Top 50 Classic Rock Bands

The Beatles performing on stage, circa 1963.
Photoshot/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Selections are determined by a combination of album sales, radio airplay, touring history, and degree of continuous popularity. Solo artists are included in a separate list.

Essential Album: Revolver
With record sales estimated at more than a billion worldwide, no other band had a greater influence on the course of rock music.

2. Pink Floyd
Essential Album: Wish You Were Here
At the vanguard of the Progressive Rock movement, they have sold more than 200-million albums since 1967.

One of the first bands to use light shows and fireworks in their live performances.

Essential Album: Who's Next
One of the first, most successful, and longest lasting power trios, The Who were innovative both musically and technically.

4. Rolling Stones
Essential Album: Sticky Fingers
The original "bad boys" of rock, the Stones are among the most durable bands, recording and touring with few breaks since they began in 1961.

5. Led Zeppelin
Essential Album: Led Zeppelin IV
Their "Stairway To Heaven" is believed to have received more radio airplay than any other song in history, even though it was never released as a single.

6. Eagles
Essential Album: Their Greatest Hits
Another of rock's longest-lasting acts, their 1976 greatest hits album is the biggest selling album of all time.

Essential Album: Anthem Of The Sun
One of San Francisco's first "flower power" bands, their fan following is nearly as strong today as it was when the group disbanded in 1995.

Essential Album: After Bathing At Baxter's
Pioneers of the Psychedelic Rock genre, they were in the vanguard of the counter-culture of the '60s and '70s.

Essential Album: The Doors
In spite of a short life and limited discography, they became one of rock's most popular and influential groups.

Essential Album: Days Of Future Passed
With the exception of a few years in the mid-70s, this Progressive/Psychedelic group has toured and recorded since 1964.

11. Fleetwood Mac
Essential Album: Rumours
After numerous personnel and musical style changes, their 1977 Rumours album is still among the top ten best-selling albums ever.

12. AC/DC
Essential Album: Back In Black
This pioneering Hard Rock/Heavy Metal group has sold an estimated 100-million albums worldwide.

13. Boston
Essential Album: Boston
When their first album was released in 1976, it was the highest grossing debut album ever seen up until that time.

14. Cream
Essential Album: Wheels Of Fire
The group existed for less than three years but staked its place as one of the first and most enduringly popular of rock's power trios.

15. Def Leppard
Essential Album: Hysteria
Futuristic instrumentation and vocal harmonies have kept them near the top of the all-time best-selling album lists for a quarter of a century.

Essential Album: The Byrds' Greatest Hits
Among the pioneers of Folk Rock, their popularity in the mid-60s rivaled that of the Beatles.

17. Aerosmith
Essential Album: Toys In The Attic
Originally written off as Rolling Stones imitators, the group has consistently produced multi-million-selling albums for 30+ years.

18. Santana
Essential Album: Abraxas
This groundbreaking Latin Rock group timed the release of its first album to coincide with a highly successful performance at Woodstock in 1969.

19. Blood Sweat & Tears
Essential Album: Blood Sweat & Tears
Virtually a small orchestra, this group established a milestone in rock history with its large horn section and jazz-blues orientation.

20. Van Halen
Essential Album: 1984
One of the most innovative and influential Heavy Metal groups of the late '70s, the group continues to perform some 30+ years after its inception.

21. ZZ Top
Essential Album: The Best Of ZZ Top
The self-proclaimed "little ol' band from Texas" was one of the earliest influences in Southern Rock, and continues so, three decades later.

Essential Album: Platinum Collection
With worldwide albums sales of about 150-million since 1969, Genesis was instrumental in keeping Progressive Rock in the mainstream.

23. Allman Brothers
Essential Album: Eat A Peach
The success of their unique fusion of Hard Rock, Blues, Jazz, and Classical music has secured this group's immortality.

24. Journey
Essential Album: Greatest Hits
Journey's jazz-flavored sound has been a fixture in the rock scene since 1973.

