Rock and roll is a cultural force that has influenced our fashion sense, our behavior, and different cultural norms.
From the hundreds of rock bands that have mushroomed since the birth of the genre in the 1950s, only a small proportion has made it to the world stage in a truly spectacular way.
Picking the greatest rock bands of all time can be very tricky as each band has a substantial impact on the growth of the genre and music in general.
However, many people consider the following rock bands as the 10 greatest acts ever.
1. The Beatles
Undeniably one of the best rock bands is The Beatles, given that the songs of the English rock band can still be heard on the radio every once in a while despite the last song they have ever recorded was way back in 1970.
The band had recorded and released over 13 albums and numerous singles in a span of a little more than seven years, from 1962 to 1970.
The debut album “Please Please Me” by The Beatles had been released less than a year after they were signed into a record label, with the last record being “Let It Be” in May of 1970, as the band had split up in just less than eight years after they had signed into a record label.
With voices like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, The Beatles captured the heart of many, but wouldn’t have been able to do so had it not been for the presence of the equally-renowned George Harrison and Ringo Starr, two of the best instrumentalists who knew exactly what to do to bring out the best in the voices of Lennon and McCartney.
Some of the top songs of the band are “Hey Jude”, “Let It Be”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, and “Come Together”.
If The Beatles’ influence in today’s music is not yet clear to you, then it might be helpful to know that Queen Elizabeth II herself had appointed the members McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr as “Members of the Order of the British Empire,” and that the band won seven Grammy Awards and 15 Ivor Novello Awards.
2. The Rolling Stones
Placing second on the “Greatest Artists of All Time” list by Billboard in 2019, The Rolling Stones maintain their status as one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century.
Having been at the forefront of the British Invasion in the 1960s, the band had released their first entirely original album entitled “Aftermath” in 1966, but had already released prior singles and albums early in the decade.
No rock band is great without a powerful roster, and the Rolling Stones don’t fall short of that requirement, especially with the best individual characters known in the industry, but even better than best when matched with each other.
The lead vocal of the Rolling Stones is none other than the great Mick Jagger, with their instrumentalist being Brian Jones, guitarist being Keith Richards, bassist being Bill Wyman, and drummer being Charlie Watts.
Does Mick Jagger sound familiar?
That’s because he’s on the title of one of the top hits of the modern pop band “Maroon 5”, as the band’s vocalist, Adam Levine, sings about convincing a woman with his “Moves Like Jagger”; proving the band to be an influence even in this generation’s music.
The Rolling Stones is known to have sold over 200 million record sales, with some of their top hits being “Paint It, Black”, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Start Me Up”, and “Sympathy for the Devil”.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and in the UK Music Hall of Fame by 2004.
3. Led Zeppelin
If you’re a fan of guitar solos, riffing, drum solos, and other screaming songs that you most often hear in heavy metal or just the metal genre in general, then you’ve most likely heard of the great Led Zeppelin, arguably the pioneers of metal as a genre.
Despite having been a major influence of metal, Led Zeppelin actually specialized in hard rock, folk rock, and blues rock, singing their hearts out in most of their songs – which may not make sense to a lot of people, but is considered one of the best in hard rock and metal fans.
Led Zeppelin would not have been able to create the music they did had they not been signed to Atlantic Records, which allowed them the creative freedom they needed at the time to become one of the greatest influences in the music industry we see now.
You’d be lying if you said you never ever tried to reproduce the the vocal prowess of the band’s lead vocalist Robert Plant or took inspiration in the way the lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, played those guitar solos, or simply just tried to copy the play style of bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham.
Led Zeppelin’s total record sales is estimated to be up to 300 million units, especially with six top one albums on the US Billboard 200 and five albums being certified diamond.
Some of the songs by the band you can still hear on the radio every now and then are “Stairway to Heaven”, “Immigrant Song”, and “Whole Lotta Love”, especially with “Immigrant Song” appearing on the 2017 film “Thor: Ragnarok”.
This is obviously one of the easiest answers to the question “What band do you consider to be the best rock band?”
Queen, much like The Beatles, is an English rock band that still maintains a great influence over not just the music industry, but the film industry as well, as many continue to use their tracks and story to be displayed in both short and major films.
One of the most recent films you’ll see about the band – or the lead singer, rather – is “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a film diving into the genius of the band’s iconic vocalist Freddie Mercury, as depicted by Rami Malek.
Having started with some of the stronger genres like hard rock, fame eventually got the band to move on to the more “gentle” side of rock, like arena rock and pop rock, which, by no means, was a mistake on their part, as it got even more people to love the band and the genre, especially with hits like “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Radio Ga Ga”.
With Freddie Mercury (lead vocals), Roger Taylor (drummer), Brian May (guitarist), and John Deacon (bassist), the band was able to sell up to 300 million records worldwide, and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Some of the best songs produced by Queen we still hear on the radio today are their greatest hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Love of My Life”, “We Will Rock You”, “I Want to Break Free”, and “Under Pressure”.
Also Read: 10 Best Rock Songs of the 80’s
5. Pink Floyd
When talking about the gentle side of rock, there’s one band that people will never not fail to mention: Pink Floyd, an English rock band like the Beatles and Queen formed in 1964.
One of the pioneers and most influential bands on ambient music, also commonly known as “psychedelic” music, Pink Floyd remains as one of the greatest rock bands the 20th century has given us.
Known as one of the most progressive rock bands in their time, Pink Floyd is well-known for their “music for the mind” (as I’d like to call it), dabbling with extended compositions, sonic experimentation, philosophical lyrics, and as if that’s not enough for people to handle, held the most elaborate live shows.
