The rock and roll story may have begun in America, but the tale cannot be fully told without a few major chapters written by British bands.
The aftershocks of the British Invasion of the mid-’60s are still felt today, in terms of musical influence and in sales. Of the scores of bands that have arrived since, here are the five that made the biggest splash across the pond.
5. The Sex Pistols
The punk pioneers burst on to the scene in 1975 with a bold look and even bolder lyrics — using stolen instruments no less. Three years later, they were done.
But no one can say they didn’t get the most out of their raw — in every sense of the word — talent. Despite releasing only one album as a group, the Sex Pistols kicked the punk and new wave movements into high gear. By aggressively doing things their own way, they lit the fuse that exploded into the independent music movement.
Influential Track: “God Save the Queen”
4. Pink Floyd
A wildly creative band, Pink Floyd combined elements of album rock, prog rock, art rock, and psychedelia into a genre best described as “avant-garde.” All of this came from a band whose sound was rooted in the blues when they formed in 1965.
Pink Floyd perfected the concept album. Its high point was “Dark Side of the Moon,” a 1973 release that remained on the U.S. Billboard charts for a record 736 weeks. To date, the band has sold almost 76 million albums in the United States alone.
The band’s sound continues to influence modern music genres, including metal and electronica.
Influential track: “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2”
3. Led Zeppelin
In 1968, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant took the blues and turned up the volume. The result was heavy metal, inspiring countless hard-rock bands in their wake.
Zeppelin rarely gave interviews, instead focusing their energy on albums and concerts. In doing so, the band also created the album rock and arena rock styles. The band may not have been a critical favorite in its time, but it was beloved by fans; to date Zeppelin has sold nearly 112 million albums in the U.S.
Influential Track: “Stairway to Heaven”
2. The Rolling Stones
Many words can be used to describe this band; near the top of the list would have to be “longevity.” Through lineup changes and adaptation of musical styles, the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band is still thriving and influencing artists more than half a century after its formation.
Essentially a blues-based band, the Stones are known for their experimentation, incorporating country, psychedelic, and even dance music styles into their sound, which has sold nearly 67 million albums in the U.S. They remain a hugely popular live act.
Influential Track: “Satisfaction”
1. The Beatles
No list of top British bands is complete without the Fab Four, the band that has launched millions of rock and roll dreams since its formation in 1957.
Psychedelic rock, folk rock, blues, garage rock, pop: no matter the style, The Beatles mastered them all. Not only do they top the list for their worldwide musical influence, they are also the biggest commercial success, with 177 million albums sold to date in the U.S. alone.
Influential Track: “Hey Jude”