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As for the greatest classic rock bands ever, this list can be left up to interpretation. Some bands are going to be in the conversation regardless of the criteria or the participants in the conversation. Debates have raged on for years over this topic and will likely continue to do so for generations to come.
When devising a list of the five greatest classic rock bands ever, you are inevitably going to leave names off and add names that some will feel unworthy. That’s okay, that’s what lists are for – to inspire, to provoke, to get the conversation going. Younger listeners may not know some of the great classic rock bands, others will know every name on the list.
Determining the List
So, what is the criteria for such a list? Do we go by genre? Rock is a pretty wide-ranging topic. Perhaps we break it down to sub-genre, which gives us all of the variants of rock music that exist – progressive rock, blues-infused rock, surf rock, hard rock. You could make a list of the five greatest rock bands for each of these.
The UK has delivered some of the greatest classic rock bands ever, but Rush hailed from Canada and they proved they could rock as hard as the rest. The late (and great) Neil Peart is often considered the best drummer of all time and while he has considerable company in Bonham, Keith Moon, and Ginger Baker, Peart had them all beat, by a landslide. He also wrote most of the band’s lyrics. Perhaps, the most remarkable thing about Rush is that only three musicians were responsible for the sound and fury that was their trademark.
2. Led Zeppelin
Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham. Arguably four of the greatest musicians to ever come together to form a band. They embraced every genre, the blues, reggae, hard rock, progressive, just to name a few. Jimmy Page will always be considered one of the best guitarists of all time but Bonham’s drums, Plant’s voice, and Jones’ bass were each irreplaceable in their own way. Remove one element and it would cease to be a Led Zeppelin song.
Freddie Mercury’s voice was unlike any other, classically trained and capable of performing operatic verses and stanzas. He often upstaged the rest of the group, with Brian May holding his own alongside Mercury with his lyrics and guitar licks. From some of the most memorable bass lines ever recorded to melodies and lyrics that everyone knows by heart, Queen will long be remembered as one of the best.
4. The Rolling Stones
Performing together for over half a century, this band has given us some of the most iconic classic rock songs ever written. Martin Scorsese loves them so much; their music has been in many of his films. Only the greats endure as long as this band has lasted.
Perhaps the most theatrically abundant classic rock band ever to hit the stage. Originally led by Peter Gabriel, the band went through two incarnations, the Gabriel era which relied on lengthy songs with multiple timing and psychedelic lyrics, and the Phil Collins era which saw the band’s drummer take over in the late 70’s through the 2000’s. Their sound changed significantly, as the band became more radio friendly.