Music had always been the way to express emotions and communicate long before films. People of different cultures understood music even without knowing the words or language. The soulfulness was what brought these people to the understanding of those songs.
Today, there are different genres of music that people listen to – from Funk, Alternative, Metal, New Wave, Hip Hop, to Grunge, Psychedelic, Rock, and so on. With over a thousand musicians across these various genres all around the world, people have the chance to choose who or what they want to listen to.
A major breakthrough in the music world was when musical groups and bands emerged. Although some of these groups or bands were only accepted for a short time, others did for longer.
From the numerous bands that existed, rock n’ roll was the most popular style among them. It is a sub-genre of music designed to be expressive and loud. The sound was different, and most times, the songs had cultural impacts.
However, some bands were exceptional with the quality of music, instrument fusion, and work of art.
Some would say they were the best bands ever, and others have a different opinion. Nevertheless, this article lists out the top 20 rock bands of all time.
Best Rock Bands of All Time:
1. The Beatles
The Beatles is one of the most popular bands of all time. When listing those who have changed the world of music, they are definitely part of them. The Beatles is often referred to as the most influential band that ever existed.
The English rock band was formed in 1960 in Liverpool and had four pioneer members – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. Together, they created music with a wide range of styles, first as classical and traditional pop, Indian music, Psychedelic, Ballads, and Hard Rock.
Most of this band’s work of music was attributed to the 1960s counterculture/sociocultural movements.
Nirvana stands as one of the best American bands of all time. The rock band comprised three people in 1987 – headed by Kurt Cobain, a lead singer, and guitarist, and Krist Novoselic, a bassist. However, in 1990, Dave Grohl joined as the band’s official drummer.
Nirvana’s popularity grew as a result of their alternative rock music style, which earned them the public title: Generation X. Soon, they transcended into other styles and showed much impact on rock and roll. With over 75 million records sold globally, they were one of the best-selling bands of all time.
Unfortunately, Nirvana disbanded in 1994 after the lead singer, Cobain, committed suicide.
3. Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath was another music band that came from an English country. The band formed in Birmingham, 1968 was one of the best music groups that helped redefine the world of music. It comprised solely of pioneer members like Tony Iommi (guitarist), Geezer Butler (bassist), Ozzy Osbourne (vocalist), and Bill Ward (drummer). However, all of them left, leaving only Tony Iommi in the band.
Black Sabbath (previously called Polka Tulk Blues Band or Earth) was the first to start heavy metal music. Most of its songs are inspired by horror experiences, and the band had a unique fusion of down-tuned guitars.
4. The Rolling Stones
Another English rock band that has been successful over the years since it was formed in 1962 is The Rolling Stones. They are one of the most popular rock bands of all time, having spent the last six decades releasing hard rock songs. In fact, this group is known to be the pioneer of gritty, heavier-driven sound.
The Rolling Stones have had different changes through the years with members such as Mick Jagger (vocalist), Keith Richards (guitarist), Billy Wyman (bassist), Charlie Watts (drummer), and Brian Jones (multi-instrumentalist). However, the band wasn’t always “The Rolling Stones” until their primary leader, Jones, named it.
5. Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin is also one of the best rock bands of all time that was formed in London. It came into existence in 1968 and is one of the pioneers of heavy metal and hard rock music. Following that music style, this group has incorporated other fantastic styles such as Blues and Folk music.
Led Zeppelin consisted of different members at their formative stage. It had John Paul Jones (the bassist and keyboardist), John Bonham (drummer), Jimmy Page (guitarist), and Robert Plant (vocalist). The group was only active between 1968 to 1980; however, they had reunions at other different years.
6. Prince and The Revolution
The Revolution is undoubtedly one of the best American bands of all time. The music group formed in 1979 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Prince remains one with a huge influence on psychedelic music.
