POP MUSIC : From the Fab Four to Throbbing Gristle

In voting by 12 Calendar pop music writers to name the greatest British band of all time, bands were given 10 points for each first-place vote, nine for each second and so forth.

Casting first-place votes for the Beatles: Richard Cromelin, Robert Hilburn, Steve Hochman, Connie Johnson, Katherine Turman and Chris Willman. Stones backers: Dennis Hunt, Jean Rosenbluth and Heidi Siegmund. Lorraine Ali voted for the Sex Pistols, Mike Boehm for the Kinks and Jonathan Gold for Throbbing Gristle.

Outside the Top 10 (above), other bands receiving votes were Black Sabbath (14 points), the Yardbirds (11), Throbbing Gristle (10), Pink Floyd (9), Roxy Music (8), Queen (7), Pet Shop Boys, Free, Iron Maiden and Mott the Hoople (6 each), the Buzzcocks, Fairport Convention and the Moody Blues (5 each), Crass, Dire Straits, the Move, the Police and the Troggs (4 each), Joy Division, Plastic Ono Band, Procol Harum, Small Faces and XTC (3 each), Bonzo Dog Band, the Fall, Genesis, Napalm Death, the Smiths and Slade (2 each). Bands with one point: the Dave Clark Five, Erasure, Humble Pie, the Jam, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Squeeze.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was ruled ineligible because Hendrix was an American. The Pretenders, however, were declared eligible because American Chrissie Hynde makes her home in England and the rest of the original band was British. Elvis Costello & the Attractions and David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars were also declared ineligible because Costello and Bowie are essentially solo artists.


Selected comments:

The Beatles

“The Beatles produced more classic pop songs in any single given year during their 1964-69 heyday than any other group produced over the course of an entire decade. From proto-heavy metal to music hall, they encompassed so much, with nary a mortal misstep, that you really could take just their catalogue to the proverbial desert island and conceivably never thirst for variety."--Willman



“John, Paul, George and Ringo were pop’s Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Cy Young all rolled into one--and you can’t name a single pop act that has come since that doesn’t owe a huge debt to the Fab Four."--Hochman


“Nobody like this band before or since."--Johnson

The Rolling Stones

“How to rank the two most influential bands in the history of rock? Tie goes to the longer lived."--Rosenbluth


“It’s difficult to even imagine the term ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ without picturing Keith and Mick side by side."--Siegmund

The Who


“Masters of thrash in the mid-'60s and conceptual artifice just a little later on, pretty much defining rock ambition for a while there, and rocking furiously enough to make you forgive (Pete) Townshend’s wildest pretensions."--Willman

The Sex Pistols

“When the Pistols were actually around, I was taking disco dancing lessons at the local Ramada Inn. When I got a little older, my brother-in-law gave me the Pistols’ album and it scared me. Still does. The Pistols not only gave birth to punk, they gutted rock."--Siegmund


“The Pistols, we realize now, may have been nothing more or less than a latter-day Monkees with better costumes and a taste for hard drugs, but no band has ever better expressed the sound that a teen-ager’s head makes when he bangs it against the wall until it bleeds."--Gold

The Kinks

“As British as the Union Jack, and as strong and varied a body of work as their more famous Invasion peers. The warmest, most down-to-earth British band."--Boehm

Led Zeppelin


“Debauched, mystical, primal and multitextured, Zep was one of the best things about the ‘70s."--Turman


“Riffage. Pure riffage. Despite the ‘Ballad of Evermore.’ "--Gold

The Clash

“For realizing that pure punk wasn’t enough, then finding the resourcefulness to take it a step further."--Boehm


“Along with Hendrix, the undisputed fathers of fuzztone and feedback."--Johnson

The Zombies

“Though this mid-'60s group’s body of work is both slim and spotty compared to others on this list, Colin Blunstone’s ethereal, urgent vocals fueled some of the prettiest melodies ever recorded; the No. 1 hits ‘Time of the Season’ and ‘She’s Not There’ typify the band’s one-of-a-kind, preternaturally beautiful sound."--Rosenbluth

The Pretenders

“Tart-tongued Chrissie Hynde ranks with Ray Davies and Pete Townshend as one of rock’s greatest emotional wranglers, and the first version of the band had a musical take that still sounds bracingly unique."--Hochman

And finally. . .Throbbing Gristle?

“If all pop records become indistinguishable from the strangely compelling sounds made by a malfunctioning washing machine, you might as well listen to the washing machine and save yourself the $16.94 for the CD. The band that might have destroyed rock ‘n’ roll once and for all, if only we had let it."--Gold

Britain’s All-Time Top 10 Bands

Group Points (Ballots) The Beatles 105 (12) The Rolling Stones 103 (12) The Who 59 (8) The Sex Pistols 56 (7) The Kinks 50 (8) Led Zeppelin 45 (7) The Clash 24 (6) Cream 20 (4) The Zombies 16 (3) The Pretenders 15 (5)