fbpx

YOUR Top 10 Biggest Bands vs. MY Top 10 Biggest Bands

Newsflash: my band (in this pic:)

did NOT make it the Top 50. But, then once you saw me on the far left (with a Flying V I wish I still had), you knew we wouldn’t, didn’t you?

Actually my high school band, Hot Ice (Leland High, San Jose) not only did NOT make the Top 50 Biggest Bands of All Time using the measurable data I compiled, we also did NOT make the list made from your votes over Memorial Day Weekend at KFOX.com. That’s ok, ‘cuz neither did a bunch of cool bands. It was TOUGH to make the list!

My Top 50 Biggest Bands of All Time uses data 1962-2019 that listeners didn’t have access to, so when they were asked to vote for their Top 3 bands, naturally theirs is somewhat different…but remarkably similar! (Remember this is not the best bands, which is subjective, but biggest, which I proved can be measured objectively.)

Using data from sales, airplay, views, streaming, influence, relevance, longevity (50 criteria total), here’s my Top 50 Biggest Bands of All Time:

#1-10 Aerosmith/Led Zeppelin/Beatles/Stones/Pink Floyd/Van Halen/AC/DC/Eagles/The Who/Queen.

 

Compare that with listener votes when asked for their Top 3:

#1-10 Led Zeppelin/Beatles/AC/DC/Stones/Aerosmith/Pink Floyd/Van Halen/The Who/Queen/Metallica.

 

 

Here’s how I did it:

Chris Jackson’s Top 50 Biggest Rock Bands of All Time

 

There are lots of lists, but this list has never been done…correctly. I knew ranking the “best” bands/artists would have to be subjective (quality). But, I thought, ranking the “biggest” bands could be objective (quantity). I set out to be the first one to do it.

 

Over the course of hundreds of hours, and a lifetime of living rock ‘n’ roll as a fan, radio host, radio and music producer, and gigging/recording musician who plays four instruments, I put together a proprietary algorithm using 50 criteria. Sales, concerts, airplay, views, influence, longevity, and relevance were among those considered. Never before has such a collection of public and private data been assembled and analyzed.

 

50 Criteria Used:

 

Here are the 50 criteria (in no particular order). Over half of the criteria are followed by the top scoring bands/artists in that “category” left to right starting with #1. Other criteria are followed by examples.

 

*Platinum = 1 million sold *Multi-Platinum = 2-9 million sold  *Diamond = 10 million sold

 

 