The Revolution was best known for its brilliant fusion of different elements of music together for a unique sound. The group has had different members through the years of active existence, but currently comprising of Matt Fink, Brown Mark, Lisa Coleman, Bobby Z., and Wendy Melvoin.
Two of The Revolution’s songs that made it to Billboard 200 were Purple Rain and Around the World in a Day.
7. Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses is one of those bands that has contributed fiercely to hard rock and heavy metal music.
This group was formed in 1985 in Los Angeles, California, and ever since had significant breakthroughs in the music industry. With their debut album reaching a #1 spot on the Billboard 200 and some singles at #1 on Billboard Hot 100, they became one of the world’s widely recognized rock bands.
Guns N’ Roses has had different changes of members through the years. The pioneer members were Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler. With Izzy and Adler out, the current members consisted of Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, Dizzy Reed, and Melissa Reese.
An Irish rock band that also makes it to the list of the best bands of all time is the U2. This band, formed in 1976 in Ireland, Dublin, is one of the pioneers of post-Punk music. However, the group has evolved to produce other genres like Rock, Alternative Rock, and Pop Rock.
U2 consists of Bono (the lead vocalist and guitarist), Edge (lead guitarist, keyboardist, and co-vocalist), Adam Clayton (bass guitarist), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drummer and percussionist). Each of these acts has contributed to developing the group’s musical style and attributes some of their songs to sociopolitical movements.
Formed in Australia, 1973, AC/DC is another band that makes it to the top bands of all time. This group consisting of Scottish-born brothers Angus and Malcolm Young remains one of the best at genres such as hard rock, heavy metal, and blues tock. Even though the band has a unique perception of their kind of music, i.e., rock ‘n roll, they’ve always been one of the world’s favorites.
AC/DC has had different members but has Phil Rudd, Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams, Stevie Young, and Angus Young at the moment. Some of its previous members were Simon Wright, Axl Rose, and Mark Evans.
10. The Smashing Pumpkins
The history of alternative rock is incomplete without mentioning The Smashing Pumpkins. This Chicago-formed band has one of the major influences on this music genre by combining elements such as gothic rock, dream pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, heavy metal using densely layered and guitar-heavy sound.
Like most rock bands, the Smashing Pumpkins has had different lineups between 1988 to 2000 and 2006 to date. Nonetheless, it currently consists of members such as Billy Corgan (lead vocalist and guitarist), James Iha (guitarist), Jimmy Chamberlain (drummer), and Jeff Schroeder (guitarist).
The group has also had two albums that topped the Billboard 200.
Queen is a British rock band on the best bands of all time list because of its tremendous work on developing radio-friendly music. With their inspiration drawn from genres like hard rock, heavy metal, and progressive rock, the group has managed to stay successful for over 5 decades. It has also incorporated other styles like arena rock and pop-rock to develop a unique sound.
Queen has had different lineups consisting of the previous Smile band members, May and Taylor, and others like John Deacon and Freddie Mercury. Its current lineup has Brain May (guitarist and vocalist) and Roger Taylor (drummer and vocalist).
12. Pink Floyd
Known as one of the British psychedelic bands, Pink Floyd has a spot on the best rock bands ever lived. The band formed in London, 1964 has attributed most of its successes to extended compositions and philosophical lyrics. It is also notable for its various live shows at different times of the year.
Listed as one of the best progressive rock bands, Pink Floyd has been signed under different labels, including Sony Music, Columbia, and Capitol. It also had different lineups within the years of active operation (1964 to 2014). Some group members were Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, David Gilmour, Syd Barrett, and Bob Klose.
Metallica is one of the best bands in America known for its heavy metal music genre. This group formed in Los Angeles in 1981 is one of the most successful bands to date. Their style is quite unique by fusing fast tempos and tough instrumentals to making music. Currently, they are one of the four pioneer bands of Thrash Metal – with the other bands like Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth.
Likewise, Metallica has had past members. Some of them include Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton, Jason Newsted, and Dave Mustaine. However, the current members are James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo.
