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The Ultimate List of the Best Classic Rock Bands of All Time

by Martha Simmonds

There are artists and musicians that transcend time, space, and language — and these classic rock bands prove it.

Even though some of these groups disbanded, some musicians retired or passed away, one thing remains the same, and that’s that their music is evergreen.

So for those who are just starting to dabble in rock or those who want to take a walk down memory lane, here are the top ten rock bands of all time.

1. AC/DC

AC/DC is arguably one of the most popular and best classic rock bands in history, with a rock and roll career that spans over four decades.

The band was formed back in 1973 in Sydney by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young.

Since then, AC/DC had changed its lineup quite a few times, but their style stayed the same. When asked about their genre and style, AC/DC would always say that they’re “just rock and roll; nothing more and nothing less.”

Some of AC/DC’s most popular songs include Back in Black, Highway to Hell, Thunderstruck, and You Shook Me All Night Long.

2. Queen

Talking about classic rock bands and not mentioning Queen would be a crime since the band shaped the genre. They first rose to fame back in 1974 with their second album Queen II.

Queen’s two songs We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You have become sports anthems at most major events.

By 1980, Queen became one of the biggest stadium rock bands in the world. Their final performance with the original lineup was back in 1985, at the Live Aids concert.

Even though their frontman Freddie Mercury tragically passed away and bassist John Deacon retired, Queen still tours the world with guest vocalists.

Some of their most famous songs include Another One Bites the Dust, Bohemian Rhapsody, and The Show Must Go On.

3. Deep Purple

Deep Purple are pioneers of classic and modern rock, as well as heavy metal, and they’ve influenced countless other musicians. With a legacy that spans over half a century, Deep Purple have only recently been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Like many other bands on our list, Deep Purple has changed their lineup several times.

Some of their most popular songs are Soldier of Fortune, Child in Time, and Perfect Strangers. However, it’s their song Smoke on the Water that catapulted the band into fame. What’s more, the song itself has received numerous awards, and the Rolling Stone magazine included it on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

4. Guns N’ Roses

Also known as “the world’s most dangerous band,” Guns N’ Roses are one of the most successful musicians in U.S. history. The band was founded back in 1985 in Los Angeles and put out their first album only two years later.

Their debut album Appetite for Destruction featured their greatest hits, including Sweet Child o’ Mine, Paradise City, and Welcome to the Jungle. In total, the album sold 30 million copies worldwide, and one of the songs reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 List.

Since then, Guns N’ Roses had put out five more studio albums and went on eight world tours. Like Deep Purple, they’re set to tour in late 2020 with most of their original lineup.

5. The Beatles

We can’t talk about classic rock bands and not talk about the Beatles, one of the biggest rock stars to come out of England.

The band’s lineup consisted of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. In the ten years they were active, The Beatles were the most popular band on the planet.

Not only that, but to this day, many critics consider The Beatles to be the most influential band of all time. Also, they’re the best-selling music act of all time, and there’s a rough estimate that they’ve sold over 600 million records worldwide.

Unfortunately, the band broke up in 1970, and all of the musicians went on to have solo careers. Out of the four people that made up The Beatles, two of them are still alive. Both still have successful music careers and continue to make and produce music.

6. The Doors

Next up on our classic rock bands countdown, we have The Doors, an American band from Los Angeles. They were one of the most controversial music acts of their time and representatives of the era’s counterculture.

From 1967 to 1972, The Doors put out eight studio albums and sold around 100 million copies. Unfortunately, the band’s frontman, Jim Morrison, died in 1971, but the band continued to tour as a trio for the next few years.

Like Deep Purple, The Doors are Hall of Fame inductees, and many consider them to be one of the greatest artists of all time. They were also the first band in the world to get eight consecutive gold LPs.

7. Kiss

With a music career spanning over four decades, Kiss had incredible success and experimented with various genres. Most people know the band by their elaborate costumes and face paint, as well as unmatched showmanship.

Their live performances usually involved a lot of pyrotechnics, spitting blood, breathing fire, and shooting rockets. But after about ten years on the scene, Kiss decided to ditch their makeup and costumes and began their “unmasked” era.

The band took a hiatus and didn’t perform for several years. But they were back at it in the mid-90s due to a Kiss wave of nostalgia.

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 and announced their final tour five years later. The Kiss World Tour is currently underway, and they’re going to perform their final show in New York City.

8. Led Zeppelin

Coming in at number eight on our list of the best classic rock bands, we have Led Zeppelin. They were an English group from London that experimented with hard, blues, and folk rock. Also, countless critics and music lovers consider Led Zeppelin one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century.

Over the course of ten years, from 1969 to 1979, Led Zeppelin put out eight studio albums. Out of all of those, their unnamed, fourth one, was the biggest success. That was, in part, because the song Stairway to Heaven was on it.

Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980, following the death of their drummer, John Bonham. But they do get together once every few years and play charity concerts.

9. Bon Jovi

The artists that undoubtedly put their mark on classic rock and helped shape the genre are Bon Jovi. The band consists of David Bryan, Hugh McDonald, Tico Torres, Phil X, and, of course, Jon Bon Jovi.

Bon Jovi put out their first album in 1984, and their debut single Runaway was a huge commercial success. Since then, they’ve made 13 other albums and went on 19 tours. What’s more, they’re going on a tour across the U.S. a bit later in 2020.

Some of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits include Livin’ on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, It’s My Life, and Bad Medicine. However, their longest-charting and best-selling single was Always, which actually found bigger success in Europe than the U.S.

10. Black Sabbath

Last but certainly not least, we have one of the most prominent bands of the 70s — Black Sabbath. The group first got together back in 1968 in Birmingham, England. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, and Geezer Butler made up the original lineup.

Over the years, the band has had its fair share of controversies and have changed their lineup quite a few times.

But in June 2018, a few of the original members said that they’d like to get the band back together and perform. Right now, there is no official information, but there’s a chance that they’ll perform at the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Some of Black Sabbath’s most popular songs are War Pigs, Paranoid, and Iron Man.

Final Thoughts

That was our list of the top ten best classic rock bands in history. They’re all icons and trailblazers in their own right, and without them, the rock scene wouldn’t be what it is today. So put on a playlist, blast your speakers, and have fun listening to the best bands of all time!

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