Our Top Ten Favorite British Bands (And A Playlist!)

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UPDATE: This post originally ran on September 13th 2012 but with the recent launch of our new UK site we wanted to bring it back! Do you agree with our list?

One of my favorite things about the UK is the music. Many of my favorite bands (including my top three favorites of all time) come from the UK. Something magic must have been in the air over there in the ‘60s, the decade that brought us Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles (among others).   I think it’s also the reason why I’m so enamored with the city of London. When I was studying there I would walk the same streets many of these bands did, dreaming of seeing them at a small, sweaty London club, wishing I could have been born in an earlier decade so I could walk alongside them. Here’s a countdown of our favorite British bands, and a playlist of their greatest tunes!

fleetwood mac

10. Fleetwood Mac

They would be higher on the list but they are part American so that detracted a bit from their score. :) Still, the group that brought us “Rhiannon,” “Landslide,” “Dreams,” and so many more cannot be left out. Not to mention, their style still influences us today!

stone roses

9. The Stone Roses

One of my personal favorites, the Manchester band was a pioneer of the “Madchester” music scene that produced many acts in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.  Led by singer Ian Brown, their music has a grungy, psychedelic, almost funk sound that has been incredibly influential to numerous bands that follow them. Some of their biggest hits include “Fools Gold” and “I Wanna Be Adored.”


8. Oasis

One of the most notable British bands from my generation, Oasis was often criticized for sounding too much like the Beatles, but that’s probably what initially drew me to their music. Their catchy songs like “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” are some of my all-time favorites, and I loved their mod look and “who the f— cares” attitude… I had such a crush on Liam Gallagher!

the kinks

7. The Kinks

One of the most influential bands of the era (and all time, for that matter), the Kinks were formed in 1964 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies. Their music is a true reflection of their time and place (North London) with songs like “Sunny Afternoon” and “Waterloo Sunset” that, with their descriptive lyrics, make you feel like you are in London in the ‘60s.

the who

6. The Who

The Who are probably one of the first that come to mind when thinking of British Bands, as they are so iconic and so tied to the image of the Union Jack.  Also formed in 1964 in London, they went on to become one of the most successful rock bands of all time with hits like “My Generation” and “Baba O’Riley” and are also known for their legendary performances – which luckily were caught on tape in the documentaries Monterey Pop and Woodstock, most notably.


5. Radiohead

Others may not agree with me putting them above some of these other bands, but it’s only because they’re from my generation and are, in my opinion, one of the best bands – period – from the past decade. I have every single one of their albums and love every song on them.  I love that they make music unlike anything else and are constantly pushing their own boundaries – plus their live shows are incredible.

pink floyd

4. Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd is another band who really did their own thing and I love that about them.  Their music may not be for everyone, but we can all agree that it is incredibly innovative and original – and their album Dark Side of the Moon is one of the top selling records of all time (and also lived on the Billboard charts for 741 weeks). I recommend the documentary Live From Pompeii to anyone who is a fan of the band, and those who aren’t, as well – it will make you a fan (and, young David Gilmour = swoon).

led zeppelin

3. Led Zeppelin

This is where it gets tough.  I would say that it’s a tie between the top three, if that is possible. :) Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest bands of all time… if I could travel back in time, it would be to see them live in their heyday.  In terms of rock ‘n’ roll, I don’t think any other band comes close to them.

rolling stones

2. The Rolling Stones

When thinking about iconic British bands, the Rolling Stones are the first to come to mind.  I’m not totally sure why…something about their style and debaucherous attitude screams gritty, grey London.  Exile on Main Street is my second favorite album of all time, but I love pretty much all of their albums and how they incorporated other influences like Blues and Soul.  I don’t care what anyone says, Keith Richards is dreamy.

the beatles

1. The Beatles

Of course. :) My all-time favorite, but they also really started the whole British Invasion and were the first band to attract swarms of screaming female fans, which today has become pretty commonplace. It goes without saying how influential their music has been in the music world – it speaks for itself.

the beatles

What is your favorite band to come out of the UK? Anyone you would include in my list?

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Rachel -September 13, 2012, 8:00AM

Great list! I’d have to add The Zombies to that as well, totally underrated band. Odessey and Oracle is my favorite album ever, and they STILL sound great live :). I wish I could have seen Led Zeppelin in their heyday …I’m in love with Jimmy Page hehe.

