Female-fronted rock bands were once a novelty, but not anymore.

The punk/new wave-fueled ’80s saw an explosion of distaff-helmed rockers, led by the long-term success of bands like the Pretenders, Eurythmics and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But the decade’s treacherous tides of fashion left even more worthy woman-led rockers stranded in obscurity.

Few bands symbolized the differences between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the ’80s better than L.A.’s Missing Persons and the Bay’s Romeo Void. While the glam-prescient Missing Persons centered around veteran Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio and wife/singer Dale (a former Playboy bunny who gave the band its ’80s fashion cliché, the plastic bubble bra), the Bay’s Romeo Void and plus-size singer Deborah Iyall went for an artier, if even more sexually challenging attack.

Here’s RV’s signature “Never Say Never,” complete with rare ? if slightly pretentious ? pulp fiction-inspired prologue. The band also had a big label follow-up hit, Girl in Trouble” that polished its sound, if not its message.  

Missing Persons’ 1982 EP garnered considerable local airplay and early MTV exposure via the tricky rhythms of “Words” and catchy “Destination Unknown” (seen here in a rare German TV appearance), songs that bubbled just under the national Top 40.  

Kent, Ohio’s Waitresses, led by Chris Butler and singer Patty Donahue, gave ’80s new wave one of its most iconic songs, “I Know What Boys Like.” Donahue’s ironic, detached-n-disaffected delivery would become a staple of ’90s post-punk, though she would tragically die of lung cancer at 40.

At the other end of the spectrum was Australian-German hybrid the Other Ones, whose infectious, slickly-produced “Holiday” became an international smash seemingly everywhere but America. Led by Aussie siblings Alf Klimek and twins Jayney and Johnny Klimek, the band fused the era’s synth-riff conceits with some tasty guitar licks, with Jayney leading the way into pop hook heaven. Johnny Klimek went on to become a successful film/TV composer whose credits include Run Lola Run and HBO’s Deadwood and John From Cincinnati.

Myint Myint Aye was but a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Myanmar when Malcolm McLaren’s Sex Pistols were forging a rock revolution half a world away. But just two years later, she’d been “discovered” by McLaren, renamed Annabella Lwin, and drafted into a band he’d just signed out from under Stuart “Adam Ant” Goddard. Thus Bow Wow Wow became the decade’s unlikeliest teen pop pioneers via “I Want Candy,” a cover of American one-hit wonders the Strangeloves’ 1965 hit. Here it is in a rare, 1982 live performance in Liverpool, with Lwin displaying a Mohawk-topped fashion sensibility that still finds adherents a quarter century later. 

Led by Maria McKee, Lone Justice came out of California’s brief “cow punk” scene to become one of the decade’s most promising young acts ? and nearly as quickly see its potential fade in discord and dissolution. Here’s the band on TV at its 1985 peak, performing their Tom Petty/Mike Campbell-penned standout, “Ways to Be Wicked.”