Greatest British bands of all time
27th January 2021
Music is a part of everyone’s lives, from listening to the radio, over music streaming services, on the telly or live. As various lockdowns have gripped the UK over the past 12 months, many have relied on music as a way to unwind, de-stress and forget about the worries that the Coronavirus may bring. For those with limited mobility or those who may rely on home stair lifts or mobility aids like easy access baths, music may be a safe haven for them, taking them back to better times and fond memories. The singers and bands that they make up are celebrities in their own right and all have huge followings and reels of well-known songs that are listened to millions of times a day.
The UK is known for having some of the best music talent in the world, and none more so than its vast array of world-renowned bands that have left their mark on music culture as we see it today. From legends like Queen and The Rollings Stones to Pink Floyd and Oasis, this article takes us on a musical journey into the history and triumphs of the best British bands of all time.
The greatest British bands of all time:
- Pink Floyd
- The Rolling Stones
- The Beatles
- The Bee Gees
- Take That
- Fleetwood Mac
Band members: Syd Barrett (Died in 2006), Nick Mason (76), Roger Waters (77), David Gilmour (74) and Richard Wright (Died in 2008)
Famous songs: Another Brick in the Wall (1979), Comfortably Numb (1979), Money (1973)
Formed in 1965 in the heart of London, Pink Floyd are one of the best-known rock bands of all time. Known for their distinguished and unusual compositions and deep and meaningful lyrics, their music gripped the ears of people from all over the world from the very start.
The five faces that make up the band are questionably more iconic than the name with Syd Barrett as guitar and lead vocals, Nick Mason on drums, David Gilmour on guitar, Roger Waters on bass guitar and vocals and Richard Wright taking the keyword.
A Rose Tinted World is a blog ran by Jo Boyne who is a long time Pink Floyd fan. Jo explains why she thinks the band should be recognised as one of the best of all time and how it reminds her of happy times as a child.
“I think that Pink Floyd need to be recognised as one of the best bands of all time. Their prog-rock and psychedelic music was definitely a large feature in my life growing up. My older brother had all their albums, and whilst I may have been a little young to understand the messages behind some of the lyrics, I always loved the songs. Comfortably Numb is in my opinion one of the best songs of all time.”
Pink Floyd were renowned for their psychedelic sounds that are included in some of their most-loved songs, some of these being, Another Brick in the Wall, which was released in 1979 along with Comfortably Numb. Jo Boyne continues to explain a little more about why she thinks the band are so iconic.
“Not only that but as a group, they have come up with some of the most iconic imagery in music too. Who could forget the image of a pig floating above Battersea Power Station for their ‘Animals’ album, or the prism and rainbow on the front cover of ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’? As a band, they have always taken music to another level of performance, with one of the most recognised of their works being ‘The Wall’, a full movie filled with their music and images. They were pioneers.”
The band last gigged in 2005 as a quartet at the London Live 8 concert and again in 2007 at the Syd Barrett tribute concert.
Band members: Freddie Mercury (Died in 1991), Brian May (73), Roger Taylor (71) and John Deacon (69)
Famous songs: Somebody To Love (1976), Killer Queen (1974), We Will Rock You (1977), We Are The Champions (1977)
Formed in London in 1970, Queen are an icon when it comes to British rock. The classic line up of lead singer Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon is one like no other and was the epitome of British music in the 70s and 80s. May and Taylor knew each other from a previous band called ‘Smile’ which Mercury was a big fan of. Mercury and Deacon joined the band in 1970 and the band name was changed to Queen.
Karen, blogger and founder of The 3am Diary loves Queen and she talks a little more about why she thinks they have to be included: “I have fond memories of long drives with my family from London to Scotland to visit my Nana whilst listening to Queen on full volume. My brother and I used to know the words to all the songs, belting out some of their greatest hits at the top of our lungs, so for me, they'd be a proper nostalgic choice. I hope my own daughter will have fond memories of our road trips to visit our family too and singing along to certain bands, even if she likes everything and anything right now - especially as we're trying to get her to love Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones as much as we do and always have them playing in our house!”
With a staggering 15 studio albums, the band are one of the greatest of all time and that doesn’t include the incredible 700ish live performances they gigged during their time. Some of their standout songs can be found in titles like Killer Queen, released in 1974, Somebody to Love which was released in 1976, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions which were both released in 1977 – to name just a few. The band also gripped the UK charts with their Christmas hit Thank God It’s Christmas which aired in 1984.
