13 Of The Greatest And Most Famous British Rock Bands Of The 1990s

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

From punk to new indie to Britpop and everything in between, the UK has seen many bands emerging from its lands. Not all may have always topped the charts, but some were certainly iconic.

During the 1990s, there were quite a few British rock bands that shattered the airwaves with songs that have continued to be as popular now as it was when first released.

To get you started on learning which bands they are, we’ve listed 13 of the greatest and most famous British rock bands of the 1990s. Let’s get started.

1. Oasis

In the mid-1990s, you could not turn a radio on without hearing the sensation that was the British band Oasis. With a broad sound and personalities just as big, the group came onto the scene hard with its first two albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

The original lineup of Oasis featured Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan, Tony McCarroll, and brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. The Gallagher brothers were the only consistent members of the band during their 1991–2009 run.

However, the sibling rivalry and in-fighting were well-known and documented, and soon, Oasis broke up when Noel left, saying he could no longer work with Liam.

Before disbanding in 2009, Oasis had sold over 70 million records, won 17 NME awards, and got nominated for the Grammy twice.

2. Radiohead

In 1985, singer Thom Yorke joined forces with Johnny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, and Phillip Selway to form the band Radiohead.

A few years later, they burst into worldwide fame with their 1993 single “Creep,” from their debut album Pablo Honey. “Creep” is a reflective song full of self-loathing, depression, and pain, which speaks volumes to the fans of alternative and grunge music.

While “Creep” appeals to the masses, Radiohead is a band of experimentation, creating soundscapes that pull from electronic music, jazz, classical, and beyond. 

They have sold over 30 million records, won six Grammys, and got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

3. Blur

Formed in London in 1988, Blur featured members Damon Albarn, Graham Coxton, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree. Their albums were constantly hitting #1 on the charts during the 1990s and well into the 2000s.

In the ’90s, during the height of their fame, Blur had an ongoing media-fueled rivalry with Oasis. The two bands were constantly chasing each other on the charts it was called the Battle of Britpop. However, Blur did not let the pressure of sales hold them back.

They reached mainstream success with “Song 2,” from their self-titled album. Blur has been known for evolving and shifting styles, taking influence from shoegaze to lo-fi, electronic, and even gospel.

Still active, Blur has taken plenty of time off for the members to cool off and work on other projects with hiatuses between 2004 and 2008 as well as from 2016 and 2022.

4. The Verve

English rock band the Verve formed in 1990 with the original lineup of Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, and Peter Salisbury. They finally broke into commercial success with 1997’s Urban Hymns, which became one of the best-selling albums in the UK.

However, this success got soured when, even after obtaining the rights to use a Rolling Stones sample for their song “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” they were sued by former Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein, forcing them to add Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to the credits and to relinquish the royalties of their biggest hit to the Stones.

The band broke up in ‘99 and got back together between 2007 and 2007. Ashcroft has made a solid solo career in the meantime, and after Klein’s death in 2019, Jagger, Richards, and Klein’s son reverted the rights of “Bittersweet Symphony” to Ashcroft.

5. The Stone Roses

Consisting originally of Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani, and Reni, the Stone Roses was formed in Manchester in 1983. Their eponymous debut album rose to critical acclaim in 1989, but their work in the ’90s after they signed to Geffen Records made their most significant impact and legacy.

The song they released at the turn of the decade, “One Love,” is considered one of their best, charting at #4. Four years later, “Love Spreads” from their second album, Second Coming, landed at #2.

Though Stone Roses only released two albums in their career, they won five NME awards, ranging from Best Band and Best New Single to Best Album Ever. They were active from 1983 to 1996 and then again from 2011 to 2017.

6. Bush

Multi-platinum group Bush gained a lot of success and criticism in the 1990s as a gunge/post-grunge band. Whether they were capitalizing on the Seattle sound or not, they were the most successful British band to do it.

Success came pretty immediately after the release of their 1994 album, Sixteen Stone. This was followed by Razorblade Suitcase in 1996, which topped the charts.

Bush broke up in 2002 but reformed in 2010 and has remained active with the current lineup of Gavin Rossdale, Chris Traynor, Corey Britz, and Nik Hughes. Altogether they have released nine albums, won an MTV Music Video Award, and earned a Grammy nomination for their song “Swallowed.”

