s where we have to pivot a little. Looking back, maybe Jon Bon Jovi was annoying during the 80s because he wasn’t all in. Rumor has it that Jovi hates singing his hit single, Livin’ on a Prayer.
He always seemed a little too glossy. No wonder he became an actor in the early aughts. He’s also quite a philanthropist. His Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation works to fight hunger and homelessness.
Seriously though. Do you need your full name so loudly in the title of the charity?
We kind of like Jon Bon Jovi. He seems like a nice guy who’s maybe just a little too full of himself. Check out the Bon Jovi official website for a chance for your band to open for them in 2022.
These next two annoying 80s rockers are tied for being superior jerks. Each is so full of themselves we’re surprised neither have drowned in some cosmic Charlie and The Chocolate Factory-like vat of ego karma.
First, we have Sting. Sting is the lead singer for the pioneering unique 80s band, The Police. Each of their five studio albums, released from 1978 to 1983, are stand-out works of art.
No one sounded like The Police. Three white guys in England combining the sounds of punk, Reggae, and Jazz. Their hits range in sound, from Every Breath You Take’s romantic sway to the fearless Roxanne.
The Police have won over six Grammy Awards. And that’s just the tip of the mountain of accolades they have received. But the reason for their brilliance lies most notably with Stewart Copeland’s impeccable drumming.
Toss in the refined talent of guitarist Andy Summers and the sultry vocals of Sting, and you’ve got yourself an outstanding band. It’s just too bad Sting wanted to accept credit for everything.
Sting Goes Solo
Sting quit The Police in 1983, right when critics christened them as the biggest band in the world. The singer was good-looking and a bit full of himself, so he listened to his league of fawners and started a solo career.
He set out to prove that The Police sucked. He’d have public fistfights with Stewart Copeland and push him, like a bully, during award shows.
In 2021 Sting flipped his story and said, “I’m a heavy metal Singer,” giving kudos to songs like Roxanne. Say what? He produced a musical called The Last Ship, which toured worldwide starting in 2013. It’s about his childhood.
Can you just stop? Please? It seems as long as he can get the ladies’ attention and the money, we will never see the end of Sting’s ego.
This quote from a blogger pretty much sums up our feelings about Sting.
“I can’t stress how big of an obstacle “Sting” is to enjoying this band. It’s kind of like passing a kidney stone the size of the Blarney Stone except kissing that stone will bring you no good luck of any kind.” – Mr B from Culture Fusion
Bono – U2
The second massive egomaniac on our list is Paul David Hewson. Better known as Bono, he’s the lead singer of the band U2, one of the most well-known rock bands of all time.
U2 produced 14 studio albums, won over 22 Grammys, and the world applauds its activism and philanthropy. The fact that all four original band members are still together speaks volumes. There’s no argument that U2 is an incredible band.
The first three U2 albums were very much a part of the bursting post-punk scene of the early 80s. U2 were from Dublin, Ireland. They had a slightly more robust sound and a compelling frontman who told you to stand up and pay attention to the trouble in this world. That was cool! The first three records – Boy, October, and War, were incredible!
Ego and Cash
But then, something happened, and in these next years, Bono became a codeword for ego. U2 garnered help from legendary musician Brian Eno to reshape their sound.
We guess conquering only *part* of the world was not enough. Starting with The Unforgettable Fire in 1984, the following three albums took U2 from post-punk darlings to mainstream rock idols.
Bono’s dance with a fan during their 1985 performance at Live Aid made him into some kind of rock martyr. Suddenly, everything changed. If Bono ever had the punk rule book in hand, he dropped it once the cash came in.
In the years to come, Bono would compare U2 to the Beatles. He became a rock savior driving around in a Mercedes (or a yacht) with overbearing sunglasses. Oh yeah, and then there’s his red Ducati motorcycle. He’s had a clothing line, been a venture capitalist, and is somehow a huge philanthropist.
We know that his charity work is something to be honored. It would be so much easier if the man showed just a pinch of anonymity and humble behavior.
Like Sting, Bono tends to take the credit for anything good about U2. The only difference is his bandmates stay quiet and put up with it.
In a 2009 interview with the Irish Examiner, Bono said, “I can be annoying. I have a kind of annoying gene.” At least Bono can laugh at himself a little.
Which of These 80s Classic Rockers Do You Find Most Annoying?
We wanted to make a tiny confession as we wrap up our thoughts on the most annoying 80s classic rockers.
Our top five are annoying. But we also find them slightly endearing.
Other musicians almost made the list, and we wonder if our undisclosed runners-up would make your list.
So, who do you think is the most annoying 80s rocker on this list? And who would you add to the list and why?