Here’s my personal list of the top 10 British rock bands to have emerged from the Beatles onwards. I’ll now duck for cover from all the rotten tomatoes thrown in my direction, for omitting your own personal favorites!
The decades have passed, but the Beatles legend is as strong as ever. Great songs, of which many will surely last for as long as popular music itself, great invention, great personalities, and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were gifted musicians – despite what critics may say about Ringo’s drumming! The Beatles also brought a change to the music industry in making the album as important as the single. Beatles albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album and Abbey Road had crusty old critics and fans purring.
The Rolling Stones
The kings of British rhythm and blues, the Rolling Stones invented the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle in the 1960s. Guitarist Brian Jones didn’t make it, fellow guitarist Keith Richards barely did, and singer Mick Jagger, at one point, feared for his life from vengeful Hell’s Angels. Quieter guys, bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, had their moments, too. Wyman was addicted to women, and Watts battled heroin problems. Songs such as (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,Paint It Black, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women, Gimme Shelter and Brown Sugar showed that the Stones wrote and played great songs, too.
Rarely, if ever, has any group had such musical talents as the Who. Singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle formed as explosive a live act as has ever been seen in rock music history, Moon’s infamous hell raising, Townshend’s axe slaying, and Daltrey and Townshend’s combustible relationship shouldn’t mask the genius of the Who from the 1960s onwards. Won’t Get Fooled Again was as near to rock perfection as we’re ever likely to see, and Tommy was a brave adventure into the world of the rock opera.
Often regarded as the inventors of heavy metal, via the guitar of Dave Davies on You Really Got Me from 1964, the Kinks are now best remembered for the whimsical, melodic songwriting of Ray Davies on such classics as Sunny Afternoon and Waterloo Sunset.
Pink Floyd are one of the few groups to have produced two totally different sounds – albeit being forced on them by Syd Barrett’s mental disintegration. From Barrett’s mid-1960s eccentric psychedelia, to the post-Barrett, post-progressive rock music experimentation of the 1970s, on albums The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall, Pink Floyd have remained one of Britain’s most beloved bands – even if various members of the band don’t love each other!
The first superstar heavy rock group, Led Zeppelin came out of the ashes of the Yardbirds, and then raised noise levels considerably. Sadly, many poor imitators have left heavy rock open to ridicule, but Led Zeppelin, like the Who, consisted of a charismatic frontman, Robert Plant, virtuoso musicians in guitarist Jimmy Page, drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones. Led Zeppelin’s music was not merely hard rock, and ranged from folk to even reggae. Their 1971 classic, Stairway to Heaven, nearly always features in any list of top 10 rock songs.
Queen singer Freddie Mercury took rock showmanship to new heights, and was part of arguably the greatest British group to emerge in the 1970s. Brian May was a thoughtful guitar hero, boyish Roger Taylor an accomplished drummer, and shy bassist John Deacon an extremely gifted songwriter. Some critics condemn Queen for being overblown, but they were, to most eyes and ears, the outstanding act at Live Aid in 1985. Nearly always theatrical, Queen’s best songs include Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions and Radio Ga Ga.
Forget the tiresome soap opera of affected sibling loathing with the Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, Oasis produced a string of fine songs in the 1990s, including Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger. Big fans of the Beatles, the Manchester band were never going to equal the Fab Four’s popularity (who is?), but many of their songs will endure.
Oxfordshire’s Radiohead don’t write songs to line their pockets, but it just so happens that their strange, ethereal, angst-ridden music has struck a chord with millions. OK Computer, their 1997 album, is one of the greatest albums ever made in the rock era, and singer Thom Yorke sings like an angel, imploring us to respect all living things.
Similarly to Radiohead, Coldplay are often mocked by sections of the British Press for being too earnest, particularly frontman Chris Martin. The biggest British rock group of the early part of the 21st Century, Coldplay’s 2002 album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, included a clutch of outstanding songs – In My Place, The Scientist and Clocks. Other notable songs are Yellow and Fix You.
If you’re incensed about any group I’ve missed out, please use the comments box to mention them!
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