The Most Radical Rock Bands Of All Time

Sara | November 8, 2019 4:34 pm

Since the early days of rock and roll music in the 1950s, the genre has been consistently evolving, with each decade bringing something new to the table. Through all of this change, however, there are select rock bands that have established themselves as the greatest to ever step on stage. These are the bands that no matter which genre of rock and roll is the most popular over the years, are still regarded as some of the most influential and beloved groups of all time. Here are the greatest rock bands of all time and why their legend will never die.

Creedence Clearwater Revival Brought The South To San Francisco

Creeence posing in front of a house
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Although the band is known for their southern twang with themes of bayous, catfish, and southern living, Creedence Clearwater Revival got their start on the streets of San Francisco. The group consisted of John Fogarty, his brother Tom, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford.

They were also known for the political messages embedded in their lyrics, becoming one of the great voices of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Performing together since 1959 as The Blue Velvets and the Golliwogs, the group officially disbanded in 1972 after years of success and releasing seven albums. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

The Eagles Dominated The ’70s

The Eagles posing in the desert
Henry Diltz/Corbis via Getty Images
Henry Diltz/Corbis via Getty Images

Formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner, the Eagles established themselves as one of the most successful rock acts of the 1970s. Extremely commercially successful, their album Their Greatest Hits is the best-selling album in the United States.

In total, the group has sold over 200 million records, with 100 million of their sales coming from the United States alone. Over their career, the group garnered five No.1 singles, six No.1 albums, five American Music Awards, and six Grammy Awards. Although they broke up in 1980, they have reunited on numerous occasions since.

The Kinks Made Rebellion Cool

The Kinks preparing to perform on television
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Founded by brothers Ray and Dave Davies in North London in 1964, the Kinks grew to earn the title as one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s. Momentarily part of the British Invasion, their hit single “You Really Got Me” went on to top the charts in the UK, making it into the Top 10 in the US.

Known for drawing from various genres, their music was rougher than other groups’ with their lyrics reflecting life in the UK. Regardless, they had five Top 10 singles in the United States with nine of their albums charting in the Top 40.

Black Sabbath Gave Us Heavy Metal

Sabbath Posing backstage
Chris Walter/WireImage
Chris Walter/WireImage

Although many groups have been attributed to the creation of the heavy metal genre, Black Sabbath remains at the forefront. Formed in Birmingham, England in 1968, their unique sound can be traced back to when lead guitarist Tommy Iommi lost the tips of his two fingers working in a factory. This led to him tuning-down his guitar, creating the sinister sound we now know as heavy metal.

Ranked as the “Greatest heavy metal band of All Time” by MTV, they are also named as No.2 on VH1’a 100 greatest Artists of Hard Rock List. They have been inducted in both the UK Music Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 2005 and 2006.

Guns N’ Roses Took Degeneracy To The Next Level

Guns N' Roses posing behind a red background
Ross Marino/Getty Images
Ross Marino/Getty Images

Known for their on and off-stage antics and overall lifestyle of never-ending debauchery, in the 1980s, Guns N’ Roses established themselves as the wildest band of their time. Forming in Los Angeles in 1985, the original lineup consisted of Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler.

Their debut album Appetite For Destruction launched them into stardom, reaching No.1 on the Billboard 200 just a year after its release. Although the group has had its fair share of internal conflicts, they have sold approximately 100 million records worldwide, during their height, were dubbed “the most dangerous band in the world.”

Pink Floyd Is Experimental Rock At Its Finest

Psychedelic portrait of Pink Floyd
Andrew Whittuck/Redferns
Andrew Whittuck/Redferns

After forming in London in 1965, Pink Floyd gained a following for with their psychedelic sounds, philosophical concepts, and intricate performances. Founded by students Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, and led by Syd Barrett, the band released Piper of the Dawn in 1967, which saw a decent amount of success.

However, Barrett was forced to leave the band in 1968 due to his deteriorating mental health. The band was then headed by Waters, going on to become one of the biggest bands in the world. Regarded as one of the first British psychedelia groups, four of their albums have topped US and UK charts, and they have sold more than 250 million records worldwide.

