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Hard rock is a form of rock ‘n’ roll music that emerged in the early 1960s. Its roots can be traced back to garage and psychedelic rock. Hard rock is performed with the heavy use of electric guitars, bass guitar, and drums. The hard rock term can encompass genres such as punk and grunge.
Rock ‘n’ roll and its variations can co-exist with hard rock, although hard rock catalyzes a superfluous amount of distorted sound to create a relationship with melody. Hard rock became the reflection of societal change and the moods of the younger generation. Music based on an anti-war theme, the civil rights movement created a platform for dissenting and formulated the public attitude.
Throughout the decade’s hard rock has seen its ups and downs; attached itself to a negative aspect, the use of illicit drugs among its musicians, and fans; considered a harmful societal factor. However, hard rock established itself as a communication medium that can unify different types of people regardless of cultural/racial difference.
Also, throughout the decades, many hard rock bands, musicians emerged, attempted to introduce the audience to a new dimension of melody, songs. Surging electrifying power through the audience, they produced the excellent combination of guitar, bass, and drums. I attempted to create a top 50 list of such hard rock bands and musicians that showed similar features. I ranked them based on their musical/instrumental excellence, song-crafting ability, historical appreciation, and accomplishments.
1. Led Zeppelin – formed in London in 1968, Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, had developed their reputation as the hardest, heaviest, and hottest band in the world. The record, Led Zeppelin IV, went on to sell 37 million copies worldwide. Songs like “Stairway to Heaven”, “Whole Lotta Love” earned the band prominence, and financial success. Led Zeppelin are one of the best selling music artists. It is estimated their record sales move somewhere between 200 and 300 million units worldwide.
2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath, an English band, formed in Birmingham in 1968. Although They were critiqued a lot in their time, but attained success in our time. Three decades the vocal of Black Sabbath was recognized as the God of Heavy Metal. Black Sabbath led the way for many bands. Their album Sabotage (1975) was certified Platinum. Black Sabbath sold 70 million copies worldwide.
3. Jimi Hendrix – born in Seattle in 1942. Jimi Hendrix is considered the world’s greatest ever guitar hero. Hendrix wanted to pursue a career like his guitar idols, he travelled to London in 1966. His “Star Spangled Banner” etched in many people’s mind as a symbol against war and occupation. His iconic performance became an important part of American History. His two renowned records “Axis: Bold as Love”, and “Electric Ladyland” were the products of unheard of blend of plodding, psychedelic harmony.
4. AC/DC – an Australian hard rock band; emerged in November 1973. Widely considered as the pioneers of heavy, AC/DC is still one of the most popular bands in recent time. Innovative, and stylish songs’ groove made them distinguishable. “Highway to Hell”, “Back in Black”, etc. to name a few as their greatest creations.
5. Metallica – Metallica is an American Thrash Metal band formed in 1981. If Zeppelin powered the hard rock genre, and Black Sabbath was rose to fame first, then Metallica reigned the Peak Era. Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets; these two albums levered Metallica, and earned Thrash Metal a place in the Billboard Charts.
6. Nirvana – Nirvana was so successful that their profound effects made people forget how short the timeframe is. Nirvana’s first album debuted in 1991. By 1994, the band started diminishing. However, Nirvana’s huge success introduced people with a wonderful blend of charismatic sound, and melody.
7. Guns N’ Roses – formed in 1985, Guns N’ Roses is an American hard rock band, revived the modern twist of rock. Many people recognize them from their famed album “Appetite for Destruction”. Since then, Guns N’ Roses prominence became thunderous. They took many forms, and introduced many features in the band lineup. Their songs like Nighttrain, Civil War, Estranged, etc. rock people to the core.
8. The Who – an English rock band, formed in 1964, a brief glance through The Who’s discography can make the best young musician take a long hard look in the mirror. The Who’s current worldwide still captivates the audience as they did in the 70’s, and 80’s. The Who produced destructive tunes like “Who Are You”, “Eminence Front.” The Who sold 100 million copies worldwide. “Pinball Wizard” is their most recognizable track.
9. Aerosmith – considered as the America’ greatest rock n’ roll band, Aerosmith released their debut album in 1973. You can get a whiff of the Rolling Stones from their early works, however they established, and produced electrifying songs that spanned decades; the 70’s through the 90’s .Armageddon, What it Takes, Last Saddle, Dream On are some of their best songs.
