26. ZZ Top
American Rock band, ZZ Top was formed in 1969 in Houston Texas. The band’s lead vocalist and guitarist created the band, and its members have mostly stayed the same since its formation. Several of the band’s members have been in the band for more than 50 years like Dusty Hill, the group's bass player until his death in 2021.
ZZ Top is most famous for their outrageous live performances and iconic long beards. ZZ Top has released 15 studio albums, four live albums, and seven compilation albums since it was formed. They have sold over 25 million albums and sold additional albums overseas, making them a highly successful band with 44 singles.
When most people think of Kiss, images of heavy makeup, elaborate costumes, high-heeled boots, blood running out of Gene Simmons’ mouth, and hard-rocking guitars likely come to mind. You either love them or hate them, but the mark they made on the world of rock and roll cannot be denied.
The band formed in 1973 and has released two dozen studio albums since then. You can still catch a show on their current “End of the Road” tour. Its current members are Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons who have remained with the band from the beginning, as well as Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer.
This British-American band was formed in NYC in 1976. With a long stream of hits like “Hot Blooded”, “Cold as Ice”, and “Urgent”, this band is still waiting for recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They also found an audience in prom-worthy power ballads like “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You”.
The band has replaced a number of its members over and over again throughout the years. Only one of the band's original members remains — Mick Jones, who provides lead vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals. The band has released 10 studio albums since its formation.
23. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan and company will always be special to me because this was my first real rock concert. They can absolutely rock your socks off, and I’m so glad they still tour and share their talents with old and new fans. “I Love Rock and Roll” is the band’s biggest hit, but they also put out a great cover of “Crimson and Clover”.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts had released 10 albums since the band's formation, starting with their debut album I Love Rock 'n Roll. Only Joan Jett has remained with the band since the beginning. All other band members have been replaced at some point. Thommy Price spent the second-longest time in the band, providing drums from the mid-'80s to mid-2010s.
22. Green Day
Since the release of Dookie in 1994, these guys from Berkeley, CA, have reminded us that punk rock has a place among classic rock icons. They are known for taking a stand with songs like “American Idiot”, which later became a Broadway show of the same name. I’ve enjoyed some of their releases more than others, but “Basket Case” has a solid standing as my favorite.
For its debut album Dookie, it eventually shipped out over 10 million copies. American Idiot by comparison sold six million copies. Altogether, the band has sold 75 million albums worldwide. They have been nominated for 20 Grammys and have won five of them, including two awards for Best Rock Album and one for Record of the Year.
With Michael Hutchence’s strong vocals and oozing sex appeal, this band was perfect for the MTV generation. Before Hutchence’s untimely death in 1997, the group racked up a string of hits including “Need You Tonight”, “Original Sin”, and “Don’t Change”. Originally the Farriss Brothers, the band became INXS by 1979.
It was "Original Sin" that was their number one hit. By the mid-1980s, the band started to become an international success. "Need You Tonight" was the band's only US number-one single. INXS has sold over 75 million albums worldwide, making them one of the biggest bands from Australia. The band, however, has not been active since 2012.
20. Cheap Trick
It was only after a live album recorded in Japan that these Rockford, IL guys made American listeners sit up and take notice. With radio favorites like “Surrender”, “Dream Police”, and “I Want You to Want Me,” this hard-working band has made its mark across decades with people listening even today.
The band was formed in 1973, in Illinois, by guitarist Rick Nielsen, lead singer Randy Hogan, bassist Tom Petersson, and drummer Bun E. Carlos. Since then, some band members have changed, but Cheap Trick is still actively performing. In 2016, the band was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.
I have three words for you: Don’t. Stop. Believin’. I would be willing to bet you sang the words as you read them. That song is so ingrained in our culture. It’s an absolute classic, along with “Lovin’, Touchin’ & Squeezin’,” “Open Arms”, and so many more songs from their catalog.
While the band formed in 1973 in San Francisco, Journey reached the height of its success between 1978 and 1987. Thus far, the band has achieved twenty-five gold and platinum albums, plus nineteen Top 40 singles in the U.S. In 2005, perhaps their most famous song, "Don't Stop Believin'" reached the number three spot on iTunes, showing that their music very much resonates with the younger generations.
18. Def Leppard
It might be easy to dismiss them as an ‘80s hair band, but Def Leppard remains relevant and still tours today. With a huge laundry list of hits and a treasure trove of classic videos, I can’t imagine them not being on this list. They provided the backdrop for a good portion of my college years.