7. Pulp

A bit older than most of the bands on this list, Pulp formed in Sheffield in 1978, but their most active and successful period was between 1992 and 1997. 

After years of struggling, Pulp finally grabbed the handhold of success with the albums His n’ Hers in 1994 and Different Class the following year, the latter of which included one of their biggest hits, “Common People.”

In 2002, the band broke up but became active again from 2011 to 2013. It has been recently announced that they have plans to reunite for a tour in 2023.

8. Suede

Formed in London by Brett Anderson, Justine Frischman, and Matt Osman in 1989, Suede helped to define and cement the Britpop movement. Three years later, they were called Best New Band in Britain.

Their self-titled debut quickly topped the UK charts and became the fastest-selling first album in ten years. However, it would be their third album, Coming Up, that would be their biggest hit, followed by Head Music.

Though they did not want to be associated with the term Britpop, Suede was often referred to as one of the big four of this British music movement, together with Pulp, Blur, and Oasis.

9. Jesus Jones

While Jesus Jones has remained active since forming in 1988, they are best known for their 1991 worldwide hit “Right Here, Right Now,” a song inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. Despite its political and social roots, the tune is popular with advertisers.

Another song hit from the group is “International Bright Young Thing,” which landed at #7 in the UK charts. Both this song and “Right Here, Right Now” came from their album Doubt, which is their best-selling to date.

The multi-decade career of Jesus Jones has seen them evolve through styles of music such as alternative rock, dance-rock, indie, and electronic-music-inspired rock.

10. Manic Street Preachers

A Welsh band, the Manic Street Preachers formed in Blackwood in 1986 and composed of James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, Nicky Wire, and later Richey Edwards.

The Manic Street Preachers are known for their rowdy, high-energy music that flirts with punk, alternative, hard rock, and glam rock. Their song “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” stayed for 17 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The album it came from, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, is also their biggest hit.

Manic has won 11 NME awards, eight Q awards, and four BRIT awards. They reached #4 in the UK charts four times and have sold more than 10 million records.

The band has remained active to this day. However, Edwards disappeared in 1995 and was presumed dead in 2008.

11. The Charlatans UK

Formed in 1988, the Charlatans originally had Martin Blunt, Rob Collins, Jon Brookes, Jon Day, and Baz Ketley as members. Now, only Blunt remains with new members Tim Burgess, Mark Collins, and Tony Rogers.

The band has been active since forming, and all their whopping 13 albums have charted in the UK’s top 40. An alternative, indie, and Brit-pop band famous for their use of the Hammond organ, the Charlatans made a significant dent with songs such as “Indian Rope” and “The Only One I Know.”

During an American tour in the early 1990s, the Charlatans had to add “UK” to their name because of an existing American band, also called the Charlatans. 

12. Supergrass

Gaz Coombes, Mick Quinn, and Danny Goffey formed Supergrass in Oxford in 1993. In 2002, Gaz’s brother Rob joined the band full-time. Their debut album, I Should Coco, was a huge seller, and their single “Alright” was a hit worldwide.

The band was active until they split in 2010, citing musical differences as the reason. However, they did get back together for some shows between 2019 and 2022.

Their last show was at a tribute concert for the late Foo Fighter’s drummer Taylor Hawkins, who was a Supergrass fan and even sat in on the drums for them at one point.

13. Travis

Only the second non-England band on this list, Travis was formed by Fran Healy, Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop, and Neil Primrose in 1990 in Glasgow, Scotland.

You may notice none of the band members are named Travis, and that is because the band took their name from Travis Henderson, a character in the 1984 movie Paris, Texas.

While Travis had a taste of success with their ‘97 album Good Feeling, they hit it big time with their following two albums, The Man Who and The Invisible Band.

1999’s The Man Who featured “Why Does It Always Rain On Me,” one of their most recognizable songs and biggest hits.

Summing Up Our List Of ’90s British Rock Bands

It cannot be denied that many rock bands emerged from the UK during the 1990s. However, these we have listed topped by having a bigger influence on British music of the time.

Many songs from the bands listed above are still going strong in sales, telling us how their popularity has endured over the decades that have passed.

We hope our list has helped you learn more about your current favorite bands or maybe gained a new British rock band to listen to. If we have missed a group, let us know so we can add them!

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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.