I’ve selected the best bands of all time, a lineup of the greatest rock bands ever that have revolutionized music and left a lasting legacy.
This article is a tribute to these iconic groups, whose innovation, charisma, and groundbreaking music have earned them a permanent place in history.
Top bands of all time
- Pink Floyd
- The Beatles
- The Rolling Stones
- Grateful Dead
- Led Zeppelin
- The Eagles
- The Cure
- Pearl Jam
1. Pink Floyd
The undisputed masters, Pink Floyd charted completely unexplored terrain with their psychedelic disposition, introspective, strangely erudite lyrics and otherworldly instrumentals.
Their music was sybilic, intriguing and uncompromisingly tender.
They pioneered unconventional progressive sounds with their early albums like The Piper at The Gates of Dawn, but they became more emboldened as their careers progressed (and after the tragic unraveling of original lead Syd Barrett).
2. The Beatles
It is a debate that rages among music lovers: were The Beatles merely at the vanguard of an explosion of talent and innovation that was already fomenting, or were they the pioneers of the movement itself?
Either way, they remain one of the most iconic bands of all time – some even swear they are the greatest band of all time.
They came out of that gates in a moment that happens once in a century with “Twist and Shout” but they quickly moved beyond their Britpop roots and embraced mystic traditions and surrealism in their impressive, cultivated later work.
The Beatles belong without a doubt on every top 5 bands of all time list around.
Check out our list of the best Beatles songs.
3. The Rolling Stones
When you think classic rock you think The Rolling Stones, one of the most popular bands in the world even half a century later.
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the gang are living legends and will doubtless be referenced as foundational to the birth of rock as a popular music genre.
Their guitar riffs and melodies remain unrivaled and their swaggering, self-possessed sound and aesthetic continues to captivate and inspire generations of music lovers.
4. Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead have endured through the various trends and fads in music for one key reason among many: they have never deviated from their psychedelic, trippy sound and hippie flavor.
The Dead have never changed course or compromised to court commercial success- rather it found them.
We love a band that dabbles in artistic and spiritual traditions to spearhead a new sound and Dead does that in spades.
5. Led Zeppelin
Often considered the fathers of heavy metal, their sound was truly more purist classic rock in our minds.
Their sizzling guitars and raw vocals shook up the music world and they helped usher in a new culture of rebellious adventurism.
Their sweeping operatic anthems like “Stairway to Heaven” are just as compelling as their down and dirty “Black Dog”.
6. The Eagles
A road trip band extraordinaire, The Eagles evocatively captured the frontier spirit of the American west and created a cult of devoted fans that span the world.
Their music is wistful, tender, and underpinned with a breezy wisdom.
Their commentary on love, life, adventure (and misadventure) has cemented their reputation as a band with heart – maybe even the best band of all time.
Give “Take it Easy” a listen for an earnest admonition to lighten up and enjoy the ride.
7. The Cure
The Cure are the it band of the Gothic, romantic turn that alternative was taking in the eighties.
Their music is often painfully beautiful, evoking elements of fantasy, fairy tales, and surrealism.
They moved seamlessly from whimsical, playful tunes to heartrendingly complex and gloomy melodies.
The Cure blended both the light and dark side of life with ghostly melodies, cerebral lyrics, and lush soundscapes.
The enfant terribles of the early nineties grunge scene, it is no exaggeration to call Nirvana’s music the siren song of a disaffected, misunderstood generation.
They critiqued consumerism, conformity, and the bland dominant culture that surrounded them.
They were plaintive, unflinchingly introspective, and frequently morbid.
But under the bravado, Kurt Cobain’s lyrical, haunting voice was made for the plaintive sounds of a downtempo acoustic.
Their 1993 live set for MTV reflects their true mastery.
Canadian legends Rush proved that being a geek and being a musician were not mutually exclusive and we consider them one of the top 10 bands of all time.
They created their own world, a niche packed to the brim with sci-fi references, high fantasy, and sentimental nostalgia for the summer’s of yesteryear.
