The 20 Greatest British Rock Bands of All Time | London Evening Standard



From hard rock to punk, new wave, indie and britpop, British bands have defined entire genres and influenced millions of rock fans over the years.

The UK music scene has produced some of the world’s most iconic bands and artists, whose work remains equally popular and revered to this day.

From Joy Division to Radiohead, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, they are the best British rock bands of all time.

20. Division of joy


It’s incredibly rare for a band to have such an impact in such a short time. Joy Division was one of the most influential bands of the late 1970s, despite the tragic end of Ian Curtis’ life at just 23 years old. Factory Records changed the face of British music and Joy Division was a big contributor to its success.

19. Super furry animals

Bad hair day: Super Furry Animals on stage in Cardiff last year / Polly Thomas / REX

The best Welsh fans of weird rock since … well, never. The band, pictured above on a bad hairstyle day, have created some of the most interesting albums of the past decades and are also one of the first commercially successful groups to record entire albums in Welsh. It’s the best of modern psychedelic rock.

18. The jam

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Not only did Paul Weller and The Jam create some of the most urgent and essential rock albums of the 1970s, they also inspired quite a style movement. The revival of mods the band helped spark a whole subculture shows just how influential they were: everyone wanted to be like them and everyone wanted to buy their records.

17. T. Rex

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Marc Bolan’s hugely influential rock group started out as a psychedelic pastoral folk group. They released four albums under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex before shortening the name, reinventing themselves as glam rock behemoths, and releasing a series of incredible singles such as Ride A White Swan, Get It On, Metal Guru and Children. Of The Revolution. Sadly, Bolan’s career was cut short after his death in a tragic car crash in 1977, but his musical legacy lives on.

16. Roxy Music

Fans are fondly remembered as one of the most eccentric and unusual rock bands of the 1970s, and their self-titled debut album is widely regarded as one of the best British debuts of all time. The band brought us Bryan Ferry, one of the most interesting frontmen of the time, as well as Brian Eno, one of the most influential electronic artists of all time, who would create a series of revered instrumental albums. and produce records. for the likes of Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay.

15. The Who

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They are perhaps best known by many for proving CSI themes these days, but The Who are, without a doubt, one of the best British rock bands of all time. Pete Townshend proved to be one of the most expressive British songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s while Roger Daltrey was one of the most influential leaders of the time. They were also one of the first British groups to introduce the idea of ​​a concept album, with Tommy, a huge success from 1969. Who’s Next is also one of the great British rock albums, and the group is still talking. of his generation five decades later.

14. Black Sabbath

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Ozzy Osbourne teamed up with fellow Brummies Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Tony Iommi in the late 1960s to form the hugely influential Black Sabbath and practically invented heavy metal in the process. The band released era-defining classics like Paranoid, War Pigs and Iron Man, and influenced the outlook for British rock music more than most bands before or since.

13. Blur

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There is so much talk about the Blur vs Oasis rivalry that lasted throughout Britpop and it is certainly true that they were two of the most important bands of the decade. Blur’s impressive catalog is packed with indelible British songwriting with some of the wittiest lyrics from the 1990s, and also some of the simplest (see Tender). Damon Albarn would go on to create music with Gorillaz and pursue a number of other intriguing endeavors, but the real star of the show was Graham Coxon, who remains one of the most criminally underrated British guitarists of the 20th century.

12. Queen

No one has done a show like Queen. Freddie Mercury’s unrivaled live voice and the band’s incredible showmanship made it one of the most famous concerts the UK has ever seen. Masters of exuberance and excess, Queen has created some of the best known and most popular music of the 1970s and 1980s. Mercury’s untimely death in 1991 shocked the music world, but the legacy of the group is as strong today as it has ever been.

11. The Kinks

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So many bands owe a lot to the work and influence of The Kinks. You Really Got Me is one of the greatest rock riffs of all time, and let’s not forget that the band’s Dave Davis actually invented distortion after cutting the cones of his amplifier with a razor blade; a sound that has been an integral part of the sound of rock and roll ever since. Their songs and methods have influenced entire generations of musicians and they remain one of the UK’s rock bands.

