Best Rock Bands of the 60s, 70s and 80s

Best Rock Bands of the 60s, 70s and 80s

The best Rock bands of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the musical groups that marked the history of Rock and the influence of the electric guitar.

The Evolution of Rock and the Electric Guitar

The 20th century witnessed a musical explosion that changed the history of music forever: the birth and evolution of rock. With its roots deeply embedded in blues, country, and rhythm and blues, this genre flourished in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, defining an era and a culture. At the heart of this musical phenomenon was the electric guitar, an instrument that unleashed a tsunami of creativity and passion among musicians and audiences alike. In this article, we will explore the magic and influence of the electric guitar in the development of rock, and we will learn about some of the most iconic Rock bands from each of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The 1960s: The Birth of Psychedelic Rock and the Modern Electric Guitar

The ’60s were a period of cultural upheaval and musical revolution. The electric guitar became the vehicle of expression for a generation seeking to break free from social and political restrictions. As rock branched into different subgenres, one figure stood out as the master of the electric guitar: Jimi Hendrix.

Thus, the 1960s was a golden age for music, especially rock. The electric guitar became the leading instrument for a generation that sought freedom of expression and musical innovation. We’ll explore some of the greatest and most influential rock bands of the ’60s who left an indelible mark on music history, their iconic guitarists, and their lasting legacy.

Also, we recommend that you visit our selection of the 11 Best Guitarists in the History of Rock.

The best rock bands of the 60s

  • The Beatles
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • The Who
  • The Doors
  • Cream
  • The Yardbirds
  • The Kinks
  • The Byrds
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Velvet Underground
  • Led zeppelin

The Beatles

Although they officially formed in 1960, it was in 1963 that The Beatles released their debut album “Please Please Me” and became a global phenomenon. The innovation and influence of The Beatles on popular music and culture in general are incalculable. George Harrison, the band’s guitarist, brought his own unique style to the guitar, fusing rock ‘n’ roll with elements of Indian music on songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Popular Songs: “Twist & Shout”, “Yesterday”, “Hey Jude”, “Let It Be”.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones, formed in 1962 and fronted by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on guitar, earned a reputation as the “greatest band in the world.” Known for his jaunty attitude and raw guitar playing, Richards was instrumental in creating some of the most iconic riffs in rock history. The song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is a perfect example of his influence on the guitar world.

Popular Songs: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Paint It Black”, “Brown Sugar”, “Angie”.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Formed in 1966 and led by Jimi Hendrix, a force of nature on the guitar, he transformed rock music with his virtuosity and innovation. Jimi Hendrix and his style redefined the electric guitar. In 1967, they released their debut album “Are You Experienced,” which featured anthems like “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady.” Hendrix experimented with pioneering guitar effects such as the wah-wah pedal and controlled feedback, pushing the boundaries of what could be done on an electric guitar.

Popular Songs: “Purple Haze”, “All Along the Watchtower”, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, “Foxey Lady”.

The Who

The Who, formed in 1964 and led by the charismatic Pete Townshend on guitar, earned a reputation as one of rock’s most explosive bands. Townshend popularized the use of “power chords” and his famous “windmill” technique when playing guitar live. His album “Tommy”, released in 1969, was one of the first examples of a rock opera in music history.

Popular Songs: “My Generation”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Baba O’Riley”.

The Doors

Formed in 1965 and led by the enigmatic Jim Morrison, The Doors created a unique sound that blended rock, blues, and psychedelia. Robbie Krieger, the guitarist, contributed to this sound with his ability to create intriguing atmospheres with his guitar. The song “Light My Fire” is a classic example of his guitar style.

Popular Songs: “Light My Fire”, “Riders on the Storm”, “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”.


Formed in 1966 and comprised of Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums, Cream were noted for their improvisation and focus on blues-rock. Clapton, known as “Slowhand,” demonstrated his mastery on the guitar on songs like “Crossroads” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”

Popular Songs: “Sunshine of Your Love”, “White Room”, “Crossroads”.

The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds, formed in 1963, often overlooked in comparison to some of the other bands mentioned, played a pivotal role in the history of the electric guitar. Legendary guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page passed through their lineup. It was Page who ultimately steered the band towards a heavier, more psychedelic sound before forming Led Zeppelin.

Popular Songs: «For Your Love», «Heart Full of Soul», «Shapes of Things».

You may also be interested in our selection of the best electric guitars of all time.

The Kinks

Brothers Ray and Dave Davies led The Kinks, formed in 1963, on a musical adventure full of innovation and experimentation. Dave Davies, in particular, is known for his pioneering use of guitar distortion, especially on the famous riff of “You Really Got Me”, which is considered by some to be the starting point of hard rock and heavy metal.

