Eight 1980s garage bands that deserve more attention

Cult following shouldn't suffice for these guys.
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Some call them garage rockers (guess where such bands started out?), some even the original punks, yet these high-energy rockers with a lot of fuzzed-out and loud guitars from the sixties left quite an impression. Not only are they responsible for creating one of the longest-standing rock subgenres, but influenced quite a number of revivals of garage rock.

One of the more impressive of those revivals was during the eighties when a surge of bands wanted to, not only re-create the look and the sound of the original garage rockers but revitalize the subgenre. This was made with even more rawness and energy, however, adding dollops of old (and new) psychedelia and punk rock from the late seventies and early eighties.

Yet, quite a few of these bands have either been forgotten or have fallen into shadows, serving, consciously or unconsciously, as a guiding light for a score of new garage rockers of current times.

Garage bands from the 1980s that deserve more love

The Steppes

It was humble beginnings for the Fallon brothers (John and David) back in 1982 when they started The Blue Macs,’ releasing their first single in only 200 copies. Yet, when they changed the name to The Steppes (along with changes in the band itself) and with constant gigs in Southern California, they caught the attention of Voxx Records, one of the key record labels in the garage and neo-psychedelia resurgence in the eighties.

And while a staunch cult following ensued due to the band's intricate mix of psych-tinged garage, as the Voxx label itself, the much wider audience never really caught up with the band.

Key album: Drop of the Creature (1986)


If there ever was a band that fully channeled the spirit of garage rock it was these guys from Boston. Starting out back in 1979, their name is always dropped among the true fans of garage rock, whether it is its sixties, eighties, or current version. The key man in the band is one Jeff "Monoman" Conolly (he sure loves those sixties recordings), who seems to have infested his other members with love for high-energy rock, without forsaking a good melody.

Key album: On Fyre (1984)

The Tell-Tale Hearts

Like many bands hopping on the garage rock wagon in the eighties, this San Diego quintet didn’t last too long - they formed in 1983 and were gone by 1986.

Yet during that short period, they were able to reach quite a number of garage rock fans outside their local scene where, as the liner notes on their anthology say, “They had never seen anything like them in San Diego.” They seem to have left quite a legacy among garage rock fans, as there were two reunion attempts (1996 and 2010), but the wider audience never caught up.

Key album: High Tide: The Tell-Tale Hearts Anthology, 1983-1986

Tav Falco’s Panther Burns

Since Tav Falco and his Panther Burns originated in Memphis, it might be no wonder that their take on garage rock leaned heavily on rockabilly, blues, and even country - dirty, reverb version of all of those. The band started in the mid-seventies but came up with their key recordings in the eighties. Some considered them just a version of the better-known Cramps, but both Falco and his band had their own take on things, always on the edge of making it really big.

Key album: Behind The Magnolia Curtain 1981

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The Fuzztones

Rudi Protrudi might have started The Fuzztones along with other original band members back in the mid-eighties, but he and The Fuzztones are still around. And while the wider audience (particularly in the U.S.) is still to catch on, they seem to have formed quite a solid fan base in Europe. It was always high energy and loud guitars with Protrudi’s prominent vocals that worked for this band whether it was their take on the early rockers like Eddie Cochran or sticking The Rolling Stones back into the garage.

Key album: Lysergic Emanations 1985 (now remastered)

The Fleshtones

New York’s The Fleshtones call their take on garage rock - super rock, with their obvious love of all things pop culture, after all, one of their songs is a tribute to one Alex Trebek. Pete Zaremba and his crew started out in the mid-seventies but gathered a staunch fan base in the eighties with some high-charged set of albums that favored quite a clean sound all the way through, possibly one of the reasons the band is still around today.

Key album: Roman Gods 1982

The Chesterfield Kings

Some critics say that it was actually The Chesterfield Kings that started the garage rock revival in the eighties. Their early Rolling Stones-infused take on garage rock never lost its energy level even to this day, with guitarist and vocalist Andy Babiuk remaining the sole original member after the other founding member Greg Prevost sadly passed away in 2009. Like with their band name, it was always no-nonsense rocking with The Chesterfield Kings, with their fan base never wavering.

Key Album: Here Are The Chesterfield Kings 1982

Miracle Workers

If you want a band that always sounded as loud (and as fast) as any (and all) garage rock band around, it was these guys from Portland, Oregon. From the time they formed back in 1982, Gerry Mohr (vocals), and Joel Barnett (bass guitar) never bothered to slow down, turn down the knobs on their amps (well, once in a while) or look back. The results - one of the prime sounds of eighties garage rock revival that lasted until the mid-nineties.

Key album: Inside Out 1985

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