10. Led Zeppelin
Why: His Band of Joy may have his full attention now, but back in the day Robert Plant was busy inspiring future generations of metalheads with his trademark shriek.
Essential track: “Whole Lotta Love”
9. Elvis Costello
Why: One of our 100 greatest living songwriters, Costello is a New Wave wordsmith of the highest order. His songs are witty, political and romantic—and he was rocking wide-framed glasses before all you hipsters were even born.
Essential track: “Pump it Up”
8. David Bowie
Why: No one does space-rock androgyny quite like Bowie.
Essential track: “Life On Mars?”
7. The Sex Pistols
Why: Many have come before them, but no band shook the United Kingdom to its core quite like the Sex Pistols. We may not fully understand it here in the States, but singing that the Queen “ain’t no human being” are fightin’ words. A threat to the monarchy if ever there was one.
Essential track: “Anarchy in the UK”
6. The Kinks
Why: Whether it’s through the satire of “Victoria” or the beauty of “Waterloo Sunset,” few can speak directly to the English soul like Ray Davies. His words and brother Dave’s unforgettable guitar riffs make these lads one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.
Essential track: “Waterloo Sunset”
5. The Clash
Why: London Calling is a masterpiece, and the group ranks among the all-time greats — punk or otherwise.
Essential track: “London Calling”
4. The Who
Why: There’s more to The Who than smashed-up guitars and Roger Daltrey’s scream (although those are certainly reasons to love them). They’re behind two of the most well-executed concept albums of all time, and while they’re known for blowing out drumkits and eardrums alike, they can also do quiet and introspective with the best of them.
Essential track: “My Generation”
Why: Thom Yorke and friends always seem to have something new up their sleeves, whether it’s penning a ‘90s classic like “Creep,” producing one of the finest albums of the past decade (Kid A), or redefining the music industry with their “pay-what-you-will” stunt.
Essential track: “Fake Plastic Trees”
2. The Rolling Stones
Why: Rock ‘n’ roll’s original bad boys, the Stones started off as an unlikely blues band and wound up laying the groundwork for generations to follow. Their sound is drenched in Americana, but it never feels inauthentic.
Essential track: “Satisfaction”
1. The Beatles
Why: Because of this.
Essential track: “A Hard Day’s Night”