The early ’80s were a pivotal time in rock music, and 1982 saw the old guard contending with a new wave of hungry up-and-comers ready to stake their claim for rock royalty.
On one hand, you had releases by two of the three surviving Beatles. Paul McCartney reunited with producer George Martin for the critically acclaimed Tug of War, which became his last No. 1 album in the U.S. for 36 years. George Harrison, meanwhile, flew under the radar with the breezy Gone Troppo, which failed to chart in the U.K. and became his only post-Beatles solo album to miss the Top 20 in the States.
On the other end of the spectrum, flashy, pop-savvy hard rockers continued to rule the roost. Van Halen earned their best U.S. chart position to date with the No. 3-peaking Diver Down and extended their reign as gonzo arena headliners. At the same time, another decadent (and decidedly more feral) Los Angeles four-piece was nipping at their heels: Motley Crue, who had made waves with their 1981 debut, Too Fast for Love, and would continue their fast-track to stardom with 1983’s Shout at the Devil.
The year also brought seminal releases from several heavy metal acts that would help elevate the genre to all-new heights over the course of the decade. With new powerhouse singer Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden released The Number of the Beast, which became an instant stone-cold metal classic and made them torchbearers for the genre. Their English heavy metal brethren Judas Priest also continued their hot streak with Screaming for Vengeance, which went double platinum in the U.S. and spawned one of their signature hits, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.”
Bloodthirsty headbangers and decadent glam-rockers weren’t the only ones making waves in 1982, though. Fleetwood Mac got their mojo back with the soft-rock smash Mirage, John Mellencamp (then John Cougar) topped the charts with his five-times platinum American Fool and prog-rock supergroup Asia topped the Billboard year-end chart with their self-titled debut, buoyed by the Top 5 single “Heat of the Moment.”
You can see all these rockers and more below in our gallery of rock stars from 1982.
See Your Favorite Rock Stars in 1982
The old guard was contending with a new wave of hungry up-and-comers in 1982.