Top Ten British Bands

After listening to Larry Graves ( give his Top Ten British Bands, I had to do my own list. I really needed 12 selections instead of 10, The Kinks and the Moody Blues belong on this list, but nothing is perfect.

The Beatles. This band should top any list. What more can you say about them?

The Rolling Stones. Right behind The Beatles, but a distant number two. Their legacy was solidified in the 1960 and 1970s.

The Who. Like the Stones, The Who created their superb legacy in the 1960s and 1970s. The Who had their finger on the pulse of the young audience better than any other band, with the exception of The Beatles.

Led Zeppelin. This band owned the 1970s and created the hard-rock genre, making it commercially viable and mysterious.

Yes. This band made their best, and most lasting music in the 1970s, although they reappeared in the 1980s with a few huge hits. The best progressive rock band ever, in my opinion.

Genesis. Also a hugely successful progressive rock band. I may be in the minority, but Genesis got better after Peter Gabriel left. While they had many radio hits, their best music was in long-form and dense.

Supertramp. Another very successful progressive rock band that had their best days in the 1970s. Songwriting was their strength as they had two gifted songwriters that blended melancholy tones with historical and cultural references. Thinking man’s progressive rock.

Electric Light Orchestra. Picking up the creative gauntlet when The Beatles left the stage, ELO brought grandeur and sharp melodic songwriting to pop-rock. Although they de-emphasized the “orchestra” part of the band later on, their wildly inviting string element gave ELO their distinctive sound.

Jethro Tull. This band would probably not make a lot of lists, but their impact and success are undeniable. The unique sound of the flute, blending folk and hard rock, separated them from the usual lineup of blues-rock inspired bands. Thoughtful lyrics and powerful live shows made this band a “must-see” concert.

Pink Floyd. This band should be higher on my list. There is no denying their success and influence, mixing psychedelia with jazz rock. Their music is difficult to label, which makes it so iconic and uniquely Pink Floyd. Spacy, tripping, psychedelic, the long form music and heady lyrics were probably background to late night parties. The lyrics became more culturally centered in the 1970s as Roger Waters took control.

Almost: Queen, The Kinks, Traffic, Roxy Music, Moody Blues, The Clash

6 thoughts on “Top Ten British Bands

      1. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can sympathize it’s tough to keep it to 10.

        At first I also thought to take out Yes or Genesis and put in Queen instead, since I’m not such a huge prog rock fan, but both of these bands are outstanding, so it’s really difficult! 🙂


  1. Okay, I’ll take your bait, Mike: I like your list, and you picked the correct band for the top spot. These days I find Yes too airy-fairy, and Supertramp was always too poppy for me. I would have easily listed the much heavier ELP over ELO. And I totally disagree about Genesis getting better after Gabriel left. More commercial, yes. Your listed bands were huge here in the states (except maybe Roxy, who were more a regional cult act), but there are many great Brit bands that were only marginally successful here, if at all: Zombies (their boxed set is a revelation), Small Faces (“Ogden’s” is a masterpiece), King Crimson (the debut is a classic), Fairport Convention (the king of British folk-rock), Procol Harum, Caravan, Soft Machine to name a few.


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