Many things defined the 1980s, one of the most important being music. Numerous performers got their start during this time and went on to become some of the greatest musicians in history.
Not only did these music groups have fun on stage, but backstage was just as fun. Here are some candid backstage photos of iconic musicians of the ’80s.
David Bowie Cracks A Smile With Tina Turner
David Bowie and Tina Turner were two of the biggest musicians of the 1980s. While Bowie got his start in the ’60s, his career was able to last decades.
The 1980s were considered his New Romantic and pop era. He reached the peak of popularity and commercial success in 1983 with his hit album Let’s Dance.
Stevie Nicks Shows Her Feminine Side
Stevie Nicks rose to stardom in the 1970s as the lead singer for Fleetwood Mac, but she was able to have a successful solo career starting in the 80s.
Her first studio album, Bella Donna, topped the Billboard 200 and reached multiplatinum status. This caused Rolling Stone to name her the “Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”
Whitney Houston Catches Up With Stevie Wonder
Many musicians value the friendships they make in the business. Whitney Houston was one of the most talented solo performers and had a close friendship with fellow singer Stevie Wonder.
The two even collaborated on a song called “We Didn’t Know” in the early 90s. This photo shows them backstage at the Nelson Mandela concert in 1988.
The Ramones Stay Cool In Leather Jackets
The Ramones brought a lot of fashion into their performances by wearing matching leather jackets, black T-shirts, and jeans.
Each of the members changed their surname to Ramone because they were inspired by Paul McCartney, who would check into hotels using the fake name “Paul Ramon.” This photo shows them in 1983 before a performance in San Francisco.
Will Smith Before He Was A TV Star
Before Will Smith was on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he was simply known as the rapper The Fresh Prince. He is seen posing with DJ Jazzy Jeff and their dancer Ready Rock C backstage in Chicago in 1988.
His influence as one of the earliest rappers led him to the leading role in a hit sitcom.
Flavor Flav and Tupac Getting Ready For An Award Show
Two artists who changed the game for hip-hop in the late 80s and early 90s were Flavor Flav and Tupac Shakur.
They are seen waiting backstage at the 1989 American Music Awards. Those who are familiar with Flavor Flav may have noticed his signature gigantic clock necklace. He also credits Tupac for helping him stay out of trouble during this time.
Air Supply Shines In Metallic Suits
One of the biggest fashion trends of the 1980s was metallic outfits, but those wouldn’t be complete without some shoulder pads.
Air Supply is seen in this photo dressed to the nines backstage at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles in 1986. Music fans may remember some of their hits, including “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” and “All Out of Love.”
Bon Jovi’s Backstage Jam Session
Jon Bon Jovi is best known as the founder and frontman of the rock group Bon Jovi.
Bon Jovi started his music career at 13, so he has some advice for young people who want their dreams to come true: “Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”
Weird Al Can’t Contain His Excitement
When it comes to parody songs, there is no one who is quite as unique as Weird Al Yankovic. While his first song gained traction in the mid-1970s, his career took off in the early 80s when he started to tour.
While perms were popular during this decade, he has kept the curly hairstyle throughout his career.
Dusty Hill Slings His Bass Backstage
ZZ Top is one of the most iconic rock bands in American history and has played concerts all over the world.
This photo shows former member Dusty Hill backstage at a Rockford, Illinois, concert in 1984. The band had a resurgence in popularity at this time because their music videos were airing on MTV.
Rick Springfield Leans On A Piano
Rick Springfield had one of the biggest hit singles from the 1980s with “Jessie’s Girl.” The song reached number one in both the United States and Australia, which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
While his music career started to fizzle out after this decade, he switched gears and became an actor.
Madonna Was Married To This Movie Star
One of the high-profile celebrity marriages of the 1980s was between Madonna and Sean Penn. The singer married the actor in 1985, but their marriage ended in 1989.
The 1980s were Madonna’s golden years for music, where she released numerous hit singles, including “Material Girl,” “Dress You Up,” and “Papa Don’t Preach.”
Iron Maiden Were At The Top Of Their Fashion Game
One of the most famous 80s heavy metal bands was Iron Maiden. This photo shows the group backstage in Chicago in 1985.
Not only did they rock some of the boldest hairstyles of that era, but they weren’t afraid to take fashion risks as well. Snake-print tops and skeleton belt buckles gave them an edge over other hard rock bands.
The Bangles Formed An All-Female Pop Group
If you’re familiar with 80s songs such as “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian,” then you may know that they are by the all-female pop-rock group The Bangles.
The members of the group initially bonded over their shared interest of the Beatles: “I mean, the Beatles were always revered, but you didn’t necessarily find a lot of 21-year-olds at that time who were going ‘yeah I’m obsessed with the Beatles,” said band member Susanna Hoffs.
