Grab your old band t-shirts, dust off your old record player and play your favorite vinyl—we’re counting down the top 10 classic rock bands of all time.
Without the history and brilliance of the classic rock genre, we wouldn’t be listening to the music we currently know and love. Blues, country and many other genres bloomed from the influential sound of rock music in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The late 60s was referred to as the “golden age” of music—classic rock more specifically. Rock sub genres emerged such as blues-rock, folk rock, progressive and psychedelic rock, glam rock and eventually heavy metal. For most people, Rock music spoke for a large youth revolt against conformity and regularity.
Aside from musical inspiration, the classic rock acted as an outlet for social rights movements, which later led to popular subcultures. Hippies, mods and rockers came first while goth and emo subcultures came shortly after. Rock music has been associated with political activism and protesting as well as a way for people to release their emotional baggage that came along with racism, sexism, drug use and sexuality.
The Rock sound often focuses on the electric guitar and most of the time includes at least, vocals, a drummer, a guitarist and a bassist.
The argument that rock music is just “noise” is utterly invalid—if anything, some messages are worth listening to and if not, the classic and talented sound will do the trick.
Let’s see which classic rock bands made the top 10:
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10. The Velvet Underground
The American rock band was at its peak from 1964 to 1973 and, for the most part, consisted of Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Doug Yule and Maureen Tucker. The Velvet Underground even ranked 19 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” Their lyrics are well-known for sounding poetic and passionately real. Although their sound was a bit different, they taught people it was okay to just be themselves.
9. The Grateful Dead
The ‘dead’ have some of the most die-hard fans out there. Whether fans experienced the talent in concert only a few feet away from them or in the comfort of their own dimly lit bedroom, the connection was electric. Folk, acoustic blues and bluegrass were major sounds the dead put to use. Jerry Garcia in particular has a way of commanding the stage in concert. His guitar skills command a certain attention and if you’re unaware of the song that’s playing, you’ll be sure to tell with the first cord he strikes.
8. The Eagles
Country and rock were morphed together within The Eagles’ personal style. Their energy and capability to put a bunch of sounds together yet still have a distinctive sound, made this bands talent undeniable. With six Grammys and give American Music Awards, The Eagles came to be one of the most influential bands of the 70s and one of the highest selling artist the U.S. music industry has ever seen.
7. The Who
Townshend was on an apparent journey of harmony in his life which showed through in song lyrics—in turn, it deeply influenced ‘The Who’ fans. The English rock band formed in 1964 and is considered to be one of the most famous british rock acts along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. If that’s not a good enough accomplishment, they also were deemed the world’s loudest rock band by the Guinness World Records
Freddie Mercury had a stage presence quite unlike anyone else. His poses and original attitude demanded that all pairs of eyes were planted directly on him. Aside from skills in concert, Queen created one of the best songs ever written, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They had to ability to change their sound so drastically that fans never really knew what to expect. They had a rough start to their career when they were booed off stage, but came back ten-fold as they jumped head first into the music they were meant to make.
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5. Black Sabbath
This band is the epitome of heavy metal music. Although the heavy metal sound has changed over time, you can always trace the influence of sound back to Sabbath. Their music is known to be rebellious and dark but make you feel happy all at the same time. The sound of chaos easily draws the listener in for a while, if not in time for the whole album to finish.
4. Pink Floyd
“Dark Side of the Moon”—enough said. Pink Floyd had the ability to change their sound between records and still manage to come out on top. They were known for putting their creative minds to work and doing whatever they saw fit—they didn’t sweat the small stuff. This band was big on telling stories through their music as well and no matter what album it was, they story always affected the listener. Whether Syd Barrett or Roger Waters wrote the lyrics, they both packed a punch equally as magical.
3. Led Zeppelin
Rock and Roll as well as heavy metal owes Led Zeppelin for paving the way for one of the most influential sounds of our era. Without ‘led zep’ metal wouldn’t exist—if it did, it wouldn’t be as good. They were more than four guys making music with one another—they embodied desire, mystery and proficiency. The band was always introducing new sounds to their songs and looking for the next improvement. These four musical geniuses have a way of tugging at your emotions—happy, angry and sad, all at once.
2. The Rolling Stones
You can’t think of rock music without thinking of Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones. Jagger had a very unique sound to his voice that at first, seemed strange but ended up paving the way for more artists. He would sing his notes, but wouldn’t hold them all the way. The stones had a sloppy sound but it worked for them. Their long musical run has been outstanding, as most bands can’t stay together for over five years. They’ve fully embodied doing their own thing and not giving into short fads and trends—it’s gotten them pretty far.
1. The Beatles
Does this really even deserve an explanation? Did you have to come this far to find out who would be number one? The Beatles are single handedly responsible for our music today. Especially this year when we’ve experienced the 50th anniversary of their first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the band from Liverpool have ultimately broken more boundaries than anyone ever thought possible. A new wave of music spread across America and we had The Beatles to thank. Every record grabbed the listeners and showed them a new sound. As they progressed as a band, not only did their songs tell stories, but their albums did too. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison came a long way from the four young boys with bowl cuts and morphed into the biggest musical superstars the world would come to know.
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