When it comes to legendary rock music, few bands have left as lasting an impact as The Who. This powerhouse group came together in London in 1964 and has since then influenced generations of musicians and fans alike.
Their discography includes iconic songs such as “Behind Blue Eyes,” “I Can’t Explain,” and “I Can See for Miles.” With over 100 million records sold worldwide, it’s no wonder many seek out similar artists who embody the same spirit and sound.
In this post, we’ll introduce you to 13 amazing bands like The Who that will surely resonate with both diehard fans and newcomers to the genre. Let’s get started.
1. The Rolling Stones
Let us start the list with none other than The Rolling Stones. This iconic English rock band emerged in the thriving music scene of London in 1962 and was a part of the British Invasion along with The Who.
Both bands have made a mark as rock pioneers. The Who contributed to the development of “rock opera.” Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones contributed to the rebellious sound of rock and roll. They combined elements of blues and rock to create their very own sound.
The Rolling Stones gained notoriety for their electrifying live performances and stage presence. They released chart-topping songs like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Paint It Black.”
With six decades in the music industry, they have solidified their place as one of the most popular and enduring bands of all time. Their longevity in the music world is a testament to their ability to adapt to different eras while maintaining their core sound.
2. The Kinks
Another iconic English rock band to rise to prominence in 1963 is The Kinks. They created their music around the distinctive sound crafted by the founding brothers Ray and Dave Davies.
Hailing from North London, their music at first combined elements of American R&B and rock and roll. Later on, they adopted British folk and country. This reflects in their songs such as “You Really Got Me” and “Waterloo Sunset.”
The band was influenced by various aspects of life in North London. As a result, their discography tells stories about everyday experiences. Like The Who’s songwriter, guitarist Pete Townshend, The Kinks’ Ray Davies wrote songs that had social commentary.
In addition, Dave’s innovative guitar work helped push boundaries within rock music at a time when bands like The Who were revolutionizing popular culture.
3. The Beatles
One of the most popular bands in music history is The Beatles. The four-man band was formed in Liverpool in 1960. They achieved unparalleled success throughout their career with hit songs and albums.
A key aspect setting them apart from other bands is their ability to consistently reinvent themselves. This adaptability attracted legions of fans across generations.
The Beatles and The Who have some things in common. Their songwriting showcased depth and evolution through the years. Their progression from catchy pop tunes to complex arrangements is a testament to their evolution as musicians.
As contemporaries of The Who within the classic rock genre, The Beatles managed to redefine musical styles through innovation and versatility.
4. Led Zeppelin
The English rock band Led Zeppelin made a name for itself despite the rise of other rock bands in this era. They were formed in 1968 and were credited as predecessors of hard rock and heavy metal.
Their prolific career includes chart-toppers like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love,” as well as deep cuts like “Kashmir” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Their drumming prowess on songs like “Moby Dick” also cemented John Bonham’s status as one of the greatest drummers ever.
Led Zeppelin was often compared to The Who for their live performances. The former became known for their extended improvisations and intense performances. The Who, on the other hand, was known for wild antics such as smashing instruments.
Despite disbanding after Bonham’s death in 1980, Led Zeppelin’s legacy lives on through their timeless music. Their influence can be heard across many genres, from heavy metal bands to alternative rock groups.
5. The Doors
With their unique blend of blues and rock and mystical lyrics, The Doors made a name for itself in rock history. The band emerged in the mid-1960s and quickly became popular. Jim Morrison’s shamanic presence as a vocalist and poet was a powerful force that helped define their sound.
Throughout the band’s career, they released some of the most successful albums in history. Their self-titled debut album was The Who’s best-selling album and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
One thing that The Doors had in similarity with The Who was their experimental approach to their craft. The Who blended rock with opera and classical music. The Doors, meanwhile, combined psychedelic, blues, and jazz. These innovations led to the distinct sound of these bands.
6. The Yardbirds
The rock band The Yardbirds are often overlooked in discussions of ’60s rock bands. How can that be, when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992? In addition, they were the 89th in Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”
The Yardbirds were a powerhouse group that helped form the genre and bring the British Invasion to the US. They were known for their inventive conversion of rhythm and blues into rock music.
Like The Who, The Yardbirds were known for impressive guitar works. The Who’s lead guitarist Pete Townshend introduced a guitar style that included windmill-like strumming. The Yardbirds, on the other hand, had three renowned guitarists in the lineup: Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck.