Popular Songs: “You Really Got Me”, “Lola”, “Waterloo Sunset”.

The Byrds

The Byrds, formed in 1964, pioneered the fusion of folk and rock, giving rise to the subgenre known as “folk rock”. Roger McGuinn, the band’s lead guitarist, popularized the use of the Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, creating the characteristic “jangle” sound that became a major influence on future musicians.

Popular Songs: «Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Turn! Turn! Turn!», «Eight Miles High».

The Beach Boys

Although The Beach Boys are known for their distinctive vocal harmony, the guitar also played a pivotal role in their music. Carl Wilson, the lead guitarist, brought his talents to the fore on songs like “Good Vibrations.” In addition, the band, formed in 1961, is famous for its album “Pet Sounds,” which influenced rock’s direction toward experimentation and musical sophistication.

Popular Songs: “Good Vibrations”, “Surfin’ USA”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”.

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground, formed in 1964, was an avant-garde band that explored dark and controversial themes in their music. Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison’s guitar prowess created a unique soundscape. The band’s influence spans numerous genres, from punk to alternative rock.

Popular Songs: “Heroin”, “Sweet Jane”, “Venus in Furs”.

The Enduring Legacy of the 1960s

The ’60s were a time of creative turmoil in rock music, and these pioneering bands left a legacy that still resonates today. Through their songs and their innovation on the electric guitar, these bands defined the sound of a generation and laid the foundation for the development of rock in the decades that followed. Its guitarists became icons, inspiring generations of musicians and proving that the electric guitar had the power to change the world.

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The 70s: Diversity, Progression and Guitar

The ’70s were a golden age for rock. In the aftermath of the revolutionary ’60s, this decade brought a new wave of creativity and experimentation in music. The electric guitar, a fundamental element of rock, was the protagonist of this creative wave. On this journey through history, we’ll explore some of the greatest and most influential rock bands of the ’70s, their curiosities, iconic songs, and how they made their mark on the guitar world.

The best rock bands of the 70s

  • Led Zeppelin
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Queen
  • Aerosmith
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Deep Purple
  • Black Sabbath
  • The Eagles
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • ZZ Top
  • AC/DC

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is synonymous with ’70s rock. Founded by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in 1968, the band released their self-titled debut album in 1969, setting a new standard for hard rock and heavy metal. Page, a master guitar player, was known for his live performance skills, his iconic riffs and his use of the Gibson Les Paul guitar. The legendary “Stairway to Heaven” remains one of the most famous guitar solos of all time.

Popular Songs: “Stairway to Heaven”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “Kashmir”.

Pink Floyd

Although Pink Floyd formed in 1965, it was in the 1970s that the band reached its creative peak. Lead guitarist David Gilmour was noted for his soulful style and innovative use of the guitar on songs like “Comfortably Numb” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The band pioneered the use of effects and textures on the guitar, creating unique soundscapes. Unfortunately, the rivalry of David Gilmour and Roger Waters caused the band to break up.

Popular Songs: “Comfortably Numb”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Time”.

The Rolling Stones

The Stones, led by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on guitar, continued their reign into the ’70s. “Angie” exemplifies their ability to write soulful ballads, while “Brown Sugar” is a timeless rock classic. ‘n’roll.

Popular Songs: “Angie”, “Brown Sugar”, “Gimme Shelter”.


Formed in 1970, Queen, with Brian May on guitar, was a visionary band that fused rock with elements of opera and theater. Known for his Red Special guitar handcrafted by him and his father, May created a distinctive sound. His ability to combine heavy riffs with moments of finesse can be seen on songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You.”

Popular Songs: «Bohemian Rhapsody», «We Will Rock You», «Somebody to Love», «Under Pressure».


Aerosmith, formed in 1970 with guitarist pairing Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, established themselves as one of the leading hard rock bands of the ’70s. Their catchy riffs and wild attitude catapulted them to fame. “Dream On” is a guitar masterpiece and immortal anthem, while “Sweet Emotion” is a showcase of their blues-rock fusion.

Popular Songs: “Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Walk This Way”.

Meet the most expensive and rare electric guitars in history.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Founded in 1964 but truly iconic in the ’70s, Lynyrd Skynyrd became synonymous with the sound of the American South. Lead guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins created a distinctive guitar harmony that can be heard on “Sweet Home Alabama.” The band was also noted for its guitar narrative on songs like “Free Bird”.

Popular Songs: “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Free Bird”, “Simple Man”.

Deep Purple

Deep Purple, formed in 1968 with Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, was one of the pioneering hard rock and heavy metal bands. His 1972 album “Machine Head” is a milestone in rock history. Known for his neoclassical style and his prowess on the guitar, Blackmore left an indelible mark on songs like “Smoke on the Water.”

