The band’s roots were planted in the ‘60s, but the ‘70s saw Pink Floyd soar to international prominence. “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “Animals and The Wall” remain classics and the Brits ushered in an era of progressive and experimental rock that influenced bands even in the present day. While the band is no more — David Gilmour and Roger Waters continue to tour and preserve the legacy of one of rock’s most important bands.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones were at their roaring pinnacle during the ‘70s. In fact, several of their most important records were released during this time, including “Sticky Fingers,” and “Exile on Main Street.” Lead singer Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were at their hedonistic best in the 70’s. This period of time was the Stones most fruitful period of creativity, with several genre pivots and feverish live shows which helped define the band’s legacy as it is today.
New Yardbirds? Nah. Sink like a Led Zeppelin? Whoops. After Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham joined forces, rock n roll would never be the same. They reinvented how monster riffs would be brought to the masses and their legendary off-the-stage antics remain legend today. Using exquisite guitar and drum solos along with Plant’s iconic vocals propelled this band to stardom. The legacy of Led Zeppelin doesn’t need any further justification without popping “Houses Of The Holy” on your car stereo. If that doesn’t get you speeding, nothing else will.
As the purveyors of bringing the Laurel Canyon sound to the mainstream, the Los Angeles natives remain one of the most popular bands in history. Their laid-back vibes ushered in a feel-good era of music that saw tequila-drenched tunes become soft rock classics with “Hotel California,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Take It Easy” remaining rock radio staples. Add to that five number-one singles, six Grammys, and six number one albums, and you have a formula success that lives on longer than some of the band members.
The fiery Australians helped bring hard rock to the masses during their frantic early years. Led by the howling Bon Scott and pulverizing guitar of Angus Young, AC/DC loved to play loud and their blend of hard rock and blues rock quickly saw them capture attention internationally. Of the original members, only Young remains in the lineup. Even so, the band’s last area tour started with a Coachella headlining set and a sold-out Dodger Stadium gig, proving that band’s legacy remains as towering as ever.
Led by the Toxic Twins — Steven Tyler and Joe Perry respectively — Boston’s finest were supposed to be America’s answer to the Rolling Stones. Instead, Aerosmith’s blend of blues, glam, hard rock became the soundtrack to an entire decade for a rambunctious generation of music fans who grew up in the ‘70s. The built built a loyal following that were mesmerized by the band’s magnetic shows, which remains a staple of the band today.
The Ramones proved that three chords could go a long way. Born out of a response to bloatedness of progressive rock, the Queens-based band played fast, hard and loud. Easily the most important punk rock band in the world, the Ramones were more than the sum of their parts. Though they never achieved commercial success until long after their demise, their self-titled 1976 debut is a classic and one of the most important records of all time. Despite three quarter of the band no longer alive, there’s no denying that the Ramones changed the landscape of pop music that’s reverberating long after their 1996 demise.
It’s easy to think of KISS as opportunists willing to shill for a buck, but in the ‘70s, they were truly the hottest band in the land. Their live shows were — and are — what made the band legends. Oh, and their unorthodox style and showmanship that brought a mix of the circus, kabuki theatre and rock n roll changed how bands market themselves. Marketing genius aside, KISS had killer tunes and a flair for the dramatic that many have tried and ultimately failed to replicate. Songs like “Detroit Rock City” and more have made their impact on rock and roll.
Unlike any of the bands on here, the Sex Pistols crashed and burned quicker than any of their punk contemporaries. Led by Johnny Rotten, they were brash and in-your-face, and did so unapologetically. They were unafraid to piss people off and antagonize major political figures in a manner that was as bold as it was shocking. Between their style, ripping tunes and one album rise and fall, no band inspired so much in such a short period of time. If not for the Sex Pistols, bands like Joy Division and the Smiths would have never formed.
Though they were around in ‘60s, it wasn’t until Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined when Fleetwood Mac experienced their greatest success. From their self-titled album to “Rumours” (which has sold over 40 million records worldwide) to “Tusk,” no band had a hotter stretch than Fleetwood Mac during the ‘70s. Mixing soft rock, blues rock and pop rock, Fleetwood Mac were at the peak of their powers at time when disco ruled. Eventually, the Los Angeles-based outfit were rewarded for these peak years by earning both a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a permanent spot on rock radio.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Looking back, it’s incredible to think that a folk band was able to headline stadiums. At the peak of their powers, CSNY were a harmonious blend of country rock that appealed to hippies and became the band ushered in the popular Laurel Canyon sound that would become popular later in the decade.
Canadian rock trios aren’t supposed to change the world. Rush defied history. Led by the powerful combination of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson, the band’s complex musicianship and proficiency helped bring accessible prog rock to the masses. Lyrics based on fantasy, science fiction and philosophy added brains and imagination that extended beyond their guitars and synthesizers.
Known for their prowess in the studio, Steely Dan made some of the best and most intricate records during this time. Their blend of jazz, R&B, funk, pop and soft rock made the duo critical darlings, and songs like “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In the Years” brought them wider mainstream success. Though they rarely performed live, Walter Becker, Donald Fagen and their revolving cast of musicians’ whimsical tunes created a soft rock soundtrack that made them one of two bands on this list to land in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and in a Coachella lineup.