13 Of The Greatest And Most Famous British Rock Bands Of The 1960s

Written by Dan Farrant

It was around the 1960s that rock music exploded in the UK. Dubbed the British Invasion, it came a host of rock bands that released music fused with a blend of various rock subgenres.

From the Beatles to the Dave Clark Five, each with unique sounds emerged and became music icons in their own right and helped pave the way for rock bands in the following decades.

In this post, let’s learn about 13 of the greatest and most famous British Rock Bands of the 1960s and how they changed the music world. Read on!

1. The Beatles

Cited as the band that spearheaded the British Invasion, the Beatles is arguably the most famous British rock band ever. They released 13 albums and have a total of 21 number-one hits, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” and “Yellow Submarine.”

Featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, the group’s frenzied popularity led to the term “Beatlemania” and their nickname, Fab Four.

The Beatles have won seven Grammys. In the US, they have had six Diamond, 20 multi-Platinum, 16 Platinum, and 6 Gold albums. In 1988, their work earned them a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

2. The Who

One of the early bands to use extreme volumes and distortion in rock we have The Who. With the original lineup of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon, the group was formed in 1964.

The Who, particularly Townshend, helped establish the ‘Marshall Stack‘ and large PA systems for their concerts. They were also known to be among the first to heavily use synthesizers in their music.

This is evident in many of their songs, like “My Generation,” “Substitute,” and “Happy Jack,” during the 1960s. During this time, they released four studio albums and toured extensively.

3. The Rolling Stones

Formed in 1962 by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bryan Jones, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones became almost instant hits with their gritty, rhythmically-driven sound that were often steeped in the blues.

The height of their career was during the ’60s with songs like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Sympathy For the Devil,” and “Paint It Black.” Four of their 11 studio albums topped the UK charts.

Overall, the Rolling Stones has released over 50 albums and sold over 240 million records worldwide. It is no wonder they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

4. The Yardbirds

Formed in 1963 in London, The Yardbirds‘ initial lineup included Keith Reif, Jim McCarty, Chris Deja, and Paul Samwell Smith. Their music was a fusion of blues, pop rock, and psychedelic rock that resonated in many of their 1960s hit singles.

Among these that were popular and hit UK charts during that time were “Heart Full of Soul,” “For Your Love,” and “Evil Hearted You.”

Aside from music, The Yardbirds is famous for serving as a stepping stone for some of the most amazing, innovative, and influential guitar players of rock and roll: Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck.

Despite their success, The Yardbirds separated at the end of the decade, with many of the members forming other bands, such as the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin.

5. The Kinks

The brothers Ray and Dave Davies formed The Kinks in 1963. They became one of the most influential rock bands that lasted over three decades.

Though their first two singles fell flat, their third, “You Really Got Me,” skyrocketed to #1 on the UK charts in 1964. Throughout the decade, they dominated the airwaves with infectious classics like “Tired of Waiting for You” and “Sunny Afternoon.”

The Kinks’ popularity continued through the 1970s, ’80s, and part of the ’90s before they disbanded. They were added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and UK Music Hall of Fame in 1990 and 2005, respectively.

6. The Animals

Formed in the early ’60s in Newcastle, The Animals had a gritty, bluesy sound that, when paired with Eric Burdon’s deep resonant vocals, created an emotional and atmospheric sound like no other band.

While many bands and artists have done a version of the traditional folk song “House of the Rising Sun,” once The Animals recorded it in 1964, it became their signature song.

The Animals were also plugged into the political and social climate of the ’60s, which can best be heard in their songs like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

7. Cream

Featuring members Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker, Cream was formed in 1966 in London. The group was well-known for their blend of blues and hard rock and was a canvas for their musicians to showcase their technical talents.

Cream released four albums during the 1960s. All were within the top ten of the UK Albums Chart, with a combined sale of over 15 million. These featured hits included “I Feel Free,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” and “White Room.”