Rush allowed the full range of their emotions to find voice in their prog rock gems, and they are heroes to outcasts and eccentrics alike.
Nothing beats their electric riffs in “Spirit of Radio”.
10. Pearl Jam
Seattle in the early nineties was having a moment akin to San Francisco in the late sixties.
It was the place to be for burgeoning alt-rock stars, and Pearl Jam’s star ascended at the right place and right time.
With a folk and twang-tinged hard grunge style, they broaden the range of what was possible in the genre and are well deserving of being considered one of our top 10 bands.
Eddie Vedder’s gruff, earthy vocals transformed their melodies into timeless, unusually haunting pieces of art.
The hurt and emotional depth was palpable in tunes like “Black” and “Yellow Ledbetter”.
11. Jesus and Mary Chain
Glasgow shoegaze icons Jesus and Mary Chain blended references aplenty into a serene, musingly beautiful vocal tapestry.
Surf rock, garage, industrial – all were treated with a tender nostalgia and unapologetic pathos.
Their melodies remain some of the most beautiful and jarring in the alternative world, and their corpus contains the best examples of the introspection and sardonic wit of Brit rock.
12. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Tom Petty is something of a patron saint of the wild-hearted among us and The Heartbreakers are one of the most famous bands in the world for classic rock aficionados.
He sings of loss, adventure, inner pain, and the promise and possibilities of the open road.
His songs are tinged with an unbearably intimate melancholy, but always come out feeling hopeful and wide-eyed.
Their corpus includes some of the best Southern, heartland melodies in existence, and Petty’s raw, urgent voice has lost none of its power.
13. Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac have had remarkable staying power and for very good reason – many consider them the best band ever.
Their bohemian, folksy take on soft rock was a hit then as now and their lush, ethereal melodies are just as fresh as their spirited, plucky tunes on love and romance.
Their songs can be lonesome and wounded one moment, jaunty and uplifting the next.
Give their album Rumors a listen to see what the well-deserved hype is all about.
14. The Clash
Unapologetic, nonplussed, and delightful intransigent, The Clash were not just one of the coolest bands of the seventies, but they were a defining cultural moment.
Their music stared right into the sun of political and social issues and they were unflinching in their commentary, which was at times cheeky and at others biting.
Their throbbing drums and Paul Simonon’s dynamic guitar elevated their punk sound into something uncommonly mature and lively.
If you want a definitive insight into British culture in the waning years of the 70s, get listening to The Clash asap.
15. Crosby Stills and Nash
The folk genre was never the same after the masterful Crosby Stills and Nash came on the scene.
They put out moving, complex, and evocative hit after hit, never compromising on their down-home, back to basics ethos.
With textural instrumentals and thoughtful, reflective lyrics they helped folk establish firmly entrenched roots in the rock scene.
Give “Southern Cross” a listen when you’re in a jubilant mood, or perhaps “Judy Blue Eyes” when you’re feeling boho n’ relaxed.
What is the greatest band of all time? Crosby Stills & Nash is a pretty good shot.
The perfect Britrock band for an overcast London afternoon, Pulp’s music was packed with all the wistful longing, ennui, and melancholy of lost opportunities and unrequited love.
They made bitterness sound silken and honeyed, and brought an earnest tenor to the alternative rock scene of the nineties.
But amidst the reflectivity they also produced some of the nineties most raucous, captivating pub rock songs.
You’ve doubtless heard their anthems “Disco 2000” and “Common People”.
17. The Stone Roses
Tender, arrestingly beautiful harmonies packed with a vivacious, unbridled authenticity – look no further than British rock heroes The Stone Roses.
Their music captures the growing pains of life with an uncommon tenderness and frankness.
Combining delicate melodies with walls of assertive guitars and musing vocals, they hit the perfect note every time, and embodied all the best tendencies of British alternative.
Give their stunning album The Stone Roses a listen for a sonic voyage in a class of its own.
