My Favorite British Rock Bands (With Videos)- Beatles, Floyd, Stones and More
If you were to name off a list of 10 or 20 or more bands that you thought were the best rock bands of all time, how many on your list would be British rock bands? Inarguably some of the best rock bands of all time hail from England.
I’ve featured seven of my favorites here, and how I connect to them. Things like how I came to discover them, why I like them, and the memories I associate with these bands. I became a Beatles fan when I was about 4 years old, discovered Black Sabbath in junior high school, and became a Pink Floyd devotee in my early 20s. But, I get ahead of myself. Read on for my connection with these iconic British bands.
British rock bands included in this article:
- The Beatles
- Pink Floyd
- Black Sabbath
- Led Zeppelin
- The Who
- The Rolling Stones
I was introduced to the Beatles when I was about 4 years old. My mom was number 6 of 8 children. Because my mom was close to the youngest, when I was 4, I had lots of teenaged cousins. My mom’s oldest sister had 3 girls. When I would spend weekends, or sometimes a week or two with these cousins, we would listen to the radio. What I remember even more, is sitting in the swing on the porch and singing for hours. I have really great memories of music and singing with these cousins, especially the youngest two, Judy and Trudy.
Beatles were definitely on our singing list! This was the early and mid-sixties. You know, the days of Hard Day’s Night and I Want to Hold Your Hand. This experience started me on a lifelong enjoyment of the Beatles, which was redoubled when John Lennon was killed, and I started really listening to the Beatles again.
After John Lennon’s death, I started what was to be a long-term relationship with a man I went to junior high and high school with. He was a guitarist, and also loved the Beatles. We spent many hours listening to them and singing along. He recorded LPs on cassette when the albums were new, then mostly played the tapes. We listened to the LPs on special occasions. I know some of you out there know just what I’m talking about. He constantly quizzed me on which Beatle was singing lead. Interesting twist on courtship rituals, don’t you think?
Eight Days a Week
Eight Days a Week (above) is one of my favorite “classic, old Beatles” upbeat songs. It was released on Beatles for Sale in 1964. John, my favorite Beatle, sings lead on this one. Seems to me John sang more leads in the early years.
In My Life (below) was released in 1966 on Revolver. John sang lead on this one too. I especially love the lyrics and music on this one. What a poignantly beautiful song!
In My Life
Back in the USSR
Back in the USSR (above) is a good workout song to get your blood pumping. I like to listen to it with headphones! It was released in 1968 on The Beatles, aka The White Album. Paul sings lead on this one. A lot of music writers call Back in the USSR a “propaganda song”.
Rocky Raccoon (below) is another selection from The White Album, also with Paul singing the lead. I love the whimsical lyrics: “Rocky Raccoon checked into his room, only to find Gideon’s Bible. A Gideon checked out. And he left it no doubt, to help with good Rocky’s revival.” And this one: “Her name was McGill, and she called herself Lil. But everyone knew her as Nancy.”
I love, love, love Pink Floyd. I had a boyfriend who overplayed The Wall when it first came out and turned me negative on them. The guitarist boyfriend however played for me in the early 80s, and I was soon enamored (yes, with Floyd and the guitarist). The long music intro to Shine on You Crazy Diamonds still stops me in my tracks. There should be a state-sanctioned 15 minutes of silence when it plays. Wish You Were Here
I was on temporary duty in Germany in the early 90s and was able to get a “tear down the wall” sweatshirt.
I saw Roger Waters in San Antonio sometime around 2000 at the Alamo Dome. He was the bass player of Pink Floyd, sang plenty of lead and co-lead vocals, but perhaps most importantly, he was the principle song writer. They performed mostly Floyd songs, and some of Waters’ solo works, such as songs from The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. They couldn’t sell tee shirts that said “Pink Floyd” I guess, but I got a really cool tee. It was light blue with white clouds, and bricks in the shape of a pig on the front upper chest. Really cool, and expensive even now, much less then at $42 for a short sleeved tee!
