11 British Bands That Changed Pop Music Forever

Bands from the UK are praised for their originality and influence worldwide. Many movements started in Britain before that style moved to other countries.

Some groups are more influential than others and are credited with changing the face of pop music.

1. The Beatles

The Beatles
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There’s only one place to start. The Beatles laid down the blueprint for pop music in the early 1960s. They embraced change, moving through different genres until they split in 1970. The Beatles influenced many global bands and continue to do so more than 50  years after their breakup.

2. The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
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The South’s answer to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones delivered a harder, sassier edge. They were the band your parents wouldn’t like, and that rebellious streak was crucial to their sound. They’re still touring and recording, while their music and attitude have inspired many bands since they formed.

3. Pink Floyd

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd
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Some music fans mock progressive rock, but many of those who dislike the genre still admire Pink Floyd. The band made “prog” accessible; many current musicians still cite them as influences. The myths surrounding founder Syd Barrett and his later life as a hermit have also fueled interest in the group.

4. Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin
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Led Zeppelin stood out among their contemporaries as the heavy rock revolution outlived the hippie era. This band of gifted musicians combined to change music and kickstart the 1970s. Their unique spark as a group was emphasized when the band split in 1980 following the death of drummer Jon Bonham. Led Zeppelin wouldn’t have been the same without any of the original “Fab Four.”

5. The Clash

The Clash
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The Clash won’t be remembered as the inventors of punk rock, and many will argue that Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, and Co. should be here. I believe the band led by Joe Strummer had a more significant influence, and their ability to make their mark in the U.S. shows they qualify. The Clash was billed as “The only band that matters,” and their strength came through, making punk more accessible.

6. The Slits

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When the all-girl punk band The Slits formed, few girl groups existed. Except for The Runaways, music fans struggled to identify artists flying the female flag. The Slits harnessed the punk attitude, which said you can do anything, They inspired many to follow, and a significant number of girl bands owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

7. The Jam

Band performing in concert
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Were they punks, or were they part of the mod revival movement? The Jam floated between genres, but most fans agreed they were the most prominent British band in the late 1970s. Their songs were beautifully crafted, and their tracks inspired at least one group on this list.

8. The Smiths

The Smiths
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For a band to make the list, they must have been influential while delivering something that no other artist could. The Smiths tick both boxes while identifying with an audience that didn’t fit with different bands. We suddenly had our idols to follow, and many are still mourning the band’s sudden split in 1987.

9. The Cure

The Cure band
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The Cure is another band that crosses musical genres. They also showed fans it was OK to be an outsider in a world where most of the population needed to conform. More importantly, they are a brilliant group still producing great music, almost 50 years after they formed in 1976.

10. Spice Girls

Spice Girls
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You may mock this inclusion, but the Spice Girls were more than a gimmick. I wouldn’t say I like their songs, but I recognize their influence on others. The 1990s was an era of “girl power,” and that feeling reached around the world, blazing trails for another generation of great and not-so-great, all-female bands.

11. Oasis

Oasis band
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Oasis guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher has appeared on stage with Paul Weller, former singer with The Jam. It shows where one of Gallagher’s influences came from, but he’s his own man, and Oasis’ unique sound defined Britpop in the 1990s.


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