Who did not want to be a rock star when growing up? To be part of a band, tour the country and the rest of the world, play to packed stadiums to an adoring throng with all the fans singing along to the songs you had written, and have groupies and die hard followers are just some of the great things of being a rock star. Along the way, you receive the esteem of the entire music industry, earn loads of money from the sales of your records and royalties from your image, and maybe, even get a royal title like Sir Paul McCartney.
These bands got all those rewards, and more. They are the best rock bands the world has ever seen. Take note, every top ten list of the best rock bands in the world that you can source from the net may be different from each other. But this is a definitive list of the bands, which have influenced their generations the most with music that transcend age and cultural boundaries.
1. The Beatles
Is there even any doubt on who should be number one? The Beatles led the British invasion in the 1960s, and their music influences artists even now. The depth and hooks of their songs are such that a lot of their albums have also made several lists of best albums of all time. From the catchy riff of Help! to the sing-along tunes of Let It Be and Hey Jude, the lads from Liverpool will always have a mark in pop culture. Too bad they broke up acrimoniously in 1970, and even worse, they never got a chance to reunite after Lennon was murdered in 1980, but John, Paul, George and Ringo will always be the Fab Four to all of us.
2. The Rolling Stones
Formed in 1962, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts (and Brian Jones, Ian Stewart and Bill Wyman before) are collectively known as the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band, a title conferred to them by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were part of the British invasion of the 1960s, and they have never left ever since. Their rhythm and blues and soul-based rock sound make them distinct. No matter how much music they come up with, fans keep asking for more because they cannot seem to get satisfaction.
3. Led Zeppelin
Another English band that came in the 1960s, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham were originally known as The New Yardbirds. They changed the name to Led Zeppelin after signing with a new record label that gave them the freedom to express their artistry. This allowed them the leeway to be innovative, a move that paved the way to them becoming one of the most influential bands of all time. They disdain the need to release their songs as single records, as it would detract from the overall experience of listening to the entire album. Then came the album Led Zeppelin IV, which included the song Stairway to Heaven. The song was never released as a single, but it became one of the most requested and played songs on radio. Bonham died in 1980, however, and the band disbanded soon after.
4. Velvet Underground
This list is not about album sales, but about the greatness of a band. And this is why Velvet Underground is included. Their first four albums all make the list for greatest albums of all time. Yet amazingly, the band led by Lou Reed and John Cale very few copies of its first album, with 30,000 being considered as an optimistic estimate. Still, as Reed had said, their influence was so profound that each person who bought that album probably went on to form their own band. Just ask the members of Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, The Smiths and The Pixies.
5. Pink Floyd
Progressive, psychedelic and experimental, these are the words that best describe the sound of Pink Floyd. Their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon is lauded as one of the greatest of all time, with a cover so iconic and music so influential that it stayed in the music charts for 14 years.
When Bono leapt out of the stage to dance with a fan during the Live Aid concert, the rest of the world got introduced to U2. Though they have been around since 1976, their performance in the hunger benefit concert pushed the band to the forefront. They cemented their new status with the release of The Joshua Tree in 1986, and they have not stopped ever since.
A progressive rock bank with songs friendly to the radio, there was a time when benefit concerts would seem incomplete without Queen and Freddie Mercury’s famous sing-alongs. Their Live Aid performance was perhaps the best of that concert, and that’s saying a lot because all the world’s greatest artists were there. Do you even know anyone who hasn’t heard We are the Champions, We Will Rock You or Bohemian Rhapsody?
8. The Who
Back in the 60s, they were known for destroying their instruments during concerts. Along with The Beatles and Rolling Stones, they complete the holy trinity of British rock. Fans of the three versions of CSI probably know them as the guys behind Who Are You?, Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again.
9. The Beach Boys
America’s Band originally specialized in light, uncomplicated but extremely catchy rock songs that featured California’s surfing lifestyle. Then came the album Pet Sounds and the single Good Vibrations, and the Beach Boys suddenly graduated to a complicated and multi-layered sound that was both captivating and appealing. Too bad, Brian Wilson had to go soon after because of substance abuse, but not after making sure the band left its mark.
The band didn’t last long, as Kurt Cobain died too soon, but the spokesman of Generation X from the era’s flagship band will always be remembered for their groundbreaking songs. Quiet and subtle initial stanzas would always build up to heavy choruses. It was the period of grunge, and Nirvana made alternative rock part of the mainstream.
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