18. Jefferson Airplane
Nowadays, Jefferson Airplane doesn’t get as much airtime as it should.
But in terms of sheer impact these musicians were huge, and were an absolutely pivotal part of the hippie counterculture emerging out of San Francisco in the late sixties.
Their earnest harmonies, choir-like choruses, and punchy, unvarnished melodies captured the wild imaginations of a generation.
One of the most popular bands of the 60s, so get listening, flower child!
19. Alice in Chains
The underdogs of grunge, Seattle based Alice in Chains brought the mood of alternative rock to a darker, more melancholic place.
Layne Staley’s tender, pained vocals elevated alarmingly poetic songs about loss, heartbreak, depression, and listlessness.
While they are often noted for their droning instrumentals and affected wailing, their softer acoustic hits like “Don’t Follow” remain some of their most mature work.
20. Lynyrd Skynyrd
American heartland rockers par excellence, Lynyrd Skynyrd defined what it meant to be a rock band in the raucous, soulful seventies.
Their free spirited, open road vigor inspired the adventurous, restless dreams of a youth counterculture.
They were unapologetically Southern, and helped pioneer the genre of ‘road trip rock’ that has endured so impactfully into our own time.
The band’s untimely demise in a plane crash is tragic, and the stuff of rock lore.
As one of the biggest bands of all time.
21. Creedence Clearwater Revival
Like their peers Lynyrd Skynyrd, CCR are absolute giants when it comes to the American classic rock boom of the seventies.
Their style incorporated Southern roots and unpretentious, organic riffs and melodies.
They evoked a simpler time and cared less about flashy aesthetics and more about the true, untamed heart of rock.
They are one of the most successful bands of all time.
Breezy and free-spirited, America captured and distilled the curious, unbridled energy of the bohemian years.
They epitomized youthful zest and speculative imaginations.
Their folksy-college dropout aesthetic spawned countless imitators.
Their dreamy “Sister Golden Hair” and their pensive “Horse With No Name” remain mainstays of classic rock tribute bands everywhere.
Trippy, sensual, and eminently catchy, Genesis cultivated a sound completely their own.
Their operatic, plaintive anthems ooze beautiful, haunting melodies and their candor was never compromised in their search for musical integrity and truth.
They dabbled in prog, new wave, and synth, anticipating the growth of trippy, out of this world instrumentals into the eighties.
Their drums were always urgent and Phil Collins’ alluring voice tempts us to this day.
Sensual, rhythmic, and richly textured, Santana brought Mexican spirit and melodies to the fore of American rock culture.
In so doing, they reimagined what rock was capable of achieving and proved that there are no limits on the references and musical cross-pollinations that can be harnessed.
Their soulful melodies and vibrant guitars are an invitation to explore the sensuality of sound.
One of the best bands ever, and popular to this day.
25. The Zombies
Mature, sensual, and alluring to a fault, The Zombies cultivated a dark academic sound before that movement was even on the cultural horizon.
They were erudite and dashingly aloof.
They captured the nonchalant sophistication of the Brit Rock movement, leaving the lighter elements to their peers.
For complex, deeply felt melodies and affected, silky vocals look no further.
26. Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode brought an erudite self-awareness to the new wave space, with a dose of exuberant pop thrown in for good measure.
They were chameleons, able to execute moody, eerie anthems like “Enjoy the Silence” and then just as quickly release bouncy radio-friendly pop tunes like “Just Can’t Get Enough”, making them one of the most popular bands in their class.
Their electronic-forward tunes spoke of a brave new world and a departure from the homespun instrumentals of decades past.
27. New Order
The undisputed synth kings, New Order was formed out of the wreckage of Joy Division.
In many ways their sound defined the eighties, with a new wave sensibility and space-age musical compositions.
Their futuristic sound had a strange nostalgia, and a poetic heart that complicates a clear reading of their work.
“Bizarre Love Triangle” is a perfect entry point to their idiosyncratic, vital corpus and you’ll soon realize why they were the most popular band in the new wave movement.
