The 100 Best Rock Bands of All Time: 100–76

Who are the best rock bands of all time? Attempting to answer this question in list-form is the ultimate act of trolling. Why? Because ranking art is simply preposterous. How can you possibly compare the thunderous machismo of Led Zeppelin with the Grateful Dead’s lysergic voyaging? How do you rate Simon & Garfunkel’s bittersweet harmonies against Public Enemy’s raw fury?

The 100 Best Rock Bands of All Time: 100–76

Well, you can’t—at least not in any empirical way.

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder. And it is that subjectivity that makes the world go ’round at 33 revolutions per minute. Music has the unique power to take us to places well-loved, long-forgotten, or warmly-remembered—from the classic rock that poured out of your dad’s station wagon, to the sweaty soul jam that soundtracked your first summer love, to the mopey indie record that subsequently soundtracked your first broken heart.

In other words, it’s personal. So how can we possibly rank something that personal? Well, let’s start by defining our terms.

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What is Rock?

In its essence, “rock” refers to the vast majority of popular music produced from 1960 onward. The 1950s are fondly remembered as The Golden Age of Rock and Roll. Much of what we would call Rock and Roll—Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, etc.—is firmly rooted in the blues, gospel, country, and R&B which came before it. But when these sounds merged—and most importantly, when the line separating Black and white music blurred—the cultural phenomenon known as rock and roll engulfed America’s youth.

Then, in 1959, a series of unfortunate events signaled an end to this era, including Elvis Presley’s draft into military service, Little Richard’s departure into the priesthood, and the tragic airplane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

Rock and Roll had reached its first low ebb, leaving popular music in the well-manicured hands of treacly teen idols like Frankie Avalon and Fabian. Rock and Roll had many critics, including an outspoken contingent of segregationists who decried the spread of so-called “jungle music.” Those who thought of rock and roll as coarse, vulgar, and little more than a teen-fueled fad were vindicated. Rock and roll was dead.

Then the Beatles and Stones washed ashore in 1964. A year later, Bob Dylan plugged his guitar into an amp at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival; Motown beamed the Detroit sound into every dancefloor in America; Brian Wilson took the Beach Boys into unchartered waters; the Grateful Dead tried LSD for the first time; and Bruce Spingsteen’s mother took out a loan to buy her kid his first guitar.

Rock and Roll was reborn, but with a harder edge, a more adventurous spirit, and substantially longer hair. It was in this moment that Rock and Roll became “rock”—something less formulaic, less immediately definable, and far more expansive. It became something more than some guitars and a drum kit. Rock became a palette of infinite colors inspiring boldness, experimentation, and the total deconstruction of barriers.

Rock is the catch-all terminology for everything that came after the first Golden Age—British Invasion, Girl Groups, Motown, Greenwich Village, Psychedelia, Progressive Rock, Soul, R&B, Metal, Punk, New Wave, Disco, Funk, Hip Hop, Alternative, and even Rock and Roll. So when we call something a “rock band,” let’s try to avoid any hangups about what we think ‘rock’ should sound like. Avoiding exactly those kinds of preconceived notions is what helped the artists on this list to earn our esteemed recognition, not to mention many lesser honors like unspeakable wealth and enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ok. You get the point. Rock is everything. Everything is rock.

Qualifications For Inclusion

Be a Band

First, in order to be considered one of the 100 Best Rock Bands of All Time, one must be a band. Any group of people who play instruments, write songs, and perform concerts together qualifies as a band. Sooooo, for instance, Hootie & the Blowfish would qualify as a band. Wait. Come back. That’s just an example. They’re not on the list. Also qualifying for inclusion here are duos, vocal combos, rap crews, house bands, and whatever you’d call the colorful mass of humans that comprise Parliament/Funkadelic. Not eligible for inclusion are solo artists, which explains the conspicuous absence of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Rick Astley.

Be Born After 1955

Also not eligible are bands whose output generally predates the proliferation of rock and roll. R&B groups like Billy Ward and his Dominos and vocal combos like the Ink Spots have an unquestionable place of importance in the early development of rock and roll. But there is an invisible line in history that bisects at the point where Elvis Presley first came to national prominence in 1955. Thus, only those who achieved their greatest musical accomplishments thereafter may be considered.

Be Excellent;

Of course, everything I just said does nothing to prevent Hootie & the Blowfish from making the list. This is why our next qualification is critical. The top qualification for inclusion here is musical, instrumental, and/or artistic excellence. Bands included here helped raise the standards of songcraft, live performance, studio ingenuity, or virtuosity. Sometimes, artistic excellence is universal enough to transcend subjectivity. For instance, if you make a Top 100 list that doesn’t include Pink Floyd, it must be because Roger Waters ran over your dog. Otherwise, the consensus is that they were pretty darn excellent. The same is true of nearly all the artists included here.

Or Be Successful;

Nearly all? Yes, I admit that not every band on this list is inherently excellent. But some bands are simply too successful to miss the cut. Some bands sold so many records that, no matter what you or I think of them, neither of us could deny their impact on popular culture. Yes, the Eagles are on this list. Yes, I recognize that they could be insufferably smug. But really, there’s just no way a band could sell 150 million records without doing a lot of things really right.

Or Be Influential

Some artists on the list may defy any conventional definition of excellence or success, but must be ranked for the cultural impact of their work. Sid Vicious was such a crummy musician that his fellow Sex Pistols would famously turn down the volume on his amp during live performances. But the depraved bassist also perfectly embodied the nihilism and rage that made his band monumentally influential. In order to be included on this list, being excellent helps. But if you don’t have that, making an earth-shattering impression on the course of history is the next best thing.

Ranking

Our ranking procedure was extremely scientific in that I wore a lab coat and safety goggles. Consistent with our broader mission here at Academic Influence, the goal was to rank artists by influence. When we rank one artist above another, we are not making the argument that the former artist is better than the latter. Instead, we’re arguing that the higher-ranking artist is more influential. Thus, when we place hip hop pioneers Run D.M.C. ahead of alt-radio godfathers R.E.M., we are not arguing that Run D.M.C. is better. Instead, we are claiming that the Hollis, Queens trio did just slightly more to change the face of popular music than did the quartet out of Athens, Georgia.

That said, unlike other rankings on our site, this list isn’t powered by our algorithm. Instead, influence is informed by a set of unweighted variables including commercial success, artistic importance, cultural relevance, and personal preference. Yeah, that’s right, there’s some bias in here. If you don’t like it, write your own list. Seriously. I’m not being pithy. It’s a really fun exercise and I wish you the best.

But this is my list so you’re bound to disagree with some of my choices. You probably think I’m crazy to rank this band over that band. You might think I’m an idiot for ranking a band you hate ten spots above a band that you’d sell a kidney (perhaps even your own) to see live. You might wish to send me hate mail for failing to find the space in 100 entries and 50,000+ words to even mention the band that you’ve dedicated your adult life to worshiping. (Rush fans—please direct your Dr. Who-reference-riddled diatribes directly to our webmaster).

Well that’s the beauty of a list like this. There’s no way it’s going to be 100% right but you can’t prove it’s wrong. This means we get to have a fantastic and impossible-to-settle debate about rock music, about what it is, where it’s been, and where it’s going.

Enough introducing. Let’s get right into the bands.

The Best Rock Bands of All Time: 100-76

100.KISS

KISS

Nobody ever accused these guys of being brilliant musicians. Frankly, their music is kind of dumb, possibly even really dumb. KISS specialized in stadium-filling riffs, thundering drums, and a brand of hard rock that, on its own, is actually fairly generic. KISS is nothing without its image. But with it, KISS wrote the book on rock and roll spectacle. Their inclusion here is justified entirely by their impact on the science of live performance.

Inspired by the ghoulish theatricality of Alice Cooper, the founding four members of KISS assembled in 1973, donned elaborate face paint and fashioned themselves as post-apocalyptic road warriors. Assuming their soon-to-be famous alter egos, Gene Simmons a.k.a The Demon (bass), Paul Stanley a.k.a Starchild (rhythm guitar), Ace Frehley a.k.a. Spaceman (lead guitar), and Peter Criss a.k.a. Catman (drums) formed the band’s classic lineup, and would remain intact until 1980.

KISS rose to prominence in the mid-’70s for its over-the-top performance style, which included blood-spitting, fire-breathing, exploding guitars, spark-shooting drum risers, and other visually compelling grotesqueries. In 1975, hard rock was a rising mainstream force, an enervating relief from the mellow singer-songwriterism of the decade’s first half. Attempting to capture the excitement of its live show, Kiss released Alive! and with it, quickly ascended to the top of the hard rock heap. Its live incarnation of ”Rock and Roll All Nite″ became the band’s first Top 40 hit and remains its best known song.

Their followup, 1976′s Destroyer would be the band’s finest and most fully-realized effort, reflecting a more varied and refined approach as on massive hits like “Detroit Rock City” and “Beth.” KISS continued to churn out platinum records through the remainder of the decade, supported not just by its gleefully sophomoric stage show but through arguably the greatest branding operation in hard rock history. Their particularly aggressive merchandizing efforts produced such oddities as a KISS pinball machine, widely-circulated Halloween costumes, and the band’s very own Marvel comic book (infamously said to be inked by the blood of the band’s members). Powered by its legions of fans, known as the KISS Army, the band moved an estimated $100 million in merchandise alone between 1977 and 1979.