Their distinct sound can be heard on “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Love Bites”, “Photograph”, and so much more. The band consists of Joe Elliot providing the lead vocals, Rick Savage providing the bass and backing vocals, Rick Allen on the drums, along with Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell on the guitars.
17. Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi was formed in 1983 in New Jersey. At the lead was Jon Bon Jovi, providing the lead vocals, keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, bassist Hugh McDonald, and guitarist Phil X. The band remains active today and has sold over 130 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling American rock bands of all time.
Since the first time I heard “Runaway” in 1984, I was hooked. While some of their later releases have strayed from their rock roots, classics like “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”, and “Wanted Dead or Alive” have earned them a spot on this list. P.S. I love you, Jon.
The band actually formed in 1967 but really took off when sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson joined in 1973. Between Ann’s powerful vocals and Nancy’s incredible guitar skills, they were destined for stardom. “Barracuda” and “Magic Man” are so ingrained most people can recognize them from the very first note.
As mentioned, the Seattle band formed in 1967, but then they were known as The Army. Two years later they became Hocus Pocus, and by 1973, they changed it to Heart — the name we all recognize. In 2013, much of the band's core members were recognized and inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.
Since 1973, these Aussies have marked their spot as rock icons with their hard-hitting songs and energetic performances. “Back in Black”, “Highway to Hell”, and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” are undeniable classics. With performances so loud your ears were guaranteed to be ringing for the next day or two, fans only wanted more.
Easily one of the biggest rock bands to come from Australia would have to be AC/DC. The band was formed in 1973 by Scottish-born Malcolm and Angus Young. Many of the other original band's members were swapped out before 1975, when their first big hit album High Voltage was released.
With his scarf-adorned microphones, Steven Tyler’s instantly recognizable lead vocals have been a part of the rock landscape since 1970. They made history with Run DMC in a new take on “Walk this Way” in 1986. The video for the song literally knocked down walls, and the song introduced listeners to something completely different.
Aerosmith is another one of the best-selling rock bands of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide, including 85 million records in the US alone. “Dream On,” "Walk This Way," "Crazy," and “Sweet Emotion” are among their long list of hits from the Boston-based band.
These guys could play anything and flowed between genres with crossover hits other bands just couldn't pull off. I can't imagine anyone who doesn't know all about "the corner in Winslow, Arizona", and the internet is flooded by photos of fans who make that pilgrimage just because the song, and the band, meant so much to them.
From heavy hitters like "Heartache Tonight" to softer classics like "New Kid in Town," they still fill our playlists with songs we love to sing along to in cars, showers, and karaoke bars. Pretty much everyone knows "Hotel California." The band has five number-one singles and six number-one albums.
12. The Cars
This band also cashed in on the peak of MTV in the ‘80s with creative and quirky videos as a match for their catchy songs. They helped define the new wave era of rock and were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has “Just What I Needed”, “Best Friend’s Girl”, and “Drive” on heavy play rotation.
The Cars were another band formed in Boston back in 1976. It consisted of band members Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, and David Robinson. Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr did most of the vocals, but Ocasek was the band's main songwriter. The band was mostly active between 1976 to 1988, but they made a comeback in 2010 and then in 2018.
Grunge is a label given to this band and others who emerged from the Seattle area music scene in the early ‘90s. Nirvana seemed to stand out from all the rest and the world realized they were on to something completely different and game-changing when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves.
Before lead singer Kurt Cobain’s shocking suicide, these guys gave us a long list of amazing songs and a timeless MTV Unplugged performance. Some of their most memorable songs included "Come As You Are," "In Bloom," and "Lithium." In 2014, the band was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.
10. REO Speedwagon
It's hard to believe these guys started in 1967. They're still touring and making new fans along the way. While most folks might think of their power ballads like "Can't Fight this Feeling" and "Keep on Loving You", they definitely know how to rock. "Back on the Road Again" and "Don't Let Him Go" are a couple of examples.
For me, "Time for Me to Fly" and "That Ain't Love" are the perfect songs to play on repeat when you're realizing it's time to leave a bad relationship. There really is something for everyone in their long discography. The Illinois band's best-selling album is Hi-Fidelity which was released in 1980.
9. Van Halen
Despite numerous line-up changes over the years, this band has managed to deliver memorable and innovative hits since the late ‘70s. Eddie Van Halen’s mad guitar skills are the glue that holds everything together. There might be arguments about the best lead singer, David Lee Roth or Sammy Haggar, but the band’s mark on rock cannot be denied.