28. Def Leppard
Def Leppard is the band for people who don’t take themselves too seriously.
They’re the band for people who prefer brash tunes, theatrical vocals, and outrageous lyrics over sensible, pared-down fare.
Def Leppard may be many things – histrionic, over the top, unstudied – but there’s one thing they are above all others: pure good fun.
There is no denying their anthemic, made for the stadium sounds helped to define the eighties and that they are one of the biggest groups in history.
Sardonic, cheeky, and precocious in a way only the British can be, Blur were the pre-eminent band of wit and cheek.
If Oscar Wilde came back to life and started a band to bring his aphorisms to a new audience, he might have founded a band similar to Blur.
Under the banter and flippant verve though Blur hit on biting social commentary in songs like “Park Life” and also produced songs of uncommon beauty such as “Tender”.
Blondie were nonchalant trend-setters like no others.
They combined new wave, synthy sounds with an underground, garage aesthetic.
They took the most complex elements of disco and gave it a rock-forward flavor.
Deborah Harry’s ethereal, jaded vocals seemed to come from behind glass and their melodies were almost criminally addictive.
Songs like “Heart of Glass” and the rap-inspired “Rapture” have aged remarkably well, proving their standing as one of the most successful bands of all time.
31. The Ramones
As strangely wholesome as is possible with seventies punk, The Ramones are in a class all their own and have virtually no sonic competitors.
They blurred the line between nostalgic Americana and garage rock with rollicking, melodic surf-punk and a disarming earnestness.
The Ramones oozed irreverent cool, without veering into arrogant territory.
Their sometimes cheerful, sometimes frank, brand of punk lives on in the hearts of music lovers everywhere.
Australian hard rockers AC/DC are the definition of shameless and unapologetic.
If they offend your sensibilities – good, that’s what they’re here for.
They are all about guitars with an electric charge that will give you shivers, and scandalous, vulgar lyrics that will have you blushing.
They never aimed to be thought-provoking or deep.
The result is a band that produced raunchy and fun hit after hit designed to be played at full volume.
33. Van Halen
Van Halen are kind of like the American AC/DC with their zinging, heart-stopping guitar riffs and totally immersive instrumental assault on the senses.
Their lyrics run the gamut from the sexual to the inspirational to the corny and they hit the right note every time – making them one of the world’s most famous bands.
David Lee Roth’s wailing, dynamic vocals and Eddie Van Halen’s legendary virtuosity on the guitar have given them a well earned reputation.
34. Deep Purple
Call them hard rock, call them prog rock – either way Deep Purple were foundational to the evolution of music in the late sixties and throughout the 70s.
Their trippy, immersive sound was melodic, visceral, and occasionally otherworldly.
They incorporated machine-age elements into their sound for a spacey, tantalizing sound.
Go give “Perfect Strangers” a listen if you don’t believe us that they’re one of the best bands ever.
Nobody does delightfully sentimental, daresay corny, music as well as Journey, one of the top bands of the eighties.
Their tunes evoke youthful excess, exuberant adventures, and just the right dose of hysteria.
Journey proved that you don’t have to be academic to produce captivating rock.
Their songs never lacked in raw energy, vivaciousness, and the full spectrum of emotion.
Need a pick me up?
Go give “Stone in Love” and “Any Way You Want It” a spin.
36. The Police
The Police pioneered a sophisticated, alluring sound that elevated pop into something mature and sensual.
Sting’s speculative, tranquil voice lent an otherworldliness to their well-crafted melodies.
They incorporated the new wave sensibility but always remained aloof to its conventions, maintaining an impressive fidelity to their own unique vision.
Songs like “Every Breath You Take” and “Roxanne” remain unquestioned gems of the eighties.
Boston rockers Aerosmith were the gods of the stadium with enthusiastic instrumentals, loud and brazen vocals, and punchy, breezy sing-along hits.
Although they successfully dabbled in deeper and darker themes, their best music was playful, restless, and mischievous.