I’ve also seen Australian Pink Floyd. They were quite good. Definitely worth seeing. I’ve seen the Pink Floyd Laser Light Show twice, once at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, and once at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. If you see the laser show, you definitely want to be on an upper level. Otherwise you miss at least half the show going on over your head if you’re on the floor.
Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular
Wish You Were Here
I selected videos for two songs from Wish You Were Here (above), which was released in 1975. I included the title track, which may be my number one favorite Floyd song, and Shine on You Crazy Diamonds (below). The latter is by David Gilmour and his band on tour, in tribute to Syd Barrett. Barrett was the founding member of Floyd but left the band in 1968. This album and these songs were big favorites of all those folks in altered mental states in the 70s.
Pink Floyd Shine On You Crazy Diamonds
I’ve chosen two songs from The Wall, which was released in 1979. The Trial (above) video was recorded live in Berlin, in an extravaganza headed by Roger Waters. I love the lyrics: “Cra-zy, over the rainbow I am cra-zy. Truly gone fishing.” I posted those lyrics as my door sign at my last duty station for when I was “in” the office. Someone asked my techs if I was a lesbian because I drew a rainbow on it. Poor bloke definitely wasn’t a Floyd fan or they would have caught on immediately.
Comfortably Numb (below) is also from The Wall. The video is from the movie, with Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats as Pinky. I like the lyrics to this one also, as did those 70s stoners.
Black Sabbath was one of my favorite bands in junior high school. My cousin Lisa gave me the Paranoid album, which was released in 1971, for my birthday in 8th grade. She brought it to school, and gave it to me in home room, which was English class. I still remember we had these “reading carrel” desks. The school was in its 3rd year as the junior high school, previously having been “the Black High School”. I’m assuming the desks had a purpose in the high school, but our English class got the room by luck of the draw.
War Pigs, Paris 1970
Iron Man, featuring scenes from the movies
I wanted to include a video of a more recent Ozzy and settled on a live 2010 performance of Crazy Train (below), from an Ozzfest appearance in England. There’s a bit much stalling and trying to get audience participation.
Crazy Train, Ozzfest 2010 England
The British rock band Led Zeppelin formed in 1968. Who hasn’t heard of their iconic mega hit Stairway to Heaven? The song was released on their 4th album, untitled and referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, in 1971. Did you know that Stairway was never released as a single in the U.S., yet was the most requested radio play song throughout the 70s?
I saw Robert Plant in Columbia, S.C. in the early 80s. What a performer! His mannerisms seemed to me a little effeminate, which I chalked up to his “Englishness”. Yet I thought he exuded sex appeal. I couldn’t take my binoculars off of him. He was sending out some body language that was screaming at me.
His band played a couple of notes of Stairway as a big giant tease, and that was it. Probably some contractual thing that he couldn’t sing that song. I had tickets to see him again in Charlotte, N.C. in 1990. We got to the coliseum and the parking lot was empty. Concert cancelled. Guess I should have listened to the radio before I left. No personal computer or internet then.
Stairway to Heaven
Of course I chose a video of Stairway to Heaven (above). Unquestionably one of the best rock songs of all time, it has made many top lists, and considered by many audiophiles as the song of the century. The song was written by Jimmy Page, the guitarist, and Robert Plant, the vocalist. Much has been speculated about what the song means. You can Google Stairway to Heaven and find plenty of speculation. I also picked Whole Lotta Love (below). I really like Plant’s vocals on this one too.
Whole Lotta Love
My 3rd pick is Rock and Roll (below), but in a twist, I chose Heart’s version. It’s hard for me to like many re-makes or covers of popular songs. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think we tend to remain loyal to the first version of a song we heard and came to love. This is a rare exception. I saw Heart around 2004. Ann Wilson was still an amazing vocalist, one of relatively few female singers I really like.