One of Canada’s best bands is Rush. The music group is known for its expressive music taste with progressive rock, heavy metal, and Hard Rock.
Rush’s first commercial success was in the 1970s with different albums such as A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, and Fly by Night. However, between the 80s and the 90s, they had gained mass popularity in North America.
The band was active between 1968 to 2018, and within that time, experienced different configurations. Some of its members were Jeff Jones, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, John Rutsey, Geddy Lee, Mitchel Bossi, Joe Perna, and Lindy Young.
The Heartbreakers were one of the major influences to recognizing rock n roll and Punk rock as a unique style of music. This band was at the forefront of the first punk rock wave after their formation in 1975, New York City.
The Heartbreakers (also called Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers) have a long history of their members – each with their own story. With Johnny Thunders being the lead vocalist and guitarist between 1975 to 1990, the group had commercial success in no time. Its past members were Jerry Nolan, Richard Hell, Walter Lure, Billy Rath, Ty Stix, and Tony Coiro.
16. The White Stripes
The White Stripes is a duo band known for its unique Garage rock genre. It also expresses music using other genres like Blues-rock, Alternative Rock, Indie rock, and Punk blues.
This music group formed was formed by a couple in 1997, Detroit. It consisted of Jack White (songwriter, guitarist, pianist, vocalist, and mandolinist) and Meg White, now his ex-wife (drummer and vocalist). The band was active until 2011 when the couple fell apart.
The White Stripes became popular in 2002 after its garage rock revival scene. Also, one of the band’s singles: “Seven Nation Army,” was one of the most recognized songs of the decade.
Iron Maiden is also one of the best-selling bands of all time, having released over 41 albums, 47 singles, and 13 live albums. This band even has 2 electronic games using its sound. It is widely known for being one of the heavy metal genre development pioneers in the United Kingdom.
Iron Maiden is an English music group formed in 1975 and is still fully active with a different lineup of members. The current members are Steve Harris, Nicko McBrain, Bruce Dickinson, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers.
Iron Maiden is recognized to have (had) some of the best heavy metal artists in history.
18. The Kinks
The Kinks also happens to be one of the most influential bands of all time. It was an English band formed by two brothers in North London in 1963 – Dave and Ray Davies. They were one of the progenitors of Rock and Pop music in the 60s until they stopped in 1996.
First, the band came introducing British rhythm and blues and Merseybeat. Soon, they gained prominence across the United Kingdom and even spread to the United States. In total, the band has sold over 50 million records globally.
The Kinks were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame (2008) and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2005).
Another American rock band still currently active is Aerosmith. This band is known for different music genres ranging from Hard Rock to Blues Rock, Rock and roll, Glam metal, and heavy metal.
Aerosmith was formed in 1970 in Boston, Massachusetts, and it has had great commercial success in album sales. The group has had a different lineup of members. The past members were Ray Tabano, Jimmy Crespo, and Rick Dufay, while the current lineups are Steven Tyler, Tom Hamilton, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, and Joey Kramer.
Aerosmith is sometimes referred to as: “Bad Boys from Boston” or “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.”
20. The Ramones
The recognition of Punk rock as a music genre can also be attributed to the influence of The Ramones. This American music group formed in 1974, Queens started the first true punk rock, and even though the success was only limited, it inspired several other rock bands to adopt the style. Soon, Punk rock became a thing in Argentina, Brazil, and other parts of the world.
The Ramones was more like a rock band family, with every artist adopting the “Ramone” surname. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Elvis, C.J., Richie, and Marky were past members.
The group was only active between 1974 to 1996.
There are many rock bands in the world today, expressing music through different genres. While some of these bands have had great commercial success, a couple of these rock bands are still waiting for their major big break. Above is a list of the best bands of all time; you may agree or disagree with it, but they have all contributed and influenced the recognition of this type of music.