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Best Bands of The 1990s

Updated on November 23, 2011

A New Type of Rock Music

80s rock was about excess. Sex, drugs and rock n' roll to the max. It was wild with big hair and shiny spandex which added to the fun. If rock n' roll was a mental disorder, then the 80s was the decade of out of control mania.

As the 90s rolled in, the mania wore off. Rock n' Roll entered a new phase. This one was called grunge. It was deep, serious, sad, angry and justified. Rockstars showed no signs of pink lipgloss and hairspray. In fact, rockstars didn't really look like rockstars anymore. They looked like they just rolled out of bed, forgetting to shave and wash their hair. Gone was the hyper music and cheesy ballads of 1980s glam bands. Rock n' Roll demanded to be taken seriously again.

Generation Xers were listening and demanding to be taken seriously as well. We were the generation of divorced parents and latch-key kids. Past generations didn't understand us or know what to do with us. As Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder cried out their lyrics we got it. We chose Cobain as a hero, not because he was strong, tough, rich or saved lives. We chose him because in a way, he was just like the rest of us: lost, sensitive, angry and demanding to be heard.

The Roots of Grunge Rock

In the late 80s, a new sound was coming out of Seattle, Washington. This new kind of rock music, which was not quite metal and not quite punk rock, would later become known as grunge rock. Many bands from this area became famous and the best of them made my list. Nirvana's hit album, Nevermind, would introduce this new type of music to the rest of the world and open doors to many other talented bands.

So here it is, in my opinion, the greatest bands of the 1990s.



Formed: 1987, Aberdeen, Washington


Kurt Cobain, vocals and guitar

Krist Novoselic, bass guitar

David Grohl, drums

Breakthrough album: Nevermind, 1991

Other popular albums by Nirvana: Bleach, In Utero and Nirvana Unplugged

When Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, Nirvana died along with him. One can only imagine what Nirvana could have gone on to do if Cobain had lived. Nirvana's run was brief, but the music will live on.

Dave Grohl went on to join the Foo Fighters and Krist Novoselic played in various bands as Sweet 75, Eyes Adrift, and most recently in Flipper. Novoselic is also a political activist. Both were involved in legal battles with Cobain's widow Courtney Love over the rights to the band. They had eventually settled out of court.

Pearl Jam

Formed: 1990, Seattle, Washington


Eddie Vedder, lead vocals

Mike McCready, guitar

Stone Gossard, guitar

Jeff Ament, bass guitar

Dave Krusen, drums

Breakthrough album: Ten, 1991

Other popular albums by Pearl Jam: Vitalogy, No Code, Binaural, Riot Act, Pearl Jam, Backspacer

Eddie Vedder's traumatized childhood was the inspiration to songs like Alive, Jeremy and Evenflow. The album, Ten, was huge and sold out worldwide.

Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster because they felt Ticketmaster overcharged fans. They boycotted the company, which backfired as it became almost impossible for fans to score tickets in the 1990s. Realizing this, Pearl Jam eventually bowed down to Ticketmaster.

Having just released their new live album, Live on Ten Legs, Pearl Jam has outlived most bands of their era and is still going strong.



Formed: 1984, Seattle, Washington


Chris Cornell, vocals, guitar

Kim Thayil, guitar

Ben Shepherd, bass guitar

Matt Cameron, drums

Breakthrough album: Superunknown, 1994

Other popular albums by Soundgarden: Badmotorfinger, Down on the Upside

Soundgarden's album, Superunknown took in two grammys and sold over three million albums worldwide. Their album Badmotorfinger was released previously and was expected to do well but was overshadowed by Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten. It never received the recognition it rightfully deserved. Soundgarden continues to tour and release albums.

Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains

Alice In Chains

Formed: 1987, Seattle, Washington


Layne Stanely (original lead vocalist)

William Duvall, vocals / guitar

Jerry Cantrell, guitars

Mike Starr (original bassist)

Mike Inez, bass guitar

Sean Kenny,drums

Breakthrough Album: Dirt, 1992

Other popular albums by Alice In Chains: Facelift, Alice in Chains, Black Gives Way to Blue

Alice in Chains is yet another talented band to come out of Seattle.  After Dirt hit mainstream, bassist Mike Starr quit the band and was replaced by Mike Inez.  Layne Stanley later died of an overdose.  The band re-united with new vocalist William Duvall.  Tragedy hit again early 2011 when original bassist Mike Starr was found dead of an apparant overdose.  The band continues touring to this day. 

Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots

Formed: 1992, San Diego, California


Scott Weiland, vocals

Dean DeLeo, guitar

Robert DeLeo, bass guitar

Eric Kretz, drums

Breakthrough album: Core, 1992

Other popular albums by Stone Temple Pilots: Purple, Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, No. 4

In 1986, vocalist Scott Weiland met bassist Robert DeLeo at a concert in California. They became fast friends and started jamming together. Robert recruited his brother Dean as a guitarist and they found drummer Eric Kretz in a bar. The name Stone Temple Pilots came from a logo on Weiland's bike "STP". They made the name Stone Temple Pilots based on that logo.

Weiland left the band in 2003 to form Velvet Revolver with former Guns N' Roses bandmates, Duff McKagan, Slash and Matt Sorum. Weiland left the band in 2008 and returned to his roots, his band Stone Temple Pilots. Rumors of drug problems have followed Weiland around for most of his career. A 2010 tour was cancelled due to his personal problems.



Formed: 1985, Los Angeles, California


Donita Sparks, vocals / guitar

Jennifer Finch (Previous vocalist & bassist)

Gail Greenwood, (previous bass guitarist)

Suzi Gardner, vocals / guitar

Janis Tanaka, bass guitar

Dematra Plakas, drums

Breakthrough Album: Bricks are Heavy, 1992

Other popular albums by L7: L7, Smell the Magic, Hungry for Stink, The Beauty Process, Slap Happy

L7 was formed by Chicago native Donita Sparks and Sacramento native Suzi Gardner.  The two had amazing chemistry and in 1988 L7 debuted their first album.  In 1992 they released their third album, Bricks are Heavy.  The single Pretend We're Dead hit the charts at #8 and remains their most popular album to date. 



Formed: 1992, London, UK


Gavin Rossdale, vocals / guitar

Nigel Pulsford, guitar

Dave Parsons, bass

Robin Goodridge, drums

Breakthrough album: Sixteen Stone, 1994

Other popular albums by Bush: Razorblade Suitcase, The Science of Things, Golden State, Everything Always Now

Formed in 1992, Bush is the only British band that made my list and for good reason.  These guys were good.  They were the first popular grunge band to make it big in the US.  Hits like Glycerine and Come Down reached #1 on the charts.  Razorblade Suitcase followed Sixteen Stone.  The album reached #1 on US charts, despite mixed reviews.  The group came up with the name "Bush" for their band because they once lived in Shepherd's Bush, London.


Formed: 1989, Los Angeles, California


Courtney Love, vocals / guitar

Eric Erlandson, lead guitar

Mike Geisbrecht, guitar

Lisa Roberts, bass

Caroline Rue, drums

Breakthrough album: Live Through This, 1994

Other popular albums by Hole: Pretty on the Inside, Celebrity Skin, Nobody's Daughter

Courtney Love co-founded Hole with Eric Erlandson. The band has been through many changes and Love remains the only member who has never left the band. There have been over a dozen former members and I decided not to put them all on my list. Live Through This gained huge commercial success and was released on the heels of Kurt Cobain's suicide. (Courtney Love is Cobain's widow) Celebrity Skin was released in 1998 and reached #9 on the billboard charts. Celebrity Skin was more pop than rock and most Hole fans prefer Live Through This over Celebrity Skin. Their reunion album, Nobody's Daughter was released in 2010.


Honorable Mentions...

The following rock bands are not considered grunge, nonetheless, they left their mark in Rock n' Roll history. The following bands were a huge success in the 1990s and remain an influence for a new generation of musicians.

Alanis Morrisette

Once a cute child star on Nickelodeon's "You Can't Do That On Television", when her debut, Jagged Little Pill was released, she was hardly recognizable from her days of getting slimed. You Oughta Know was an anthem to every woman who's been scorned.

The Smashing Pumpkins

Formed in Chicago, The Smashing Pumpkins had their own unique sound that has never been duplicated. Although they were lumped in with the grunge bands of the 1990s, their sound was more punk- metal - goth and in later recordings, a mix of electronica. Siamese Dream was released in 1993. It was the band's second album and arguably one of the best albums in the early 1990s.


Like the Smashing Pumpkins, GreenDay was also lumped into the grunge category. When their debut, Dookie, was released in 1994, it was more punk rock with some more pop rock like songs. GreenDay is like a fine wine. This band has gotten better as the years have gone by. Their later albums are heavier, louder and deal with more controversial topics than when they first hit the airwaves.

Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor was and remains the only member of Nine Inch Nails. Reznor blends industrial, punk rock, electronica and hard rock in his music. Pretty Hate Machine was released in 1989 and in 1993 The Downward Spiral became popular for it's dark and sexually charged lyrics.

No Doubt

In 1995, No Doubt finally hit mainstream with their third album, Tragic Kingdom. Ska music was hot again. Gwen's sexy voice and the band's quirky style also helped bring attention to this very talented band.


Their sound can be classified as ska-punk and raggae. Sublime was immensely popular in the 1990s. 40 oz. to Fredom was released in 1992. Reviews were mixed, however they were mainstream and songs like Date Rape were played continuously on radio stations. Their third and final album, simply titled Sublime was supposed to be titled 'Killin It'. Bradley Nowell's untimely death prior to the album's release prompted the name change. The album was a huge success and went platinum five times.


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    • bonmotsminot profile image

      Sue Minot 

      3 years ago from Wellington, New Zealand

      Great hub -takes me right back. What about Jane's Addiction? Who can forget Ritual de lo Habituel? :)

    • BinauralBeatsNow profile image


      3 years ago

      What a list. I couldn't agree more... Well, I would move Sublime up out of "honorable mention," but other than that, great list!

    • Susan Banks profile image

      Susan Banks 

      4 years ago from Colorado City, Arizona

      Just select 90s decade on Muzikool and draw a path on mood map. all the hit songs from 90s would start to reveal. Check out

    • aparkhurst7 profile image


      5 years ago from Wilkes Barre, PA West Hartford, CT

      Alice in Chains is so underrated. I love Nirvana and all but I think the guitar work and Layne Staley's voice are better than what Kurt Cobain produced. I want to mention again that I still love Nirvana.

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Chicago IL

      Thanks, it's mine to Nykki! I miss the 90s!!

    • Nykki13 profile image


      5 years ago from Germantown, WI

      Great hub! The 90s is definitely my favorite decade for music!

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Chicago IL

      Thanks for mentioning Rage Against the Machine (and to Roger for mentioning Oasis). Both great bands, I regret not adding them.

    • Roger D Almon profile image

      Roger D Almon 

      5 years ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

      Great list, very similar to my own with one exception - Oasis. To me, they defined the 90's, and not just Brit pop music, but rock and roll as a whole.

    • profile image

      Joe G 

      5 years ago

      How the heck are we not giving Rage Against the Machine some love?

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I can tell you were very influenced by grunge, and that's cool; it seems like you like that the most of the 90's music.

      However, Dave Matthews Band was one of the most popular bands of the 90's and they are still together to this day. I think they deserved at least an honorable mention.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Chicago IL

      Glad you enjoyed this! Pearl Jam rocks!!

    • tschaunerb profile image


      6 years ago from Medicine Hat

      I love this list. Ha ha i am a bit of a Grunge Zombie myself. Pearl Jam is my favourite band.

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Chicago IL

      Hi AllieRambles,

      Thanks for commenting! Glad you enjoyed and YES, Gavin is still HOT!!!! :)


    • AllieRambles profile image


      6 years ago from Bay Area, California

      I miss 90's rock! Gavin is still hot! I still listen to ALL of these bands! You ordered them exactly like I would.

    • mcrawford76 profile image

      Matthew I Crawford 

      6 years ago from Greeley, Colorado

      That's not nostalgic - most of those bands are still on my MP3 player.

      Nice list - voted up and awesome

    • Richard fambol profile image

      Richard fambol 

      7 years ago from NDSE-1,New Delhi,INDIA.

      Nirvana,Pearl jam 4eva! thanks

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Chicago IL

      Glad you enjoyed reading!

    • s82a84 profile image


      7 years ago from Olympia

      Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Alice in Chain, Stone Temple Pilots...great list and thanks for sharing this info.

    • tmckim profile image


      7 years ago

      And yet Dream Theater was around in the 90's.

    • lukecore profile image

      Luke Chant 

      7 years ago from Manchester

      Some great bands on there!

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Chicago IL

      Thanks for commenting! Glad you both enjoyed my hub!!

    • fucsia profile image


      7 years ago

      I adore Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana! Thanks for this "musical break"!

    • zoey24 profile image


      7 years ago from South England

      Great Hub, Voted up :)

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Chicago IL

      Thank you Jen!!! I knew you'd love this one. Very nostalgic isn't it?

    • profile image


      7 years ago




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