The Who Were As Wild As They Come

The Who performing on stage
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hailing from London in 1964, The Who made a name for themselves with their deafening loud music, energetic performances, and of course, destroying everything in sight. The band’s iconic lineup consisted of vocalist Roger Daltrey, windmilling guitarist Pete Townshend, possessed drummer Keith Moon, and bassist John Entwistle.

Although the band saw success with numerous singles in their early years, their rock album Tommy was a major critical and commercial success. In total, the band has sold over 100 million records worldwide with their influence on both music composition and stage presence still echoing today.

The Rolling Stones Can’t Stop And Won’t Stop

Rolling Stone on a staircase outside
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Rocking and rolling for over 60 years, the Rolling Stones currently hold the title for the longest-running career in rock history. The original lineup was made up of Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and Ian Stewart. Forming in London in 1962, the band was one of the foremost leaders of the British Invasion, gaining popularity in the United States in 1964. They were associated with the counterculture movement of the time.

From the late ’60s to the early ’70s they were named “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.” Still performing today, they have released 30 studio albums and have been named No.4 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”

Led Zeppelin Was A Predecessor Of Heavy Metal

Led Zeppelin in Australia
GAB Archive/Redferns
GAB Archive/Redferns

Coming together in London in 1968, Led Zeppelin was made up of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. After signing a record deal with Atlantic Records which gave them a lot of creative freedom, the band wasn’t initially well-received by critics but were popular among along the masses, releasing eight studio albums in ten years.

They are the third best-selling artist in the United States will 111.5 million units sold. The Rolling Stone refers to them as “the heaviest band of all time” and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame claims they were as influential in the ’70s as the Beatles were in the ’60s.

The Beatles Revolutionized Music

Ron Howard/Redferns
Ron Howard/Redferns

Easily recognized as one of the most influential groups to ever play music, in just ten years, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr changed music forever. The band formed in Liverpool in 1960, drawing influence from skiffle bands before transitioning to pop music.

However, throughout the band’s career, they went through numerous different periods of experimentation with recording, sound, and even drawing from other cultures and the socio-economic conditions of the time. The Beatles are by far one of the best-selling artists of all time, selling over $800 million worldwide and are the top-selling in the United States. They have also topped numerous greatest band lists and earned countless accolades.

AC/DC Took The World By Storm

AC/DC posing for a picture on a desk
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

AC/DC was founded by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in Sydney, Australia, in 1973. The group experienced numerous lineup changes before releasing their album, even losing their lead singer Bon Scott, who died in 1980 before recording the album Highway to Hell.

Although the group is described as a culmination of various genres, they describe their own music as just “rock and roll.” Over the years, the band released extremely commercially and critically successful albums, making them one of the best-selling artists both in the United States and worldwide. They have also been referenced on numerous top bands of all time lists.

The Beach Boys Went From Classic To Creative

The Beach Boys posing in a house
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Best-known for their vocal harmonies and surfer themes, the Beach Boys were formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961, by bothers Brain, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and Al Jardine. Their earlier music was described as the “California Sound” with songs about beach romances, cars, and surfing, but things changed in 1964 with their album Pet Sounds.

From there, the Beach Boys were hailed for their innovation and depth, up until Brian Wilson began to separate himself from the group due to mental health issues. Today, the Beach Boys are considered one of the most successful and influential bands of all time, inspiring countless future musicians.

Fleetwood Mac Exploded In The 1970s

Portrait of Fleetwood Mac in 1975
GAB Archive/Redferns
GAB Archive/Redferns

Fleetwood Mac’s career went a number of different directions throughout the years, however, it can be traced back to 1967 when they were a blues-rock group in London. It wasn’t until 1974 that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks entered the fold to transform Fleetwood Mac into the group everyone knows today.

After the introduction of Buckingham and Nicks, the band exploded in popularity with the success of their albums Fleetwood Maci and Rumors becoming one of the most significant groups of the 1970s. Unfortunately, the band began to fall apart in the ’80s, although they had sold more than 120 million records and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Ramones Helped Pave The Way For Punk Music

The Ramones holding up a sign of their band name
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Coming from Queens, New York, in 1974, Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, and Tommy, all unrelated, adopted the last name Ramone to create the iconic band. Although initially the band did not see much commercial success, they later became incredibly influential in the US and UK, and are often considered the first true punk band.

