The UK, and especially London, has long been one of the most influential places in the world when it comes to music. That being said, it’s no surprise that London has been a hotbed for some of the worlds biggest singers and bands over the years. Here’s our list of the top ten artists (in no particular order) that we feel are some of the most influential artists that capture the sound and feel of London over the years.
What can you say about the importance and influence of Queen? One of the most successful rock bands of all the time, Queen emerged from Ealing Art College and performed their first gig at Surrey College in 1971 with the classic line-up of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon. The band have sold over 300 million records and are one of the best-selling music artists of all time. The band has 18 number one albums and 18 number one singles. With countless hits and a legacy that endures the test of time, Queen continues to be an influence for bands and songwriters to this day.
Born in Brixton, on 8 January 1947, David Bowie started to build a serious following whilst honing his musical skills in the ’60s at places like The Marquee Club based in the heart of London. Bowie became a staple at most of London’s venues at the time, and his take on music introduced fans to his brand of glam rock.
As his star grew, Bowie found major crossover success whilst writing, experimenting with electronic music and recording in Berlin. Bowie’s constantly changing sound and image turned him into one of the greatest musical innovators of all time. His influence on popular culture is seriously incomparable. With estimated sales of over 140 million albums worldwide, this has made him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold, and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. David Bowie passed away on 11th January 2016.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones personified the rebellious and youthful counterculture of London during the 1960s. Formed in London in 1962, they played their first gig in July 1962 at The Marquee Club in Oxford Street and soon after the band secured their first residency in Richmond, north London. The Band was at the forefront of the British Invasion of bands that came to the United States in 1964. To this day the band remains true to their blues and rock and roll roots and with albums like Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main St (1972), the band lay claim to being one of the blues greats. The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2012 the band celebrated its 50th anniversary, and with estimated record sales of over 250 million, 30 studio albums, 23 live albums, and numerous compilations, the band has cemented their place as one of the biggest and most misbehaved bands on the planet.
Pink Floyd formed in London in 1965. They were, and still are, known for their progressive and psychedelic take on music. Distinguished by their philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, extended compositions, the band have played to millions with their elaborate live shows, and are one of the successful and influential bands ever. Building a fan-base performing in London’s underground venues, the band wrote and released two of the best-selling concept albums of all time – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Wall (1979). With more than 250 million records sold worldwide, Pink Floyd was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Who formed in London in 1964. Their classic line-up of singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon, are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century. The band has sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide, and along the way, established their reputation as a band to be reckoned with when it comes to live shows and studio work. With hit movies in the mix as well, some of the Who’s major contributions to rock music include the development of the Marshall stack, the use of the synthesizer, and the development of the rock opera.
Iron Maiden was formed in Leyton, east London, in 1975 by bassist and main songwriter Steve Harris. They were at the forefront, as one of the main pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal during early 1980. Check this crazy stat out. As of now, the band has released: thirty-seven albums, including fifteen studio albums, eleven live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations. Even without very little radio or television support, Maiden is one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, sales of over 100 million copies of their albums worldwide. The band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002, and the band has played well over 2000 live shows throughout their 35-year career. With support from their famous mascot, “Eddie”, (who has appeared on almost all of their album and single covers, as well as in their live shows) the band have and will be, a major force in the music industry for years to come.
The Clash was formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk. Hailing from the heart of London, their music incorporated elements of punk, reggae, dub, funk, and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, the Clash consisted of the classic Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Nicky “Topper” Headon line-up. Headon eventually left the group in 1982, and internal friction within the band led to Jones’ departure the following year. The band finally disbanded in early 1986. The Clash achieved commercial success in the UK with the release of their self-titled debut album, The Clash, in 1977. With the release of their third album, London Calling in the UK in December 1979, the band started to gain momentum and this led to them earning popularity in the United States when it was released there the following month. It was declared the best album of the 1980s a decade later by Rolling Stone. In 1982, they released the album Combat Rock, which spawned the US top 10 hit “Rock the Casbah”, helping the album to achieve a 2× Platinum certification and place the band as one of the UK most loved exports. The Clash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
The Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols were formed in London in 1975. It’s hard to believe that the band only lasted just two-and-a-half years, but the one album: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and the four singles they released, turned the band into one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music. Their style and sound initiated a punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspired many later punk and alternative rock musicians around the globe. The original line-up of the Sex Pistols included singer Johnny Rotten, lead guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and bass player Glen Matlock. Matlock was replaced by the iconic Sid Vicious early in 1977. On February 24th, 2006, the Sex Pistols—the four original members plus Vicious—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum “a piss stain”
Widely regarded as the world’s first successful super-group, Cream was formed in London in 1966 and consisted of drummer Ginger Baker, guitarist/singer Eric Clapton and lead singer/bassist Jack Bruce. Their sound was a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock, and psychedelic rock, and with the release of the group’s third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), the recording became the world’s first platinum-selling double album. With over 15 million albums sold worldwide, Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1996, Coldplay’sLead vocalist Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland spent their first year at University College London (UCL) forming the band that would go on to be one of the biggest bands in the last 20 years. After playing gigs for locals in places like Camden Town. After a few name changes the band finally settled on Coldplay by 1998. The band has won 107 awards from 252 nominations throughout their career, including nine Brit Awards, six MTV Video Music Awards, seven MTV Europe Music Awards and seven Grammy Awards from 34 nominations. They have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists.