Today, let’s take a look at the best classic rock bands of all time. These range from the 60’s to the current day – there have been so many great bands over the years! Many are fronted by iconic and perhaps some would say, eccentric lead singers. Most of those in the list are best-selling artists of all time and we can’t wait to talk about them!
The late sixties and early seventies were an era when music had a different impact on life. There were not so many bands as there are now. Moreover, people tended to listen to instrumental bands with more interest. For instance, the album Tarkus by Emerson Lake and Palmer in 1972.
Super bands as they were known, formed many a conversation in relation to who was the best musician. Fame and fortune were rarely, if at all, discussed or even noticed. This was the era of the record, and later, cassette tapes.
CDs, mp3s and streaming of music were not even invented. Buying an album on vinyl was a serious undertaking. Gatherings would often take part at parties or informal social meetings to sit quietly and listen to the full album, not as nowadays just a track or two.
Lastly, album artwork played a significant part in the success of a release. Of the music, nothing needed to be said, it spoke for itself to the dedicated band fans.
So, without hesitation here are our top 10 of the greatest rock bands of all time. Let’s get started.
Top 10 Best Rock Bands Of All Time
1. The Rolling Stones
Firstly, this band is widely acclaimed as one of the best selling artists of all time and best rock band of all time. Led by the highly influential Sir Mick Jagger, the Stones as they were better known, came to prominence in the 1960s.
Over a span of some 60 years, from 1962 they produced 92 albums, including compilations and 121 singles. Many have tried but few managed to match the mouthy frontman Mick for his style of singing. Tinged with a strong accent and forceful delivery.
They were for many the iconic band of the ’60s. Fiercely intelligent, the band members were able to reinvent themselves across the years. Maintaining a significant following for some 60 years. Band members included Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts. Each of which has influenced many generations of musicians.
Of their huge number of hits, “I can’t get no satisfaction” was their first, coming in 1965. There are so many to choose from. But, “Paint it Black, Ruby Tuesday, Brown Sugar, Angie, and Lady Jane” remain firm favorites to this day and still get frequent airplay on UK radio. The band achieved its creative and influential peak in the industry in 1972.
2. The Beatles
Arguably one of, if not the most influential and best 60s rock bands. From early beginnings in 1956 as the quarrymen. Later in 1960 becoming the Beatles and with early album releases such as “Please, Please Me” (1963), “Twist and Shout” (1964), they remain respected and revered to this day for their songcraft and musicianship.
At the time, when youth of the late 50’s needed a sense of belonging, the Beatles arrived in Liverpool, and they were different. Compared to the Stones, they were less publicly and visually rebellious. Fronting a clean homely image even though they were also known for their drug and hippy influences in the early 1960’s.
Additionally, their music and personas caught the imagination of the masses, and scenes of mass hysteria were commonplace. Over a period of years they would produce 213 songs and became household names. The band comprised the late John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.
The Beatles disbanded in 1970 the real reason remaining under debate, mainly rumored as artistic differences. Additionally, the killing of John Lennon in America on December 8th, 1980 stopped any thought of a reunion, although it never seemed likely. George Harrison died aged 58 from cancer.
All members of the band from 1960 went on to have critically acclaimed solo careers. Paul and Ringo remain active producing new studio material to the present day. Their ages now at 78 and 80 years, not being a barrier to creative flow, but rather adding the benefit of experience and life.
The Beatles are also known for their rather odd but time capturing 5 movies. These were produced between 1964 and 1970 and are classics of the period, well worth a watch.
3. The Who
An English rock band, formed in 1964,The Who were loud and proud and committed to large scale live concerts. Again fronted by a force of nature in the form of Roger Doltrey as lead singer and backed by what were to become and remain to this day legends of rock. Pete Townsend on guitar, the late Keith Moon on drums, and the late Paul Entwistle on bass.
Banned from returning to Southampton Guildhall for being too loud and damaging the foundations (I can remember standing opposite in the bus station and clearly hearing the concert for free!) this was a band to rock out to.
Additionally, ear defenders were not part of the scene in those days, and coming home from a concert hardly able to hear was the expectation after a live concert.
The Who were known as a seminal part of the Mod era of the seventies and as such were captured by their role in their rock opera double album Quadrophenia, 1973. And in the 1979 film of the same name in which they had three songs on the soundtrack. Including My Generation and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.
To me, apart from the previously mentioned two tracks, Pinball Wizard and Substitute bring back memories of clashes between mods and rockers along the beachfront of Brighton, England, in the seventies.
Also of note is another double Rock opera album Tommy, from 1969. If you were a mod or love the imagery and ethos of that era, the Who and these albums and films are a no brainer for your must-have play and watchlist.
4. ZZ Top
Over in America long hair and beards were in, rather than the clean cut, homely image of the Beatles in the UK. Formed in 1969, a bit later than the Beatles and the Who, they quickly gained a cult following.
Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard are the band members. They had a distinctive look, different for the time, each member sporting long bushy beards. They were perhaps less popular in Europe as the band based its performances around sexual innuendo and Texan stereotypes.