Heart, Rock and Roll
The British rock band Queen formed in 1970. They brought something different to the 70s. Those operatic vocals were great but laid down in multiple tracks in the studio by the band members. Did it translate in concert? I had a boyfriend (the guitarist I wrote about above) who saw Queen live, and was disappointed. The piped in operatic vocals were okay for MTV, but for him just seemed like a giant hole in the concert. But he’s an audiophile. I probably would have been okay with it.
I was on temporary duty at a continuing education conference in Germany when singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991. I remember being in our hotel room watching hours of concert footage that was played in tribute that week.
Bohemian Rhapsody, from Wayne's World
Bohemian Rhapsody is bound to be on the short list of favorites for anyone who is familiar with Queen, am I right? I included a video clip of Rhapsody from the movie Wayne’s World (above). As a special treat, I included a video of Lucia Micarelli playing what would be the vocal part, on violin (below). I saw her do this with Josh Groban around 2005. Made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Bohemian Rhapsody on Violin
The final video clip is We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions (below). It was really hard to limit myself. So many great songs.
We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions
I saw The Who in St. Louis around 1990. It was the first time a concert had been held at the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium in many, many years. I was not a huge Who fan, but sometimes you gotta do something for the history of it all.
This was before the days of getting tickets online. It was my only wait-in-line, spend-the-night-on-the-sidewalk-with-strangers experience. I waited in line 19 hours to buy these tickets at one of the ticket outlets in one of the major stores in the mall. There was no “you got anything in the first risers” sort of deal. I wanted 6 tickets, they gave me 6 tickets.
I had a friend from OT school and her boyfriend, and my cousin and a girlfriend, fly in from S.C. for the concert. Our seats were in the 14th row on the floor. We were way out to the right, and had a screen, but could not see the stage at all! Have you been to concerts where the entire floor stands all night long? We stood in the chairs all night long.
If you’re a fan of the multiple CSI TV series, you may have noted they all feature Who songs in their openings.
I chose videos of Pinball Wizard (above) and Teenage Wasteland (below). Most listeners will immediately identify the opening guitar on Pinball Wizard. Wasteland has uniquely Who opening music as well.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones came to Busch Stadium in St. Louis a few months after The Who. There was no way I wanted to spend the night in line again. Especially for lousy tickets!
A couple days before the concert, the radio announced some last minute, partially obstructed tickets had been released. I’m surprised at myself that we went for this (my guitarist and I). The seats turned out to be great! They were on the back side of the stadium, but straight in front of the stage! We could see the entire stage, and all 3 movie screens. The sound tower was maybe half way between us and the stage. When Mick Jagger ran from one side of the stage to the other, we couldn’t see him for about 2 seconds.
I had read around this time that Jagger ran 6 miles several days a week. Must have been true, because he not only ran from one side of the stage to the other, but they had long ramp extensions on each side. He wore these black spandex-like pants, and his butt looked surprisingly good.
Honky Tonk Women
When they played Honky Tonk Women (above), these huge blow up dolls started emerging and expanding from boxes on the side of the stadium. Naturally I picked a video of this song.
I picked Angie (below), because I have loved this song since it came out in 1973, on Goat’s Head Soup. My cousin Richard, who is about 12 years older than me had a huge music collection, including this album. The title definitely made an impression on me. When he came back from Viet Nam, he moved back in with the folks. He had a record player and a reel-to-reel in his room, along with black lights. He was very tolerant of us younger cousins, and we all spent many hours listening to music with him and friends in his room.
I picked Wild Horses (above), released in 1971. I don’t know that I had heard Horses before my guitarist introduced me to the song in the early 80s. What a great song. I like Susan Boyle, but her version of the song is too much like grocery store music for me.
I also threw in You Can’t Always Get What You Want (below), for all the Big Chill fans. The clip is of Alex’s funeral, but the song is definitely Stones. Trumpsters may also recognize the song as often played at his rallys.
You Can't Always Get What You Want, Big Chill Funeral
© 2010 rmcrayne