They never tried to impress or deviate from their musical ethos, and it paid off in their longevity: they are considered one of the most popular bands ever.
38. The Killers
The Killers were the right band at the right moment, and it felt like they truly came out of nowhere and transformed the shape of music in the heady early days of the new millennium.
Their operatic style, sophisticated flamboyance, and studious approach to lyrics and references ensured they wouldn’t be one trick ponies.
Their approach was uncommonly poetic and erudite, and their soaring instrumentals and orchestral accompaniments elevated their songs into post modern epics.
They are still the biggest band in the world for millennial Y2K nostalgics.
39. The Doors
Jim Morrison is the OG “live fast, die young” icon, and it is a true shame because The Doors were just getting warmed up when he tragically passed.
They demonstrated a maturity and focus wildly beyond their years, and their self-assurance was reflected in technically complex and sonically dynamic hits like “Riders on the Storm” and “The End”.
They were old souls in young bodies, and they produced a cult-like aura around themselves that endures to this day.
40. The Who
These spunky and self-assured rockers rode high on the British craze of the sixties.
Their jangly, raw delight “My Generation” came to define the youth counterculture that was emerging in a major way.
Pete Doherty and co. wrote big songs with bold messages and dynamic instrumentals.
Every song was packed with a wild vitality and an intoxicating urgency. Give “Baba O’Reilly” a listen and you’ll be apt to agree.
41. Jethro Tull
How to best describe Jethro Tull?
They’re enigmatic, idiosyncratic, unrelentingly bizarre.
All applicable descriptors.
They went so prog that they made other progressives look moderate, if that gives you any indication of how original they were; and remain to this day.
They dabbled in surreal, mystical, and folkloric symbolism, and many of their best songs like “The Witches Promise” were pure romping mythological whimsy.
Their compositions were avidly intelligent and always uncompromising.
42. The Smiths
The Smiths made somber, stroppy, petulant moodiness a thing of unrivaled beauty.
Their music was haunting and wistful, reflecting the loss, bitterness, and strange magic that permeates life.
They were insouciant and darkly subversive, never bending to the winds of popular culture.
Morrisey’s sensual, nonplussed vocals and their bewitching, sinuous melodies are best on display in anthems like “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”.
Irish rockers in a league of their own, U2 were poets and wordsmiths as much as they were musicians.
Their music was a beautiful blend of all the wide-eyed hope and reserved solemnity of their homeland.
Their melodies were sometimes delicate, sometimes fiery, but always unflinchingly candid and passionate.
Their wistful ballads on love were never twee or sentimental, but always hit a raw note.
“Bad” and “One” remain two of their best.
44. The Cars
Full of youthful vigor and exuberance, The Cars blended a plucky enthusiasm with a surprisingly sensual maturity.
They delivered hit after hit, packed with saucy lyrics, indulgent melodies, and energetic drum n guitar medleys.
Their romantic ballads are lush while their pop-forward hits are plucky and filled with an undiluted zest.
Give “Just What I Needed” and “You Might Think” a listen and watch the addiction blossom.
45. Green Day
The plucky, defiant, tongue in cheek voice of a generation, Green Day was all reckless energy and chaotic charm.
Their lyrics were sly, on-the-nose, and riotous, set to frenetic, rapid guitar chords and compulsive drums.
Their 1994 album Dookie helped them rocket to fame, and they became renowned as one of the best groups in the burgeoning pop-punk genre.
46. The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs are indie heavyweights who have mastered a spacious, ethereal breed of soft alternative.
Their music is dreamy, serene, haunting and replete with poetic lyrics that touch on matters of the heart and soul.
Lead singer Adam Granduciel has a meditative voice that transcends easy definition, and lends a distinct pathos to their ruminative, immersive catalog.
Give “Lost in the Dream” and “I Was There” a listen and prepare to fall in love.
47. Arctic Monkeys
One of the best in class of the new generation of British rockers, The Arctic Monkeys are cheeky, incorrigible, and witty in spades.