Although they played 2,263 concerts in a period of 22 years, unfortunately, all four members were dead by 2014. They grew in popularity over the years, being named N0.26 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” and the second-greatest according to Spin behind the Beatles.

KISS Put On A Show

KISS posing on a Los Angeles rooftop
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

One of the biggest rock and roll groups known more for their brand than for their music, there’s no denying that they were masters of their craft. The group formed in New York City in 1973 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley.

Known for their on-stage makeup and comic book alter-egos, they also made a name for themselves with their immersive live performances including fake blood, pyrotechnics, and more. The group has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and holds the record as America’s No.1 Gold record award-winning group of all time.

Rush Had A Colorful Career

Rush at a studio photo shoot
Fin Costello/Redferns
Fin Costello/Redferns

Although Rush may have called it quits in 2015, the band got its start in 1968 in Canada. The group rose to the top for their complex musical composition and lyricism dealing with scientific and fantastical subjects.

Their directions have varied over the years, touching on a series of different genres, adding new instruments to emphasize the musical style they were going for at the time. It is estimated that the band has 40 million records sales worldwide on top of seven Grammy Award nominations, and an induction into the Canadian and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Played Up Until The End

The band posing backstage
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came out of Gainesville, Florida, in 1976 and was originally comprised of Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch, and Benmont Tench. Often associated with other groups such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger, some of the band’s greatest hits include “American Girl,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Refugee,” among others.

The band remained active up until Petty’s death in 2017, resulting in the group coming to an end. In 2002, in their first year of eligibility, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Nirvana Was The Godfather Of Grunge

Nirvana during a photo shoot
Paul Bergen/Redferns
Paul Bergen/Redferns

The brainchild of guitarist and singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain and bassist Kris Novoselic, Nirvana was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. After going through a trial-run of drummers, they landed on Dave Grohl, who would later go on to become the frontman for Foo Fighters. Shortly after the group’s formation, Nirvana became a huge influence on the Seattle grunge scene, signing to the label Sub Pop in 1989.

After the release of their single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the band achieved unexpected worldwide success, leading to Cobain being named the “spokesman of a generation.” Although the group disbanded after Cobain’s death in 1994, they left a massive mark on the music industry.

Metallica Helped Introduce Thrash Metal To The World

Metallica at the MTV Music Awards
Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Still thriving today, Metallica was formed in Los Angeles in 1981 by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, although they have been based in San Francisco for the majority of their careers. Their ability and determination to play fast, powerful, and loud, established them as one of the “big four” band of thrash metal along with Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer.

Started in the underground scene, Metallica rose in popularity, especially with their fifth album Metallica, which helped push them into the mainstream. Currently, the band has released ten studio albums, won nine Grammy Awards, had six consecutive No.1 albums, and are considered one of the greatest groups of all time by many sources.

The Doors Made A Huge Impact In Their Short Existence

The Doors posing for promotional photos
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Breaking into the Los Angeles Music scene in 1965, The Doors were Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and John Densmore. An icon of the 1960s counterculture, the group was considered to be extremely controversial mostly for Morrison’s on-stage behavior and his provocative lyrics. In just five years, the band released eight albums, with multiple being considered the best of their time.

After Morrison died in 1971, the group continued as a trio until 1973. When Morrison was still involved, they were the first American band to achieve eight consecutive Gold LPs and have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Queen Dominated The Arena

Queen in a group portrait in London
RB/Redferns
RB/Redferns

Forming in London in 1970, the classic Queen lineup consisted of Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon. Although the genres of heavy metal and progressive rock were apparent in their earlier works, as they grew in popularity, they began to produce music that was more geared toward the masses.

In the early 1980s, Queen became established as one of the biggest stadium rock groups in the world with hit tracks such as “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and more. One of the highest-selling acts of all time, Queen has an impressive list of accolades that separate them from their contemporaries.

Aerosmith: The Bad Boys From Boston

Aerosmith performing on
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

Known as a notorious bad boy from Boston, in 1970, Steven Tyler started Aerosmith along with Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, and Brad Whitford. Often referred to as “the Bad Boys from Boston,” the band is known for fusing various musical styles such as rhythm and blues, pop-rock, heavy metal, and more.