  1. # platinum albums: Beatles/Elton-Stones tie/Springsteen/Zeppelin/Aerosmith-AC/DC tie
  2. # multi-platinum albums: Beatles/Elton/Zeppelin/Aerosmith/Pink Floyd
  3. # diamond albums: Zeppelin/Eagles-Beatles tie/Journey-Pink Floyd-Def Leppard-Springsteen-Van Halen-Elton tie
  4. # double diamond albums: Eagles/Zeppelin-AC/DC-Nirvana-Guns N’ Roses-Journey-Fleetwood Mac-tie
  5. # consecutive multi-platinum studio albums: Van Halen (10)/Metallica (9)/Zeppelin (8)/Pink Floyd-Ozzy (as solo artist) tie (7)
  6. # total albums: David Bowie/Beatles/Stones
  7. # total studio albums: David Bowie/Beatles/Rolling Stones-Santana tie
  8. # of songs on the radio career (major): Beatles/Stones/Aerosmith/Van Halen-Tom Petty tie/The Who-Eagles tie/Zeppelin-Journey tie/Fleetwood Mac-Bob Seger tie
  9. # of songs on the radio career (album cuts added): Beatles/Stones/Elton/Zeppelin-Van Halen tie/Aerosmith/The Who/AC/DC-Eagles tie/Journey/Tom Petty/Ozzy (as solo artist)-Heart tie
  10. # Top 10 songs: Beatles/Elton/Stones
  11. # of #1 singles: Beatles/Elton/Stones
  12. # plays radio today: Aerosmith-AC/DC tie/Van Halen/Zeppelin-Pink Floyd tie/Def Leppard-Guns N’ Roses tie/Stones-Ozzy (as solo artist) tie
  13. # songs in Top 10 airplay today: Guns N’ Roses/Aerosmith-AC/DC-Queen tie
  14. # total songs on radio today: Zeppelin/Van Halen/Stones/Aerosmith-Tom Petty tie/Pink Floyd/AC/DC
  15. # songs 100-million-plus views YouTube: Queen/Red Hot Chili Peppers/Bon Jovi-ACDC tie/Guns N’ Roses-Aerosmith-Metallica tie
  16. # views one song: Guns N’ Roses/Queen/Nirvana/Bon Jovi/Scorpions
  17. # songs Top 25 streaming: Queen/Guns N’ Roses-Aerosmith-Eagles-Elton-Journey-Lynyrd Skynyrd tie
  18. # of eras major new songs: Aerosmith (3 eras)/Santana (3 eras)
  19. # years between major songs: Aerosmith/Santana
  20. # bands who sound like them: Zeppelin/Hendrix/Beatles/Lynyrd Skynyrd/AC/DC
  21. longevity: Stones/The Who/Aerosmith/ZZ Top/Rush
  22. longevity all original members: Aerosmith/ZZ Top/Rush/U2
  23. cited as top influence: Beatles/Zeppelin/Black Sabbath/Aerosmith/AC/DC
  24. spinoff success: Black Sabbath/Beatles/Nirvana/Eagles/Fleetwood Mac
  25. # Grammy Award wins: U2/Springsteen/Clapton/Foo Fighters/Santana/Metallica
  26. # Grammy Award nominations: Springsteen/U2/Clapton/Elton/Foo Fighters/Beatles
  27. member recognizable on instrument: Van Halen/Hendrix
  28. # (multiple) members top ranked on instrument/voice: Zeppelin/Guns N’ Roses-Journey-Rush-Queen-Van Halen tie
  29. # iconic songs (highest level cultural familiarity): Queen (We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions/Bohemian Rhapsody)/Journey (Don’t Stop Believin’)-Lynyrd Skynyrd (Sweet Home Alabama)-Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit) tie
  30. # anthem-level songs (just under iconic level): The Who/Lynyrd Skynyrd (Free Bird)- Zeppelin-Stones-Beatles-Eagles-Aerosmith-Bon Jovi-Black Sabbath-Deep Purple tie.
  31. # of radio songs from one studio album (Beatles/Nirvana/Fleetwood Mac-AC/DC tie/Zeppelin/Def Leppard-AC/DC-Van Halen-The Cars-Boston tie)
  32. in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (yes or no)
  33. still active (yes or no)
  34. # iconic members/name one member (ex. Beatles, Stones, Queen, Doors…)
  35. # iconic members/name multiple members (ex. Beatles, KISS, Stones, Guns N’ Roses…)
  36. # iconic riffs (ex. Deep Purple “Smoke On the Water” guitar intro./Van Halen “Jump” keyboard intro./Aerosmith “Walk This Way” drum intro…)
  37. # iconic guitar solos: (ex. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zeppelin, Eagles, Pink Floyd, Hendrix…)
  38. your songs covered by others: (ex. Beatles “Come Together,” Kinks “You Really Got Me”…)
  39. songs you covered: (ex. Aerosmith “Come Together,” Van Halen “You Really Got Me”…)
  40. # crossover genre songs (ex. Beatles, Elton, Aerosmith, Journey, Eagles, Van Halen…)
  41. cultural-social impact (ex. Beatles hairdos, Aerosmith-Run DMC collaboration, Nirvana change in music and fashion: 80’s metal out/grunge in,…)
  42. # headlining years (ex. a band may have headlined at major venues, then at only medium venues, then back to major venues as co-headliner)
  43. relevance career (ex. U2/Bono relationship with Oprah & Apple, Metallica vs. Napster streaming, Aerosmith videos launched Alicia Silverstone movies…)
  44. relevance today (ex. Queen movie Academy Awards, Aerosmith jam with Post Malone on MTV Awards, Greta Van Fleet sounds like Zeppelin…)
  45. singer live vs. recording (ex. vocals sound terrible in concert)
  46. live performance (ex. Springsteen longest concert 4 hours…)
  47. firsts (ex. Guns N’ Roses rock first song over a billion YouTube views, Aerosmith first rap song 1975/first rock/rap collaboration 1986/first band to get their own Guitar Hero video game, Van Halen first band to be paid over a million dollars for one show (US Festival), Eagles first band to pass $100 per ticket…)
  48. TV (ex. Paul McCartney on Carpool Karaoke/SNL, Mick Jagger on SNL, Aerosmith on SNL/The Simpsons/American Idol judge, Ozzy on The Osbournes…)
  49. movies (ex. Queen, Doors, Motley Crue, Beatles, Zeppelin…)
  50. news (ex. Ozzy accused of biting a bat…)

 

 

 

OK…here it comes…

 

What you see next to each artist below represents a mere snippet of the rationale behind each ranking. Remember, there are 50 criteria used to rank the bands on “quantity” (not “quality”) through six decades of rock.

