10 best hard rock guitar riffs from the 80s

The 1980s were the heyday of rock and roll on the guitar. Coming from the hard rock scene of the 70s and reinforced by the emergence of MTV, riff rock has never been as popular as it was thirty years ago. During this golden age, guitars reigned over the day. Bands like Van Halen, Guns N ‘Roses and Skid Row got the girls screaming and the guys shredded their guitar tunes.

While many people think of the ubiquitous power ballad when they think back to this bygone age, another piece of the hard rock puzzle has fueled the hard rock machine: the riff. What makes a riff a riff? It is difficult to pin down, but certain elements are essential. It must be heavy. It must be eye-catching. And that must make you want to move. Choosing just 10 songs to best represent this part of musical history is no easy task. Here is our list of the 10 best hard rock guitar riffs of the 80s.

  • ten

    ‘Give me all your love’

    Top ZZ

    ZZ Top is the perfect “Texas cool” ideal. They made their debut in the 70s playing hard rock blues tracks. Then they hit the 80s hard with songs that groove. The verse riff from “Gimme All Your Lovin”, while simple, makes you want to stomp your foot and nod your head.

  • 9

    “Pull to shiver”

    AC DC

    While there is a large population of die-hard AC / DC fans who swear by original singer Bon Scott, the Brian Johnson-era AC / DC still deserves a spot on our Top 10 list. best hard rock guitar riffs of the 80s. “Shoot to Thrill” just screams fast action. This song is almost impossible to ignore, and the riff is unmistakable. It even gained attention when it was used in the movie “Iron Man 2”, thanks to director Jon Favreau’s love for the group.

  • 8

    ‘Iron fist’

    Motor head

    If there was a town called Riffville, Motorhead would be the permanent city council, with conductor Lemmy Kilmister being named life president. ‘Iron Fist’ is as heavy as it sounds. The riff of this song is relentless, and yes, hits you like you’d expect. Ride it. “Iron Fist” will not be refused.

  • seven

    “Keep me coming”


    KISS’s 1982 album “Creatures of the Night” was not considered a big hit for the band, even though it spawned some of their heaviest songs. Among these was this gem. “Keep Me Coming” is powered by a groove-centric riff that underlines the less than subtle lyrics of Starchild Paul Stanley. It’s grungy, gritty and heavy with riffs, as we like it.

  • 6

    ‘Rock off’

    Def Leppard

    Def Leppard helped launch the British invasion of hard rock and metal bands in the 1980s with their debut album, “On Through the Night”. ‘Rocks Off’, criminally buried on side two, is a shining example of an almost perfect riff. The group would later move away from flamboyant guitar riffs in favor of a more pop sound. But these songs prove that they can put out an awesome riff every now and then.

  • 5

    “Still of the night”

    White snake

    If you were in the 80’s you probably remember Whitesnake from songs like “Is This Love?” And “Here I Go Again,” tracks intended to complement the “Hits of the 80s” compilations for years to come. But I hope you also remember “Still of the Night”. It was a brilliant moment of hard rock perfection. Every part of this song, from the intro to the verse to the chorus, is filled with awesome riffs. And the video, featuring rock goddess Tawny Kitaen, isn’t too bad either.

  • 4

    ‘I am here’

    Skid Row

    The youngsters of the time, Skid Row, barely entered the ’80s metal scene and released their self-titled debut album in 1989. With their debut, guitarists Dave’ Snake ‘Sabo and Scotti Hill established a new standard in riffery. Choosing just one song from this album for our list of the 10 best hard rock guitar riffs of the ’80s was difficult, but “Here I Am” won out. This track challenges the riff right off the bat, daring you to challenge it.

  • 3

    ‘You are crazy’

    Guns N ‘Roses

    We would likely be charged with crimes against humanity if we left Guns N ‘Roses on our list of the 10 best hard rock guitar riffs of the 80s. “You’re Crazy” defines high energy and, while Axl Rose draws in your attention, it’s the dazzling guitar work of Slash and Izzy Stradlin that really motivates this song. The opening riff accelerates like a bloated Plymouth Duster squealing around the bends of Mulholland Drive.

  • 2

    “Live wire”

    Motley crue

    What about the single that first noticed Motley Crue in the world? “Live Wire” could be considered Crue’s mission statement. It’s fast, energetic, and it was the perfect single to release from an album called “Too Fast for Love”. Whatever era it came from, ‘Live Wire’ would be rock at any time.

  • 1

    ‘Mean Street’

    Van halen

    While the origins of the hard rock riff are clouded in a haze of smoke and bell bottoms, its history could not be written without several chapters devoted to Van Halen. While Eddie Van Halen may not have invented the riff, he certainly helped perfect it. ‘Mean Street’ hasn’t climbed in rankings like ‘Jump’ or ‘Hot for Teacher,’ but the garish opening ratings set it apart from the Van Halen Library and ranks # 1 on our Top 10 list. 80s hard rock guitar riffs.

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