Today, The Yardbirds still perform with former members and new musicians who bring a fresh sound to the band. Some of these newer members hail from New Jersey and have added other instruments to The Yardbirds’ already impressive sound.
The first supergroup was Cream, a rock band that emerged in the British music scene in 1966. It consisted of legendary musicians such as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. The band gained fame for its unique blend of blues, rock, and psychedelic music.
Their self-titled album, Fresh Cream, was a massive success and remains a cornerstone of their musical legacy to this day.
Quite similarly to The Who, Cream drew heavily from the blues. As a matter of fact, the band’s discography featured bluesy arrangements.
Despite Cream only being together for two years, they produced four albums that have become classics within the genre. Their fame endures today, with many new artists citing them as an influence on their own work.
8. The Byrds
Like The Who, The Byrds included folk elements in their sound and helped popularize folk-rock. In fact, their first two albums and their hit songs “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” featured folk music.
The Byrds’ musical influence is still felt today, with bands like Tom Petty and R.E.M. citing them as one of their biggest influences. The band continued to produce hit albums and received critical acclaim for their innovative approach to music.
9. The Animals
The English music group The Animals grew in popularity in the 1960s. One of their first songs includes “The House of the Rising Sun.” They recorded this folk song with a rock and roll beat. It became an international hit and is still popular today.
Throughout their career, The Animals recorded and released a dozen albums. Some of their hit songs include “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and “I’m Crying.”
Like The Who, many of The Animals’ songs addressed social and political issues of their time. They sang about injustice and inequality, among other topics. Similarly, The Who explored social and personal themes in their songs.
10. The Small Faces
Another prominent British band that emerged in the 1960s is The Small Faces. This pop-rock band significantly impacted the music scene of the time.
Influenced by artists like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Chuck Berry, The Small Faces’ sound was unique for its time. They infused soulful rhythms and cheeky lyrics into their music which resonated with fans worldwide.
One thing of similarity between The Small Faces and The Who is in terms of Mod aesthetic. They lived the Mod lifestyle, which included wearing sharp suits and tailored clothing. This lifestyle impacted their visual style.
Overall, if you’re a fan of classic rock bands like The Who or want to expand your musical horizons beyond mainstream music today, give The Small Faces’ discography a listen.
11. The Troggs
Up next is the English garage rock band The Troggs. They were formed in 1964 in Andover, Hampshire. You’ll probably remember them for their chart-topping version of “Wild Thing.”
The song, an original by songwriter Chip Taylor, influenced punk rock and garage rock. Notably, both The Troggs and The Who have had a significant influence on punk rock. This was characterized by their rebellious sound and attitude, along with a guitar-driven style.
Aside from “Wild Thing,” the Troggs also had several other hit songs in both the UK and US music scenes. “With a Girl Like You” and “Love Is All Around” were commercial successes, having sold more than one million copies.
12. The Zombies
Also emerging in the 1960s and being a part of the British Invasion is the rock band The Zombies. They were formed in St Albans in 1961 and are best known for their iconic hit song “Time of The Season.”
Despite being relatively unknown to some music enthusiasts, The Zombies have influenced many legendary artists that followed them over the years. This includes The Kinks, Donovan, and even the renowned American band The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Both The Zombies and The Who are musical innovators. They continuously experimented with sounds, pushing the boundaries of rock music. The Zombies, specifically, combined baroque pop and jazz into their songs.
In addition, both bands infused melodic pop-rock into their repertoire. You can see these from The Zombies’ songs “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There.” The Who, meanwhile, had melodic songs in their discography, including “Baba O’Riley.”
13. The Spencer Davis Group
Lastly, we have The Spencer Davis Group from Birmingham, England. The band was formed in 1963 and became known for songs such as “Somebody Help Me” and “Keep on Running.”
One thing in common between The Spencer Davis Group and The Who is the presence of powerful vocalists. The former’s frontman was Steve Winwood, whose versatile voice lent a distinct sound to their music. The Who’s vocalist, Roger Daltrey, also possessed a powerful voice.
Both bands also incorporated bluesy guitar work into their songs. The Spencer Davis Group’s guitarist, Spencer Davis, made use of bluesy guitar riffs and solos.
Although The Spencer Davis Group didn’t last long as some bands did, they made significant contributions to rock music. They were admired for their impressive musicianship, distinct music style, and soulful sound.
Summing Up Our List Of Bands Like The Who
And that concludes our list of bands similar to The Who. We hope you discovered some new music to add to your playlist.
Did we miss a band that you think should be on this list? We’d like to hear from you so we can add it in.