The band’s lineup would shift in the coming years, even leading to the notorious and inadvisable moment in 1983 when its members appeared on MTV without makeup. Though their popularity and fortunes waned in the next decade, the mid-90s would see a reunion of the fully costumed lineup and, amazingly, KISS would be the most profitable touring act between 1996 and 1997.

And with more than 75 million units sold worldwide, the band’s 30 gold album certifications are the most for any American band. In 2014, KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Photo By: Nashville69 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

99.The Sonics

The Sonics

Of the many brilliant savages who inhabited suburban American garages during the 1960s, hammering out rock and roll in all its primitive glory, there were none who typified the raw intensity of their genre so well as did the Sonics. The Tacoma, Washington-born Sonics emerged from the same Northwest garage scene that birthed the Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”) and the highly underrated Paul Revere & the Raiders (“Not Your Stepping Stone”). They never glimpsed at the commercial success of either, but for their fuzz-laden fury, The Sonics cast an enormous influence on immediate successors like The Stooges and future torch-bearers like Nirvana.

Though the Sonics lineup would shift frequently following their 1960 formation, they would take their classic form in 1964 with Larry Parypa (guitar), Andy Parypa (bass), Bob Bennett (drums), Rob Lind (saxophone), and Gerry Roslie (vocals). It was this lineup—predisposed as it was to overdriven guitar riffs, colossal drum beats, maniacal vocal exhortations, and deranged sax bleats—that gained a quick local reputation for its live firepower. Coming to the attention of the Wailers (another of the area’s top garage outfits and not to be confused with a Jamaican group of the same name), they signed to their Etiquette label and released two classic records in Here Are the Sonics (1965) and Boom (1966).

Both were recorded with a conscious nod to the kinetic nature of their live shows. Attempts to capture this on record by using cheap recording technology and a minimal number of takes proved successful on bizarre and unhinged classics like “The Witch,” “Strychnine,” and “Psycho.” Mixing these with their own howling approximation of Little Richard, the Sonics embodied rock and roll primitivism at its finest.

Though “The Witch” would become one of the fastest selling regional singles in Northwest history, the Sonics were never meant for long-term survival. Much like Neanderthal man, garage rock was an intermediary phase, a short-lived stage of evolution on the way to psychedelia, punk, and grunge.

Though the Sonics were as good as done following a disappointing 1967 release, interest in the band has spiked exponentially with every era’s garage revival. From the Cramps, to Mudhoney, to the White Stripes, the hippest bands of every era have name-checked the Sonics as a towering influence.

Photo By: Donutte - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

98.Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

The Midnighters are pivotal for their role in ushering the transition from R&B to rock and roll. A vocal combo known for its risqué themes and suggestive delivery, the Midnighters were started in Detroit by guitarist Alonzo Tucker in 1952. Before ultimately landing on the singer that made them famous, the Midnighters would actually perform with an impressive list of soon-to-be-stars, including Jackie Wilson and a pre-Four Tops Levi Stubbs. But it was the 1953 addition of the flamboyant Hank Ballard that would lead to widespread success.

As their frontman, Ballard distinguished himself with a particular flair for sexually-overt storytelling. Their first hit, 1954′s “Work With Me Annie” earned an FCC radio ban for its lascivious nature but ran all the way up to #1 on the R&B Billboard charts and #22 on the pop charts. In addition to sparking a minor scandal for its suggestive content, “Work With Me Annie” would be a prototypical rock and roll song, prefiguring the genre’s joyful licentiousness and the increasingly upfront use of the electric guitar.

“Work With Me Annie” inspired countless answer songs, most notably Etta James’ very first hit, “Roll With Me, Henry (The Wallflower).”

Hank Ballard and company would return to the charts in 1959 with “The Twist.” Ballard’s original composition only reached #87 on the pop charts but the following year, Chubby Checker’s untouchable cover reached the top spot, and in 1962, became the only song in history to ever do so a second time.

In the early ’60s, the Midnighters charted a few more substantial hits with “Finger Poppin’ Time” and “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go,” reinforcing their position as prime movers and shakers during the Golden Age of Rock and Roll. But like the Golden Age, their decline was precipitous. The charismatic frontman, Hank Ballard produced his last recordings in 1969 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 21 years later. His backing group was enshrined in 2012.

Though he last recorded in 1969, Hank Ballard had intermittently emerged from his private life to perform live prior to his death in 2003 at age 75.

Photo By: Ace Records UK - Ace Records UK uncredited promotional photo, Public Domain

97.The Mamas and The Papas

The Mamas and The Papas

The Mamas & the Papas grew out of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s. More than any other artist from this fertile but derivative environment, the foursome would channel their musical instincts into pure folk-pop. While California contemporaries like the Byrds dropped acid and took folk to far-out places, the Mamas & the Papas rode gorgeous harmonic arrangements to Top 40 success.

The Mamas & the Papas formed when the married couple John and Michelle Phillips of the New Journeyman teamed with Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot of the Mugwumps. Immediately distinctive in appearance for their full-figured front woman, soon better-known by the fitting moniker Mama Cass, the quartet’s first rehearsals were also the first time that any had touched an electric instrument. Moved by the success of the Beatles, they ventured to achieve similar sonic results while working through the prism of folk music.

Their debut single, the hauntingly wistful “California Dreaming,” reached #4 on the charts and gave the band a #1 album with 1966′s If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.

Monday Monday” followed, also reaching #1 on the charts. Though the quartet was enjoying a rapid ascent, personal problems were already driving a wedge between members. Michelle Phillips, in particular, indulged in affairs with Gene Clark of the Byrds and bandmate Denny Doherty. It was thus that she was fired and replaced in 1966 with Jill Gibson.

Though the next several records saw continued charting entries, owing to the band’s clever arrangements and bittersweet harmonies, disharmony reigned between its members. 1967 saw the charting success of “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and the autobiographical “Creeque Alley,” but it also saw a disappointingly detached performance at a Monterey Pop Festival that had launched so many other careers into the stratosphere. The end of the group became a matter of inevitability when Cass Elliot’s solo performance of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” became the biggest hit from the group’s 1968 record, The Papas and the Mamas.

Cass was solo by the end of the year. But for a contractually required final record of Phillips material in 1971, the Mamas & the Papas were through. Mama Cass enjoyed success until succumbing to a heart attack at age 32 in 1974. Their inevitable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction came in 1998.

Photo By: CBS Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain

96.Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps

Short-lived though they were, the Blue Caps had a transformative impact on rock and roll, especially in Great Britain. The Blues Caps were led by Norfolk, Virginia-born rockabilly greaser Gene Vincent, whose hiccupping delivery and motorcycle-accident limp gave him a dangerous appeal. Though the lineup of the Blue Caps would shift with surprising frequency for a band that only had a three-year run, its founding members would be collectively and individually influential. Willie Williams (guitar), Jack Neal (upright bass), Dickie Harrell (drums), and especially the lightning-quick lead guitarist Cliff Gallup would provide Vincent with a tight, ferocious, and suitably raucous backing unit.

It was with this unit that Vincent composed the 1956 rockabilly stroll “Be-Bop-A-Lula.” Inviting favorable comparisons to the fast-rising Elvis Presley, the rougher-around-the-edges Vincent scored a #5 hit. In spite of this auspicious beginning, the Blue Caps struggled to repeat their commercial success in America. Though classics like “Blue Jean Bop” found their way to the middle of the charts, members of the Blue Caps began moving through the revolving door.

With Gallup replaced by the talented Russell Williford, the Blues Caps enjoyed their greatest fame onscreen, both through appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and the legendary rock and roll feature film, The Girl Can’t Help It (1957). If the Blue Caps weren’t connecting with radio audiences in the U.S., their impact in the U.K. was growing dramatically. Vincent’s outlaw image was especially well-appreciated among the British youth. Indeed, his touring presence helped to inspire England’s greaser Teddy Boy movement, one with which a young John Lennon was loosely affiliated.

By 1958, in disputes both over taxes and payments to his band members, Vincent made an extended move to Europe. With the Blue Caps disbanded, Vincent went on to a colorful if not dramatically successful latter-day career. Lowlights include the injuries he sustained in the same fatal 1960 car crash that killed fellow greaser Eddie Cochran. Highlights include the time that he fired a live round of bullets at glam rocker Gary Glitter.

Gene Vincent died from a ruptured ulcer in 1971 and became the very first person inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1997. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by himself the next year, and was subsequently joined by his band in 2012.

95.The Cure

The Cure

A bunch of sickly pale British guys with grotesque lipstick and a fixation on minor-key gothic self-pity. In theory, the Cure seems like it would be a miserable proposition. But you’re thinking of the Smiths. The Cure, in spite of their morose tendencies, would in fact evolve over time to become one of the punk era’s most sensitive and sustainable acts, even eventually letting the commercial sunshine into its vampiric world. Formed in West Sussex, England in 1976, the Cure was founded by the man who would also be its only constant member across the next forty years, Robert Smith.

Smith’s sobbing vocals, childlike delivery, and epic bedhead distinguished the Cure, beginning with its 1979 Polydor Records debut, “Three Imaginary Boys.” The spiky guitars, punky ethos, and Smith’s melodramatic performances make this a goth-punk landmark, with lead single “Boys Don’t Cry” signifying the band’s innate touchy-feely-ness.

Over the course of the early ’80s, The Cure toured alongside other goth-punk acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and released a series of classic records that could best be described as suicidal in nature {Seventeen Seconds (1980); Faith (1981); Pornography (1982)}. Then, after a brief respite from the band, Smith returned to the Cure with a sudden and previously nonexistent sense of lightness. Themes of love, warmth, and life penetrated the band’s signature darkness. Suddenly and satisfyingly, the Cure began churning out sweetly-melancholy hits like “Close To Me,” “Just Like Heaven,” and “Friday I’m In Love” Albums like The Head On the Door (1985) and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987) are among the most enduring records from an era notorious for producing poorly-aged digital-synth.

While the majority of their ’80s contemporaries flamed out spectacularly or drifted into obscurity, the Cure continued to garner hits, as well as respect, from a rising generation of otherwise irreverent alt-rockers. To date, Robert Smith remains the band’s defining member, occasionally touring and putting out a studio album at a clip of about every four years up until his last release in 2008. In spite of their well-postured misery, the Cure have much to smile about, substantially exceeding either the life expectancy of the average punk band (not to mention of somebody who sang so frequently about his own death), consequently selling roughly 30 million records sold worldwide, and earning induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

Photo By: momento mori from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The Cure Live in Singapore - 1st August 2007, CC BY 2.0

94.Bill Haley & His Comets

Bill Haley & His Comets

Bill Haley & His Comets are largely synonymous with rock and roll’s Golden Age. Certainly, as much as Elvis Presley, they helped to bring this new sound into American homes. Just as rock and roll was clattering into popular consciousness, Bill Haley & His Comets were positioning themselves as the genre’s first self-styled hitmakers.

Michigan-born Bill Haley began his career as a well-regarded country yodeler, fronting various bands before ultimately forming Bill Haley and His Saddlemen. Though they largely played in the western swing style, the band gradually began to incorporate elements of R&B into a country-rock hybrid called rockabilly. The use of slap-back bass for percussion and Haley’s hip, swinging delivery made the Saddlemen early pioneers in the genre. But when Haley heard Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” he turned his attention entirely toward rock and roll.

Their recordings were still imbued with a rockabilly undercurrent but as the band evolved into Bill Haley & His Comets, they continued to kick the momentum, electricity, and intensity of their music into higher gear. Borrowing a popular phrase uttered by members of his own audience, Haley authored “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953 and, with it, scored the first charting rock and roll hit by a white group. Hitting #12 on the Billboard pop charts that summer, it was nudged forward by its appearance on a CBS television special featuring an emergent James Dean.

This would make it the first rock and roll song to appear on American television and it would earn the Comets their eventual invitation to record “Rock Around the Clock.” Pressed in 1954, “Rock Around the Clock.” would be featured in the 1955 teensploitation film Blackboard Jungle. The film drove “Rock Around the Clock” to the top spot on the Billboard charts, making it the very first rock and roll song ever to achieve the feat. In no uncertain terms, this moment would initiate rock music’s 50 year reign over the charts.

As Bill Haley & His Comets rocketed to success, salary disputes began to splinter the lineup. As members departed and were subsequently replaced, it became increasingly clear that nobody was indispensable. Haley pushed on regardless of the musicians who backed him. For a brief moment in history, this strategy would prove effective. Indeed, no matter who was actually in the Comets, the group would amass no fewer than nine Top 20 singles between 1954 and 1956.

But as more authentic rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard emerged in the late ’50s, Bill Haley’s checkered-suit schtick became increasingly less compelling to young audiences. By the turn of the decade, Haley and whatever group of musicians he called the Comets had struck out to bask in their international reputation, with tours of the U.K. and Mexico proving that their popularity remained intact outside of the U.S.

Still, like most of his surviving contemporaries, Haley was already on his way to the oldies circuit by the end of the ’60s. The fact that his group’s peak was so short makes their 25 million in worldwide sales a fairly impressive accomplishment. Haley continued to perform until his death in 1981 at the age of 55. As for the Comets, who, along with Haley, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, there are literally dozens of groups out there in the world today touring under the name. Their actual connection to “Rock Around the Clock” is anyone’s guess.

Photo By: Decca Records This larger version shows the photographer was James Kriegmann, New York. - Billboard page 55, Public Domain

93.The Runaways

For a band whose best charting record in the U.S. never got higher than #172, the Runaways had a big, loud impact. A hard-rock band with a punk ethos, the Runaways were the first major rock group composed entirely of women. Their snarling attitude and glammy production—the latter courtesy of garage-obscurio impresario and all-around weird dude, Kim Fowley—made the Runaways a major stepping stone on the way toward guitar-fueled girl power.

The Runaways began when Fowley introduced Pennsylvania-born guitarist Joan Jett to California-born drummer Sandy West. Though Fowley would go on to manage their business affairs, he has said that the image and sound of the Runaways came from the girls themselves. Their rough and ragged approach had a decidedly macho propensity.

What distinguished the Runaways is that their greatest musical influences were male artists like David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and KISS. By emulating male hard rockers, rather than simply using them as a backing band (a la Janis Joplin or the Wilson sisters of Heart fame), the Runaways defied expectations about how hard or proficiently women could rock all on their own. The distinction earned them a 1976 contract with Mercury records and a series of high-profile opening slots for hard rock headliners like Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy.

By the following year, their lean and minimalist tunes had shoehorned them into the rising punk scene as well. Playing at the CBGB alongside the Ramones and other punk revolutionaries, the Runaways became underground heroes, particularly to legions of young girls who would one day aspire to brandish guitars and drumsticks.

Still, the phenomenon was strictly underground in the U.S. Three studio records—The Runaways (1976), Queens of Noise (1977), and And Now… The Runaways (1978)—barely registered as a blip in the American market. For some reason though, most of their albums sold respectably in Sweden and, as it happens, they were absolutely huge stars for about ten minutes in Japan. Their 1977 visit to the country saw them greeted by a throng of screaming fans.

Though the Runaways lineup would shift frequently during their short run, the classic roster included Jett and West as well as Lita Ford (bass), Cherie Currie (vocals, keys), and Jackie Fox (guitar). Their output would be a veritable blueprint for the Riot Grrrl movement spawned ten years hence, with songs like “Cherry Bomb” paving the way for later provocateurs such as Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, and Hole.

The Runaways’ music had historically split the difference between punk and hard rock. By 1978, Joan Jett’s fascination with the former and Ford and West’s preoccupation with the latter led to a breakup, a process hastened by charges of mismanagement against Fowley.

Though all enjoyed some level of notice for their respective solo careers, Joan Jett would go on to superstardom. In 1980, Joan Jett’s debut record was rejected by 23 different record companies. In response, she became one of the first women in the business to start her own label, Blackhearts Records. As leader of the Blackhearts, Jett achieved enormous commercial success, ultimately landing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

92.ZZ Top

ZZ Top

Putting aside the fact that these guys look like the coolest orthodox rabbis in the world and seem like they’d be a hoot to party with, they deserve a ton of respect for keeping their original lineup together without interruption for more than 50 years. This is the longest such streak in rock history. Also worth noting right up front, ZZ Top is obviously most famous for the spectacular beards adorning the faces of guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill. Amazingly, their drummer, the only guy in the band without a face fuzz, is actually named Frank Beard.

Okay, putting that very important fact aside, the Texas boogie band is one of the great blues rock outfits in existence, a group that successfully made the transition from half-empty gymnasiums in Houston to arena stages around the world. ZZ Top remained faithfully committed to the blues whether exploring its outer fringes as in their early days, fashioning it into slickly produced radio fare as in its middle years, or touring as a reliable warhorse during its golden years. The ever good-humored, delightfully dirty, and hard-rocking ZZ Top are in a category of their own.

Forming from the ashes of psychedelic garage group The Moving Sidewalks, the trio made its debut in early 1970 and, through the release of its first two records, attracted little coverage and minuscule audiences. 1973′s Tres Hombres would come as the band’s commercial breakthrough however, fueled by the driving, solo-heavy, and fittingly slurred ode to a well-loved Texas whorehouse called “La Grange.”

The album introduced the group’s unique penchant for wildly tripped-out soloing over a sturdy blues backbone. In spite of their success, ZZ Top decided to take a two-year break from public visibility, presumably to work on their beards. This they did, and returned in the mid-70s to completely indulge in their growing weirdness. Though their album sales were not particularly robust during this time, they added live killers like “Cheap Sunglasses” and “Tube Snake Boogie” to their repertoire.

By the early ’80s, with popular music moving away from raw hard rock and toward a higher studio sheen, ZZ Top turned more consciously toward radio-friendly fare. This effort was rewarded with 1983’s Eliminator. ZZ Top enjoyed their greatest success on their 8th studio release. “Gimme All Your Lovin,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” and “Legs” were not only massive radio hits but they actually placed the mullet-faced rockers alongside the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna on heavy MTV rotation. Eliminator would ultimately move 10 million units, almost certainly because of the band’s decision to incorporate synthesizers and drum machines into its blues arsenal.

Following its extremely successful stay in the pop mainstream, ZZ Top returned to its guitar-heavy blues roots with a series of releases in the ’90s and 2000s. Though it would not break any new ground at this point in its career, ZZ Top would continue, as it always had, to thrive most when on the road. The Little ’ol Band from Texas was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 with seven platinum records and 50 million in sales tucked under its ten gallon hat.

Photo By: Brian Marks - IMG_8527.jpg, CC BY 2.0

91.Steely Dan

Steely Dan

If the 1960s were a time of exuberance, innocence, and optimism, the ’70s were one huge bummer. All the idealism of the previous years came down to Earth with a dull thud. If bands like Sly and the Family Stone and the Staple Singers espoused the utopian vision of that bygone decade, perhaps no artist captured the disappointment, cynicism, and wry resignation of the ’70s as did Steely Dan. Speaking of resignations, Steely Dan’s best work seems inextricably pinned to the Watergate era, the disillusioning nightmare that was Richard Nixon’s presidency, and the decade in which rock and roll lost its innocence.

Steely Dan is a duo composed principally of Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, as well as the wide array of studio and touring musicians that have helped to produce their dense, complex, often jazz-inflected compositions. Becker and Fagan met as Bard College students in 1968 and played together in various incarnations, including a short-lived psych group called Leather Canary featuring a not-ready-for-primetime drummer named Chevy Chase.

In 1972, Fagan and Becker landed a gig as the touring unit for Jay and the Americans but departed to form their own band when a tour manager sliced their pay in half. Adding Denny Dias (guitar), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (guitar), Jim Hodder (drums), and David Palmer (vocals), Steely Dan landed a contract with ABC and released their debut, Can’t Buy a Thrill, in 1972.

Singles “Reelin’ In the Years” and the Latin-flavored “Do It Again,” were both Top 40 hits. Though they hinted at Fagan and Becker’s silver-tongued sarcasm, and the mounting discontent of the time, the work hewed slightly closer to conventional classic rock than would anything thereafter. Success gave Fagan the freedom to step out front in spite of a history of vocal bashfulness. With their band in tow, Fagan and Becker also pursued increasingly sophisticated studio compositions.

The result was a run of mid-’70s classics that play like a series of devastating editorials on life in the decade of disappointment. On Pretzel Logic 1974), Katy Lied (1975), and The Royal Scam (1976), Steely Dan captured a national mood of defeat, subtly colored by alcoholism. Fagan and Becker played like reformed beatniks, wounded and humiliated by their own idealism. Songs like “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Black Friday,” and “Haitian Divorce,” resonated with listeners who seemed to share this feeling.

In light of the duo’s studio ambitions, they sought contributions from a wide array of topflight musicians. They were also known to be rather demanding perfectionists. This, combined with their reluctance to tour, meant that many a top-notch musician would fly the coop. Most significant among them would be mid-70s contributor Jeff Porcaro, who would go on to form Toto (the band who, in 1982, blessed the rains down in “Africa,”), and vocalist Michael McDonald, who along with Skunk Baxter, would depart for charting success with the Doobie Brothers.

Regardless of the musicians who backed them—and they were always of the highest caliber—Fagan and Becker rose to even greater success (and even more intense perfectionism) with the jazz-hued Aja (1977) and the plastic groove of Gaucho (1980). In spite of charting a handful of classic rock staples in “Peg,” “Deacon Blues,” and “Hey Nineteen,” the strain of recording Gaucho had worn on Becker and Fagan’s personal relationship.

Like the other defining bands of the decade, the Eagles and Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan was finished almost as soon as the 70s were over.

Fagan and Becker would both go on to produce various solo projects as well as reuniting for several well-received tours. They were even bestowed 2000′s Album of the Year Grammy for Two Against Nature, though somewhat ridiculously considering their vanilla reunion record was up against truly current landmarks like Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP and Radiohead’s Kid A.

Nonetheless, since 2001, Steely Dan has been properly enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, in spite of never cracking a smile, they did manage to sell more than 40 million records during their run. Though Walter Becker passed away in 2017, Fagan continues to perform as Steely Dan.

Photo By: Kotivalo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

90.The Ronettes

The Ronettes

As with many of the best “girl groups,” the run of success experienced by the Ronettes was short-lived. Still, it would have an indelible impact on the charts of the time and, perhaps even more importantly, on the next generation of rockers which included the Beatles, Stones, and Beach Boys. All cite the Ronettes as a seminal influence.

But the story of their career is as much one about lost opportunity as it is about success. As a product of legendary Wall of Sound studio-head Phil Spector, the Ronettes benefited from the impresario’s studio perfectionism and suffered from his delusional behavior. They would ultimately see their success both procured and sabotaged by the famously unstable producer.

The Ronettes got their start performing during family gatherings. Composed of sisters Veronica (Ronnie) and Estelle Bennett and c

ousin Nedra Talley, the Ronettes were heavily indebted to the musical influence of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. By 1957, they were creating their own rock and roll-driven arrangements for doo wop and vocal standards.

As the early ’60s approached, the Ronettes were regularly playing area record hops but their career took off rather by accident. One night in 1961, the underage girls dolled themselves up with makeup and teased their respective bouffants to eye-catching heights in order to appear old enough for entry into the Peppermint Lounge. The ruse worked so well that they were mistaken for backup dancers for the night’s entertainment, Joey Dee and the Starlighters.

So convincing was their performance that they scored a regular gig at the Peppermint, and soon thereafter, a deal with Colpix Records. Two quiet years with Colpix led to frustration and, eventually, a move to Philles records. It was here that the Ronettes came into contact with Phil Spector. Spector had already achieved a reputation as among the most diligent, inventive, and ambitious producers in rock and roll. Working with teams of established songsmiths and creating lush, full, orchestrated arrangements for popular music, Spector broke incredible new ground for the girl groups and vocal combos under his charge.

The Ronettes would, in their first two years, enjoy a run of classic hits hand-picked by Spector himself. Best remembered among them are “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You,” and “Walking in the Rain.” The Ronettes recorded a clutch of archetypal girl group tunes, with big drums and sweeping arrangements punctuated by Ronnie’s urgent delivery. Amazingly, this legendary vocal group only recorded one full-length LP, 1964′s Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica.

Though 1964 and 1965 saw the Ronettes scaling the charts and receiving credit as arguably the very best of the many girl groups beginning to circulate, Phil Spector’s now-notorious mental health issues were starting to bubble. His behavior would take on frightening proportions as Phil and group leader Ronnie entered into a relationship.

The notoriously jealous and possessive Spector feared that the Ronettes’ rising popularity would compel Ronnie to leave him. He began actively obstructing their success, refusing to release their singles and gifting the best material to competing girl groups. In the most prominent of such instances, Spector canned the Ronettes original recording of “Chapel of Love,” ultimately allowing it to become a #1 hit for the Dixie Cups. Worse yet, when the Ronettes had the opportunity to tour in support of the Beatles, the only girl group to do so, Spector refused to let Ronnie join them. Her sister Elaine traveled in her stead.

By 1967, Phil and Ronnie were married. The relationship effectively ended the Ronettes. Contrary to contemporaries like the Crystals and the Marvelettes, the Ronettes had been a rare survivor of the British Invasion. Still, they could not survive Spector’s domineering and abusive behavior. For five years, Ronnie Spector was essentially a prisoner in her husband’s mansion. He monitored her behavior, controlled her whereabouts, and prevented her from continuing with her music career. By Ronnie’s own report, he kept his wife’s shoes hidden so she couldn’t depart the estate and he kept a gold coffin with a glass top in his basement, assuring her that it would be her’s if she ever attempted to leave him.

Ronnie Spector was literally forced to flee her husband’s house in secret, shattering a back door and running barefoot to a street corner where her mother waited in a getaway car. It was thus, in 1972, that Ronnie undertook a brief reunion of the Ronettes before launching a solo career. Ronnie enjoyed something of a comeback by way of successful collaborations with the generation of rockers whom she’d influenced. This would include Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and Eddie Money, the latter of whom helped Ronnie spring back into the top five in 1986 with “Take Me Home Tonight.”

Even after their divorce in 1974, and even after the Ronettes successfully sued him for millions in unpaid royalties in 2001, Phil Spector continued his efforts to sabotage their legacy. The producer rallied from his position on its Board of Governors, to deprive the group its presumptive nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His efforts were only finally terminated when the habitually gun-toting Spector was convicted for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

In 2021, Phil Spector died in prison. Ronnie Spector, today, enjoys almost universal reverence for her work as a rock and roll pioneer.

Photo By: General Artists Corporation-GAC (management)-photographer-James Kriegsmann, New York. - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain

89.Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan is one of hip hop’s most important musical collectives, a group of Staten Island and Brooklyn rappers whose brilliant use of kung fu imagery and liberal co-opting of southern soul’s best grooves would lead them to tremendous success in the early and mid-90s. The Wu-Tang began around cousins Gary Grice (GZA), Robert Diggs (RZA) and Russell Jones (Ol’ Dirty Bastard), who attended neighborhood block parties together as children.

Influenced by the first generation of New York rappers, the trio spent the early ’80s traveling the five boroughs to challenge other MCs to lyrical battle. Here, the GZA’s unequaled wordplay earned him his reputation as an erudite, fleet, and emotive rapper, while ODB rapidly gained a reputation as one of the genre’s most off-the-wall performers (and just a genuinely strange human being).

GZA and his cousins assembled the original 9-member Wu-Tang collective in 1992, adding Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, and Cappedonna. Their debut single, the raw and uncut “Protect Ya Neck,” earned the band a sizable underground following, as did an opening slot in support of Cypress Hill. However, their signing with a major label was delayed by the critical stipulation that each of its members be entitled to pursue solo projects. This would prove a distinguishing feature for Wu-Tang in the coming years.

They ultimately signed with RCA and released their landmark Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers in 1993. It remains an accomplishment of remarkable authenticity, its nervy gutbucket approach still unmatched in the genre. “Bring da Ruckus”, and “C.R.E.A.M.”,; both emerged as genre classics, encapsulating the group’s gritty, soul-infused street poetry and indulging in its fully-conceived Shaolin mythology. In spite of its gravelly darkness and ribald vulgarity, Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers was actually a charting hit, reaching #41 on the charts and eventually selling two million copies.

It would also give way to the group’s guiding intent, allowing each of its unique personalities to pursue individual recording deals. Solo and collective works by the Wu-Tang would be linked together by the group’s savvy branding, with allusions to the kung fu cinematic genre permeating the recordings, packages, and imagery. The Wu-Tang Clan would be instrumental in expanding the concept-album ambitions of hip hop and in branding its stars accordingly. The spate of solo records that followed deepened the Clan’s critical standing.

Method Man was first with 1994′s Tical. But 1995 would witness the release of Raekwon’s Only Built four Cuban Linx, GZA’s Liquid Words, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s delightfully insane Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. All earned critical acclaim and helped to make the individual members of the Wu-Tang Clan stars in their own respective rights. The stage would be set for the collective’s best-selling record, 1997′s also critically-acclaimed 1997 double-CD, Wu-Tang Forever.

This would be followed by yet another round of brilliant solo records. Increasingly, the Wu-Tang Clan was proving itself more akin to a great jazz collective like the Miles Davis Quintet than to any existing rap crew. Like a jazz combo, each of its individual members used the group platform to ultimately branch out into exciting, new, and defiantly individualistic directions.

Though the Wu-Tang Clan has since reunited to produce four subsequent studio albums, it would truly be the releases by its individual members that most aggressively pushed the boundaries of hip hop and popular music. Sadly, after compiling one of the most impressive arrest records in world history, the illustrious Ol’ Dirty Bastard overdosed in 2004, just days before his 36th birthday. As a sunnier contrast, the RZA has become an accomplished film score composer, particularly through his collaborations with director Quentin Tarantino.

Indeed, this is quite the point of the collective in question. Because the Wu-Tang Clan has come to encompass so many different career paths, the possibilities for its future musical output are, even today, endless.

Photo By: Napalm filled tires - Wu Tang Clan, CC BY-SA 2.0

88.Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons

Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons

The Four Seasons are the answer to the trivia question, “who was America’s most popular rock and roll act before the Beatles hit the shores?” This vocal combo is also notable for being the only rock act to enjoy #1 hits before, during, and after the Beatles conquered the world. In the late 1950s, Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi comprised just one of countless North Jersey vocal combos with a sound simultaneously rooted in street-corner doo wop and Italian-American pop. After adding former Royal Teen Bob Gaudio (of “Short Shorts” fame), the name-shifting group took the handle The Four Seasons and landed a contract with Vee-Jay Records.

The Four Seasons became the first white act to sign with the R&B label. Powered by Valli’s unmistakably rasping falsetto, the Four Seasons became the first band ever to hit the #1 spot with each of its first three singles in 1962 (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man.”) Though the group did enjoy success even after the Beatles reached America, they were impacted by the Fab Four’s arrival. Vee-Jay somehow found itself with a brief and rapidly expiring contract to release the Beatles’ debut in the U.S. But when the tiny label was unable to handle the insane influx of orders, its operations largely stalled.

The event screwed the Four Seasons out of royalties and distribution, so they fled for Phillips Records, initiating a period of splintering which left Valli and Gaudio as the sole constants in the group. During the next decade, more often now under the name Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, they remained a hit machine, charting with “Let’s Hang On!,” “Working My Way Back To You,” and the wonderfully melodramatic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

By the 1970s, with most rock and roll era acts largely disbanded and forgotten, a solo Frankie Valli, an ever-shifting Four Seasons, and the original band’s back catalogue continued to enjoy popularity and chart presence. Even in the midst of the disco boom, the Four Seasons reached #1 in 1976 with “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” Valli returned to #1 on his own two years later for the title track to the hit movie Grease. This would mark the end of the group’s hit-making run but would also see Valli and Gaudio move comfortably into the legend’s circle. Valli, in particular, continues to tour and perform the Four Seasons’ classic material, a trove of infectiously hooky hits that landed the group in both the Rock and Roll and Vocal Group Halls of Fame.

Photo By: Philips Records - Billboard, page 25, 27 August 1966, Public Domain

87.Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd

In spite of scoring their biggest hit with a song about how awesome it is to be from Alabama, the premier Southern Rock band of the 1970s was actually formed in Jacksonville, Florida. Its various members had performed together in a number of incarnations starting in 1964 before taking the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in ’69.

Rising to popularity in their native region on the strength of their energetic performances and confederate imagery, Ronnie Van Zandt, Allen Collins, Bob Burns, Gary Rossington, Leon Wilkeson, Ed King, and Billy Powell nodded to the infinite jamming of the Allman Brothers. They doubled up on drums and tripled up on guitarists, producing a fiery instrumental attack that helped “Free Bird,” rise to #19 on the charts in 1973, in spite of being, like, a million years long.

They supported their debut album by touring as the opening act for The Who’s Quadrophenia, which exposed Skynyrd to enthusiastic Yankee audiences and positively ecstatic dixie-landers. The ground was set for 1974′s Second Helping, which on the strength of #8 hit “Sweet Home Alabama,” delivered the band to headlining status in its own right. So too would it elevate the cachet of the southern rock genre on the whole, paving the way for southland bands like Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, and—led by Ronnie’s little brother Donnie Van Zandt—.38 Special.

As the ’70s wore on and personnel changed, the hits kept coming. The band added backup singer Cassie Gaines and her brother, guitarist Steve Gaines, to replace the departed Ed King. Positioned to enjoy their most lucrative tour yet in 1977, the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd boarded a chartered plane in Greenville, South Carolina headed for Baton Rouge.

Engine malfunction and low fuel required an emergency landing but the pilot overshot an intended runway in Mississippi, instead planting the craft in a wooded area beyond the airfield. Ronnie Van Zandt and the Gaines siblings, as well as the band’s road manager and both pilots, were killed. The band’s remaining members and crew survived with serious injuries. The horrific tragedy occurred only days after the release of the suddenly morbidly titled record Street Survivors.

The album went platinum but Skynyrd was understandably finished. The next decade saw a flurry of basic southern rock material from the surviving members until 1987, when Johnny Van Zandt assumed his brother’s post at the front of a reunited Skynyrd. This version of the band continues to tour and perform to present day and took its rebel stand into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Photo By: MCA Records - Billboard, page 11, 24 Nov 1973, Public Domain

86.Traffic

Traffic

Even before stepping in to become the lead singer of British progressive-psych legends, Traffic, Steve Winwood was already a star. His stunningly precocious vocal capabilities as a 15-year-old had previously propelled the classic Spencer Davis Group foot-stomper, “Gimme Some Lovin.” When Winwood departed the white soul combo in 1967, he joined with drummer Jim Capaldi, guitarist Dave Mason, and woodwind player Chris Wood to create Traffic. Signing with Island that same year, they produced their debut, Mr. Fantasy.

Mr. Fantasy became a hit in the U.K. and tickled the lower reaches of the charts in America. The group’s jazzy take on psychedelia would mark a new frontier for the evolving subgenre, with Winwood’s distinctively strangled but soulful singing and Wood’s lilting flute setting the band apart from its peers. In addition to the beloved title track, “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” the record contained minor U.S. radio hits “Paper Sun,” and the trippy “Hole In My Shoe.”

On their self-titled followup, Traffic emerged as a highly regarded live act, a psychedelic group with uncommonly adept musicians. This made them a great fit for a package tour in 1968 with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, an engagement that would have a tremendous musical impact on Winwood and company. Their sophomore record would also contain Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright,” thereafter to be covered with considerable success by Joe Cocker.

The following year, rather suddenly, Winwood departed the band without any explanation to his mates, joining Eric Clapton for the one-off classic, 1969′s Blind Faith. After a year off, Winwood returned to Wood and Capaldi (Mason having embarked on a successful solo career by this point) to produce 1970′s John Barleycorn Must Die. This would be the band’s greatest success, charting at #5 in the U.S. and placing “Empty Pages,” on the singles charts.

Traffic had entered into folkier territory, though still distinguished itself from contemporaries with distorted keys, fluttering woodwinds, and Winwood’s inimitable singing. Though there were those that criticized the album for Mason’s absence, time has proven it among the group’s bonafide classics. It would also mark a transition toward even wider success, with the U.S. market now embracing Traffic with even greater enthusiasm than did British audiences.

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (1971), Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory (1973), and When the Eagle Flies (1974) would all become Top Ten hits in the U.S. Unfortunately, as Traffic and their post-psych progressive rock show gained in popularity, internal problems spelled inevitable doom for the band. Wood’s growing drug dependencies, Winwood’s struggles with chronic peritonitis (abdominal inflammation), and a constantly shifting cast of support players ultimately led to the group’s unraveling. Winwood would once again depart suddenly, this time literally leaving the band mid-way through its last performance in Chicago.

This was the end of Traffic. Steve Winwood would go on to become among the most successful adult contemporary popsters of the 1980s while still maintaining a lifelong working relationship with Jim Capaldi. Though Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, Wood and Capaldi are both deceased, quashing any chances of a true Traffic reunion today.

85.John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

John Mayall should be given an honorary professorship for his role as the benevolent headmaster of Britain’s greatest blues university. The perpetually graduating and enrolling pupils in his Bluesbreakers outfit would almost invariably go on to become the greatest musicians of the British Invasion and Classic Rock eras. Mayall himself would keep a lower profile as his genre’s purest champion but, if gathered together, those who passed through the Bluesbreakers would make one hell of a star-studded photo op.

Rather than endeavor to tell the story of the band chronologically, a matter of little relevance to its importance, it is better to offer a brief background and then regale you with its enviable roster of pre-fame instrumentalists. Formed in 1963 but only dubbed in 1965, Mayall’s ever-shifting group would cut 11 studio albums between ’65 and ’71, earning a reputation at home as a premier live act and gradually achieving modest recognition overseas.

As for its members, the most prominent among those who would stop through on their way to stardom are Eric Clapton/Jack Bruce (Cream), Peter Green/Mick Fleetwood/John McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), Aynsley Dunbar (Mothers of Invention), Larry Taylor/Harvey Mandel/Walter Trout (Canned Heat) and several dozen others whose affiliations could fill an early ’70s Billboard chart.

Though Mayall has occasionally retired the Bluesbreakers name, only to return it to life shortly thereafter, he would never depart from his beloved genre. At 87, though Mayall’s name may only be familiar to true British blues enthusiasts and devoted Eric Clapton fans, he remains a revered and beloved figure among many of the world’s greatest rockers.

Photo By: Polydor Records - Billboard, page 11, 14 March 1970, Public Domain

84.Big Star

Big Star

The story of Big Star begins in 1966, when a young Alex Chilton performed at a talent show at his Memphis high school. The show brought Chilton to the attention of a band in search of a vocalist. The Devilles, soon renamed the Box Tops, recruited Chilton and instantly scored a global #1 smash with “The Letter.” This was followed by a string of charting hits, most featuring Chilton on vocals. The band’s run at the charts petered out as original members scattered in the late ’60s.

In 1970, Chilton partnered with Chris Bell (guitar), Andy Hummel (bass), and Jody Stephens (drums) to form Big Star. Signing to legendary but declining Memphis soul house Stax Records, Big Star released #1 Record, a debut that is largely considered a template-setter for the subgenre known as power pop. Their songs veered between melodic Beatlesque harmonies, jagged Stones riffs, and Byrdsian jangle with an acute sense of hookiness.

Critical predictions of its monumental success abounded. But the album’s 1972 release was overshadowed by a distribution deal gone south (or north, as it were). Stax sought to expand its influence to compete with Motown in Detroit so it sold its distribution rights to CBS/Columbia, which immediately led to a corporate gutting of its catalog. Even those copies of #1 Record that did find their way to shelves through meager distribution were sadistically recalled by the new ownership.

Indeed, so traumatic was their failure that Chris Bell departed the band, but not before getting into a physical altercation in which bassist Andy Hummel drove a screwdriver through his guitar. Chilton and company soldiered on to record Radio City (1974), its title a not-so-subtle reference to the marked disappointment of their debut.

Like their debut, Radio City was universally praised by critics. Once again, the collection of infectiously gorgeous, bittersweet, and shimmering pop nuggets seemed destined for commercial success. And once again, Columbia refused to make it available in stores. Even as it gained steam in wider listening circles, buyers found that many of their local stores were unable to stock Radio City. It topped out at 20,000 units moved.

For a second time, the band’s presumptive success was sabotaged by industry antics. This contributed to Hummel’s departure. Still, Chilton and Stephens returned to the studio to produce yet a third set of bittersweet gems, deeply reflective of their varying disbelief and acceptance of their unfortunate lot. They were unable to find a record company to release their untitled third project so, in 1974, Big Star called it quits.

Then, four years later, a double LP featuring their first two records was released to acclaim in the U.K., where generally more receptive audiences embraced Big Star. That same year, PVC records picked up the band’s unreleased recordings and put out Third (1978), which again earned critical fawning and commercial failure. Sadly, this same year, Chris Bell died in a car wreck at 27, (making him one of the lesser-known members of rock music’s least desirable club).

Alex Chilton spent the next decade focused on his wantonly inconsistent but occasionally brilliant solo career, which also resulted in almost no commercial success. Remarkably though, the 1980s also saw the emergence of a generation of bands who cited Big Star as a seminal influence. Among them, the Replacements, Pixies, and perhaps most importantly, R.E.M., insisted that new listeners take notice of Big Star.

Gradually, listeners have done exactly that. Today, each of Big Star’s three records has been reissued numerous times, is widely available in stores and on streaming platforms, and has achieved a modicum of commercial success. The success was sufficient enough to bring Big Star back from the grave in 1993, with Chilton and Stephens joining members of the Posies to the embrace of a new audience. Incredibly, the band that lasted only three years on its original run would go on to tour intermittently for the next 17 years, even recording a new album with 2005′s well-received In Space.

Big Star’s tragic story and unlikely triumph ended with Chilton’s death by heart attack in 2010. Hummel departed us three weeks later, leaving Stephens as the sole remaining original member.

Photo By: Marcelo Costa - Big Star @ Hyde Park, CC BY 2.0

83.Outkast

Outkast

There may be no rap subgenre as musically satisfying as Dirty South, and Outkast is the very best of its exponents. True to its native region, Dirty South is imbued with the gritty soul, city blues, dixie jazz, bayou funk, and back-alley poetry that surround it. When high schoolers Andre 3000 (née Andre Benjamin) and Big Boi (née Antwan Patton) met in an Atlanta shopping mall in 1992, they formed the genre’s most exciting and creative act. On their debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), Outkast catapulted to immediate recognition when “Player’s Ball,” hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Tracks chart. The single and record introduced the world to Outkast’s infectiously groovy hybrid of west coast g-funk and southern soul.

Outkast followed with a decade of unadulterated musical perfection, producing three out-and-out genre classics in ATLiens (1996), Aquemini (1998), and Stankonia (2000). Outkast demonstrated a positively Funkadelic-like proclivity for staking out new sonic territory between Black and white music, blending jazz, funk, and Motown with a dense rock-savvy production. All received near universal critical praise upon their release. But it was 2003′s sprawling double-record that would assure Outkast’s lasting impact.

On Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Big Boi and Andre 3000 respectively masterminded their own loose concept records, each somehow folding perfectly into the other. The result is one of the most varied, consistent, and listenable double records, not just of the genre, but ever. The record yielded two chart-toppers in “The Way You Move,” and the instant classic, “Hey Ya!,” In addition to becoming the first hip hop album to win the Grammy for record of the year, Speakerboxxx, for better or worse, injected the phrase “shake it like a Polaroid picture” into our shared lexicon.

In 2007, the duo amicably parted ways in pursuit of solo interests, including Andre’s 2013 turn as Jimi Hendrix in the biopic All is By My Side. In addition to bringing Dirty South to the forefront of hip hop—and consequently paving the way for the dancefloor dominance of the subgenre’s dumber cousin, Crunk—Outkast tallied 25 million in sales and six Grammys. Happily, a lucrative 2014 reunion tour showed that we have not heard the last from hip hop’s most creative musical force.