Sadly, the group did not last past the ’60s, but the amazing music they created within this time was enough to add them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

8. Herman’s Hermits

Created in 1964, our next group is Herman’s Hermits, the band who brought us such upbeat sing-alongs as “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” and “I’m into Something Good.”

The latter is their only song to top in UK charts, while the other two became #1 hits in the US. Throughout the 1960s, Cream released a number of charting songs, but towards the end of the decade, their popularity started to fade.

Despite their short career, Cream has been featured in a few 1960s shows like When the Boys Meet the Girls and Hold On! Because the US versions of their albums were released by MGM Records, some of their songs were also featured in MGM films.

9. The Zombies

Our next rock band, The Zombies, was formed in the early ’60s in St Albans. They won a band competition and were signed to Decca Records shortly after. Members at that time were Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Hugh Grundy, Chris While, and Paul Atkinson.

Though some of their 1960s songs gained radio time in the UK and did not rank, most of them charted high in the US. Among these songs hitting #1 in the US Cashbox chart were the emotionally explosive “She’s Not There” and the seductive, atmospheric “Time of the Season.”

Odessey and Oracle, their second album, landed the 100th spot in Rolling Stone‘s 2012 500 Greatest Albums of All Times list. They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

10. The Moody Blues

Similar to the Who, the Moody Blues were one of the early British bands to use synthesizers and helped make it mainstream in rock music.

Formed in Birmingham in 1964, the Moody Blues rose to fame with a lineup featuring Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, and John Lodge.

Their 1960s hits “Go Now,” “Nights in White Satin,” and “Tuesday Afternoon” were well-received, and it is said that Moody Blues helped develop progressive rock with their 1967 album, Days of Future Passed.

In 2018, Moody Blues received a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, original vocalist Ray Thomas died just months before the ceremony.

11. The Troggs

Childhood friends Reg Presley and Ronnie Bond started The Troggs in Andover, Hampshire, in 1964. They were later joined by Pete Styles and Chris Britton.

The Troggs were a massive influence on garage and punk rock bands, and with a hit song like “Wild Thing” (1966), it’s clear to see why. The ocarina playing in the background and the subtle sexy vibe the song produces was unique during that time.

Other well-known songs by The Troggs include “With a Girl Like You,” “I Can’t Control Myself,” and “Love Is All Around.” These three singles have sold over a million records each. 

Though Ronnie Bond and Reg Presley have both passed away, The Troggs continue to tour with new lineups and make music together.

12. The Hollies

Another pair of childhood friends, Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, formed The Hollies in 1962. Their vocal harmony was well-known and distinctive in many of their 1960s hits.

These include “Just One Look,” “I’m Alive,” and “Stop Stop Stop.” Their entry into the US market began in 1966 with “Bus Stop,” which ranked #5 in Billboard‘s Hot 100.

The Hollies have gone through many lineup changes through the decades, but they have never disbanded. Their works were given recognition with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

13. Dave Clark Five

From Tottenham, Dave Clark Five (DC5) began in 1958 as backing musicians. In the early ’60s, they established themselves as a rock and roll band worth following.

DC5 was the second British Invasion band to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, and they racked up a whopping 18 appearances on the show during their career. 

They were famous for their loud, forceful, punchy music, which included charting songs like “Glad All Over,” “Anyway You Want It,” Over and Over,” and “The Red Balloon.”

DC5 separated in the early 1970s, with some members continuing as Dave Clark and Friends. In 2008, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2008 by none other than Tom Hanks.

Summing Up Our List Of 1960s British Rock Bands

The rock bands that emerged and rose to fame from the UK during the 1960s were a special lot. They were trailblazers of the rock genre and greatly influenced rock bands around the world with their unique music styles.

These rock bands marked not only cultural history but also music history. Whether their career lasted only a few years or several decades, their works ensured a legacy to last generations, if not for all time.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.