Joshua Klinger

Top 10 Rock Bands of All Time

After making my Top 10 Rappers of All Time list and work-shopping this new one, I have learned a lot about top 10 lists.

What seems to be chiefly important in making a top 10 list is the criteria you use to make it. So with any list I publish I attempt to be as clear as possible about the criteria for that list up-front, in order of importance.

No ranking factor is all-important. Even the most important ranking factor can be overcome if the other factors are strong enough.

Personal Bias

If I'm being honest, personal bias goes first because I have veto power. If I simply have not listened to a band, or I don't like a band, it will be very difficult to add it to the list.


Yes, prolificity is a real word, despite what my spell checker tells me, and what it means in this context is a consistent, high-quality resume. Bands who have toured extensively and have a consistent and long repertoire of quality are preferred over bands who maybe have one or two good albums and have not put out consistently great performances, over a long period (the longer the better). This is why it is called the greatest Rock Bands of All Time, and not just one era. It is possible for a band to completely dominate an era, but then not make it on a list like this.


The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is full of artists who are outside of the consideration of this list. So that they could maintain their list of white-washed industry plants, that hall of fame has included acts in Blues, R&B, Jazz, etc, which will not be included here.

Artists whose songs are mostly stolen from African Americans are also banned from this list, no matter how many other criteria they fulfill. This is a rare factor that overrides all others, for me.

I am not looking at R&B, Blues, Funk, Soul, Country, Folk, etc. Whereas I am considering bands from sub-genres such as Metal, Emo, or Prog. I understand this can be highly subjective and up for spirited debate, all I can say to you is that this is my list, and it is derived from what I consider Rock & Roll. This is part of why "Rockability" sits where it does in the list of criteria.

For those of you genre sticklers, you could consider this list more of a "Classic Rock" top 10.


Some bands rise above others due to their impact on a moment in time or other artists throughout history. I try not to ignore this in my lists, although influence itself often is not enough to make it into the top 10.

Lots of great influential bands only have a few albums. But then some short-lived acts are so influential that they make it anyway. It's complicated.

Quality of Players

Many great individual artists have propelled the rest of their band-mates to stardom. This list is about Rock Bands, not singer-songwriters. Although I will not entirely discount bands with players who simply know how to do their jobs well, and don't stick out, bands that are full of obviously talented musicians will get preference here.

Now with that out of the way, the list:

#1 - Jimi Hendrix


Under rockability criteria, I took some shots at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And Jimi Hendrix rockets up to number one because of an overwhelming issue I have had with putting this list together.

If he would not have died so young I believe Hendrix would have lived to have created one of the greatest Rock & Roll legacies of all time. And because this genre comes with such controversial roots, I'm going to put the weight of every Rock song ever stolen from an African American by a White band behind Hendrix. Every single record contract the went to a White band instead, and every radio DJ who chose a White song instead.

Jimi was able to find success, firmly within Rock & Roll, despite the odds against him. Other bands would have found more success, and he would have found more of it, if this genre wasn't entrenched in a history of White Supremacy.

#2 - Pink Floyd


What bad things can you say about the band that helped pioneer Prog Rock? They have a few bad albums from when they were falling apart, but many people still love those albums.

They were a formidable part of many a musical journey and trip session, and each member went on to have their own career in a very Beatles-esque fashion.

#3 - The Cars


They just have so many hits. I don't know if they started the nu-wave thing, but they certainly dominated it.

These guys did their thing and they did it right and they did it over and over again and maybe not every album was a total banger but if you compiled their singles into one album you'd have one of the greatest Rock albums of all time.

#4 - The Clash


Punk is a minefield of a genre in regards to picking a number one. But for a punk band to make it on this list, it has to fulfill the criteria just like any band.

I'm not the #1 punk fan of all time, but I rock with The Clash heavy. Out of all the greats of that genre, they are the most widely accepted and successful. Plus I know and love a lot of their songs.

#5 - AC/DC


I will probably hear an argument to pull any band off this list other than this one. AC/DC is the heart of Rock & Roll.

Whatever you want to say about Rock and its myriad of affiliated, inspired by, and sub-genres. These guys drove right down the middle of that road. You just can't make a Top 10 list and leave them off of it, sorry.

#6 - Rush


I hate Rush dude, I swear. But I'm trying to not be super biased here. These are maybe the coolest nerds of all time.

I also love Rush. My relationship with Rush is complicated.

But looking at all these bands and somehow having only Pink Floyd represent Prog, and the many other bands that could fill in these spots. It just felt criminal to leave Rush off the list. So I didn't.

#7 - Radiohead


Probably the most recent band on the list and therefore high praise. I just think Radiohead is a complete artistic act. They have concept albums with singles on them. They explore insane rhythms and song structures, with deep and substantial concepts, without getting sidelined as an artsy band. They still release albums and still sell out arenas.

Whether they were better than Oasis was never a serious question, by the way.

#8 - The Who


Call me crazy, but I don't love The Who. I like them, I respect the hell out of them, they just aren't my cup of tea. I don't throw on some Who at a party, or on a road trip.

However, I have to include them on the list because they check every other box. Every time I go to research this list, I see them plastered all over top lists everywhere. Whenever I look at their resume, I tend to agree. I've heard all of these songs a million times. They were an incredibly successful band.

Plus I do love all their big hits. They remind me of my childhood.

#9 - TOOL


I honestly feel like TOOL doesn't get the respect that they deserve. You're going to see a lot of people put bands who were inspired by TOOL on their lists while just completely leaving them off.

The number of talented musicians involved with these songs, and affiliated acts, is mind-boggling. Along with the fact that many of these songs hit the charts. They easily sell out huge arenas, and they were just a phenom in the ought thousands.

A few bands that don't quite have the longevity or high marks that TOOL has didn't make this list. So imagine grunge, nu-metal, rap-rock, and a bunch of other similar acts are nipping at their heels here. But I just feel like they deserve this spot.

#10 - The Eagles


I can't count the number of disrespectful arguments I have heard for not including this band in one of these spots. I won't hear them any longer.

They're just a staple, to me. Just like The Clash, if you put all their songs on a single album, it would be one of the greatest Rock albums of all time.

In Closing

I don't know why I thought this would be easier to put together. There are so many great newer acts that got nudged off due to only being able to choose 10. Maybe as we move forward, I will amend this list with a few newer bands.

Finally, as I was discussing criteria and then digging through my research, the whole Jimi Hendrix thing kind of struck a chord with me. So I am going to leave you with this note.

Drawing an influence is one thing, but wholly borrowing from established artists and not giving anything back absolutely disqualified many great bands from my list. And I think more people should think about that when considering who the greatest bands are.