Photo By: Joe Goldberg - Outkast at Area One, Summer 01, CC BY-SA 2.0

82.Blondie

Blondie

Fronted by the striking, platinum-haired former Playboy Bunny, Debbie Harry, Blondie did as much to put the New York punk scene on the map as any of its contemporaries. Emerging from the same CBGB circuit that produced the Ramones, Talking Heads, and Television, Blondie would become a defining band of the subsequent New Wave era. Producing a body of songs that skillfully flavored punk with touches of reggae, hip hop, and disco, Blondie transcended the self-destructive proclivities of punk in favor of superstardom.

Along with Chris Stein (guitar), Clem Burke (drums), Gary Valentine (bass), and Jimmy Destri (keys), Blondie formed in 1975 and played steadily around New York. Much like their contemporaries, the Ramones, their initial recording success was far more substantial overseas. Blondie’s first two records sold well in the U.K. but barely registered in the U.S. With their third record, however, 1978′s Parallel Lines, Blondie had a #6 hit in the U.S. (#1 in England). With the mirrorball funk of “Heart of Glass,” and the Nerves cover “Hanging on the Telephone,” Blondie furthered its pop credibility without betraying its punk roots.

On the way to 20 million in eventual sales, Parallel Lines made Blondie among the most successful recording acts of the next four years. They also offered a roadmap to success for the legions of quirky, hooky New Wave acts that would soon saturate early MTV programming. Hits like “One Way or Another,” “Dreaming,” and “Call Me,” kept Blondie on the charts even as disco and punk waned, the last of these reaching the top spot in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Two more #1 hits followed in 1980 with a cover of reggae group The Paragons’ lovely “The Tide Is High,” and “Rapture.” The latter of these gave Blondie the very unlikely distinction of charting the first #1 in history to feature rapping.

Though Harry would depart Blondie in 1982 in pursuit of a solo career, the band would reform in 1997 and, with “Maria,” return to the top spot on the U.K. charts. The reunited Blondie, inducted into the Rock Hall in 2006 on the strength of more than 40 million records sold, is still intact today.

Photo By: Private Stock Records - eBay itemphoto frontphoto backphoto front, Public Domain

81.Oasis

Oasis

The famously drunk and squabbling brothers Gallagher formed the nucleus of Oasis, the biggest band in the world during the 3rd British Invasion (for 2nd British Invasion, see Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, et al). Liam (vocals) and Noel (guitar), joined Bonehead Arthurs (guitar), Guigsy McGuigan (bass), and Tony McCaroll (drums) to form the Manchester quintet in 1991. Liam’s unapologetically Mancunian vocals, Noel’s spiky riffs, and the band’s sweeping ambition earned them a contract with independent label Creation in 1993.

The following year, Definitely Maybe became the fastest selling debut in U.K. history, opening at the top spot and ultimately selling 10 million copies worldwide. Though it only peaked at #58 on the U.S. charts, singles like the Britpop blueprint “Supersonic”, and the grand “Live Forever,” gained positive attention from American critics, listeners and MTV Buzz Cut watchers. This would be the opening salvo of a new invasion as a fresh wave of British guitar bands washed ashore, bringing tightly-named units like Suede, Pulp, and Verve to American awareness. Oasis quickly became the most visible and popular of these groups, though not without competition from the critically-beloved Blur.

Where Blur’s prickly and precise perspective achieved greater artistic regard, Oasis aimed effectively for the world’s biggest stage. With What’s the Story Morning Glory? (1995), they got there. If Oasis had been a smart and defiantly British indie crossover on their first record, Morning Glory favored the epic grandiosity of band’s like the Who and U2.

The album allowed Oasis to stake out its own claim as an international phenomenon, separate from any supposed invasion. Like its predecessor, Morning Glory debuted at #1 on the UK charts, where “Some Might Say,” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” also topped the singles charts. In the U.S., the record reached #4 with singles “Wonderwall,” and the sweeping “Champagne Supernova,” topping the Modern Rock chart.

Oasis was easily the biggest band in England and, for a time, the biggest band in the world. The height of its success is the oft-cited two day affair at Hertfordshire’s Knebworth House, where they played to a staggering 250,000 attendees. Morning Glory would ultimately go on to sell 22 million copies worldwide.

Even as Oasis ascended to the top of the music world, the Gallaghers increasingly found themselves the subject of British tabloid attention. All evidence suggests they reveled in said attention, finding every excuse to behave drunkenly and belligerently in public and, more frequently than not, taking out their more violent tendencies on one another. As the 90s wore on, live performances were frequently marred by tension and even fisticuffs.

With sales petering in the mid-2000s and conditions within the band largely intolerable, Noel departed. Oasis disbanded while Liam and company continued on as Beady Eye. Today, Noel records and tours as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

At the time of writing, rumors of a possible reunion have been refuted profanely by both brothers. But the band’s record of accomplishments, especially in the U.K. market, is fairly staggering, including a still unequaled run of 22 consecutive Top Ten British Hits between 1995 and 2005. This powered Oasis to roughly 75 million in overall global sales.

Photo By: Will Fresch - originally posted to Flickr as oasis.gallagher.bros.002, CC BY-SA 2.0

80.The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Fittingly for a band as weird and wonderful as the Flaming Lips, their path to and through stardom has been equally weird and wonderful. Led by the psychedelic high priest Wayne Coyne, this Oklahoma City band formed in 1983 but was largely known only to its cult following for its first decade. Since then, the Flaming Lips have held many mantles, from one-hit wonder to sonic pioneer to critical darling to Grammy winner. Throughout, the band has remained steadfastly loyal to its own idiosyncratic vision and has been rewarded for it by achieving a lasting status as one of the great rock and roll originals.

The Flaming Lips began as a shambolic psych-punk underground band, releasing a series of increasingly refined but consistently jagged records beginning in 1986. Gathering a reputation on the strength of an eccentric live act that included fake blood and pyrotechnics, the Flaming Lips secured an unlikely contract with Warner Brothers in 1990, just as the alternative boom was gaining early momentum. Their second album for the label, 1993′s Transmissions from the Satellite Heart dropped in the midst of the post-Nirvana boom, scoring the band an oddball MTV video hit with “She Don’t Use Jelly.”

The Flaming Lips supported their late-blooming success with a round of television appearances, including a spot on David Letterman’s Late Show and a memorably silly performance at the Peach Pit of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame. Like many bands of the era, the Flaming Lips saw diminishing returns as MTV devolved into reality television and radio programming ditched rock music. Unlike many bands of the era, Coyne, along with drummer Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins and producer David Fridmann, entered into one of the most creatively fertile periods in their shared history.

1995′s Clouds Taste Metallic showed the band moving into unchartered sonic territory, in particular echoing the emotionally naked psychedelic dreaminess of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. 1997′s experimental departure produced Zaireeka, an ingenious four CD release where listeners were instructed to play all four CDs simultaneously in four different players. The result was a single record which revealed infinite permutations upon repeat listens.

For their next several releases, the Flaming Lips did something nobody ever anticipated. They became stars. On Soft Bulletin (1999), Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002), and At War With the Mystics (2006), the Lips produced a trilogy of lush, dreamy, almost otherworldly meditations on life, death, violence, and love. They were rewarded with a combination of critical fanfare and commercial success, which they once again playfully parlayed into mainstream visibility on television commercials and high-profile touring engagements.

The latter focus would also rapidly establish the Flaming Lips as among the most original and fascinating of touring entities. Wisely latching on to the endless festival circuit typically anchored by Phishy jam-bands, the Lips made a name for themselves by combining a powerfully emotive rendering of the above-noted trilogy with a circus sideshow of lights, costumes, balloons, confetti, and close encounters of every kind.

Today, the Flaming Lips are among the most unlikely of survivors, a prolific touring and recording act that never strayed from the inherently weird ethic and aesthetic that established it as a cult band more than 30 years ago.

Photo By: Flickr user Mrmatt

79.T. Rex

In spite of being regarded largely as a one-hit-wonder in the United States, T. Rex and its lead singer, Marc Bolan, were omnipresent in the British charts and tabloids during their run. Bolan’s image and musical approach are largely regarded as the starting point for the glam fixation that would permeate British hard rock in the 1970s. The band’s best records are held in high regard among American collectors.

Often described as elfin for his slight frame, fey vocals, and preoccupation with fantastical lyrics about fairies and goblins, East Londoner Marc Bolan got his start as the guitarist for the garage-pop combo John’s Children. Striking out on his own in 1967, Bolan partnered with eccentric bongo player Steve Peregrin Took to form Tyrannosaurus Rex. The duo produced a folky variation on Gene Vincent-style rockabilly while poeticizing medieval imagery over acoustic guitars. They gathered a modest and growing following across three records, with their third, 1969′s Unicorn landing them just outside the U.K. Top Ten.

However, as the group’s reputation grew, Took’s indulgence in the trappings of rock stardom fell out of favor with the delicate and reserved Bolan. As Took’s interest in harder partying rock stars led him to collaborations with like-minded troublemakers such as the Pink Fairies, Bolan replaced him with Mickey Finn to complete the band’s fourth and final album as Tyrannosaurus Rex.

