80s Musical Acts Named After Geography

Perhaps rock musicians are not best-known for being studious, but over the years many have shown a propensity for naming their bands after places, topographical features, countries, and continents. In some cases, artists just happen to have surnames that you might find on a map, but most of the time they appear to fall back on whatever rudimentary education they got before hitting the road for a living. Who says American kids don't know their geography?

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Miami Sound Machine

Gloria Estefan and keytarist Jim Trompeter onstage at a 1988 Miami Sound Machine performance

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This vehicle for Gloria Estefan's voice and image deserves credit for injecting some Cuban sounds and rhythms into pop music in the '80s. Nonetheless, the group didn't achieve its highest level of success until it shed most Latin music predilections for pop, such as the ballad "Words Get in the Way." Still, the catchy if sometimes infuriating "Conga!" had a way of drilling itself into the brains of unsuspecting listeners. So what would Castro do? Probably dance!

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Terri Nunn and Berlin performing onstage in 1983

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This synth-pop/new wave outfit matched its elegant name with alluring frontwoman Terri Nunn and went on to significant pop chart success with the smash hit from the soundtrack, "Take My Breath Away." Whether the band harbored any Teutonic origins doesn't make the name any less fitting for the glossy look and sound exemplified by Nunn & Co. "No More Words," tells us that the band doesn't speak much German, but it's still a good song.

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Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer quartet take the state

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There wasn't much room in the glitzy '80s for a jazz vocal group, but this NYC group found a place somehow anyway. Their take on "Boy From New York City" found its way onto pop radio and puzzled many listening to Casey Kasem in 1981. The group has exercised pretty impressive longevity over the years, continuing to crank out albums and even landing a surreal video on MTV in the late '80s featuring claymation puppets.

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Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook of country band Alabama play music together

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This meat-and-potatoes country/pop band's members figured they would just match their name up with their geographical origin. The working-class group Alabama became one of the decade's biggest stars with its blend of ballads and foot-stompers that not only ruled the country charts but made quite a mark on the pop charts as well. Along the way, the boys served as a great advertisement for their home state and, with "Song of the South," the entire region.

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Atlantic Starr

Sharon Bryant and Wayne Lewis of the R&B band "Atlantic Starr" perform on the TV show American Bandstand in circa 1983 in Los Angeles

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

These masters of '80s soul matched their name somewhat with their New York origins. But the group's career never peaked until its leaders orchestrated a clear change of direction from soul and funk to pop. As a result, the outfit is best-known for two cheesy but nonetheless engaging ballads, "Secret Lovers" and "Always."

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Billy Ocean

Billy Ocean performs in 1985

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He was probably no Jacques Cousteau in terms of sea-related knowledge, but Billy Ocean was a significant '80s crooner known for a string of adult contemporary ballads and bouncy pop tunes. The hit "Caribbean Queen" shows that Ocean feared straying too far from his nautical name, or maybe it was just a good song with hit potential. Nonetheless, you can bet Billy has enjoyed a few mai tais on the beach as a result of that Top 40 success.

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Big Country

Stuart Adamson is joined onstage by dancing fans during Big Country's 1994 performance in Kentish Town, U.K.

 Pete Still / Getty Images

OK, this one might be pushing the spirit of the list a little, especially considering the fact that this band actually hails from the rather small country of Scotland. Anyway, this apparently title-challenged quartet forged its greatest success with the single "In a Big Country," a tune with a unique, vaguely Celtic sound. It should be noted that the band released a number of quality songs without "country" in the title.

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China Crisis

Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon of China Crisis performing in Liverpool in 2008

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This British pop/rock band has the distinction perhaps of being a little too unique to garner much commercial success. Maybe the group would have fared better if it had waited a few more years to become active, which would have helped it coincide with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Even so, one of the group's finest tunes, "Arizona Sky," nimbly deepens the geographical motif.

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Supergroup Asia performs on a multi-level stage in Germany in 1982

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The quintessential supergroup — which featured bandmates from King Crimson, U.K., Yes, the Buggles, Uriah Heep, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer — created an epic sound in tracks like "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell" that is comparable to the world's greatest landmass. Their self-titled debut, "Asia", was the biggest album of 1982, going No. 1 in seven countries.

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The cover of the debut album of Badlands


Another supergroup, this minor hair metal band was led by former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake Lee and featured former members of Black Sabbath, Ray Gillen, and Eric Singer. Even so, their biggest hit, "Dreams in the Dark," topped out at No. 38 on the rock charts before the band (and hair metal) faded away, disappointing South Dakotans everywhere.