Regarded as the best-selling Ameican hard rock band of all time, selling more than 70 million units in the US alone, they also hold the record for the most total album certifications by any American band. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019

Van Halen Brought Rock And Roll Back

Van Halen posing on a car
David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images
David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Originating in Pasadena, California in 1972, Van Halen was started by brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, along with David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony. They separated themselves from their contemporaries by bravely incorporating synthesizers into their music, their energetic shows, and the undeniable talent of lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen.

Selling 80 million units worldwide, Van Halen is also one of five rock bands with two studio albums that each sold over 10 million records. They earned 13 No.1 hits on the Mainstream Rock chart and are ranked N0.7 on VH1’s Top 100 Hard Rock Artists of All Time.

Heart Proved That Girls Can Rock

Heart posing in New York
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

A combination of hard rock, heavy metal, and folk music, Heart was founded in Seattle in 1970. The band evolved out of the group White Heart consisting of Steve Fossen, Roger Fisher, David Belzer, and Jeff Johnson.

The group added the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson as vocalists in 1973, and the band started receiving worldwide attention with their hits such as “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” and “Magic Man.” Heart had multiple Top Ten albums on the Billboard Hot 200 ad was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

The Velvet Underground’s Impact Became Apparent Years Later

The band posing for a portrait in 1970
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Although the Velvet Underground went relatively unnoticed when they first came onto the scene, selling only 10,000 copies of their debut album, they ended up having a major influence on the music industry. The group was assembled in New York City in 1964 made up of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Angus MacLise.

Mostly active between 1965 and 1973, for a time, they were managed by Andy Warhol, serving as the house band for his numerous events. Although their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico wasn’t all that impactful at the time, by the 2000s, Rolling Stone named it the “most prophetic album of all time.”

The Grateful Dead Amassed An Unbelievable Following

The Grateful Dead in 1960
Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Forming in Palo Alto, California, in 1965, the Grateful Dead made a name for themselves by “touching on grounds that most other groups didn’t even know existed,” according to musician Lenny Kaye. They are credited with pioneering the “Jam Band” movement, creating a unique psychedelic sound by combining genres such as folk, country, bluegrass, gospel.

Over the years, the band built up a die-hard fan base calling themselves “Deadheads” who followed the band on tour wherever they went, dedicating their lives to the community surrounding the group. Closely associated with the 1960s counterculture movement, the band is regarded as an important part of not just music but cultural history as well.

Deep Purple Was At The Forefront Of The Heavy Metal Scene

Deep Purple posing in front of an estate
Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Forming in Hertford in 1968, Deep Purple started off as a progressive rock band, slowly transforming to a harder sound in the 1970s, becoming pioneers of heavy metal. Deep Purple is regarded as part of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-70s,” along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

A public poll from Planet Rock named them 5th in their list of the “most influential bands ever,” with various members being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

Cream Was The Definition Of A Supergroup

Cream at Wembley Studios
Ivan Keeman/Redferns
Ivan Keeman/Redferns

Cream was established in London in 1966 and was made up of bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker, with all members performing lead and backup vocals. Each of the members had come from previously come from successful groups, making what many people consider to be the first supergroup.

Because of each member’s notable talent and skill with their respective instruments, the group was held in high regard, becoming the first group ever to have a platinum-selling double album. They are featured on numerous best-of lists and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

The Allman Brothers Band Lost Two of Its Original Members

The Allman Brothers Band standing in a field
GAB Archive/Redferns
GAB Archive/Redferns

The Allman Brothers band was started by Duane and Gregg Allman in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1969. The brothers were also joined by Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks, and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson. Although their first two studio albums may have missed the mark commercially, the live albums they released after are considered some of the best live albums ever released.

After Duane and Berry died in separate motorcycle accidents, the group the band rose to prominence in the 1970s after the 1973 album Brothers and Sisters. Over the course of the band’s career, they earned seven gold albums, four platinum, and were ranked No.52 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Journey

Band posing in front of a tree
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Formed from members of Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch, Journey was established in San Francisco in 1973. The band’s height was between 1978 and 1987 when Steve Perry was fronting the band, and releasing classics such as “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

The band had a total of 14 Top 40 singles in the United States and six which made the Top Ten, and two reaching the No.1 spot. In a USA Today poll, the band was named the fifth-best United States rock band in history, with worldwide sales reaching over 75 million. Today, their music can still be heard in stadiums across the world and radio stations on a regular basis.