10. The Sex Pistols – formed in 1975 as part of the London Pub Rock scene, quickly rose to fame because of songs like “God Save the Queen”, which reached the second top on the sales chart. The Sex Pistols produced four singles, and one album. Their only album “Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” was a #1 hit.
11. Van Halen – Van Halen is an American rock band; formed in 1972. They deserve adulation for having an excellent straight-up rock n’ roll background. The band’s popular and best songs created a perfect harmony between the nudge nudge (wink wink) lyricism, and Roth’s masculinity, and Eddie’s remarkable guitar prowess. Eddie Van Halen is credited with re-creating modern rock guitar playing from their song “Eruption”. “On Fire”, “Romeo Delight”, “Panama” are a few popular tracks performed by Van Halen.
12. Kiss – you have got to thank 1974 for introducing KISS to the world. KISS is an American rock band formed in 1973 by Gene Simmons. The band’s members were notorious for uncanny face painting, marketing, and drama. Songs like “God of Thunder”, “Beth”, “Black Diamond” reinforced their appeal as one of the greatest.
13. Queen – Queen, a British rock band, were formed in 1970. Queen gained prominence because of strong vocalist ability, and excellent guitarist performance. Dubbed one of the most harmonic rock bands, Queen members were talented in producing music. Amplified hard rock, or piano-based pop, or miniature symphonies; Queen strength comes from their diverse, and electric skills. “We Will Rock You / We are the Champions”, where would the sports world be without this song? You could hear this song bumping before sports presentation, ceremony, or movie promotion. Recently US Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump, used this song to make his entrance look grand. “Stone Cold Crazy”,”Killer Queen”, “Tie your Mother Down” won the hearts of millions.
14. SoundGarden – they have long been labelled with “grunge” tag. However, they assembled an extended catalog that helped them get rid of the tag. SoundGarden was formed in 1984, yet they took almost 6 years to observe commercial success. Throbbing melodic dexterity, Chris Cornell’s amplifying, soulful vocals elevated them to a grunge status. “Hands All Over” is a song performed by SoundGarden that is so simple in music, yet provides a sense of dynamism as the song develops. “The Day I Tried to Love”, “Pretty Nose”, “Rusty Cage” are a few famous songs from SoundGarden.
15. Pink Floyd – formed in 1965, Pink Floyd sold over 250 million albums worldwide. Pink Floyd received huge commercial success that continues to accumulate even after 20 years of their depart. The number of times Pink Floyd has been covered, referenced, and parodied elevates their status to a non-touchable position. The popularity of Pink Floyd is ever-soaring. Even 46 years after the release of their famed song, “Astronomy Domine”, it occupies a spot as one of oddest tunes ever recorded. “Completely Numb”, “Echoes”, “Pigs” created a passage for Pink Floyd to become one of the best.
16. Judas Priest – you must reserve a spot for Judas Priest when thinking metal. Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band, kicked off in 1969. Providing an epic slab of drama; subtle, and Charmin styles defined their status. “Delivering the Goods”, “Breaking the Law”, “Living after Midnight”, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” became some of their most popular and best songs.
17. Iron Maiden – one of the most celebrated, famed, and beloved bands to ever exist, Iron Maiden is unique for their innovative styles. Iron Maiden is an English heavy metal band came into inception in 1975. Some of the Iron Maiden hits are The Trooper, The Number of the Beast. The band has sold over 90 million copies worldwide. “The Phantom of the Opera”, “The Talisman”, “Run to the Hills” became some of their catchiest songs. While “Run to the Hills” describing the misery inflicted on Native Americans by Europeans made them controversial.
18. Deep Purple – Deep Purple are widely considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal music. Deep Purple were formed in 1968. Their song “Perfect Strangers” embodies the reunion of the band, trumpeted their return after the break up of the band. “Child in Time” could be described as epic signifying monstrous Deep Purple Album “In Rock”. “Burn”, “Into the Fire”, “Fireball” deliver some signature songs; introducing the band’s finest song craftsmanship.
19. Cream – Cream was a British band formed by Eric Clipton along with Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce in 1966. This trio introduced the world with supergroup power, elevated the blues to a whole new generation of white rockers. That is why Cream is undoubtedly the fastest, and most powerful blues-based rock band. Cream sold over 15 million albums, and achieved the first certified platinum album in history. Give “I’m so Glad”, “I Feel Free”, “Badge” a listen to understand what I am talking about.