Their lyrics are a patent poem-banter synthesis and culturally on the nose.
Their approach to music as a storytelling endeavor has elevated them from the early noughties British resurgence.
Their addictive, insouciant, invigorating melodies and frantic drums ensure their music is never short of fun-as-hell.
The best British band in the world today perhaps?
48. Lloyd Cole and The Commotions
Darlings of the British pub rock scene of the eighties, The Commotions rarely get the critical attention they deserve in this day and age but they truly were one of the best bands ever.
Their music was frank, from the heart, and just a delightful good time.
Evocative of the trials and travails of growing up and finding home, Cole’s sensuous, honeyed voice carried catchy anthems like “Perfect Skin” and candid gems like “Cut Me Down” to rapturous heights.
49. Joy Division
Joy Division were pioneers of the darker, more poignant side of the blossoming new wave genre.
They created a stylized yet meditative sound that contradicted the light and bright mood which was dominating the airwaves.
The result was music that was surreal, tender, and strangely despondent.
You can feel the references of post-punk and gothic rock in their lusciously somber hits like “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.
50. The Pretenders
Chrissie Hynde is not lauded for being one of the most influential female vocalists of all time without just cause.
Her candid, textural, emotionally buoyant vocals elevated The Pretenders’ songs into cultural artifacts.
Every note, every riff, every lyric in their corpus is redolent of a complex, rich, elusive inner world.
Beginning their trailblazing career in the late seventies, they pioneered an indie sound within the burgeoning British rock scene.
R.E.M took introspection and disaffection to a glorious level, evolving from their early days as alternative wunderkinds to thought-provoking underground kings of the nineties.
They are best remembered for their mournful college rock anthems like “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts” but their post-punk tunes from the mid-eighties are well worth a second consideration, as well.
One of the greatest bands, without a doubt.
Droning, moody, and intensely introspective, Radiohead made rumination cool.
They captured the indulgent and morose flavor of Gen X angst but they spinned the sadness into a thing of speculative beauty.
They captured the alienation and discontent with downtempo instrumentals and doleful lyrics.
Their music remains a testament to life in the machine age, and they’ve yet to be surpassed when it comes to down and out energy.
53. Roxy Music
Few musicians can create quite an evocative tapestry of sound the way lead Bryan Ferry can.
His vocals lent Roxy Music an intoxicating, alluring, and sensual sound.
His baleful, affected range was at home with peppy break-up songs and witful ballads alike.
Roxy Music experimented with soaring instrumentals and soulful melodies.
In short, they brought a dark romance to the pop genre, and gave it a mature conviction.
54. Velvet Underground
The darlings of the New York art and underground scene, and intellectually Warholian to the core, The Velvet Underground are too cool for school rockers extraordinaire.
Their gritty sophistication and visionary, pared-down glamor evoked the nonchalant swagger of an art school dropout.
With delicate, structurally complex guitar chords and Lou Reed’s lush, unadorned vocals, their music resonates to this day.
They remain one of the most famous groups of the sixties.
Brash, morbid, and obscene to the core, the Misfits are one of the most unapologetic NSFW bands to feature on our list.
But for sheer cultural impact, these horror-rockers cannot be discounted.
They were so campy and depraved that they made competitors look like a school choir, and therein lies their enduring power.
No topic was too vulgar, grotesque or patently ridiculous (Astro Zombies, anyone?) for these New Jersey renegades.
56. The Kinks
Grown-up sophistication with a devious, iconoclastic twist, The Kinks were a force to be reckoned with in the British scene of the late sixties and early seventies.
They captured the fervent restlessness and youthful sensitivity of their generation, with a mature and spunky twist.
Their guitar was pure, unadulterated rock n’ roll and their lyrics were part wistful, part whimsical.
Their provocative hit “Lola” remains one of the best executed songs in history.
British rock heavyweights Oasis are the sound of the nineties – and that is no exaggeration.