Popular Songs: “Smoke on the Water”, “Highway Star”, “Child in Time”.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, formed in 1968 and led by Tony Iommi on guitar, is considered one of the pioneers of heavy metal. Iommi, known for his dark and powerful riffing, is often cited as a pivotal influence on the development of the genre. The song “Iron Man” is an iconic example of his guitar playing style and lasting impact.

Popular Songs: «Iron Man», «Paranoid», «War Pigs».

Also, we recommend that you visit this post on the history of the classical, acoustic and electric guitar.

The Eagles

The Eagles, formed in 1971 with Don Felder and Joe Walsh on guitar, created a unique sound that blended rock, country, and folk. Their 1976 album “Hotel California” is a rock classic, with the famous song of the same name featuring a memorable guitar solo by Joe Walsh.

Popular Songs: “Hotel California”, “Take It Easy”, “Desperado”.

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac, Formed in 1967 but iconic in the ’70s, became one of the most influential bands of the ’70s after the arrival of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Buckingham, in particular, brought a unique guitar playing style and virtuosity to the band. The 1977 “Rumours” album contains some of the band’s most iconic songs, including “Go Your Own Way.”

Popular Songs: “Go Your Own Way”, “Dreams”, “Rhiannon”.

ZZ Top

ZZ Top, formed in 1969 and featuring Billy Gibbons on guitar, became one of the most recognizable bands of the ’70s. Gibbons, with his iconic beard and Les Paul guitar, fused blues with rock in a unique way. The band is famous for their songs with infectious rhythms and witty lyrics, such as “La Grange.”

Popular Songs: “La Grange”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, “Gimme All Your Lovin'”.


AC/DC, formed in 1973 and featuring brothers Angus Young and Malcolm Young on guitars, ignited hard rock in the ’70s. Angus, in his trademark school uniform, became an electric guitar icon. With every AC/DC song you find the Angus Young: style and tone of Angus Young and his Gibson SG From him. The band is known for their energy and rock anthems, such as “Highway to Hell” and “Back in Black”.

Popular Songs: “Highway to Hell”, “Back in Black”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

The Enduring Legacy of ’70s Rock

The ’70s saw rock expand in multiple directions, and these bands and guitarists played a crucial role in the genre’s evolution. His influence can be felt in music today, and his legendary performances continue to inspire musicians of all generations. Through their virtuosity on the guitar, their unforgettable riffs, and their impact on popular culture, these bands left an indelible mark on music history.

The ’80s brought the electric guitar to new heights of virtuosity and technical complexity. The bands of this decade became guitar icons and created some of rock’s most iconic anthems.

You may be interested in our list of the best Gibson guitarists: from Les Paul, SG, ES-335 and other models.

The Roar of the Guitar in the 80s

The ’80s were a time of excess, innovation, and revolution in the world of rock music. The electric guitar was still the lifeblood of the genre, and this decade left us with some of the most iconic bands in rock history. On this journey through time, we’ll explore the best and most influential rock bands of the ’80s, their curiosities, their timeless anthems, and their legacy in guitar culture.

The best rock bands of the 80s

  • Guns N’ Roses
  • U2
  • AC/DC
  • Van Halen
  • Queen
  • Def Leppard
  • Iron Maiden
  • Metallica
  • Bon Jovi
  • R.E.M.
  • Police
  • The Cure

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Guns N’ Roses

Although Guns N’ Roses formed in 1985, its impact was immediate. The combination of Axl Rose’s abrasive vocals and Slash’s guitar skills created a unique sound. Slash, with his iconic top hat and Gibson Les Paul, became an icon of ’80s guitar. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is one of the most recognizable guitar solos of all time.

Popular Songs: “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, “November Rain”, “Welcome to the Jungle”.


Although U2 formed in 1976, it was in the 1980s that the band reached the height of its success. The Edge, the lead guitarist, is known for his innovative use of effects and textures on the guitar. His distinctive sound can be heard on songs like “With or Without You” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Popular Songs: “With or Without You”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”.


AC/DC, founded in 1973 and featuring Angus Young on guitar, continued to reign in the rock world into the ’80s. Known for his school uniform and frenetic style, Angus continued to deliver unforgettable riffs and solos. The 1980 “Back in Black” album is one of the best-selling albums of all time, containing the classic “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

Popular Songs: “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back in Black”, “Highway to Hell”.

Van Halen

Van Halen, formed in 1972 and led by Eddie Van Halen on guitar, redefined the guitar in the ’80s. Eddie pioneered the tapping technique and its energetic playing style. Eddie Van Halen’s sound, known as the Brown Sound, is one of the most sought after tones by guitarists. “Eruption” is a game-changing guitar solo. David Lee Roth’s voice and Eddie’s virtuosity were combined on songs like “Jump” and “Panama.”

