Putting the top 50 British bands in order is not a small undertaking.
This section of the list was the hardest to compile. Our top 10 which runs on Friday was so easy it wrote itself. But this is where the claws came out.
After-all, every band that is below is thisclose to each other in terms of influence and to let sales set the bar is just lame. So after much debate we present 20-11.
#20 The Smiths
Inarguably one of the most influential independent bands to come out of Manchester, England, The Smiths, were created in 1982 by Morrissey (vocals), Johnny Marr (lead guitar), Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums).
Based on the principal songwriting/production partnership of Morrissey and Marr, the group signed to the indie label, Rough Trade Records, on which they released four full-length studio albums and several compilations before tensions between the two caused them to break-up in 1987.
Following his career with The Smiths, guitarist Johnny Marr went on to play with such influential rock outfits as The Talking Heads, The The, Modest Mouse, Oasis, Beck, Crowded House, John Frusciante, Robyn Hitchcock, Girls Aloud, The Charlatans, Billy Bragg, The Pretenders, The Cult, and Black Grape.
Meanwhile, Morrissey, went on to have a very successful solo career, releasing his debut album, Viva Hate, in 1988.
Both Morrissey and Marr have refused opportunities to reunite. But while it has remains to be seen if they will ever get together again, fans continue to cling to brief hope built in 2014 and 2015, when they received nominations for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Coldplay’s crisp sound and Chris Martin sang their way onto our list at number 19. The band formed in 1996 at university college of London by Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland is one that reaches across the lines of generations with melodic lyrics that can get stuck in anyone’s head.
Their first worldwide hit single “Yellow” from their debut album Parachutes topped the charts in 2000 and since then they have created seven albums.
Parachutes (2000), A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), X & Y (2005), Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), Mylo Xyloto (2011),Ghost Stories (2014), A Head Full of Dreams (2015) were all different albums in their own right, but all loved and critically acclaimed.
Coldplay’s music is lit with and energy that cannot be paralleled and it does not hurt that they are conscious of the world around them.
Donating and contributing to various charities such as Meat Free Monday a charity for Paul McCartney, which helps lessen the carbon imprint, Kids Company a charity that helps children in London, and the Haiti Earthquake relief fund. Coldplay is a band with hearts and tunes of gold.
Creative genius is often fueled by tension and fury. This list contains more than its fair share of bands that took burned out due to this factor. But no other band represents it better than Blur.
In fact singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree carried the tension factor around like badge of honor.
The mind-late 90’s saw an implosion of epic proportions as substance abuse, egos and creative misdirection derailed the quartet.
Keeping busy kept Albarn in particular in front of the general public. He started another platinum list participant in Gorillaz.
That experience, a lot of reconciliation and a string of inspiring gigs led to Blur’s finest hour.
2015’s The Magic Whip was more than a return to form. It was the sound of a band that shook off the bullshit as men to come full circle and create arguably their best album to date.
Containing elements of the Brit-pop stylings that made them darlings in the 90’s, The Magic Whip has proven to be a gem.
Competitive with the early smash “There’s No Other Way,” the punchy “Go Out” is the sound of youth reinvented.
In the now, Blur has come a long way from being a bunch of artsy kids trying to make it under the banner Seymour. They’ve evolved and the progress is a good look.
#17 Deep Purple
The fact that Deep Purple’s underrated 80’s comeback album Perfect Strangers is a personal favorite displays just how deep the classic portion of the Deep Purple catalog is.
Best known for iconic tunes like “ Highway Star” and “ Smoke On The Water,” guitarist Ritchie Blackmore wrote riffs that lit up high school parking lots all of over North America and beyond.
Formed in 1968, Deep Purple found magic with their most commercial grouping of Blackmore, Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (keyboards), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums).
Despite assisting in generating the over-driven sound that would morph into heavy metal, it took the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame over two decades to induct them.
That crime in addition to the bad blood that exists between Blackmore and their current lineup are dark clouds that hang over a pristine legacy.
#16 The Police
Towards the end of the punk rock era, a power trio gained global recognition, becoming one of the first “new wave” acts to achieve mainstream success and the leaders of the “Second British Invasion” in the U.S.
The Police–consist of Sting (lead vocals, songwriter, bassist), Andy Summers (lead guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums, percussion)–signed to A&M Records in 1977, and less than a year later they had their first hit single, “Roxanne.” TV appearances on BBC’s Top of the Pops and live performances at CBGB’s in New York City were also influential to their success.
Shortly after the Synchronicity tour in 1984, the band decided it was time to pursue their solo careers, with Sting releasing his debut studio album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles; Copeland recorded and filmed The Rhythmatist (1985); and Summers recorded another album with Robert Fripp (1984).