They are still one of the most famous bands of all time.
You can’t escape their sophisticated, complex, lively hits to this day, whether at the pub, the karaoke bar, or the coffee house.
Their music was soulful, relatable, and always laced with a nonplussed veracity.
Their raw approach was accessible in its sincerity, and addictive with its spacious, instrumentally resolute sound.
58. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Offbeat, quirky, and unfazed by convention, RHCP have risen to the top of the heap when it comes to alternative rock, and have established themselves as legends in their own time.
Their sophomoric, defiant sensibility was always unflappable, playful and provocative.
But their lyrics belie an intimacy with sorrow, despair, and heartache.
The band thrives on being impossible to pin down, borrowing references from L.A garage punk, ska, rap, and melodic pop.
Who is the greatest band of all time? Many would say RHCP deserves the title.
59. Simon & Garfunkel
The poet philosophers of the 20th century, Simon and Garfunkel elevated folk-pop into an academic exercise of immense beauty and impact.
The lyrical power of their voices synchronized to create soaring, poignant songs that resonate long after the closing notes.
They captured the countercultural, unorthodox mood of the times with a soft, modest defiance.
Listen to “The Boxer” and “Scarborough Fair” for a transformative experience.
You can’t deny the enduring power and prowess of California’s favorite pop-punk icons.
Their frenetic melodies, irreverent lyrics, and nonplussed youthful arrogance stole the hearts of a generation, and they remain giants in their genre.
Their music was chaotic, catchy to a fault, and full of dissonant instrumentals, invasive drums, and dizzying guitar riffs.
They never veered far from corny sentimentality, but Blink-182 was always in on the joke and never put on pretenses about their mission and vision.
61. Dire Straits
London-born Dire Straits constructed unparalleled, resonant melodies and references roots-rock to masterful effect.
Mark Knopfler’s vocals were jaunty, ebullient, and resolutely earnest.
Their guitar wizardry and unflinching attention to detail are best reflected in gems like “Sultans of Swing” and “Walk of Life”.
Their 1985 album Brothers in Arms is the 8th best selling British rock record of all time.
62. Guns N’ Roses
Axl Rose and the gang were rebels with a cause: they styled themselves with a fearless, impolite attitude to great effect.
Posturing aside, however, they constructed some of the most enduring, raw ballads in music history.
“Sweet Child of Mine” and “November Rain” are power epics of an uncommon beauty, instrumental complexity, and impressive clarity of vision.
A party without an ABBA song ain’t really a party, is it?
One of the most influential pop bands of all time ABBA were fearlessly themselves at every turn.
Corny, sentimental, over-the-top, and not sorry about it, ABBA composed some of the most outrageously kitschy, catchy songs of the seventies and eighties.
Their harmonized vocals and theatrical piano melodies were an immersive sonic experience that sounds fresh forty years later.
Chris Cornell’s tragic death in 2017 brought Soundgarden’s repertoire back into the spotlight for a new generation of listeners.
And their angsty, morose corpus certainly remains relevant to this day.
Soundgarden always dabbled in the darker side of grunge and their music was filled with the live electricity of unstable emotions and chaotic thoughts.
They captured the pain of having a confusing inner world and spoke to millions with their introspective, unvarnished lyrics and droning guitars.
65. The Smashing Pumpkins
Offbeat and unapologetic about it, The Smashing Pumpkins were a curiosity of the nineties alternative scene that endures with their uncompromising quirkiness.
Their songs captured youthful precociousness and nostalgic reveries with tender melodies and wild, unexpected drum beats.
Billy Corgan’s theatrical, unstudied voice can go to unrivaled pitches, and captured the surly, whining attitude that made the band so damn endearing.
Provocative and sophisticated in turn, Supertramp pioneered an intellectual, tantalizingly tender sound that stands alone in its class.
Part political and cultural critique, part lonesome ballad-makers, Supertramp defied an easy label as a ‘Brit rock’ band.