Freddie died in 1991 which spelt the end of the band as it was known, but May, Deacon and Taylor often tribute the iconic man and the band he made legendary in one-off concerts and interviews. You can follow the story of Queen in the recent cinematic film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
The Rolling Stones
Band members: Mick Jagger (77), Keith Richards (77), Charlie Watts (79), Ronnie Wood (73)
Famous songs: Satisfaction (1965), Tumbling Dice (1972), Start Me Up (1981), Angie (1973)
The Rolling Stones, much like Queen are an iconic quartet with years and years of music and history that is still loved to this day. Formed in London in 1962 their unique pop, rock music rocked the country for generations and still graces playlists and radio stations to this day. The band has seen many members come and go but the iconic four are made up of Mick Jagger who is known for being lead singer, Keith Richards as guitar and vocals, Charlie Watts on drums and Ronnie Wood on guitar.
Their height of fame was seen between 1965 and 1967 with their first international hit coming in the form of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The band has performed over 2,000 concerts across the UK and the rest of the world, has eight number one singles and a huge twelve number one albums.
They still continue to impress audiences across the globe with the likes of their awe-inspiring Glastonbury set in 2013 that saw hundreds of thousands of fans gather at Worthy Farm in Pilton to sing classics and rock like it was the 1970’s.
Band members: John Lennon (Died in 1980), Paul McCartney (78), George Harrison (Died in 2001), Ringo Star (80)
Famous songs: Here Comes The Sun (1969), Come Together (1969), I Want To Hold Your Hand (1964)
Where to start when it comes to The Beatles? Formed in their hometown Liverpool in 1960, the foursome stopped at nothing to become one of the biggest bands ever. They are regarded as one of the most influential bands of all time, they have album after album of great, iconic hits that are still as popular as ever. Each band member is a celebrity in their own right – John Lennon was known for being the lead vocalist and guitarist, Paul McCartney who was his sidekick as lead vocalist and bassist, George Harrison as lead guitarist and Ringo Star as the drummer.
The band are known for some of their greatest hits, Yellow Submarine, which was released in 1968, Come Together which was first aired in 1969 and Here Comes The Sun which was also released in the same year. Paul McCartney is still making music to this day and was listed to headline the 2020 Glastonbury festival before it was cancelled.
The Beatles are also well-known for the artwork on their record covers as these record covers have been made into some of the world’s most popular posters and home artwork, none more so than Abbey Road. The band last performed as a four in 1969.
Band members: Sara Dallin (59), Siobhan Fahey (62), Keren Woodward (59)
Famous songs: Venus (1986), Shy Boy (1983), A Trick of The Night (1986)
Bananarama is an all English female pop music group, who were originally a trio when formed in London in 1979. Friends Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward empowered the charts and were listed in the Guinness World Records for having the world's highest number of chart entries by an all-female group.
Between 1982 and 2009 the band had a huge 28 singles in the top 50 in the UK charts and 5 sell-out concert tours. Their famous pop songs include Venus, released in 1986, Shy Boy from 1983 and A Trick Of The Night which aired in 1986.
Siobhan Fahey left the group in 1988 and formed the group Shakespears Sister, which became best known for the number one single in 1992 titled Stay. The duo of Dallin and Woodward continued to produce music until Fahey re-joined the group in 2017 before they toured the UK and North America until 2018.
The Bee Gees
Band members: Barry Gibb (74), Maurice Gibb (Died in 2003), Robin Gibb (Died in 2012)
Famous songs: You Should Be Dancing (1998), Holiday (1967), Stayin Alive (1977)
Made up of the Gibb brothers, The Bee Gees are known for their iconic high-pitch vocals and funky beats. Born on the Isle of Man to British parents the band formed in 1958 with their music hitting the charts in the late 60s and early 70s.
As a band, they have sold more than 120 million records worldwide, had nine singles reaching number one in the charts and countless international tours. Although Robin and Maurice are no longer alive, Barry still gigs and has featured at Glastonbury on several occasions.
The songs that made the band iconic include Stayin Alive from 1977, Holiday which was one of their first successful singles in 1967 and You Should Be Dancing which came at the height of their fame in 1998.
The band briefly reformed in 2009 after the death of Maurice to keep the Bee Gee spark alive until Robin passed away in 2012.
Band members: Matt Bellamy (42), Chris Wolstenholme (42), Dominic Howard (43)
Famous songs: Uprising (2009), Supermassive Black Hole (2006), Time is Running Out (2003)
Formed in 1994, Muse is one of the newer bands in the line-up but still one of the very best. Made up of Matt Bellamy, guitarist and lead singer, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard the band hail from Teignmouth in Devon releasing their first album Showbiz in 1999.
James Hopes, who is a huge Muse fan and blogs at You Have To Laugh, explained a little more about why he thinks Muse are the best live band of all time: “The best live band I've ever been lucky enough to see on many, many occasions are Muse. Formed in the mid-90s down in Devon they first found fame in 1999 with the release of their first studio album, Showbiz.”