Popular Songs: «Jump», «Panama», «Eruption», «Ain’t talkin bout love».


Formed in 1970, with Brian May on guitar and Freddie Mercury, Queen fused rock with elements of opera and theater in the ’80s. Known for his and his father’s handcrafted Red Special guitar, May continued to create landscapes unique sounds. “Bohemian Rhapsody” became a timeless anthem, and songs like “Radio Ga Ga” demonstrated his ability to create hits this decade.

Popular Songs: «Bohemian Rhapsody», «Radio Ga Ga», «Under Pressure».

Def Leppard

Formed in 1977, Def Leppard left an indelible mark on the ’80s with their powerful, melodic rock style. Steve Clark and Phil Collen on guitars created a distinctive sound that can be heard on songs like “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” and “Love Bites.” The 1987 album “Hysteria” became a rock classic.

Popular Songs: “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Love Bites”, “Photograph”.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden, formed in 1975 and featuring Adrian Smith and Dave Murray on guitars, became one of the most influential heavy metal bands of the ’80s. Their epic lyrics and guitar virtuosity can be heard on songs like ” The Trooper” and “Run to the Hills.” Eddie mascot became a heavy metal icon.

Popular Songs: “The Trooper”, “Run to the Hills”, “Fear of the Dark”.


Metallica, formed in 1981 and featuring James Hetfield on rhythm guitar and Kirk Hammett on lead guitar, emerged as one of the most influential heavy metal bands of the ’80s. Hetfield and Hammett created a wall of abrasive and powerful sound. The album “Master of Puppets” from 1986 is a milestone in metal history and contains hits like “Battery” and “Master of Puppets”.

Popular Songs: «Master of Puppets», «Enter Sandman», «One».

You may also be interested in our post on the best and worst years for a Fender Telecaster.

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi, formed in 1983 and featuring Richie Sambora on guitar, became one of the most successful rock bands of the ’80s. Known for his skill on slide guitar, Sambora contributed to hits like “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.” The band was an emblem of stadium rock in that decade.

Popular Songs: “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”.


REM, formed in 1980 and fronted by Peter Buck on guitar, were one of the pioneering alternative rock bands of the 1980s. Their jangle pop sound and guitar style influenced many later bands. “Losing My Religion” is one of the most iconic songs of the decade.

Popular Songs: “Losing My Religion”, “The One I Love”, “Radio Free Europe”.


The Police trio was formed in 1977, with Sting on vocals and bass, Stewart Copeland on drums and Andy Summers on guitar, it was a band that fused rock with elements of reggae and punk in the 80s. Summers, with his style atmosphere and its guitar effects, contributed to the band’s distinctive sound. “Every Breath You Take” became an anthem of the decade.

Popular Songs: “Every Breath You Take”, “Roxanne”, “Message in a Bottle”.

Perhaps you may be interested in our guide on the sizes of electric, acoustic and classical guitars for children and adults.

The Cure

The Cure, formed in 1976 and featuring Robert Smith on guitar, were an influential band on the ’80s alternative rock scene. Known for his unique look and atmospheric guitar playing, Smith created a signature sound. “Just Like Heaven” and “Lovesong” are examples of his impact on the decade.

Popular Songs: «Just Like Heaven», «Lovesong», «Friday I’m in Love», «Boys don’t cry».

The Indelible Legacy of ’80s Rock

The ’80s were a time of virtuosity and creativity in the world of rock, and for many it was the best time in music. All these bands and guitarists played a pivotal role in the evolution of the genre. His guitar riffs and solos continue to inspire musicians of all ages, demonstrating the electric guitar’s enduring impact on musical culture. These bands not only marked an era, but also left a legacy that continues to resonate in music today.

The Bands of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and the Immortal Legacy of the Guitar in Rock

Throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, the electric guitar was not only a musical instrument, but a source of inspiration and a form of emotional communication for musicians and fans alike. These years saw the rise of guitar legends who left an indelible mark on music history. From Jimi Hendrix and his Fender Stratocaster to Slash and his Gibson Les Paul, the electric guitar evolved and adapted, helping to shape the diversity of rock in each era.

Today, the songs of these bands still play on radios, stadiums, and headphones around the world. The electric guitar continues to be a beacon of creativity and personal expression in the world of rock. In short, these three decades have witnessed an explosion of talent and creativity that has resulted in music that endures, and all thanks to the magical power of the electric guitar.

Also, you might be interested in our guide on the best easy guitar songs for beginners.

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