With hitmakers like Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Gino Padilla, Kuh Ledesma, the APO Hiking Society, and more dominating the airwaves in the 1980s, Pinoy Rock was still on the fringes of mass consciousness during this decade. Only a handful of radio stations like DZRJ-AM and WXB 102 played original Filipino rock and unsigned bands then, but those who tuned in took notes and were inspired to make their own music (listen to Sandwich’s “Betamax” and Rivermaya’s Isang Ugat, Isang Dugo covers album).

Sound-wise, Pinoy Rock was still heavily influenced by Western trends like post-punk and new wave. Even the late-’70s punk of the Ramones, the Clash, and Buzzcocks made its mark locally in the mid-1980s, with independent labels like Tommy Tanchanco’s Twisted Red Cross putting out records and compilations by Dead Ends, Urban Bandits, Wuds, and more. These coexisted with synth-heavy groups like Identity Crisis and The Dawn, as well as then-burgeoning pop bands like Introvoys and Side A. It was a strange, if transitional decade for Pinoy Rock, but it still birthed a number of gems worth rediscovering today.

“Kahit Anong Mangyari”Juan De La Cruz Band

With many classic tunes like “No Touch,” “Titser’s Enemi No. 1,” and “Project,” it’s hard to choose a track to highlight from Juan De La Cruz’ fourth and final LP. We decided to go with the title track, with its call-to-arms chorus of “Kahit na ano mauso, Pinoy Rock pa rin tayo” [“Whatever becomes trendy, we’re still Pinoy Rock”]. It’s quite prophetic, given the influence that punk and new wave will bring to local music in the coming years.

“Enveloped Ideas” – The Dawn

When one thinks of ‘80s Pinoy Rock, The Dawn immediately come to mind. No other band embodies the decade more than they do, and their first single, “Enveloped Ideas,” could be its most iconic song. Co-written by the band’s guitarist and founder, the late Teddy Diaz, it’s a song that couldn’t have been a product of any other decade, but still holds up in this day and age.

“No Future Sa Pader”Urban Bandits

Opening with a scream of “Mga kapitbahay!” [“Hey, neighbors!”], “No Future Sa Pader” is the most memorable track on Urban Bandits’ one and only album Independence Day. Recorded on June 12, 1985, the record also included the classics “Nagpapa-Pansin Pansin” [“Seeking Attention”] and “Manila Girl” (later revived by frontman Arnold Morales in his later outfit, Put3ska). 

“Golden Boy”Ethnic Faces

Released in 1989, the seminal 10 Of Another Kind compilation was a great representation of Pinoy alternative rock in the ‘80s, but also somehow marked the end of the decade, with bands like Violent Playground and Ethnic Faces showing where the genre could go next. The latter act’s “Golden Boy” fuses jazz and rock with Jack Sikat’s deadpan vocals, crafting a tune that’s still ahead of its time.

“Never The Bright Lights”Violent Playground

Another standout track on 10 Of Another Kind, “Never The Bright Lights” adapts The Who’s bombast (think “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) into an arena-ready version of Pinoy Rock. With a really catchy chorus (“Bright lights go up / big city come down”), it’s a mystery why Violent Playground never really transcended its cult status.

“Nosi Ba Lasi”Sampaguita

It’s not just an iconic ‘80s song — it’s one of the most quintessential Pinoy Rock songs ever, and we all know that Sampaguita is one of the greats.

“My Sanctuary”Identity Crisis

With its prominent synths, tribal drums, and call-and-response vocals by Carla Abaya and Buddy Arceo, “My Sanctuary” was one of the anthems that made Identity Crisis one of the country’s more well-known new wave-influenced bands. 

“It Doesn’t Snow In Manila”Dean’s December

Before Binky Lampano became known as one of the country’s best blues singers, he was the frontman for Dean’s December, a band heavily influenced by The Church and Echo and The Bunnymen. Their sole album, Chemical Wedding, was released in 1986, and contained this uptempo neo-psychedelic banger, among other great tunes.

“Big Deal”The Jerks

Can you imagine the same band that sang “Sayaw sa Bubog” and “Reklamo ng Reklamo” sounding like Gang of Four? On “Big Deal,” a track from their 1981 debut 7-inch, they did, complete with the jagged guitars and urgent vocals.

“Never Meant To Be This Way”Betrayed

Other great Pinoy punk bands may have come and gone, but Betrayed were — and still are — one of the torchbearers. “Never Meant To Be This Way” is their signature tune, and still a crowd-pleaser after almost four decades. The band re-recorded it in 1996, but the original 1986 version with Dominic “Papadom” Gamboa on vocals is worth seeking out.