Top 9 Iconic Bands That Shaped Music History

people at a night concert - Top 9 Iconic Bands That Shaped Music History

From rock anthems that echo in stadiums to ballads that touch our souls, these legendary bands left an undeniable mark on music history. Their influence reaches far and wide, transcending genres and becoming symbols of a cultural revolution.

Jim Morrison’s sensual baritone and shamanistic stage antics made The Doors one of the most influential bands ever. Their rebellious spirit and poetic philosophy influenced bands to be more socially conscious.

1. The Beatles

After releasing their first single in 1962, The Beatles were a phenomenon. Their music touched all corners of the world and they were a symbol for the youth of their time. Their adoring fans were called Beatlemania and they threw themselves into anything The Beatles did. This included touring, recording and even a movie.

Their music was influenced by rock-n-roll, skiffle and blues as well as the traditional pop of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. But they added something unique to their style. They incorporated different traditions and cultures into their music through the use of sitar in songs like Norwegian Wood by George Harrison and even a bit of improvisational jazz.

They were also pioneers in business and recording techniques and forewent performing live shows in favor of studio recordings. This allowed them to develop a more sophisticated studio sound and create the first true “recording band.” They were the first to make their place of origin a significant part of their global appeal.

2. The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones forged the model for modern rock-and-roll bands. From Beggars to Exile, their albums shaped the rock music landscape. Their master narrative of rebellion, lust, loss, and rebirth was a blueprint for future musicians.

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were classmates in elementary school, and reunited in 1960 at a train station as Jagger commuted to his art classes at Sidcup Art College. Their friendship grew strong as the band began to grow their popularity.

From the beginning, the band was shaped by the London R&B club scene fostered by British Blues pioneers Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. The Stones mined Black music traditions with unparalleled creative energy. Their fetishization of Black music was evident in their early performances, where they would slur and strut their way through songs. The Altamont tragedy seemed to validate this image of a dangerous, outsider-band. But, this was also a band that had a deep and profound relationship to their own roots of American Blues.

3. Queen

The legendary band from London became a staple in the music scene due to their unique sound and electrifying performances. Freddie Mercury’s powerful voice, Brian May’s creative guitar solos, and John Deacon’s rhythmic bass lines combined to create an iconic sound that captivated audiences.

Queen’s songs often explored themes that defied binaries, ranging from playful and lighthearted to serious and enlightened. This was especially evident in their multi-part epic Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that takes listeners on a ride with changing tempos and pitches.

The band’s first two albums were met with varying degrees of success, but it wasn’t until Sheer Heart Attack and A Night at the Opera that they gained widespread recognition. Throughout their career, the band would release several hit singles, including Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust. Their iconic performance at Live Aid in 1985 further solidified their status as a musical phenomenon. Explore the legacy of Queen with unforgettable live experiences by checking out Queen tribute bands that rock the stage.

4. The Who

A pioneer of rock-and-roll, The Who straddled the gap between art-pop and hard-rock, creating kinetic, exploratory music that expanded the genre’s lexicon. Fronted by Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the group blended the R&B-besotted Mod scene with crunching power chords. They also pushed the boundaries of live performance, with volcanic shows that could devolve into Townshend shattering his guitar and Keith Moon destroying his drum kit.

Their double album Tommy rocketed them to fame, with a rock opera that addressed issues Townshend considered topical in the late 1960s. While the band continued to write singles, their success with Tommy meant audiences came to expect them to perform the entire album at every show. By 1975’s disarmingly personal The Who by Numbers, the group’s popularity was on the wane, and they took an extended hiatus (although Townshend continued recording with relative success). In 2022, the Who returned to the stage for a major tour, augmented by a symphony orchestra.

5. Pink Floyd

In a music industry where bands get labeled by genre and thrown into categories, Pink Floyd stands out as something more. It’s a band that embodied an era and captured an emotion that nobody else could or will ever replicate.

Their origin story begins in 1960s London when the four founding members met in an architectural college. They shared a love for blues music and later branched out into more progressive rock and psychedelic sounding songs under Barrett’s leadership.

But it was their enigmatic concept albums that really set them apart. Albums like More, Ummagumma and Wish You Were Here spoke to bleak themes of death and emotional breakdown. Those dark themes were paired with a sense of beauty and theatrical ambition in their live performances. It took a special kind of person to balance these different perspectives but few bands have been able to do it as well as Pink Floyd did.

two people playing musical instruments - Top 9 Iconic Bands That Shaped Music History
6. Led Zeppelin

During the 1970s Led Zeppelin was the biggest rock band of all time selling millions of records and tickets for their concerts. The band was infamous for living a ‘rated R’ lifestyle that involved heavy drinking, drugs and trashing hotel rooms.

Page’s fearless guitar riffs, Jones’ intricate bass lines and Bonham’s thunderous drumming are what people think of when they hear the name Led Zeppelin. Plant’s mane of long blond hair helped him create the image of a powerful rock god.

Their 1976 album Presence is widely considered to be their finest work with a gradual build up of riff-heavy electric fury over a sweet acoustic opening. The album is a true classic and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

7. Black Sabbath

It’s no exaggeration to say that Black Sabbath changed music forever. Their groundbreaking music shook the very foundations of rock, and their influence extended to other areas of culture as well.

Ozzy Osbourne’s unique vocal style and the band’s heaviness and brooding instrumental arrangements set them apart from their musical peers. Their use of theatrical elements like smoke, fire and dramatic lighting paved the way for live performances to be more than just concerts; they were immersive experiences.

Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were originally in psychedelic bands called Rare Breed and Mythology before answering an ad in a Birmingham music shop for “bass player needed.” They changed their name to Black Sabbath, taking the name from the song by American hard rock band Crow that warned cruel-hearted women to stay away from them (and also was the basis of the band’s logo). Black Sabbath pioneered heavy metal and influenced countless other bands with their blend of bluesy riffs and dark subject matter.

8. Coldplay

Coldplay’s soaring melodies and heartfelt lyrics made them one of the biggest bands of the 2000s. Their debut album Parachutes launched them to success, but it was their sophomore effort A Rush of Blood to the Head that cemented them as a worldwide phenomenon. From there they went on to release an assortment of hit albums and singles including Yellow, Clocks, Viva la Vida, Speed of Sound, A Sky Full of Stars and many more.

Even after achieving massive global fame, the band continues to push the boundaries of music. They notably debuted their 2019 album ‘Music of the Spheres’ with an exclusive show at London’s Natural History Museum, where they only played to 2,000 lucky fans! The band is also well known for their activism, with Chris Martin advocating for climate change and supporting a number of charitable causes.

9. Prince & The Revolution

In addition to being a masterful artist in his own right, Prince was a trailblazer for black artists. He pushed the envelope on sexuality and racial representation in music videos well before Madonna or Michael Jackson. His sexy falsetto and sultry lyrics made him one of the most charismatic performers ever, onstage as much as in his recordings.

From the funk of Sign O’ The Times to the jazzy arrangements in Parade, Prince incorporated a variety of styles into his musical repertoire. His refusal to be pinned down by genre was a testament to his own genius and inspired bands like LCD Soundsystem and Vampire Weekend to experiment with their own sound.

Prince’s battles to defend his creative rights will ensure that his legacy is heard in the precise voice he intended it to be. He was a true inspiration to musicians to own their own uniqueness and helped shape the more accepting, colorful world that’s crystalizing in our society today.

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