Axl Rose Meets One Of His Music Idols
Axl Rose is a big Rolling Stones fan and was able to meet band member Charlie Watts at one of their concerts in 1989.
Rose is the lead vocalist and lyricist for the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses and has been called one of the greatest singers in history by Rolling Stone.
Pure Prairie League Squeezes Together For A Photo
Pure Prairie League is a classic rock and country group and can be seen here backstage at ChicagoFest in 1980.
The band formed in the early 70s in Columbus, Ohio, with their first single, “Amie” getting a lot of airtime on the radio. Other hit singles included “Two Lane Highway” and “Falling in and Out of Love.”
Eartha Kitt Gets Her Makeup Done
Earth Kitt’s acting and singing career began in the early 1940s, but she was able to keep working until the 2000s.
Here, she is seen holding her dog and getting her makeup done backstage at the Ballroom in New York City in 1987. Disney fans may remember her as the voice of Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove.
Ray Charles Can’t Stop Smiling
While Ray Charles was more of a mainstream artist in the 1960s, he was able to keep performing until the 1980s.
He was an inspiration to his audiences and could usually be seen smiling. His motto was to “live each day like it’s your last, ’cause one day you gonna be right.”
Wang Chung Were The Epitome Of 80s Musicians
British new wave band Wang Chung formed in 1980 and is now remembered as an iconic group of that decade.
Wang Chung had five top 40 hits between 1983 and 1987, including “Dance Hall Days,” “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” and “Let’s Go!” Fans of the band may not know that their name translates to “yellow bell” in Mandarin.
Anthrax Messes Around Backstage
Those who were into heavy metal in the 1980s have probably heard of Anthrax. The group is considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene.
They are part of the “Big Four” of the genre, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer. Some of their most popular songs are “Bring the Noise” and “Madhouse.”
Billy Ocean Keeps It Casual
Billy Ocean is a British singer best known for his R&B and pop music from the 1970s and 1980s.
This photo shows him backstage in 1985 in Chicago, which was the same year he won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run).”
The Alarm Embraced Punk Rock
The Alarm was initially formed as a punk rock band but soon incorporated arena rock as well. Arena rock is music designed for large audiences.
The Alarm would often open for huge music acts, including U2 and Bob Dylan, before being able to headline their own shows. Their highest charting single was “Sixty Eight Guns.”
Tammy Wynette Catches Her Reflection
Tammy Wynette was one of the most famous country singers who became famous for the song “Stand By Your Man.”
While she was at her peak in the 1960s, she had a resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s. In this photo, she is seen getting ready for a concert in 1982.
Heart Was Made Up Of Two Sisters
Sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson formed the 80s group Heart. Here, they were seen backstage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 1980.
Those who are familiar with their music may recognize some of their greatest hits, including “Barracuda,” “Alone,” and “What About Love.” Heart has sold over 35 million records worldwide, with most being from the U.S.
Alice Cooper Chats It Up With Albert Finney
British actor Albert Finney was able to catch up and chat with his pal Alice Cooper backstage on his tour in 1981.
Cooper’s career has spanned over five decades. He’s known for his raspy voice and immersive stage shows that include props, illusions, pyrotechnics, and much more. During the 80s, he experimented with many different genres, including hard rock and heavy metal.
The Go-Go’s Say Cheese
One of the most successful all-female American rock bands is the Go-Go’s. The band formed in 1978 in Los Angeles and has released numerous hit singles, including “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.”
The band members were sure to keep up with the fashion trends of the era, including thick bracelets, sequins, and headbands.
Bruce Springsteen Hangs With Mick Jagger
Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger are two of the most famous musicians of all time. This 1989 photo shows Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa visiting Jagger backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.
Springsteen has actually joined the Rolling Stones on stage quite a few times, and the band is one of his biggest musical inspirations.
Robby Steinhardt Takes A Break
Robby Steinhardt was one of the founding members of the rock band Kansas. He is pictured playing around in a dressing room while taking a break from shooting a music video in 1982.
Kansas became popular in the 1970s with hits such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”
The Rolling Stones Getting Ready To Perform
While the Rolling Stones gained popularity in the 1960s, they have been able to reinvent themselves every decade since. This photo shows them getting ready to perform a concert in New Jersey in 1981.
The band reached its peak in 1982 when their single “Hang Fire” reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Pat Benatar Strikes A Pose For The Camera
Pat Benatar is a symbol for 80s music. Her breakthrough album, In the Heat of the Night, shot her to superstardom.
Some of her best-known singles include “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” and “Shadows of the Night.” Also, Benatar won Best Female Rock Vocal Performance every year from 1981 to 1984.