20.The Ramones – often cited as the first band to define the punk rock sound, the Ramones were an American band, formed in 1974. They inspired countless bands to pursue forming a rock band over several generations. Songs like “Pinhead”, “Questioningly”, “Teenage Lobotomy” guided hard rock during dark times. The Ramones put hard rock where it belonged, and mixed danger, pulsation, adventure, and fun with it.
21. The Clash – formed as part of the genuine wave of British punk, the Clash became eponymous for punk bands, used music as a means of hammering political hypocrisy. The clash set the benchmark by which all punk bands of political minds are evaluated. The Clash were a complete sound unit; blossoming dissenting ideologies, voicing against Western consumerism through music. To feel rock in your core, try bumping “London Calling”, “The Guns of Brixton”.
22. Alice Cooper – Alice Copper does sound like a person’s name. Well, it is a person’s name who led the Alice Cooper band, then eventually legally changed his name (Vince Furnier) to Alice Cooper, so that he could introduce a solo career when the band had become inert. The band lasted for half of a decade; during the period, the band introduced a style of theatrical horror in music; the theme was later adopted by many artists over several generations. “Welcome to My Nightmare”, “Poison”, “Under my Wheels” disseminate their greatness.
23. Ozzy Osbourne – apart from his most famed persona as the lead vocalist of Black Sabbath, Ozzy is an English singer, songwriter, and TV personality. Despite his dismissal from the band, he went on to build a successful career of his own. Ozzy’s first solo album Blizzard of Ozz is dubbed one of the greatest heavy rock albums of all time. While, “I Don’t Know”, “Diary of a Madman”, “Bark at the Moon” qualified his solo career’s success.
24. Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam is an American band, formed in 1990. Pearl Jam retained their success, fame they built in the 90’s from the most recent album “Lightning Bolt”. Not so many bands of the 90’s have this type of feat. “Pretty”, “Just Breathe”, “Alive”, “Black” signify their prominence.
25. Motorhead – Motorhead were an English rock band. Motorhead were formed by Lemmy Kilmister in June 1975. Although he doesn’t the term band as a heavy metal band, the band produced some of the fastest, heaviest tracks. For the past four decades, Motorhead were one of the most regular, prolific music bodies. They have produced more than 250 tracks, 20-plus albums that spanned their career. “Overkill”, “Bomber”,”Dancing on your Grave”, “Iron First” could highlight the band a bit.
26. Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick is an American band that spanned more than 4 decades. The band mesmerized the audience with a new wave of blues, psych-pop, and punk touchstones. The band is familiar for Robin Zander’s flamboyant presence, and Rick Nielsen’s scorching lead guitar. Their biggest hits cover “Surrender”, “I Want You to Want Me”, “The Flame”. The Japanese press often cites Cheap Trick as the American Beatles.
27. Iggy Pop / The Stooges – the Stooges were an American band, formed in 1968, became featured from their vocalist’s awkward, unpredictable stage antics. If Rock n’ Roll had a beating hard, then Iggy Pop would have owned it. The Stooges with Iggy presented whirling, cataclysmic live performances that set a standard for full-on, raw, flat-out rock n’ roll. With the assistance of David Bowie, the band released one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. ‘Raw Power’ was released in 1973. The Stooges’ greatest hits include “Penetration”, “1970”, “Down on the Street”.
28. Red Hot Chili Peppers – this Los Angeles-based group was formed in 1983. And, the band proved that even if you are a part of the alternative era, you could not only survive but thrive. The RHCP obviously produced some of the catchiest, most influential songs of all time. The band emerged from the underground with their first three albums, yet failed to gain a foothold in the mainstream. However, their single ‘Under the Bridge’ reached the #2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and “One Hot Minute”, “Californication” gained them widespread success, and critical acclaim.
29. The Doors – the Doors established a very distinctive category of classic rock, and paved the way for many artists of that genre. The Doors became immortalized because of Jim Morrison. Morrison’s lyrics and poetry proved totally profound and deep. “Roadhouse Blues”, which was the opening track of their fifth album ejected blues roots, and electric performance. “Hello, I Love You” single became #1 from their only #1 album. “People are Strange”, “Touch Me” are also a few of their greatest hits.