Led by Syd Barrett, who also happens to be the lead vocals, the band was composed of Nick Mason as the drummer, Roger Waters as the bassist, Richard Wright as the pianist/keyboard player, and Bob Klose as the guitarist.
The band alone has sold 250 million records globally, with “Wish You Were Here”, “The Dark Side of the Moon”, and “The Wall” being three of the best-selling albums of all time, eventually getting the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Fans of heavy metal bands like Metallica are sure to know one of the legends of metal itself: AC/DC, an Australian band formed in 1973.
Although debuting years later from the peak of rock and roll music in the “British Invasion”, AC/DC has still managed to make a name for itself, being undeniably one of the best bands to ever perform hard rock and blues rock.
Aside from Led Zeppelin, AC/DC is also widely renowned for its hard-hitting guitar chords and ear-ripping guitar riffs, establishing their name in the rock and roll genre and influencing much of the rock music and even other genres like pop and hip hop we hear today.
The band’s stability was anchored upon the Young brothers (who founded the band itself), Malcolm and Angus Young, with the lead singer Bon Scott (before being replaced with Brian Johnson after his death), drummer Phil Rudd, and bassist Cliff Williams.
AC/DC is known to have sold over 200 million records worldwide, dubbing them as the 16th Best Selling Artist worldwide, with the album “Back in Black” having an estimate of 50 million sales alone.
The 2004 Rolling Stone list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” saw the band in the 72nd place, and VH1 ranked the band 23rd in its 2010 list “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
When talking about blues rock, never leave out the ever-great and legendary Aerosmith, one of the bands that helped birth the inspiration of many blues rock and even heavy metal bands like Van Halen, Metallica, and Guns N’ Roses.
Aerosmith is one of the American rock bands that found success even after the British invasion, having been formed in Boston in 1970.
The original and still standing members of Aerosmith since its conception are Steven Tyler as the lead vocals, Joe Perry as guitarist and vocalist, Joey Kramer as the drummer, and Brad Whitford as a guitarist together with Joe Perry.
The nickname “The Toxic Twins” was given to vocalists Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, who were the main composers of the band and was named as such due to their known and rampant use of drugs both on and off the stage.
Despite their reputation, the band actually found fame, being known as one of the best-selling American hard rock band of all time after having sold upward of 150 million records worldwide, which is unsurprising given songs like “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, “Dream On”, “Crazy”, and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”.
Slow rock is absolutely one of the blessings the world didn’t know it needed until it heard a then-progressive band like U2, whose music, much like Queen and Pink Floyd, continued to evolve throughout their career.
Founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1976, the band U2 was – and still is – composed of lead vocals and rhythm guitar player Bono, lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer and percussionist Larry Mullen Jr.
U2 specializes in rock and roll for sure, but specifically on alternative rock, pop rock, and post-punk, making them undoubtedly one of the greatest influences on rock and roll and indie music today.
The band members actually have a long story together (which is most likely why they still managed to stay strong despite the years), as they started out as teenagers who were students of Mount Temple Comprehensive School with very limited musical proficiency.
Within four years of coming together in the aforementioned school, the members had signed with Island Records, releasing their debut album “Boy”.
As of today, the band is estimated to have sold up to 170 million records globally, known to have won 22 Grammy Awards, and is known to have been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
If you think you’ve never heard of Caribbean- and Latin-American-inspired rock, then you clearly haven’t heard of Santana, or at least might not be familiar with the band itself, but know of their wonderful songs.
If you’ve heard your grandparents or parents listen to music that sounds pretty much like Latin-American dance music (Tango, Cha-Cha, etc.), then chances are that one of those bands are Santana, absolute pioneers of the sub-genre of rock.
The conception of the style is in thanks to Mexican-American Carlos Santana, who also was the band guitarist, songwriter, and founder, who formed the band in San Francisco in 1966.
However, the band members were never consistent throughout the years, with Carlos Santana being the only member to have stayed throughout the years.
Santana has over 47 million certified albums sold in the US alone, with an estimate of 100 million sold worldwide, which is – again, unsurprising – given songs like “Maria, Maria”, “Smooth”, and “Oye Como Va”.
The 1988 members of Santana composed of Santana himself, Rolie, Carabello, Shrieve, Brown, and Areas were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and by the year 2000, the band had won six Grammy Awards in one night, a record tied with King of Pop Michael Jackson.
10. Guns N’ Roses
There is not a Millennial on this earth who hasn’t heard of the famous Axl Rose, lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, known for its fusion of hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal styles.
The band was formed in 1985 in Los Angeles California, and since the change of band members, is now composed of Axl Rose, McKagan, Richard Fortus (guitarist), Frank Ferrer (drummer), and Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese (keyboardists).
Despite their terrible reputation in the industry due to their hedonism and rebelliousness and the rift that happened between vocalist Axl Rose and lead guitarist Slash, the band still found its way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, though without Slash as a member of the band.
The band was awarded the Top Tour and Top Draw awards in 2017 by Billboard, and is renowned for the songs “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, , “Welcome to the Jungle”, and “Shadow of Your Love”.
The band is still producing music and touring to date, so we can expect more of that fusion rock style in the coming years, should they not decide to disband or take a hiatus in the pandemic.
Rock and roll has been a great influence to music and culture in many countries and spanning multiple generations.
So much so that quite a lot of modern artists in genres like pop, hip hop, R&B, and even indie music make use of the elements of rock and roll and integrate it into the genre, coming up with all kinds of fusions and experimental tracks.
For sure, the classic rock music by the best rock bands ever are sure to remain eternal in the music industry, as rock and roll will always find its way back into the norm, or even just in other genres.
Also Read: 10 Best Soft Rock Bands