With Finn now on board, Bolan entered into a new phase distinctly marked by his transition to electric guitar. The sweet, crunchy riffs that would typify his output from there on out would signal a move toward more commercially-oriented hard rock and would rather immediately create the roadmap for Britain’s embrace of glam. The change was punctuated by the shortening of the band’s name to T. Rex. An eponymous 1971 release reached the U.K. Top 20 and produced the Top Ten hit, “Ride a White Swan.”

On the crest of their rising popularity, Bolan and Finn added Steve Currie on bass and Bill Legend on drums to complete a proper touring band. An appearance that year on the Top of the Pops, in which Bolan donned glittered eye-makeup, is often cited as the moment at which glam was borne into the British consciousness, a landmark on the path to David Bowie’s world-conquering success.

With their next two releases, Electric WarriorINCORRECT LINK (1971) and The Slider (1972), T. Rex would enjoy a brief flirtation with global fame. The former would score the band a #1 U.K. hit with “Get It On,” which also reached the U.S. Top Ten as the retitled “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” It remains one of classic rock radio’s go-to riff-rockers. It would also set the mold for Bolan’s best work, with tunes like “Jeepster,” “Telegram Sam,” and “20th Century Boy,” helping to make him one of the most followed and fascinating figures of British rock in his time.

In the mid-’70s, however, the group disintegrated as the always-fragile Bolan retreated into his reclusive tendencies. Alcoholism and overeating began to deprive him of the good looks that helped make him a magazine pin-up. Increasingly, Bolan’s name appeared in the tabloids more than the music press. Though he would trim down for a critical comeback with 1977’s Dandy in the Underworld, it would be his last gasp.

One night in September of that year, Bolan and his girlfriend Gloria Jones (the American singer who had recorded the original “Tainted Love,” back in 1964) were driving home from a night of drinking when the former lost control of the car. Bolan was killed. The loss stunned fans and ended T. Rex in perpetuity.

Since then, Currie and Finn have also passed on. Still, T. Rex remains a major presence today, widely recognized for spearheading many of the glam innovations that are now standard operating procedure among indie rockers and freak-folkies.

78.Green Day

Green Day

If you told the members of Green Day that they’d be playing stadiums together 35 years after their 1987 formation, they probably would have given you a wedgie and farted in your beer. In their defense, founding members Billie Joe Armstrong (singer, guitarist) and Mike Dirnt (bass) were just a couple of snotty 14-year-old Operation Ivy fans at the time. Within the decade though, and following the addition of Tre Cool on drums in 1990, this Berkley, California trio would lead punk music to its biggest commercial stage yet.

Forming first as Sweet Children, Green Day earned a contract with Lookout! Records in 1988 and changed its name to reflect its affection for marijuana. The group released its debut in 1991, a mishmosh of early EPs and independent recordings called 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy HoursKerplunk in 1992, which would move 50,000 copies and place the band on the music biz radar at a time when major labels were plundering the underground for new alternative stars.

This led to a contract with Reprise and the 1994 release of Dookie. In the wake of Nirvana’s massive success, alternative bands like Green Day rode the crest. Dookie sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and emerged as an instant classic of the era. Pop-punk gems like “Longview,” “Basketcase,” and “When I Come Around,” played constantly on MTV, making Armstrong and company household faces. Their antics at that year’s Lollapalooza and Woodstock ’94—in which they incited a now infamous mud-fight with the audience—also helped them to retain some of their juvenile punk credibility.

Once Green Day had a grip on the spotlight, they never relinquished it. Though its next several albums couldn’t possibly live up to the enormity of Dookie, they kept Green Day always on the Billboard Charts and on the MTV Music Video and Grammy stages.

Then, in 2004, the trio enjoyed a number of unlikely accomplishments. Green Day released American Idiot, a concept album aimed squarely at the policies of then-president George W. Bush and his War On Terror. While its alternative colleagues and ’90s veterans faded from view, Green Day lurched into an even bigger spotlight. Moreover, the conceit of a punk rock opera shattered many of the preconceived limitations of the genre. Further preconceptions would be shattered with 2009’s musical theatre adaptation of the concept record.

Green Day was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, its first year of eligibility.

Photo By: Alvaranstrong - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

77.Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Green Day

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was the leading force as rap music transitioned from underground phenomenon to commercially viable form. First as the most popular beats conglomerate in the Five Boroughs during New York’s late ’70s street party boom and thereafter as the original purveyor of socially conscious hip hop, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five invented many of the musical conventions and coined much of the lexicon still widely in circulation today.

The Furious Five formed in 1978 when South Bronx DJ Grandmaster Flash recruited friends Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Keith Cowboy, Mr. Ness, and Rahiem. Melle Mel and Kidd Creole were standout performers, and are typically regarded as the first rappers to refer to themselves as MCs. This was not the group’s only contribution to the genre’s growing vocabulary. Indeed, legend has it that Keith Cowboy, playing off the rhythm of marching soldiers, coined the term “hip hop.”

These innovations, along with the group’s pioneering use of record scratching and turntable looping, made Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five an early mainstay in the club and house party scene. It wasn’t, however, until Sugarhill Gang invaded the charts with “Rapper’s Delight,” in 1979 that the Furious Five recognized its music as being commercially viable. Releasing their debut, “Superrappin’” that same year on Enjoy Records, they subsequently moved over to Sugarhill for 1980′s “Freedom.” The debut reached #19 on the R&B charts, making Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five the first rap group with underground credibility to achieve mainstream success.

The height of this success came with 1982′s “The Message.” The first truly political hip hop record, its lyrics described Black life in urban ghettos with unflinching honesty, scoring a #4 R&B / #62 Pop hit in the process. The old school classic remains one of the single most important recordings in the genre’s history and imbued future hip hop artists like N.W.A. and Public Enemy with the confidence to lay bare the realities of racial disparity and inner-city violence in America.

After a falling out over royalties, the group endured a split which saw Grandmaster Flash depart for Elektra, leaving Melle Mel to lead his own incarnation of the group with Sugarhill. With hits like “White Lines,” and “Beat Street Breakdown,” Melle’s group built on the success of the original Furious Five. He also won an unlikely Grammy for his 1985 duet with Chaka Khan on “I Feel For You.”

In spite of a 1987 reunion and the fact that all original members but Keith Cowboy are still alive, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five never truly capitalized on hip hop’s eventual ascendance to popular supremacy. That said, its members are still regarded today as forefathers to the genre, a fact that was reinforced when they became the very first rap group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

76.Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth’s scuzzy, hyper-original post punk noise made the New York quartet an early leader of the city’s underground No Wave scene but their endless push to explore the far fringes of melodic and amelodic composition made them godparents to the alternative boom more than a decade into their run. The heart of Sonic Youth was the musical and marital partnership between guitarist Thurston Moore and bassist Kim Gordon. With guitarist Lee Ranaldo and, eventually, drummer Steve Shelley, Sonic Youth used off-kilter tunings and thrift store instruments to create a buzzy, unpretentious blend of hardcore and art rock.

Recording its first demos in 1981, Sonic Youth would move through a series of drummers and independent labels. The band’s live attack, replete with white noise and squalling guitars, earned it a growing following, though more in Europe than in its native New York. Indeed, during their first London show in 1984, the band earned rave reviews when Thurston Moore, infuriated by the venue’s malfunctioning equipment, proceeded to smash everything in sight. The tirade helped raise the band’s profile back home as well.

By the mid-’80s, the band had settled on Shelley as its long-term drummer and SST records as its indie stable of choice. This began a run of landmark indie rock records, including EVOL (1986), Sister (1987) and, after a move to Enigma, the highly influential Daydream Nation (1988). On tracks like “Teen Age Riot,” Sonic Youth moved ever-more toward the center of critical attention. With the record placing in most critic’s end-of-year best-of lists and “Teen Age Riot” receiving heavy airplay on college rock stations, Sonic Youth was now poised to spearhead the coming alt-boom.

Moving to Geffen, Sonic Youth became the first of the indie heroes to go major, releasing the pop-conscious Goo in 1990 and scoring a #7 hit on the Modern Rock charts with “Kool Thing,” a collaboration with Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

Dirty (1992) and Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994) continued the underground group’s flirtation with commercial success, the latter reaching all the way up to #34 on the charts in spite of being uncompromisingly strange.

By this point, Sonic Youth enjoyed the widely-accepted reputation of elder statesmen to the indie revolution. As breakout groups like Nirvana and Pavement emerged to acclaim, they enthusiastically acknowledged their debt to Sonic Youth. In turn, Sonic Youth toured alongside its acolytes for 1995′s annual alt-bash, Lollapalooza.

Succeeding releases only strengthened Sonic Youth’s relatively undiluted record of critical regard, with Moore and company delving into ever dreamier, increasingly lush, and more melodic territory. And with the start of their own label, SYR, in the late 90′s, the band also experimented freely with ambient, classical, and avant garde conventions, proving themselves among the more musicologically literate of their peers.

Sadly, 2011 saw the end of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s 27 year marriage and, with it, the presumptive demise of Sonic Youth.

Photo By: Man Alive!, kcarpenter_, 9999x, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Love this list? Then check out the rest of our countdown of the Best Rock Bands of All Time:

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