 

Get ready. This is the truth. Whether you like it or not. And…you will not like it. J

 

– Chris

 

 

 

 

*HOF (yes or no) = in or not in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

*Diamond = 10 million copies sold

 

 

  1. Styx

 

Top 25 in # radio songs. Top 20 in # total albums. Top 20 with 4 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Spinoffs: Damn Yankees. Still active. HOF no.

 

  1. Bad Company

 

Debut album #1 on chart. #35 in # of radio songs. Still active. HOF no.

 

  1. Doobie Brothers

 

1 Diamond album. Top 25 in # radio songs. Spinoffs: Michael McDonald.  Still active.

HOF no.

 

  1. Allman Brothers

 

#1 Southern rock influence and early jam band influence. Headlined highest attendance concert of all time (at the time) Watkins Glen 1973. Spinoffs: Gregg Allman. HOF yes.

 

  1. Cheap Trick

 

Top 35 in # radio songs. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. TV theme. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Scorpions

 

#5 most viewed rock song YouTube. #7 in # total albums. Top 35 in # radio songs. Still active. HOF no.

 

  1. ZZ Top

 

1 Diamond album. #1 longevity same 3 members. Top 25 in # radio songs. All original members still active. Iconic beards. HOF yes.

 

  1. Steely Dan

 

Top 25 in # radio songs. Spinoffs: Toto, Michael McDonald. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Foo Fighters

 

#4 in # Grammy wins. 7 Platinum albums. Top 15 in # of rock song videos over 100 million views. Still active. HOF no.

 

  1. Bob Seger

 

1 Diamond album. Top 10 with 6 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Top 10 in # of major radio songs. Top 15 in # radio songs. Iconic song. HOF yes.

 

  1. David Bowie

 

#1 in # total albums. #2 in # total studio albums. Top 30 in # radio songs. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. HOF yes.

 

  1. Ozzy Osbourne (as solo artist)

 

Top 5 with 7 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums (solo). Top 15 in # radio songs (solo). Top 15 in # radio songs today (solo). Iconic singer. TV show. HOF no. (HOF for Black Sabbath, not solo.)

 

  1. Heart

 

Top 15 in # of Top 10 songs. Top 15 in # radio songs. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Bon Jovi

 

1 Diamond album. #5 in # of #1 songs. #4 most viewed rock song YouTube. Singer in movies. Iconic song. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Steve Miller Band

 

1 Diamond album. Top 25 in # radio songs. 3 Eras of major new radio songs. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Pearl Jam

 

1 Diamond album. #3 biggest selling rock debut album. Guinness Book of World Records #1 in # of simultaneous album debuts on Billboard Top 200 (7). Top 25 in # radio songs today. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Foreigner

 

Tied #10 in # of #1 songs. Top 10 with 5 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Spinoffs: Lou Gramm. Still active. HOF no.

 

  1. The Cars

 

Top 15 in # radio songs. Top 15 in # radio songs on 1 album. Spinoffs: Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr. HOF yes.

 

  1. Motley Crue

 

Top 10 in # radio songs today. Top 20 with 4 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. 4 of 4 original members. Movie. HOF no.

 

  1. The Police

 

#6 most viewed rock song YouTube. Top 25 in # of radio songs. Spinoffs: Sting. HOF yes.

 

  1. Elton John

 

#1 in # of studio albums. #2 in # of #1 songs. #3 in # radio songs. Top 5 in # total albums. 2 Diamond albums. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Black Sabbath

 

Top 20 # total albums. #1 Influence metal. Spinoffs: Ozzy Osbourne #1 spinoff, Ronnie James Dio. HOF yes.

 

  1. Bruce Springsteen

 

#1 biggest selling live rock album. #1 longest rock concert of all time. #2 highest attendance non-festival rock concert. #1 in # Grammy nominations. #2 in # Grammy wins. 2 Diamond albums. 3 Eras of major new radio songs. Top 20 # radio songs. Top 5 in # of radio songs on 1 album. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Santana

 

1 Diamond album. Guitar groundbreaker. 3 Eras of major new radio songs. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Eric Clapton

 

Top 10 in # total albums. #3 in # Grammy wins. #3 in # Grammy nominations. 3 Eras of major new radio songs. Radio songs with 5 bands. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Fleetwood Mac

 