“Jump”, “Panama”, “Finish What You Started”, and a cover of “You Really Got Me” are just a sample of their expansive catalog. The band from Pasadena was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. After the lead, Eddie Van Halen had died of cancer in 2020, just ten days after the bassist Mark Stone had died, the band split.
8. Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
This band put their own spin on rock by adding orchestral elements that elevated everything they produced. I don’t think anyone can help smiling listening to “Mr. Blue Sky”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. Classics like “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” have stood the test of time, and in 2017, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
ELO had formed in Birmingham, England in 1970. Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood provided much of the band's instrumentals and songwriting. At the start of their career, they were active between 1970 to 1983. However, they have made several comebacks after that point, and now they've been active since 2014.
7. Foo Fighters
This is my absolute favorite live band of all time. You can see in their performances how much they genuinely love what they are doing and give their fans everything they’ve got. They were initially recognized for their silly music videos, but the music stands for itself. “Best of You”, “Learn to Fly”, “Everlong”, and “Monkey Wrench” are examples of their rock staples.
After the remainder of Nirvana disbanded, David Grohl was left to fend for himself, but he showed that he was a man of plenty of talent outside of Nirvana. The Foo Fighters have stayed together since 1994 and have won 12 Grammy Awards since then. In 2021, they were inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.
6. Fleetwood Mac
Despite the famous personal drama among the band members, these talented musicians have managed to use their love affairs and heartbreaks as golden song material. “Go Your Own Way” might just be the ultimate breakup song. With band members taking turns on lead vocals, they still retain a distinctive sound and know just how to reach their audience with a multitude of feelings.
“Landslide”, “Dreams”, and “You Make Loving Fun”, among others, have secured their spot among rock royalty. The original Fleetwood Mac was formed back in 1967 but was not the band we all recognize. It wasn't until band members Lindsey Buckingham (lead guitar) and Stevie Nicks (lead vocals) that they became the legend they are today.
5. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
I still have to remind myself that Tom Petty died. His instantly recognizable voice, relatable songwriting, and ability to master numerous instruments helped lead this band to iconic status. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “Breakdown”, “Refugee”, and so many others are just rock magic. While Tom Petty may have died, his music certainly lives on in our hearts.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers formed in Gainesville, Florida, and they remained active until 2017 when Petty died. Among the band's greatest hit singles were "Breakdown," "American Girl," "The Waiting," and "Learning to Fly." The band was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, just as soon as they were eligible.
I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t at least tempted to sing along with “Bohemian Rhapsody” when it’s played. The band formed in 1970 in London and made their presence known until Freddie Mercury’s untimely death in 1991. These guys manage to blend rock with opera, among other unconventional strides in music, and the world loved it.
With an over-the-top lead singer and overflowing talent throughout the band, we can thank them every time we hear “We are the Champions” at a sporting event and “Fat Bottomed Girls” when we need a perfect road trip song. Even after the legendary Freddie Mercury's death, the band has remained active with Adam Lambert currently providing the lead vocals.
3. Led Zeppelin
With sexually charged lyrics and long, rhythmic masterpieces, these guys have been blowing our minds since the late ‘60s. They’re most recognized for “Stairway to Heaven” but have gifted us with so much more. “Kashmir” just oozes sexual tension, while “Whole Lotta Love” blatantly puts it right out there for all to see.
As stated in the classic ‘80s movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “When it comes to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV”. Their legacy goes way beyond sex though; they brought us rock in a unique and palatable way. Although 1968 to 1980 were their most active years, they have had several reunions since.
2. The Beatles
I went back and forth on this ranking, but ultimately placed this band that defines so much of music at number two because much of their catalog seems to be more pop than rock to me. Where they do really, truly rock is on songs that include “Helter Skelter,” “Revolution,” “Back in the USSR.”
Their influence and mark on music history simply cannot be denied. I think most bands since have looked to their musical artistry and groundbreaking superstardom as blueprints for their own careers. While the band was active for only 10 years, the fact that their impact on the industry has lasted to this day, says a lot.
1. The Rolling Stones
When I think of rock, I automatically think of the Stones. They are perpetual bad boys, making their own rules along the way. They have been rocking since 1962, initially presenting themselves as a blues band. Over the years, they have morphed into the world’s greatest rock band, but that blues influence is still clear and defines much of their music.
Now in the geriatric age range, they are still touring, still selling out venues, still defining rock and roll. From “Gimme Shelter” to “Satisfaction” and “Beast of Burden”, this band is the very definition of rock. Over the years, the band has had an estimated sales record of 200 million and has won three Grammy Awards.