In keeping with the music theme, I decided to rank my Top Underrated Artists of the 1980’s. I am focusing on the time these acts were in their most commercial success. Some of the acts started out before the 1980s, but they hit their stride in the decade, which is what I am focusing on. Some may think that some of these artists were One Hit Wonders, but really were not (I always laugh at the term One Hit Wonders because even if they hit the charts once, we still know the songs, regardless if they charted again in the U.S.). I am also focusing on their success in the United States mainly when I talk about the chart positions. I also list the years when the acts originally was started if they were a band.
Hopefully you will discover the music of these artists through whatever music access you have, because the talent here is amazing. In no particular order, here is my list:
1. NRBQ (1967-Current) . This band has a strange name, but their songs are known. This band has no category; they are Rock, Blues, Country, Rockabilly and everything in between. Guitar player Al Anderson left the band in 1994 to write with Country acts including George Strait, Carlene Carter, Diamond Rio, The Mavericks, and Garth Brooks’ guitarist Ty England. NRBQ’s songs have been covered by numerous acts, including She and Him (“Ridin in My Car”). Wrestling fans will remember the band for having an album with legendary manager Captain Lou Albano, who became the band’s manager for a time. The band still performs with a different lineup, but this band has influenced many acts and if it weren’t for the fact they were not on the charts, they should be in the (so called) Rock Hall of Fame.
2. The Georgia Satellites (1980-1990). Most fans remember this band for the hit “Keep Your Hands To Yourselves,” but they also had a minor single of the remake “Hippy Hippy Shake” from the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail.” This band had a harder Southern Rock feel to them that didn’t sound redneck-ish but straight ahead Rock. Songs like “Battleship Chains” and from their 3rd CD “Six Years Gone,” “Days Gone By,” are great rock tunes. Also check out the ballad “Sweet Blue Midnight.” This band only had 3 major studio albums before singer and guitarist Dan Baird left for a solo career (Get his first one 1992’s “Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired,” which was full of songs that I played in a cover band with at that time). Baird still performs with his band, and the Satellites still perform separately with different members.
3. Henry Lee Summer (1988-1989). This artist had two great CDs, including the hit “I Wish I Had A Girl” from his self titled-album. The self -titled also had great songs like “Hands On The Radio” and the ballad “Darling Danielle Don’t.” Summer was underrated as a guitar player with great Pop and Blues feel to the album. Although the second CD is not as great, it did have another hit, “Hey Baby” in 1989. Although he has been in the news the last few years because of some personal problems, it doesn’t diminish how great this artist is.
4. Blue Rodeo (1984-Current). Anyone in Canada knows this band. Founded by Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, I discovered this band on a DVD of the Canadian concert of Live 8, where they performed the 1987 hit “Try,” a great ballad. I picked up their “Greatest Hits Vol 1” CD, and loved it. This band has a Country-Rock feel to it. This band has been given almost every major award available in Canada. Cuddy also has recorded as a solo act as well. I sometimes can pick up Canadian radio Station where I live, which plays the song “Bad Timing” from 1994. Great songwriting from this band.
5. Enuff Znuff (1984-Current). This band was lumped into the Hair Metal era when they broke nationally (I apologize to those that know how much I HATE the term “Hair Metal” ), with their hits “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing” from 1989. Even though the band looked at first like 1960s hippies, the vocals and production on the songs were almost Beatle-like. The band had solid airplay on MTV during this time (MTV actually played videos), and I got to see the band on Poison’s 2001 Summer Tour, and they were amazing. They also have gone through lineup changes, with Donnie Vie leaving around the early 2000s. The band is currently a 3-piece band with Chip Z’Nuff heading the band. VERY underrated band and is respected among many musicians but never got the mainstream fan support.
6.Dokken (1976-Current). Just like the band above, this band was during the Hair Metal acts but for some reason, they are still not given the respect of that era, even though the band had around 10 singles that charted in the U.S. The most successful lineup of the band was from 1983-1988. Band member Juan Crouicer left in 1983 to join the band Ratt, and was replaced by Jeff Pilson. The most success of the band was with the albums “Tooth and Nail” (1984), “Under Lock and Key” (1985) and “Back For The Attack” (1987). Horror fans will remember the band for “Dream Warriors”, which was the theme song for the same title in the Nightmare on Elm Street Series. Band members Don Dokken and George Lynch had one of the most stressed relationships in music and Lynch left the band in 1989 and started Lynch Mob, and Dokken continued. Even though they have tried since to patch up differences, it has seemed to work, with Dokken still playing and Lynch is in several projects, including recording with Stryper’s Micheal Sweet. (Stryper is another band you need to check out) Jeff Pilson has been in Foreigner for the past years. Check out the band’s 1999 “Erase The Slate” as well, with Winger’s Reb Beach on guitar, but the bands 1980s stuff was very good, and it is surprising that they had success but seem to be forgotten the era.
6. Rick Astley (1987-1993). It shocks me when people think this guy was a One Hit Wonder with being known for one song “Never Gonna Give You Up” from 1987. This song was #1 in many countries, along with “Together Forever” from the same album. Astley had a sound that would be like Michael Buble or a Sam Smith style, with a soul R&B sound. Maybe he was before his time. His second album, 1988’s “Hold Me In Your Arms” had two hits on it, “She Wants To Dance With Me,” and “Giving Up On Love.” Also on the album is a great version of “Ain’t To Proud To Beg,” which is slowed down to show his ballad soul voice. Astley retired from the business for a while, and later became a DJ in London. He still has recorded in the past decade, but the first two albums were great for him. He did chart in the 1990s in the U.S. but I still like the first two. Also check out “It Would Take A Strong Man” from the first album as well, which I remember seeing on MTV.
This is my list of the underrated acts from the 1980s. Don’t forget bands like Stryper, who were one of the first Christian acts ever on MTV, and still are around. Even though many know the big acts of the 1980s, maybe this list will let you check out some different acts as well.