Van Halen is going to be a choice of a lot of people, and for very good reason; they may be the most musical real rock-n-roll band of all time. There have been so many great bands in rock, through all of it’s changes (the big hair days, the everyone wants to be a rock ballad band, the everyone wants to be Pearl Jam days, garage, grunge… ) Van Halen not only maintained their signature sound through both of it’s life cycles (as distinctive from each other as they were) both they prove to remain melodic, though provoking, textured and still rock. They are definitely in my top 3 influences.
I don’t think I have any 1 though. For my young life, I’d have to say honestly Howard Jones played a big roll, mostly due to (at the time) spill over exposure from Jerry. But it depends on what you are talking about for influence. My exposure to the art in general was limited to the radio, but I always liked certain sounds. My everyday influence for most of the 80s came from so many sources; The Cars, Huey Lewis and the News, ZZ top, and Weird Al to name a few. I’d say Al actually affected me a lot. Parody always resonated with me, and the music often took a back seat to the message (in this case comedy), but was never really irrelevant, because the music is where he made his connection with the audience, based on familiarity.
Anyway, it wasn’t until the late 80s when I think a band came along that really made use of the sound that most intrigued me, the best practice in a mainstream band of realizing new potential from a track in the form of remix, and a sound that made them both a mark of the times, and different from everyone else. It was Information Society. Barely 80s, I’d say they were my single biggest influence then.