Suzie -September 13, 2012, 10:03AM

LED ZEPPELIN ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gurley Girl -September 13, 2012, 10:42AM

Make this a CD in the store!!!!!!! Pleeeeease

Gurley Girl -September 13, 2012, 10:47AM

also – i’m assuming copyright reasons kept us from putting the Beatles on this playlist??

fp julia -September 13, 2012, 10:49AM

Gurley Girl – unfortunately they are not on RDIO, the site we use for the playlists! :(

anne -September 13, 2012, 11:25AM

nice! 100 years ago is one of my favorites! super deep track!

also, sunny afternoon rules! and if you could have added a beatles song, the continuing story of bungalow bill is always great :D

Ladyphriend -September 13, 2012, 12:17PM

Radiohead is exactly in its right place.

goodmuse -September 13, 2012, 12:46PM

roxy music!

fp julia -September 13, 2012, 2:53PM

anne – me too! so good :)

Montana -September 13, 2012, 3:05PM

In love with Led Zeppelin! So glad to hear they’re releasing Celebration Day in theaters!

Rachel D. -September 13, 2012, 3:26PM

This is one of the greatest posts I have seen on this blog ever. Thank you so much darlings!!

Amanda -September 13, 2012, 6:02PM

Here here on the Keefey comment! In my opinion Richards can do no wrong! I do think perhaps Blur should have made an appearance….

danielle -September 13, 2012, 7:37PM

fleetwood mac and radiohead- that’s what’s up.

kizz -September 13, 2012, 7:41PM

this is list is full of the most famous stereotypically british bands, can tell this was written by an american

jen -September 13, 2012, 7:57PM

Good music is good music, kizz. These bands fucking rocked it despite how popular they are.

Valerie Lee -September 13, 2012, 8:18PM

Great list… I love The Jam, and they are one of my personal favorite UK bands.

Chrishell -September 13, 2012, 9:37PM

LED ZEP, PINK FLOYD, and BEATLES!!!! *faints*

Nicole Camille -September 13, 2012, 11:39PM

Where are The Smiths?????????????????????????????????????

Alejandra -September 14, 2012, 10:08AM

Great list, but you forgot one of the best bands EVER: QUEEN. OMG

bella -September 21, 2012, 11:41AM

What about the sex pistols and the clash!

Zak Shareef -October 1, 2012, 10:50AM

Lists are fun. I try to read them as a whole. I like to trace back the selection process. Style is an expression of a way of thinking. What we like must be irrational (or to quote High Fidelity “How can it be bullshit to state a preference?”) but the ways that irrationality can be articulated always offer insight into the workings of the mind that followed them. Tastefully and courageously done.

I love most of those bands too.

I thought if I wrote that smarterish it’d be more likely to make the person who write the list smile, so I did it that way first.

Montana -November 16, 2012, 11:42AM

Glad you got Zeppelin’s Down By The Seaside and Tangerine on there….love those two!

Aurelija -November 17, 2012, 10:46AM

Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd… Thumbs up!!!

Johnny -December 5, 2012, 9:47PM

Even though it’s not a band, David Bowie is amazing as well

They Call Me J -December 6, 2012, 11:51AM

James! This band has not received the recognition in the US that they deserve. Most people know Laid (well most people my age) but they have countless beautifully written and executed songs. If you ever have a chance to witness them live you have to do it.


Z -December 8, 2012, 11:27PM

*Live At Pompeii

Kyla -December 10, 2012, 10:28PM

Great list! I def agree on The Who and Oasis. I would love to add The Cult, The Jam/Paul Weller, Stereophonics ,and the Clash.

Persephone -December 23, 2012, 3:58PM

I totally approve of this list, although I would have loved to see Mumford and Sons on it (:

lindsey -December 28, 2012, 2:01AM


Andy -January 10, 2013, 10:44AM

This list needs two more band and most people would agree with me. Queen and Def Leppard. Queen I have absolutely no idea why they aren’t there. And Def Leppard were the greatest rock band to come out of the uk back in the 80′s

LeAnna -January 21, 2013, 10:06AM

I have to agree with Andy, Def Leppard is my all time favorite!! However this list is awesome, how can you pick just 10??

TOM SCHWESKA -January 25, 2013, 4:24PM

jethro tull top five band hands down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aditi Pathak -February 3, 2013, 11:38AM

You forgot Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Queen and Judas Priests!

Kate -March 3, 2013, 7:57PM


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