A list of the best classical rock songs of all time, as determined by public opinion and voted on by music fans.
The Beatles – “I Am the Walrus”
The Beatles – “I Am the Walrus” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released on their 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour. The song was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was inspired by the Lewis Carroll poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter”.
Musically, it is a psychedelic pop song with satanic imagery and sound effects. The lyrics were heavily influenced by weed, acid, and ouija board sessions according to Lennon. He later said that he wrote the lyrics “to confuse people.” The recording features a chorus of schoolchildren from Islington Green School, who were paid £5 each for their participation.
The song’s title is derived from its opening line: “I am he as you are he as you are me.” Like many of Lennon’s songs from this period, it reflects his growing interest in Hindu philosophy and transpersonal psychology. Despite its experimental nature, the song was a commercial success, reaching number one on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart and number 43 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. In Britain, it peaked at number 16 on the UK Singles Chart in October 1967.
Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir”
“Kashmir” is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. It was included on their sixth album, Physical Graffiti, released as a double album on 24 February 1975. The eight-minute track features John Bonham’s distinctive drumming, Page’s use of the song’s main riff throughout as a unifying device, and
Pink Floyd – “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”
Pink Floyd – “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is unquestionably one of the best classical rock pieces of all time. The song is a nine-part composition Pink Floyd wrote in tribute to their former bandmate Syd Barrett. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was first released on the album Wish You Were Here in 1975.
The song starts with an eerie, atmospheric synth intro before transitioning into the main body of the piece, which is carried by Roger Waters’ gorgeous bassline. The music then swells and builds, reaching a soaring crescendo with David Gilmour’s iconic guitar solo.
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is a truly timeless piece of music that continues to resonate with fans all over the world.
The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a song by the English rock band The Who, written by Pete Townshend. It was released as a single in July 1971, reaching number one in the UK charts, and is featured on their 1971 album Who’s Next.
The song’s verses describe the anger and frustration of a young man who has had enough of being betrayed and misled by those in authority. The chorus declares his resolve not to be fooled again.
Townsend has said that the song is about “the ultimate betrayal”, when “you put your faith and trust in somebody and they let you down”. He has also said that it is a response to the conservative policies of British Prime Minister Edward Heath.
The song was recorded in March 1971 at Olympic Studios in London, with producer Glyn Johns. It features a three-note keyboard intro by Townsend, followed by a drum roll and cymbal crash before the band comes in playing “a dirty little riff”. The middle section features an extended guitar solo by Townsend, which he later described as “the best guitar solo I ever played”.
The song was released as a single on 15 July 1971, with “Baba O’Riley” on the B-side. It reached number one on the UK singles chart, making it The Who’s fourth and final UK chart-topper. In October 1971, it was released in the US, reaching number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song has been widely acclaimed by critics. In 2004, it was ranked number 381 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2006, it was voted number 5 on Q magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. In 2007, NME ranked it number 11 on its list of the 100 Greatest Tracks of All Time.’
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – “Karn Evil 9”
“Karn Evil 9” is a three-part song by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, originally released on their 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Written by keyboardist Keith Emerson, the song is a suite in three parts, each representing a different stage in the decline and fall of civilization.
The first part, “First Impression”, is an upbeat, positive-sounding piece with a circus-like atmosphere. The second part, “Second Impression”, is a more dark and foreboding piece, with a heavier sound and more complex musical ideas. The third and final part, “Third Impression”, is a return to the upbeat sound of the first part, with a more paranoid and frantic edge.
Although it was not released as a single, “Karn Evil 9” was one of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s most popular songs, and has been frequently covered by other artists. It remains one of the most famous examples of classical rock music.
Yes – “Roundabout”
One of the most popular and enduring classical rock bands of all time, Yes was founded in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire. The band has seen a number of lineup changes over the years, but Anderson and Squire have remained constant members. Other notable members have included drummer Alan White, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe.
Yes is best known for their hits “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” But they have also released a number of critically acclaimed albums, including The Yes Album (1971), Fragile (1972), Close to the Edge (1972), and Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973). In recent years, the band has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Genesis – “Supper’s Ready”
Most rock fans consider Genesis’s “Supper’s Ready” to be one of the best classical rock pieces of all time. The 23-minute track is a progressive rock tour de force, with multiple changes in tempo, dynamics, and mood. The song is based on the Book of Revelation, and features some of frontman Peter Gabriel’s most theatrical vocals.
King Crimson – “Epitaph”
There are few bands as influential as King Crimson. Formed in 1968, the British progressive rock band has released a string of groundbreaking albums that have influenced everyone from Metallica to Dream Theater. “Epitaph” is one of their most popular songs, and it’s easy to see why. Clocking in at just over eight minutes, the song is a masterclass in progressive rock, with complex time signatures, shifting moods, and King Crimson’s trademark use of ethereal passages to create an atmosphere of unease and dread.
Rush – “2112”
There are few things more classically rock than Rush’s “2112.” Released in 1976, the song is an epic 20-minute journey through a dystopian future where music has been outlawed and creativity is stifled. But despite the dark subject matter, the song is full of hope and defiance, with a soaring guitar solo from Alex Lifeson that will send chills down your spine. It’s a reminder that even in the darkest of times, art and creativity will always find a way to shine through.
Jethro Tull – “Aqualung”
if there ever was a song that defined the sound and mood of an album, Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” would be that song. The opening track and lead single from the band’s fourth studio album of the same name, “Aqualung” is a six-and-a-half minute epic that highlights everything that was great about Jethro Tull in 1971.
The song starts with a gentle acoustic guitar melody before it builds to a crescendo with the addition of electric guitars, keyboards, and drums. The lyrics, written by frontman Ian Anderson, are based on his observations of homeless people in London. The Aqualung character is based on a real person Anderson saw when he was growing up, an old man who seemed to be living on the streets and begging for money.
The song became a huge success for Jethro Tull, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and #7 in the UK. It has since been included on multiple lists of the greatest rock songs of all time.