30. Rush – Rush is a Canadian band formed in 1968. Rush went through ups and downs throughout their catalog. Rush took many years to be recognized, and become popular in the mainstream. Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received critical acclaim. “Time Stand Still”, “Freewill”, “Close to the Heart” are some of the band’s masterpieces.
31. Motley Crue – Motley Crue was an American band, formed in 1981, garnered infamy, controversies throughout their lifespan. The band lived by the slogan “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” more than any other band. Their on-stage antics, and off-stage controversies are heavily documented. Drummer Tommy Lee’s extreme skills in lifting his drum kit in the air, or spinning in a circle captivated the concertgoers. Many of their songs displayed their debauchery, machismo ostentatiously. ‘Looks that Kill’, ‘Primal Scream’ , ‘Live Wire’ are a few of their best songs.
32. Rage Against The Machine – this is an American band, formed in 1991, is comprised of a rapper, and vocalist, a bassist, and backing vocalist. Rage Against the Machine’s songs display that a skillful mixture of rap and rock can get even more explosive, and potent. Plus, their songs produced in this way can sway the crowd with extreme passion. With Zack de la Rocha’s venom, and Tim Commerford’s powerful bassist rhythm can be lethal hybrid. Songs like ‘Freedom’, ‘Testify’, ‘Bombtrack’, ‘People of the Sun’ can give you a stint of what I am talking about.
33. Def Leppard – although the band was formed in 1977, they released their debut album in 1980. The band is known for their hard-rock riffing at an extreme level. Def Leppard is one of the most influential rock bands in history. Their album sales tore the 100 million albums landmark. Their 1983 album Pyromania attained the band worldwide fame. Their subsequent album “Hysteria” crossed 20 million sales. ‘Animal’, ‘Promises’, ‘Rock of Ages’ are their a few stand-out tracks.
34. Alice in Chains – controversy-stricken, obstacles, drug addiction, and death of Layne Staley reined in the band’s glory a bit, yet they will be remembered as one of the most influential. Pearl Jam, Nirvana may have received the lion’s share of glory in the early 90’s, however for the next two decades, Alice in Chains became a strong contender. The band regrouped in 2009. And, their couple of masterpieces are ‘No Excuses’, ‘Check My Brain’, ‘Down in a Hole’.
35. Frank Zappa – Zappa is well-known for his skills in incorporating jazz, classical, performance into psych-out, rock n’ roll. Partnering with the Mothers of Invention, Zappa made music that was extremely top-notch. Zappa’s music still roams among traditional rockers, classical and jazz fans. ‘Who are the Brain Police?’, ‘Valley Girl’, ‘Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow’ deliver high-quality music.
36. Jane’s Addiction – if you are a classic rock fan, and you want to have your experience redefined, then give a listen to Jane’s Addiction. Jane’s Addiction is often credited with being a bedrock of 90s alternative boom. Their song was featured as HBO’s Entourage theme song. Jane’s Addiction was formed in Los Angeles in 1985. Songs like “Just Because”, “Summertime Rolls”, “Had a Dad” represent the radical form of mystic, mythical, psychedelic rock.
37. Yardbirds – “Roger the Engineer” is the best album made by the Yardbirds. They reflected the trait of many British contemporaries, and started as a pure blues group. Throughout the band’s history, restructure, shuffling is observed in the lineup. Guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page were part of the group. The band’s well-known songs are “Little Games”, “I Ain’t Got You”, “Shapes of Things”, “I’m a man”.
38. Ted Nugent – the legacy of Ted Nugent, and his songs will stay alive within people’s memory even after him pursuing a political career. His inflammatory comments may have tainted his musical career a bit, however it lasted for 50 years, and earned him a spot among the greatest. He produced a perfect combination of rock, soul, rhythm, and blues. ‘Fred Bear’, ‘Great White Buffalo’, ‘Paralyzed’ are among his popular tracks.
39. Neil Young – Neil Young started his career as a member of Buffalo Springfield in the 60’s. His extraordinary music making skills got him included into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice as a solo artists, and also a member of Buffalo Springfield. “Cinnamon Girl”, “Like a Hurricane”, “Four Strong Winds” are the blend of sensual lyrics, defiance, and anger.
40. Nine Inch Nails – when it comes to talking about Nine Inch Nails, you cannot leave Trent Reznor off the discussion. He is respected and celebrated, and he made the band as the most successful industrial band in the entire world. His career as the brain behind Nine Inch Nails produced 23 singles. “Wish”, “That’s What I Get”, “The Fragile”, “Sin” are among the band’s masterpieces.