Muse have been performing across the globe for 22-years taking city by city and country by country by storm with classic heavy rock songs like Super Massive Black Hole and Uprising, James explains a little more about their career.
“Twenty-two years later and with six consecutive number one albums behind them, Muse are still famous for putting on amazing live shows across the world. Their style has changed and evolved with the times, with each album taking you on a completely different journey to the last. What doesn't change though are Matt Bellamy's amazing vocals, including a pretty epic falsetto, and the band's overall sense of energy and drama! Muse have always produced music that makes you feel something and watching them live feels like being part of a show. A truly great British band, known across the world for being a group that has genuine talent.”
Muse are the only band in the line-up still producing music and touring to this day with their most recent album Simulation Theory being released in 2018.
Band members: Noel Gallagher (53), Liam Gallagher (48), Tony McCarroll (49), Paul McGuigan
(49) and Paul Arthurs (55)
Famous songs: Live Forever (1994), Wonderwall (1995), Don’t Look Back in Anger (1995), Cigarettes & Alcohol (1994)
Oasis, a British rock band formed in 1991 and originating from Manchester are best known for their lead singing brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher and their nostalgic notes and world-famous lyrics. Their record-setting first album released in 1994 titled Definitely Maybe set the precedence for their success and their influence played a huge part for noughties music. Carley, blogger and huge Oasis fan from Unicorn Puffs and Rainbows went into detail about why she loves Oasis and the influence they have had on her childhood:
“As a teenager in the 90s, it will have to be Oasis if I was pushed to choose just one. The Gallagher brothers were a huge part of my youth and hearing the opening seconds of many of their songs takes me back. Live Forever - off the first album- Definitely Maybe is nostalgic of my childhood. The rivalry between Oasis and Blur and the Brit-pop chart battle decided friendships and divided opinions. It was a fab culture and I am so lucky to have been part of it. The albums with songs that make you want to turn the radio up and stay in the car once you have arrived home are a true indication that Oasis deserves a spot in the greatest British bands of all time.”
The band sold close to 75 million records across the globe making them one of the bestselling bands of all time behind The Beatles, as well as bagging eight UK number ones. Liam and Noel have had successful solo careers since the band split in 2009 and often feature at UK festivals.
Band members: Gary Barlow (50), Howard Donald (52), Mark Owen (48), Robbie Williams (46) and Jason Orange (50)
Famous songs: Relight My Fire (1993), Could It Be Magic (1996), Rule The World (2006), Pray (1993)
Another band formed in Manchester but this time in 1990, Take That has a ranging cast with some of the best UK singers of all time. Originally consisting of Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams and Jason Orange, Jason and Robbie left the band in 1995 and 2014. The band had huge success in the early nineties with Pray becoming their first number one singles in 1993, just three years after their formation.
“With a career spanning 30 years Take That have sold more records than any other band since the Beatles,” comments Gemma Connor editor at Family On The Go, she continues. “They started off as a heartthrob pop band of five in the 1990s with four consecutive number ones but sadly split in 1996. But it is their come back in 2005 that puts them in the hotspot for me. Not only have they continued to wow their original fans but they have gained a whole new demographic contributing to their further 4 no 1 hits making 12 in total. Although getting older themselves (Gary has just turned 50) their live shows have wowed audiences of all ages. With band members Robbie and Jason leaving at different times, they have also shown their ability to adapt putting out great songs and put on amazing shows as a three!”
As Gemma mentions, the band bounced back after two of their band members decided to leave and have consistently produced great music and tour the globe like they once did, and still do to this day.
Band members: Christine McVie (77), Peter Green (Died in 2020), Michael Fleetwood (73), John McVie (75), Stevie Nicks (72) and Lindsey Buckingham (71)
Famous songs: Everywhere (1987), Dreams (1977), Rhiannon (1975), Go Your Own Way (1977)
A British-American rock band formed in London in 1967, Fleetwood Mac are the only mixed-sex band in the list but are still one of the very best! Known for their country-blues music with soulful lyrics and calming tones they rocked the charts with Everywhere in 1987 and Dreams in 1977 and have since sold over 120 million records worldwide, making them one of the greatest bands of all time alongside The Beatles and Oasis. They have conquered 20 worldwide tours between 1970 and 2019, a magnificent triumphant in itself.
Fronted by lead singer Stevie Nicks and backed up by the sounds of guitarist Michael Fleetwood, their records are iconic and unmissable. The band split in 1995, reforming in 1997 and still continuing to perform for their dedicated fans to this day across the globe.
Music is all around us, from on the television to on radio and on our phones, why not celebrate some of these iconic British bands in your spare time and boogie to some outright classics from decades gone by.
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