25. Traffic
Essential Album: John Barleycorn Must Die
Traffic had far greater success with albums than with singles, and thrived in spite of numerous personnel changes and long breaks.

26. Jethro Tull
Essential Album: Very Best Of Jethro Tull
Tull developed and maintained a sound that was completely unlike any other band's, with the use of the flute as a lead instrument, and with a heavy classical music influence.

27. Foreigner
Essential Album: Complete Greatest Hits
A group of back-up players got together in 1976 and formed a group that became a longtime Arena Rock and radio airplay favorite.

28. The Kinks
Essential Album: Ultimate Collection
They maintained their popularity through the 60s and 70s by adjusting their lyric themes and musical styles as times, and public tastes changed.

Essential Album: The Essential Blue Oyster Cult
Formed in the mid-60s, this Metal/Psych Rock band had a long string of successful albums throughout the '70s and '80s.

30. ​Buffalo Springfield
Essential Album: Retrospective
The group existed for less than two years, but was considered a significant force in mid-60s rock, and launched the careers of members Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Jim Messina, and Richie Furay.

31. Queen
Essential Album: Platinum Collection
The band that put the glitter in Glitter Rock is second only to the Beatles in album sales in the UK.

32. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Essential Album: Deja Vu
More than any other group of their time, they endeared themselves to a generation of youth with their lyric themes and eclectic variety of musical styles.

33. Styx
Essential Album: Gold
After failing to break through with Progressive Rock, this group is credited with originating the more mainstream Arena Rock sound.

34. Creedence Clearwater Revival
Essential Album: Chronicle
At the height of the British Invasion, they were the leading American rock band.

35. Deep Purple
Essential Album: Very Best Of
They shuffled personnel and musical styles until they became one of the most successful bands on the concert and recording circuit.

36. Steve Miller Band
Essential Album: Young Hearts
They paid their dues as a backup band before becoming one of the most popular groups of the 70s.

37. Guess Who
Essential Album: Anthology
One of Canada's most popular rock bands evolved from Soft Rock to a harder variety from the early 60s through the mid 70s.

38. Dave Clark Five
Essential Album: 30 Greatest Hits
Beatlemania helped propel this British group to great popularity in America.

39. Steppenwolf
Essential Album: All Time Greatest Hits
This Canadian Heavy Metal band is credited with creating the Bike Rock sub-genre.

40. Yes
Essential Album: Very Best Of Yes
In spite of more than the usual number of major personnel changes, this group has had a long and successful career.

41. Doobie Brothers
Essential Album: Best Of The Doobies
They weren't actually brothers, but they have parlayed a distinctive Heavy MetalSouthern Rock blend into a 30+ year career.

42. Chicago
Essential Album: Only The Beginning
Formed in 1967, Chicago became one of the most successful orchestral rock groups and is still active four decades later.

43. KISS
Essential Album: Gold
Mix Hard Rock with over-the-top appearance and stage antics and you get the fathers of glitter-punk.

Essential Album: Parallel Lines
Emerging from the early Punk Rock scene, Blondie ultimately expanded their stylistic approach to include Disco, New Wave and Hip-Hop.

Essential Album: Permanent Waves
Rush is considered one of rock's best live bands, in addition to cranking out 30 albums over 30 years.

Essential Album: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
Their short life as a rebellious and proudly controversial Punk band was out of proportion to the huge influence they had on pop culture in England.

47. Lynyrd Skynyrd
Essential Album: Skynyrd's Innyrds
Described by All Music Guide as "the definitive Southern Rock band," they reunited ten years after the deaths of three original members in a 1977 plane crash, and still perform today.

48. The Police
Essential Album: Every Breath You Take: The Classics
The Police distinguished themselves by being able to be successful in the mainstream playing experimental rock.

49. Grand Funk Railroad
Essential Album: We're An American Band
Achieved greater commercial success than any other American rock band in the 60s and early 70s.

50. Black Sabbath
Essential Album: We Sold Our Soul For Rock And Roll
One of the longest lasting and most successful groups is credited as the first Heavy Metal band.