The Best Rock Music Bands of All Time

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


From The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, these are the best rock bands of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine.

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The group, whose best-known line-up comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, are regarded as the most influential band of all time. With a sound rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later experimented with several musical styles, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways. In 1963, their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”; as the group’s music grew in sophistication under the guidance of producer George Martin, they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the counterculture of the 1960s.

The Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960, with Stuart Sutcliffe initially serving as bass player. The core lineup of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr settled into place throughout 1962–1963. From late 1963 to 1966, the Beatles released a stream of hits on the radio waves and television screens of Britain and North America which acquired them international success. “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “She Loves You” and “All My Loving” were some early examples of songs which propelled them into teenager frenzy mode around the world.

Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones is one of the best rock music bands of all time. Formed in London in 1962, the band members are Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts. The Rolling Stones rose to prominence with their debut album ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ in 1965. They have released 30 studio albums since then and have sold over 200 million records worldwide. The band has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame.

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin was an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band’s heavy, guitar-driven sound has led them to be cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal. Their style drew from a wide variety of influences, including blues, psychedelic rock, and folk music.

The band’s debut album, Led Zeppelin (1969), was a commercial and critical success. Page then began working on material for their next album while the rest of the band toured North America. This material became Led Zeppelin II (1969), which featured strains of blues and folk music integrated with rock. It sold almost as many copies as their debut album.

During Led Zeppelin’s touring career, which spanned more than two decades, they performed several lengthy concert tours across the world. Plant occasionally suffered from vocal problems due to his powerful singing style, which left him occasionally unable to perform. In 1970 and 1971, Led Zeppelin released three successful studio albums: Led Zeppelin III (1970), Led Zeppelin IV (1971), and Houses of the Holy (1972). Houses of the Holy topped record charts in both Britain and the United States and drew inspiration from science fiction and fantasy literature.

By 1973, Led Zeppelin were one of the most popular rock bands in the world. They were also highly influential on other rock bands; many artists have cited them as an inspiration. After Bonham’s death in 1980, Plant returned to his solo career while Jones and Page collaborated with other musicians on various projects


Queen was a British rock band formed in London in 1970. The band members were Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums, vocals). Queen’s debut album, Queen, was released in 1973 and was followed by three more albums that were all commercially successful: Sheer Heart Attack (1974), A Night at the Opera (1975), and A Day at the Races (1976). The band’s seventh album, News of the World, was released in 1977 and is their best-selling album to date.

Queen’s greatest hits include “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The band has sold over 300 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They have been awarded seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and a Brit Award. In 2005, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was an English rock band formed in London in 1965. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in popular music history.

They have sold over 200 million records worldwide, including 74.5 million certified units in the United States. With their 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd became one of the best-selling bands of all time and spent 741 weeks on the Billboard chart, longer than any other band.

The group’s primary songwriters were Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and Rick Wright. Barrett left the band in 1968 due to mental health issues, and was replaced by guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour. Waters became Pink Floyd’s de facto leader after Wright was fired from the band in 1979; he frequently wrote darkly political lyrics that critiqued society, which eventually resulted in his departure from Pink Floyd in 1985.

The three remaining members continued to record and tour through 2014 though Wright died in 2008. Gilmour has stated that Pink Floyd would “most likely” never tour or record again as a group; however, they have not officially disbanded nor ruled out further work as a unit.


Nirvana was an American rock band formed by singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting and best-known being Dave Grohl, who joined in 1990. Though the band dissolved in 1994 after the death of Cobain, their music maintains a popular following and continues to influence modern rock and roll culture.

The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. The band got its name after Morrison read Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception. They were among the most controversial rock acts of the 1960s because of Morrison’s wild, poetic lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s sudden death in 1971 at age 27, the remaining members continued as a trio until finally disbanding in 1973.

Although they were often pigeonholed as a psychedelic band, the Doors’ music was also influential to punk rock, garage rock, and classic rock. In 1993, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


AC/DC is an Australian rock band, formed in Sydney in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. A hard rock/blues rock band, they have also been considered a heavy metal band, although they have always dubbed their music as “rock and roll”. AC/DC underwent several line-up changes before releasing their first album, High Voltage, in 1975. Membership subsequently stabilised around the Young brothers, singer Bon Scott, bassist Mark Evans, drummer Phil Rudd, and lead guitarist Malcolm Young.

The Who

The Who is a British rock band formed in London, England in 1964. The band members are Roger Daltrey (vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar), John Entwistle (bass) and Keith Moon (drums). The Who is considered to be one of the most influential rock bands of all time. They have sold over 100 million records and have won numerous awards, including multiple Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is an English rock band formed in Birmingham in 1968 by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. With their heavy, slow riffs and dark lyrics, they are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. Although the band members have changed over the years, Black Sabbath has released 19 studio albums, including such classics as “Paranoid” (1970), “Master of Reality” (1971) and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (1973). The band’s most recent album is “13” (2013).

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