In celebration of their 30th anniversary, the Sting, Summers and Copeland returned for a reunion tour in 2007-2008.
In total the band sold 3.7 million tickets and grossed $358 million, making it the third-highest-grossing tour of all-time.
#15 Sex Pistols
It’s amazing a band that only lasted two-and-a-half years and released only one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, could be so influential.
The band was first created in 1975, when Johnny Rotten (lead singer), Steve Jones (guitarist), Paul Cook (drummer) and Glen Matlock (bass).
By early 1977, Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious. Under the management of Malcolm McLaren, a visual artist, performer, clothes designer and boutique owner, the band provoked controversies that garnered a significant amount of publicity.
Their concerts repeatedly faced difficulties with organizers and local authorities, and public appearances often ended in mayhem.
The band broke-up in 1978 after Rotten announced he was leaving the band. Vicious died of a heroin overdose less than a year later, in Feb. 1979, following his arrest for the alleged murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.
Rotten later went on to form the post-punk / experimental group Public Image Ltd, while Jones and Cook went on to form, The Professionals.
#14 The Cure
Formed in West Sussex in 1976 this legendary band may have changed the lineup several times but the sound and vocals of Robert Smith’s The Cure are eternal.
What originally started out as a punk version of the Beatles, morphed into something completely new when Robert Smith filled in playing with Siouxsie and the Banshees on the Siouxsie and the Banshees Join Hands tour.
When Smith filled in playing guitar for the Banshees, he embraced the power of the well of dark emotion their music dipped into.
Their brooding, mysterious, and melodic music coupled with Robert Smith’s penchant for theatrical appearance, transformed them into the face of an era of music that almost 40 years later is the never-ending voice of the tormented bleeding heart.
Hits like “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Fascination Street,” “Lovesong,” “Pictures of You,” “Just Like Heaven,” have etched themselves into the fabric of pop culture.
Thirteen studio albums, ten EP’s, and over 30 singles The Cure are the fathers of the goth-rock era.
#13 Joy Division
Coming in at 13, is another group of Manchester men who helped change an era: Joy Division. Although they only released two albums Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (1980), Joy Division is just as important in the birth of the goth-rock and new wave movements.
When you think of the 1980’s, and of the two drastic factions of rock that dominated the radio, the soundtrack to the decade would be null, and void without “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
Post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and Joy Division, changed the narrative of music, and dug deep into their souls to and poured out their wounds onto vinyl. The vulnerability of their music opened a gateway for generations.
Their short-lived success as the band Joy Division was halted when lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. The remaining band members went on to form the band New Order, but what they achieved with Curtis, still remains some of the most poignant music of an era.
#12 Def Leppard
When guitarist Steve Clark died in 1991, a large chunk of Def Leppard’s soul went with him. Before his tragic passing due to a deadly cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol, the band had ripped off double back-to-back diamond LPs in Pyromania and Hysteria. Those records were preceded in the gritty triumph High ‘n’ Dry.
Assisted in key points by the production values of super-producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, Def Leppard found a niche sound that was built upon stacked vocals, rapid-fire guitar work and as time went on hook-driven melodies tailor-made for radio and MTV.
Tragedy often crept in between album cycles. Original guitarist Pete Willis was kicked out in between the release of High ‘n’ Dry and Pyromania for his alcohol abuse.
Drummer Rick Allen got into a car accident that severed his left arm in between Pyromania and Hysteria. Clark’s tragedy occurred as work began on Adrenalize.
Subsequent albums such as Slang failed to reach classic status yet they have kept them busy.
Still on the shed circuit, Def Leppard carries on with ex-Dio/Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell, vocalist Joe Elliot, bassist Rick Savage and guitarist Phil Collen.
Now if only they could agree to put their catalog on streaming services…
Muse is a lot of incredible music rolled into one package. Operatic like Queen, edgy as the strongest alternative band and hardnosed like the strongest hard rock act, this trio is nothing short of unstoppable.
Formed in by Matt Bellamy (vocals/ guitar/piano/ keys), Chris Wolstenholme (bass/ keys) and Dominic Howard (drums), Muse is among the current torchbearers for Brit rock.
They are however, far from rock simpletons. Over their seven albums, the three-piece has used experimentation as a calling card.
Classical overtones, dub step, tribal patterns and electronic are a few of the shapes that they have fit into their sonic arsenal.
As players they arrived at a time when skills were viewed as an afterthought.
Bellamy’s vocal range and musicianship in particular, showcase him as a genius that is armed with the physical tools to match his imagination.
Live, they are a stadium-sized act that has taken the themes explored on their albums and brought them to life via productions that are larger than life.
Though our Top 10 may be impossible to crack, Muse has found a way to at least knock on the door with important music that refuses to compromise.