Best Rock Songs
The best rock songs of all time will forever shape the musical landscape. As it has been proven, a great rock song truly has the ability to transcend time. Even after more than 50 years from the time these rock legends reigned over the music scene with their god like aura, rock music still is kept alive with newer artists with their more contemporary seasoning to the cauldron of rock music.
The appeal of these legendary rock songs have spanned generations. From Led Zeppelin to Deep Purple, Queen to Pink Floyd, Eagles to Jimi Hendrix and many more were the greatest of them all and can pack concert arenas even today. To pick the top 10 rock songs of all time is next to impossible hence we have stuck to the time when the genre was at its peak, which was the 60s to the 80s. Also, we have not touched upon sub-genres like punk, new wave and psychedelic rock and have narrowed it down to just classic and retro rock.
Classic rock simply put is rock music that was produced in the period between the 80s to the early 90s. The selection of these top rock songs from this period has been primarily based on its commercial success and radio popularity. The characteristics of classic rock is that it is heavily guitar-driven with most of the songs having a signature riff.
Many of us born in the previous century most certainly have a favorite band or a favorite rock song and can bet that the true rock lover would find more than one of their favorites on this list. These songs perhaps hold deeper meaning for a lot of people. They may have unforgettable memories, emotions and nostalgia attached that remind you of better times. The best rock songs act as a type of keystone in our lives, a keystone that embodies memories, emotions, and nostalgia from our lives.
Here we have compressed some of the best rock songs ever made to give you a list of the greatest songs ever.
Another Brick in a Wall – Pink Floyd
The song is one of the greatest motivational songs of all time. Invoking a sense in leading one’s life the way you want and not letting anyone to control your thoughts. It is an anthem of protest against regimental and abusive method of schooling. This song is a masterpiece from the beats, vocals, and lyrics. The song received a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Rock Duo or Group. The song has the mesmerizing guitar solo by David Gilmour, which is a masterpiece of interlinked riffing and a master class in how to play a solo. The track is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a song that shaped Rock and Roll. It is a song that affects the lives of people in a positive way, impressing upon them to think about change and improve their life for good. It was an instant hit in the UK and the USA upon its release and is still one of the best rock songs ever.
Hotel California – Eagles
A song about the dark portions of life led in glamour and glitz, a part that many shove under the carpet till it consumes them. From an amazing guitar solo, great guitar and drum chemistry, memorable vocals, great song writing, this is one of the best rock songs of all time. The guitar solo especially towards the end of the song is incredible. The album of the same name was recorded in 1976 and was the first album with guitarist Joe Walsh. The album was a huge hit and the Eagles also won a Grammy for Record of the Year. The song dwells on the perils of fame and the life of excess that it accompanies. The deeper meaning behind the lyrics weaved in to a beautiful song that has come to be one of the most famous songs in rock history
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
The song was the highest charting single from the Southern rock band and was part of their second album – Second Helping. Sweet Home Alabama is unquestionably an answer song to two of Neil Young songs, Southern Man and Alabama, which sort of pulled up the entire South for the bloody history of slavery and its aftermath. The chart topping rock song was revitalized when Kid Rock used the chorus of the song and the guitar solo in his 2008 rack – All Summer Long. The song also inspired a film of the same name with Reese Whitherspoon in the lead which was released in 2002.
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
It is one of the biggest classic rock anthems of all time. Written by guitarist and singer Pete Townshend and released by The Who as a single in June 1971. The song was performed both at Live Aid (1985) and 20 years later at Live 8 (2005) organized by Bob Geldof. It is argued that Pete Townsend is said to have been inspired by his 5 am performance at Woodstock on the second day of the festival, to write this song. The song is noted for its angular organ part set against guitar power chords, leading up to an extended synthesizer break into a drum entrance which makes this one of the greatest rock songs and a must on this list.
Stairway to Heaven — Led Zeppelin
This is most definitely Led Zeppelin’s best song. This iconic and immortal masterpiece was recorded in 1971 and another of the songs on the list that have been rocking the music charts for more than half a century. It is a song that transcends music and endures for eternity. The song is famous for the Jimmy Page guitar solo but equally for John Paul Jones’ keyboards. The lyrics are considered to refer to the occult by some, but we will not dwell on that and rather stick to the song and the magnificent guitar and the powerful riff that it unleashed. It is most definitely the most beautiful solo of all time and Stairway to Heaven’s classic status will continue for a long time. The song was part of the album Led Zeppelin IV which became one of the biggest selling albums in America and is one of the world’s five biggest-selling records of all time. Perfect in every way it could not be possibly made any better and is one of the shining examples of the best rock music has to offer.
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
Most of the songs on this list have famous riffs, but then comes Purple Haze. Here the left handed guitar genius Hendrix operates on a different level all together laying out an effortlessly original mix of psych and blues. The song also gives a glimpse of Jimi Hendrix’s faith and a testimony of him being saved by Jesus. A purple haze dream inspired the song that he had. Hendrix’s impeccable guitar skills made this song one of the greatest rock songs. A dream that inspired the self taught guitarist to come up with this classic hit, which became one of the best rock songs of all time.
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Freddie Mercury is considered one of the best singers in the Rock community. This masterpiece by the British band is one of the most famous songs of all time and successfully sold a million copies in the year it was released. Trivia has it that the piano parts played by Mercury was played on the same piano that Paul McCartney used in the song Hey Jude by The Beatles. Besides the piano, Brian May on guitar gave the song that special sound that really gave this song a major push. The song was way ahead of its time which would explain it becoming one of the most downloaded tracks even in 2018. On its release in 1975, the song became number 1 and stayed there for 9 weeks. The top position was once again achieved by this song after the death of Mercury in 1991. The song proved to be the best choice for Adam Lambert for his audition for the American Idol, which led him to become a part of the band two years later. The lengthy track was part of – A Night at the Opera and is definitely one of the most iconic songs and one of the best rock songs of all time.
Back in Black – AC/DC
The first Australian band amongst the list of the greatest rock bands of all time. The song Back in Black was included in the seventh album of the same name by AC/DC. The album and the song was released in 1980 and is actually a tribute to the band’s former lead singer – Bon Scott, who died of a misadventure post a night of partying. This was the first time Brian Johnson was part of the band as the lead vocalist. The band is most definitely one of the greatest rock bands from the early 80s and this song is considered their best work ever. The song and the album resurrected a band from tragedy to triumph and turned AC/DC into superstars not just down under but across the world.
Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
Part of the album – Machine Head which was released by the English band in 1972, this song was inspired by a fire at a rock concert which was caused by a flare gun. The fire started just before the band took the stage to perform. The lyrics of the song, embodies the band’s experience during the fire incident. The music has a lot of cool retro vibes to it, which complements the lyrics and the voice of lead vocalist – Ian Gillan. At first, the band did not think this would be a hit and rarely played it at their live concerts. However, when they finally included it in their routine, it got a huge reaction. The song was even performed by Black Sabbath in their concerts when Ian Gillan was part of the band for a year in 1983. Whatever be the history behind the song, there is no denying the classic place that this song has in the pantheons of good rock music.
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
‘She’s got a smile that it seems to me, Reminds me of childhood memories’, this brilliant song reminds a lot of people of their growing up years. A song written by Axl Rose for his then girlfriend was part of the Guns N’ Roses debut album – Appetite for Destruction which was released in 1988. The song became one of the most successful singles of GnR and is part of the regular playlists of many radio stations around the world even today. From Slash’s brilliant riffs to Axl’s voice and lyrics, the song richly deserves to be on this list of the top rock songs. Like almost all the songs on this list, the song is best played loud.
If you are a classic rock lover, then chances are you have been looking for a list of the greatest hits of all time. Music has a lasting impression on many people because of its impact on their minds and mood.
It was hard enough to narrow it down to the top 10 rock songs of all time, to put a stamp on the No. 1 rock song would be impossible. Imagine picking one from amongst the impressive lineup which consists of names like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jimi Hendrix and Queen. We definitely have a soft spot for all these Rock gods who reigned over the music scene in the 60’s and the 70’s.
Like all Top 10 lists, it is quite impossible to ascertain the songs that will make it to the top 10 list of all time. Nevertheless, most of the songs on the list here deserve to be on the list and are based on their success past and their longevity the proof of which being the downloads and the views that they command even today.
Mentioned above are our selection of the 10 best rock songs of all time which includes the best and the most legendary rock bands and rock royalty of all times.
I truly believe that classic rock will never die. Even when the hey days of Rock faded away, the genre is alive and kicking even today with newer bands and artists carrying the baton with élan. Classic rock’s greatest compositions and powerful hits still can get your heart racing and your head banging.