Their vision was expansive with healthy doses of both pessimistic realism and optimistic wonder.
“Logical Song” and “Goodbye Stranger” offer a healthy taste of their dynamic thematic range.
67. Bon Jovi
Fearless, over the top and histrionic, Bon Jovi distilled the wild and unrefined style of the eighties and made it all their own.
They are one of the most successful and iconic hair metal bands and top bands of all time for a reason.
Bon Jovi was a musical, aesthetic, and performative experience and they never shied away from bold themes, raunchy lyrics, and carnal ballads.
“Bad Medicine” and “Dead or Alive” capture their campy, brazen style.
KISS are hair metal stadium hellions like no other.
If it was tacky, raunchy, salacious, and trashy KISS was writing a song about it!
Their music reveled in the life of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll and they played into the stereotypes with a knowing wink and an exuberant flick of the mullet.
Intellectual and poetic – nah, leave that to the other bands: KISS was all low-brow.
Their music is like an orchestra of heavy-hitting instruments and anthemic, vivacious vocals.
69. Massive Attack
Massive Attack cornered the market when it came to the burgeoning trip-hop scene of the late nineties and early noughties.
With an underground sensibility and an organic hipness, Massive Attack blended trippy, spacious synth with melodic vocals and sensual, sardonic themes.
They dabbled in cultural criticism, downtempo gothic, and alluring iconoclasm.
Give their album Mezzanine a listen to experience the brave new terrain music was charting as the millennium approached.
70. The Beach Boys
Sunny California rockers through and through, The Beach Boys made wistful, poignant nostalgia their raison d’etre.
Their tunes self-consciously evoked lazy beach days, forgotten summer flings, and the melancholic growing pains of youth.
Their upbeat, mischievous sound was always saturated with a tinge of unfulfilled dreams and sorrow, making for an arrestingly dynamic listening experience.
While Courtney Love doesn’t always get the accolades she deserves, her raw, carnal vocals were a staple of the grunge years, and produced some of the most affected, unnerving ballads of the genre.
Sorrow and rage were given a defiant new life under Love’s masterful direction and are best epitomized in songs like “Doll Parts” and “Asking for It”.
Her noncompliant, fearless approach was a pivotal moment for women in rock.
72. Steely Dan
Steely Dan were called “the perfect musical antiheroes of the 70s” by Rolling Stone Magazine and for a good damn reason.
These renegades blended jazz, jukebox nostalgia, with intentional instrumentals and pared-down vocals.
Their lyrics were poetic and often rich with irony and social commentary such as in the sensual, honeyed anthem “Do it Again”.
They belong in the canon of classic rock, where they’ll likely reign supreme for decades to come.
73. The Pixies
Whimsical and surreal, The Pixies were in many ways the originators of the indie-rock and quirky dream-pop scenes that blossomed into the nineties and noughties.
They were irreverent and kooky, reveling in the bizarre and idiosyncratic vocabulary that they created.
The Pixies were cool without trying, constructing tongue-in-cheek, breezy anthems that defied easy labeling.
Queen are the undisputed kings of camp, showmanship, and theatrics.
Their flamboyant aesthetic appeal and spirited, anthemic songs go a long way to explaining why they are one of the most popular bands of all time.
Freddie Mercury had the charisma of a great stage actor, and the band brought an audacious, boisterous sound to an already buzzing decade in music.
What is the most popular band in the world? Queen certainly comes close.
75. The Shins
Indie legends of the noughties, The Shins are one of the newest bands to grace our list.
Out of a veritable sea of talented modern alternative bands – why The Shins? Easy.
Their melodies betray an intrepid value system far beyond their years.
Their elusive, dreamy songs evoke the best of nineties shoe gaze while their plucky, spirited pop-rock anthems incorporate a delightful mix of folk and baroque influences.
“New Slang” is one of the best songs since the turn of the century.
Best Bands of All Time – Final Thoughts
So the question remains, who do you think is the best band of all time?
Do you agree with my list of the greatest bands of all time?