41. Stone Temple Pilots – they emerged with their debut album “Core” in the hard rock world, and garnered explosive hits like ‘Sex Type Thing’, ‘Push’, and ‘Creep’. Although the band was initially labelled as grunge music group, they proved the critics wrong with the album Purple. The album was released in 1994, and showcased the band’s psych-out songwriting skills, and performance.
42. Scorpions – Scorpions are a German rock band formed in 1965. They have recorded nearly 200 songs over four decades. ‘Coast to Coast’ was a rare instrumental performance featured in one of their best LP’s “Longdrive”. ‘Fly to the Rainbow’; this diverse track rather introduced the band’s limitless talent. ‘Still Loving You’, ‘Wind of Change’, ‘In Trance’ exhibit their fluency to play with drums, and guitars.
43. Pantera – Pantera introduced the world with full of power grooves, resonant rhythm. These became the sonic hallmarks of Pantera. This band got the fans banging their heads frantically until their neck gave up. Their discography is rife with catchy riffs, and lyrical ingenuity. ‘Goddamn Electric’, ‘5 Minutes Alone’, ‘Becoming’ are their masterpieces. And, there are not many ballads out there as powerful as ‘This Love’.
44. Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi is one of the most successful record-selling rock bands of their generation. The number of fans Bon Jovi pulled during their performance; arena brimmed with people, everyone on their feet, girls on their boyfriends’ shoulder; Bon Jovi surely surpassed their contemporaries by a landslide. The band grew their roots from pop metal in the 80’s, yet did not take much time to showcase their hard rock strength. ‘Born to be my Baby’, ‘Wild in the Streets’, ‘Livin on a Prayer’, ‘It’s my Life’ can tell generations after generations about Bon Jovi.
45. Slayer – the band produced some of the most explosive thrash metal tracks ever. Slayer is an American band, formed in 1981. 11 albums, two live records, four gold-selling records, and thousands of fans worldwide will testify why Slayer are one of the most iconic and influential bands of all time. ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Disciple’, ‘Black Magic’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’ will scare you to death.
46. Green Day – there are not many bands or artists out there to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with their first nomination. It took Green Day 25 years to crawl their way out of the underground into the mainstream. Green Day’s “Dookie” was a diamond-selling album. “American Idiot” was their multi-platinum monstrous album. Released in 2004, it presented fans with tracks like ‘Holiday’, which was their third consecutive #1 song on the modern rock chart. ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ is the most commercially successful song. Thousands of people put their covers of the song on YouTube, and skilled guitar playing made the song memorable.
47. Korn – Korn produced a sound named ‘nu-metal’, prompting many others to recreate it. Jonathan Davis gave what the millions of kids craved for during the age of grunge; tense, rage-filled vocals. The band released their first album in 1994, since then they released a myriad of albums. ‘Get Up’, ‘Clown’, ‘Love and Meth’ are among others that allow the fans to listen to freakishly heavy riffs, electronic dance music, and heavy guitar sound.
48. The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones are an English band, formed in 1962. The best album produced by the group was “Exile on Main St.” which was ranked 30th in the greatest album chart. ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ delivered the band’s ingenuity with lyrical content. ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Gimme Shelter’, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’; these are a few tracks with deep meaning attached.
49. Megadeath – Megadeth created an enviable spot that can hardly be touched by many bands. Megadeth released 13 albums, 32 music videos, and sold over 38 million copies worldwide. After Dave Mustaine’s discharge from Metallica, he reached a new height with Megadeth. ‘Sweating Bullets’, ‘Wake Up Dead’, ‘Tornado of Souls’ are combinations of power chords, multiple harmonics, and amazing guitar skill of Dave.
50. Linkin Park – in 2003, Linkin Park was named the third-best band of the new millennium by MTV2. American band, Linkin Park released six studio albums. “Hybrid Theory” is considered their best album by many. Their song “Crawling” earned Linkin Park their first Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. ‘Faint’, ‘One Step Closer’, ‘Bleed it Out’, ‘Numb’ are some of their explosive songs.
The Wrap Up -since this is a list made by me; you may be bound to disagree with it. There are a couple of artists you may suggest for inclusion, or you may want to shuffle the ranking. However, each and every one of those bands/artists is unique in their ways and deserve a spot among the greats.