Noteable tracks are “Gimme All Your Lovin’” (1983), “Sharp Dressed Man” (1983) both from the Eliminator album. Still touring with their own version of Rock some 50 years later ZZ Top deserves a place in this Top Rock Band list but also in any top American Rock Bands listing.
Genesis were formed as another Supergroup. Formed as a school band in 1969 and originally fronted by rock legend Pete Townsend, the band’s intelligence came through in their deep lyrics and intricate melodic musicality.
The band were known for progressive rock throughout the seventies but have become more pop oriented over the years as fanbases changed and prog became less commercially viable.
A change in the line up in the early ’70s in fortune came about when the drummer Phil Collins was recruited to replace the original drummer as Pete Townsend left the group in 1974.
Phil Collins became the singer for the band and gave it a distinct sound through his characteristic nasal singing. Although still touring in reunion, after a 13-year gap giving a good indication of the strong following by both old and new fans.
Collins, suffering from nerve injury problems, is now relying on his son Nicholas. An accomplished musician in his own right, to take the lead in drumming for the group. .
6. Led Zeppelin
Another English giant from the same era, Led Zeppelin first appeared in 1968, with rock legends Robert Plant who wrote the abundance of the lyrics. Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham formed the lineup.
Again Led Zeppelin are known to be one of the best-selling rock bands of all time. Their music was more guitar based seminally influencing the heavy metal genre going forward. Similar to The Who, Led Zeppelin were a stadium rock band, originally known as the Yardbirds.
Their first three albums were unimaginatively titled Led Zeppelin I, II and III. The fourth was untitled originally and is now known as Led Zeppelin IV. Many more followed.
If you want a good introduction to the band try the following tracks. Stairway to Heaven (1971), Kashmir (1975), Since I’ve Been Loving You (1970), Immigrant song (1970), Whole Lotta Love (1969). Some have said that the band were the Beatles of the seventies such was their popularity and acclaim.
7. Pink Floyd
Another student band this time a progressive rock band from the UK, formed in 1965, into the swinging London music scene.
The band had an intelligence brought from architectural students Roger Waters and Nick Mason. The songs of Pink Floyd influenced the time as reflected in the somewhat psychedelic nature of their arrangements. Being known for long instrumental tracks and performances.
The band wrote 165 songs including the classics “Interstallar Overdrive”, “One of These Days”, “Comfortably Numb”, “Run Like Hell”. 70’s albums of note are “The Wall (1979), Animals (1977) and of course, Dark Side of The Moon (1973)”.
Album covers from Dark Side Of The Moon, Animals and The Division Bell remain some of the most iconic of the era.
8. Guns N’ Roses
One of, if not the best american rock bands, Guns N’ Roses from LA formed in 1985 most famed for Axl Rose on vocals and the larger than life character Slash, on guitar.
Slash came and went, returning in 2016, but has formed a very well respected, some would say the definitive, rock guitarist role model both in attitude and technique.
The band are huge album sellers and are known for selling out massive tours. Moreover, a particular favourite of mine is the track “Sweet Child of Mine”, but there are so many to choose from.
The bands live videos are well worth a watch too. Bringing the feeling and excitement of a live performance to the viewer and highlighting the depth and skill of their stage work and musical craft.
An Australian rock band formed in 1973 with heavy roots in Scotland by means of the brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, joined by Bon Scott, Phil Rudd and Mark Evans. Scott died in a tragic drinking incident and was replaced by the characterful Brian Johnson.
The lineup now comprises Angus and Stevie Young, Brian, Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams. Mark Evans having been sacked from the band.
Their first success came in 1976 in London UK, where the band quickly became legendary. The compilation album “High Voltage” was the group’s first major hit in the same year.
Due to many issues including further band member illness the lineup has been varied over the years. Despite this, and a few moments of hesitation where the band was nearly disbanded, it has resurrected from 2018 and is still producing momentous works.
The band remains adamant that they are a Rock and Roll band. But the listener must judge for themselves from the depth of their heavy numbers. Try “Power Up” their latest album from 2020.
Another British Rock band of the 70’s. With a famous lineup, Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon. Their first album was released in 1973 “Queen”.
Freddie Mercury was by any judgement, one of the most charismatic frontmen of all time. The list of albums and tours is huge.
A momentous highlight was the 1985 Live Aid in Wembley, London, UK. Nearly 2 billion watched via TV and Queens performance is said to be one of the most iconic Rock performances ever.
Freddie died of aids in November 1991. Furthermore, Queen still exists as a strong and influential rock band performing as “Queen + Adam Lambert”. Their latest release in 2020 is “Queen + Adam Lambert Live Around the World”.
Finally, Brian May is also known for the guitar he made as a youngster, with his father, still in use today as his main instrument. Queen was definitely the best 70s rock band!
Which Rock Band Is The Best?
So there you have it, of course there are bands from other era’s or genres. Who would you have picked as the best 80s rock bands, best 90s rock bands, or best new rock bands? There are so many to choose from.
Do you agree? Who do you think are the best rock bands of all time? Who do you think we have missed off? Are Modern Rock bands better, or have they succumbed to the Pop influence too heavily?
Has the golden age of Rock finally passed? Or does it live on in new and exciting bands or perhaps within the Indie genre, still to be discovered by a wider audience? Will rock undergo a revival in the next 10 years?
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