1 Double Diamond album. #5 biggest selling rock studio album. Top 10 biggest selling rock album overall. Top 5 in # radio songs on 1 album. Top 10 in # major radio songs. Top 15 in # total albums. Spinoffs: Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Def Leppard

 

2 Diamond albums. Top 10 in # major radio songs. Top 10 in # radio songs today. Top 20 with 4 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Creedence Clearwater Revival

 

Top 15 in # major radio songs. Top 15 in # total albums. Top 20 with 4 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Spinoffs: John Fogerty. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Rush

 

Top 10 in # total studio albums. Top 15 in # total albums. Top 5 in concert length. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

#2 in # rock song videos over 100 million views. Top 15 views for a single song YouTube. #9 most viewed rock song YouTube. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Jimi Hendrix

 

Guitar groundbreaker. Headliner and highest payed artist ($18,000) at original Woodstock festival. #1 in # of artists making career off copying his guitar style. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

#1 played Southern rock band. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. Iconic guitar solo. Iconic song. Spinoffs: The Rossington Collins Band. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Green Day

 

1 Diamond album. Top 10 in # rock song videos with over 100 million views. Top 15 in views single song YouTube. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. The Doors

 

1 Diamond album. Top 15 in # radio songs today. Top 15 in # Platinum albums. Hollywood movie. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Metallica

 

1 Diamond album. #2 with 9 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. #7 most viewed rock song YouTube. Spinoffs: Megadeth. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

 

Top 5 in # radio songs. Top 5 in # major radio songs. Top 5 in # radio songs today. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. Spinoffs: Traveling Wilburys. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Journey

 

1 Double Diamond album. 1 Diamond album. 2 Diamond albums total (1 of which is the Double Diamond album). Top 10 in # radio songs. Top 10 with 6 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. Iconic song. Spinoffs: Steve Perry, Bad English, HSAS. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. U2

 

#1 in # Grammy wins. #2 in # Grammy Nominations. #3 highest attendance non-festival rock concert. Top 10 with 6 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. 3 Eras of major new radio songs. 4 of 4 original members still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Guns N’ Roses

 

1 Double Diamond album. #1 biggest selling rock debut album. Top 10 biggest selling rock album overall. #1 most viewed rock song YouTube. 1st rock song to pass a billion views on YouTube. #2 in # rock song videos over 100 million views. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. Singer sings for 2 bands in the Top 15 on this list. Spinoffs: Velvet Revolver. Still active. HOF yes.

 

  1. Nirvana

 

1 Double Diamond album. #3 most viewed rock song YouTube. Cultural shift in music–sound and fashion: 80’s metal out/grunge in. Iconic song, album and singer. Spinoffs: Foo Fighters. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. HOF yes.

 

  1. Queen

 

#1 in # rock song videos over 100 million views. #1 with 2 songs in Top 25 streaming songs YouTube. #2 most views rock song YouTube. #4 highest attendance non-festival rock concert. #1 in # iconic songs. Iconic singer. Hollywood movie with Academy Awards. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. The Who

 

Top 10 in # radio songs. Top 10 in # major radio songs. #7 in # total albums. Spinoffs: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey. #2 overall longevity. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. The Eagles

 

#1 and #3 biggest selling rock albums. 1 Triple Diamond album (only rock artist to have one). 1 Double Diamond album. 1 Diamond Album. Tied #2 with 3 Diamond albums total (1 of which is the Triple Diamond album and one of which is the Double Diamond album). #5 in # of #1 songs. Top 10 with 6 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. Spinoffs: Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Don Felder. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. AC/DC

 

#1 biggest selling rock studio album, #2 biggest selling rock album. 1 Double Diamond album. Tied #1 rock airplay today. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. #8 most viewed rock song YouTube. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Van Halen

 

2 Diamond albums. #1 with 10 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Guinness Book of World Records #1 highest paid band as US Festival headliner: first band to be paid over a million dollars for one concert. Guitar groundbreaker. #4 in # radio songs. Top 5 in # major radio songs. Top 5 in # of radio songs on 1 album. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Pink Floyd

 

#1 all-time record for time on album chart Dark Side of the Moon still stands. #1 biggest selling double album. Top 5 biggest selling rock album. 2 Diamond albums. Top 5 with 7 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Rolling Stones

 

#2 in # radio songs. #2 in # major radio songs. #1 overall longevity. #5 highest attendance non-festival rock concert. 2 Eras of major new radio songs. Tied #2 in # Platinum albums. #3 in # of #1 songs. Iconic singer. Still active. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. The Beatles   

 

#1 overall sales. #1 in # radio songs. #1 in # major radio songs. #1 in # of #1 songs. Tied #2 with 3 Diamond albums. Top 10 biggest selling rock album. Top 20 with 4 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Spinoffs: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Led Zeppelin

 

1 Double Diamond album. 3 Diamond albums. #1 with 4 Diamond albums total (1 of which is the Double Diamond album). #1 in # radio songs today. Top 5 biggest selling rock album. #3 with 8 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums. Most copied sound still today (e.g. Greta Van Fleet). HOF yes.

