Top Colorfully Named Bands of the '80s

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During all eras of rock music, the name of any given band has at times been as important, if not more so, than the music it made. This was certainly the case for some '80s artists as well, but here's a look at a number of groups whose colorful names generally served as a solid reflection of their rich and vibrant musical output. In no particular order, here's a list of '80s bands that not only added to the brilliance of the decade's music spectrum but also provided the aural equivalent of an impression of brilliant reflected light.

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Simply Red

The mention of color in this band's name may have just as well referred to lead singer Mick Hucknall and his long, curly red locks. But there were far more interesting things about this vocalist than his hair's hue—namely his smooth voice, applied so effectively to Simply Red's soul-pop No. 1 singles of the latter half of the '80s. The original composition "Holding Back the Years" and the cover of the soul classic "If You Don't Know Me By Now" were both slow dance favorites of the highest order, but Hucknall and the band have continued to be vital hitmakers in subsequent decades, an impressive show of longevity.

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Green on Red

Aside from featuring two vibrant, major colors in its name, this underground, early Americana roots rock band continues this list with flair based entirely on the strength of the utterly unique brand of music the group created. After starting off during the early '80s with neo-psychedelic tendencies similar to the Paisley Underground movement, the band became a shambling forerunner of alternative country, years before No Depression-style bands led by Uncle Tupelo began to emerge. Ultimately, this is a band that flew so far under the radar during the generally glitzy '80s that most music fans never knew to dig deep enough to find the treasure.

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Red Rockers

No, this was not a band of Sammy Hagar imitators (thanks go out to multiple deities on that one). Instead, this New Orleans-based, punk rock-influenced group with obvious inclinations toward The Clash and U2 released some pretty solid music during the early '80s. Unfortunately, not much of it was heard on anything but the fringes of college rock radio, but the one tune that received modest mainstream airplay, "China," is undoubtedly an evocative classic of the era. New wave may have produced its share of shallow, even embarrassing knock-off bands, but the Red Rockers definitely never fit that description.

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Agent Orange

Though its name obviously could not have less to do with the warm color invoked by the second word here, this seminal Southern California hardcore punk band was always far more than it seemed at first glance. In fact, the group harbored such an impressive eclecticism and sense of musical versatility that 1986's This Is the Voice, a broader, far less simplistic offering than the band's earlier work, did not alienate its core fan base in the least. The reason for this is that Agent Orange had continued to grow musically without compromising its maverick approach. This is highly listenable yet defiantly fierce rock music.

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Blue Murder

For much of the '80s the path of supergroups was a delicate and sometimes treacherous one, as cobbled-together bands from Asia to The Firm to Damn Yankees had their moments but also suffered from either bloated or watered-down missteps. In that light, this late-'80s classic hard rock band led by former Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes made some remarkably solid music. Plus, the group sported a killer name that fit its big, sweeping, tremendously guitar-heavy sound courtesy of Mr. Sykes. Finally, there weren't many blistering power trios to go around during the '80s, which is another solid reason to recommend Blue Murder.

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The Ocean Blue

During the late '80s, college rock began to deepen its mutation into alternative rock, but the bridge between R.E.M. and Nirvana was largely forged by ethereal guitar pop bands like this Pennsylvania group. Although the decade was completely over before the band released the colorfully sublime Cerulean—its sophomore album—in 1991, The Ocean Blue had already filled a niche of elegant, melodic pop that remains relevant today. "Drifting, Falling" may be the group's signature track, a hauntingly soulful tune that spotlights the poignant vocals of frontman David Schelzel.

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Deacon Blue

There were a number of obscure Scottish bands active during the '80s that would have been perfect fits on this list (Orange Juice and The Blue Nile come to mind), but I didn't want to neglect fully the achromatic colors. So I'll be selective and choose just one here: this relatively unheard group whose eclecticism is apparent by the decision to take the name of a Steely Dan song. Using soul and jazz influences to round out an inviting if unfairly ignored sound, the band navigated a unique path as interestingly as The Style Council but without the name clout Paul Weller brought that band. This band is a hidden—and colorful—gem for music fans to dig up.

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White Lion

I must admit it was a toss-up between this band and similarly named Great White and Whitesnake. After all, it's difficult to distinguish between hair metal bands involving references to animals, highly amplified blues riffs, and pouty posturing. So why go with this band with the bleached blond lead singer and not the other two? Well, it's not because of the brilliance of "When the Children Cry," I'll tell you that. Rather, since I already referenced Whitesnake earlier in this list and Great White singer Jack Russell's voice can be irritating, I settled on White Lion. Plus, Mike Tramp's Danish accent in "Wait" never fails to arouse laughter.