10. Stone roses

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It doesn’t matter if they’ve only really released one great album, the Stone Roses have carved out a place for themselves in British fashion like no one else before or after them. Their self-titled debut album in 1989 is rightly regarded as one of the most influential British records ever made; if you walk into any indie bar across the country on a Friday night, you can guarantee it will go through the speakers and crumble.

9. The confrontation

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From the agonizing exuberance of their self-titled debut album to the ambitious genre-shifting efforts of London Calling and Sandinista, The Clash released a succession of classic albums between 1977 and 1985. The group has championed admirable causes, including performing at Rock Against Racism and adherence to leftist politics in their writings too. Forget the Sex Pistols, The Clash is the greatest punk band the UK has ever produced.

8. The remedy

Last man standing: Robert Smith is the only original member of The Cure to still perform with the group / Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Robert Smith’s The Cure is one of the most iconic British bands of the 1980s and 1990s and holds a special place in the hearts of many music fans across the country. From the austere and intense nature of albums like 1982’s Pornography to more flamboyant and playful records like Wish, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration – arguably the group’s masterpiece – Smith has created some of the most great British alternative music of his generation.

7. Oasis

How many times has someone picked up a guitar and performed a shady take on Wonderwall at a party? Or how many times has someone murdered a performance of Don’t Look Back In Anger at karaoke? The Oasis songs themselves are among the most accessible and instantaneous British songs ever written and that is before even considering the charisma of the group that performed them: the Gallagher brothers were at war most of the time during Oasis’ career, but from that tension came the most iconic songs of the 1990s and some of the most culturally significant British music ever made.

6. The blacksmiths

They may have inspired more terrible student groups than any other artist, but the Smiths remain one of the greatest groups Britain has ever produced. Morrissey’s unmistakable voice and the chime of Johnny Marr’s magnificent guitar playing made them one of the most distinctive bands of the 1980s and a hit with indie fans ever since. It’s almost scary to think that Marr formed the Smiths, released four amazing studio albums, and left the band at the age of 24 – a staggering achievement at such a young age.

5. The Rolling Stones

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Without a doubt one of the most influential British rock bands of all time, The Rolling Stones could easily top any list of iconic British rock groups. Childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards formed an iconic musical partnership as children in the 1950s before forming the Stones with Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart. The band grew on their early covers of tracks by blues legends like Howlin ‘Wolf and Chuck Berry to produce increasingly broad sounds, while keeping blues-rock at the absolute heart of their music. The reductive “Beatles vs. Stones” argument will always persist among music fans, but the arrogance and sheer riffage displayed on the Stones’ classic albums, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, are irresistible.

4. Pink Floyd

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The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Wish You Were Here … the list of classic albums is long. Pink Floyd has created some of the most accomplished and successful British rock music ever made and has always maintained a distinctively British sense of eccentricity and idiosyncrasy. Progressive rock legends are one of Britain’s best known commercially and David Gilmour also remains one of the most revered guitarists of his generation.

3. Radiohead


Radiohead could have gone on to make albums like The Bends and OK Computer and become the greatest British band of all time in the late 90s. However, they challenged themselves to change their sound, and with Kid A, they showed the benefits of never standing still as an artist. This is a great group that refuses to settle down, but still manages to create strange and wonderful music. They are without a doubt one of the best British rock bands of all time.

2. Led Zeppelin

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Rock Monsters Led Zeppelin are one of the greatest and toughest rock bands of all time, and the four individual members are also some of the best players of their generation. Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Jimmy Page stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries as individual musicians, and their talents have combined to create some of the heaviest rock music of their generation. In fact, Communication Breakdown is often cited as the first heavy metal song. Believe it or not, the band’s influence is undeniable and their status as the gods of British rock is untouchable.

1. The Beatles

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A fierce battle in the clubs of Hamburg, the Fab Four went from spotlessly clean pop lovers to rock freaks during their careers, and produced some of the best music ever made along the way. They constantly pushed the boundaries, took their sound to places you never thought possible and, along with pioneering producer George Martin, used the studio as an instrument like never before. Their story and their music are legendary, and you can’t look at them as the greatest British rock band of all time.

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