 

 

  1. Aerosmith

 

Only band to average Top 5 (4.17) score over all categories. #1 rock airplay. #1 longevity same 5 members. #1 longest time between major songs. 3 Eras of major new radio songs. #3 in # major radio songs. Top 5 in # rock song videos over 100 million views. Top 25 streaming song YouTube. 1 Diamond album. Top 5 in # Platinum albums. Top 5 in # Multi-Platinum albums. Top 10 with 5 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums, and another stretch of 4 consecutive Multi-Platinum studio albums 20 years later. Merged rock/rap. Headliners for biggest festivals across generations: headlined Cal Jam 2, headlined Texxas Jam, headlined biggest one-day lineup of all time 1978 (Aerosmith-Van Halen-AC/DC), headlined Woodstock ‘94. Only band with 5 of 5 original members still active. HOF yes.

 

 

Check this out:

 

Aerosmith

 

By Slash 

 

“I don’t think this generation has a clue what classic Aerosmith was all about. But they were the template for what I do, as well as plenty of bands that came after Guns n’ Roses: Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam all owed a serious debt to old-school Aerosmith.”

“My big awakening happened when I was 14 years old. We hung out…and listened to Aerosmith’s Rocks. I remember riding my bike back to my grandma’s house knowing that my life had changed forever. Now I identified with something.

 

The key to Rocks is the first two songs — “Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child.” That combination just ripped my head off. But my favorite song on the record has always been “Nobody’s Fault,” which is the second song on the B side.”

Rolling Stone magazine, 2010.

 

The “template” – wow. Slash goes on to cite his, look, swagger and chops came from Joe Perry and Brad Whitford influenced Slash’s soloing.

 

Metallica, Motley Crue, Ratt, and Guns N’ Roses have all cited Aerosmith Rocks as the basis of their music and inspiration, and Slash tells us that biggest 90’s grunge bands, including the 4 biggest, also were influenced by 70’s Aerosmith.

 

 

 

Surprised?

 

Shocked?

 

Upset?

 

 

Remember, this is NOT a list or ranking of my personal favorite bands, nor is it a list showing my opinion of which bands are bigger/better/greater, etc. than others. Many of my personal favorites (UFO, Saxon, Judas Priest, Cream, Stone Temple Pilots and others) did not mathematically make the Top 50 Biggest list once the measurable data was processed.

 

The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were bound to slip from their hold on the top spots as time went on. After all, this list uses data from the Beatles/Stones to TODAY. The “Big British 3” (as I like to call them) are the “biggest” using data from their first 25 years 1962-1987, but when data from 1987-today (the over 30 years following the first 25) is added in (as it should be, but never has been until now), other bands were bound to challenge them for the title of “BIGGEST” rock band of ALL time. The fact that those 3 finished as high as they did just shows how BIG they were, and are. Once again, note that this list ranks bands by quantity, not quality, over six decades of rock data.

 

If your band did not show or place where you’d hoped, don’t worry–that band/artist could still be BETTER than the rest (better is not measurable), just not BIGGER (bigger is measurable; I just proved it). If you open your mind to the fact that scientific data was used–rather than your feelings, memory, or what you “kinda always thought”–you’ll learn a lot from this list. You’ll probably even want to share your new knowledge with others. I hope you do.

 

 

– Chris Jackson

 

p.s. To find out more about the criteria and data–ask away!  chris@kfox.com

Chris Jackson

Wrap up your workday every weekday at 4:30pm for the Commercial Free Ride Home. Listen Here

Contests

Upcoming Events

Tue 16

Bon Jovi

June 16 @ 7:30 pm
San Jose CA
United States
Jul 14

Foreigner

July 14
Mountain View CA
United States
Jul 19

Def Leppard & Motley Crue

July 19 @ 4:30 pm
San Francisco CA
United States
Sep 12

The Doobie Brothers

September 12 @ 7:30 pm
Mountain View CA
United States
Sep 13

KFOX 30th Anniversary Concert

September 13 @ 7:00 pm
Mountain View CA
United States

Listen Live