The 1960s and 1970s were the hay day for classic rock, with many bands from that era producing some of the most memorable tunes out there. A brief look — and even an in depth one — at Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” will show an overwhelming number of those albums being the product of the rock bands and artists from the ’60s and ’70s.
After the 1970s, the tone of rock was definitely changing. Though the golden age for classic rock has long since ended, some of the era’s greatest rock groups haven’t gotten quiet. Here are 7 of classic rock’s greatest bands that are still touring to this day.
1. The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones formed in 1962 — prime time for hitting the rock ‘n’ roll scene — and they certainly hit the ground running. In no time at all, they had albums topping the charts, and they kept it up for almost ten years — with most of their albums hitting the No. 1 rank in the UK or U.S., sometimes in both places, and with almost none of their albums failing to break the top 5.
As with almost any rock band with a few years behind it, the Rolling Stones have faced numerous changes to the line-up, including the loss of instrumentalist Brian Jones. However, founding members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have stayed strong in the band for years, and though he wasn’t a founding member, drummer Charley Watts joined the band so early on that he can easily be considered an essential member of the band throughout the years.
While many rock bands don’t stand the test of time, the Rolling Stones have managed to persist. More than 50 years after the formation of the band, they are still touring around the globe, with concerts lined up for the rest of 2014.
2. Deep Purple
When looking for some of the hardest rock out of the ’60s and ’70s, Deep Purple should show up 10 times out of 10. With rock organ by Jon Lord that would never be allowed in a church, the powerful voice of Ian Gillan constantly proving his vocal range, the solid rhythm à la Ian Paice and Roger Glover, or the easily distinguishable riffing and soloing of Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple is an unforgettable contributor to the hard rock of the era.
Though some of the above names weren’t original members of the band, and some of the original members are no longer members, there have been a few names that are easily linked to the essence of Deep Purple. Ian Gillan wasn’t a founding member, but he joined the band just as it started releasing its most memorable albums, such as Deep Purple in Rock and Machine Head. Likewise, Roger Glover took over for founding bassist Nick Simper.
Of the Mark II lineup — Paice, Lord, Glover, Blackmore, and Gillan — only Lord and Blackmore are no longer members of the band, leaving a solid crew to represent Deep Purple’s most memorable years. What’s more, though they haven’t been rocking steady since the ’60s, they will be rocking throughout 2014. Tour information can be found on their website.
Though Yes is a band that has had numerous lineup changes — like any band that has seen as many years go by — a few names stand out as definitively Yes: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford (or Alan White), and of course Chris Squire. These members set the tone of Yes through most of the ’70s.
Keyboards have been a definitive part of Yes, but no single keyboardist has stuck around very long to make their name a key part of Yes in the classic rock era — Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye would have to have a rock-off to settle the debate.
For fans of the mentioned lineup, there won’t be much disappointment, as Howe, White, and Squire are still touring together this year. Unfortunately, Anderson won’t be joining them. But if Anderson was the only one you cared about, you can go see him do his thing solo.
4. Blue Öyster Cult
On the classic rock scene, British bands were all the rage, but Americans weren’t sitting idly by, and Blue Öyster Cult is a perfect example, forming right out of Long Island, New York. The band won over fans with the smooth voice of lead vocalist Eric Bloom — who replaced Les Braunstein so early on that he might as well be considered a founding member — backed by the psychedelic sound created by Buck Dharma, Allen Lanier, and Albert Bouchard, with Joe Bouchard taking over for bassist Andrew Winters early on as well.
Though the band no longer has either of its early bassists, the drummers have been changing steadily since the early ’80s, and keyboardist Lanier unfortunately died last year not long after being replaced in the band. Front-men Bloom and Dharma are still rocking on with tour dates lined up all the way into 2015.
5. ZZ Top
On stage, there is no mistaking ZZ Top. With front-men Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill dawning beards down to their bellies and the garb of a biker gang, these hard rockers make a statement about American classic rock that is quite different from that of Blue Öyster Cult.
The band hasn’t always been composed the same way. In its founding year, Dan Mitchell was on drums and Lanier Greig on bass, but neither of those men were there for long. Mitchell was quickly replaced by Frank Beard, and Greig was followed in quick succession by Billy Ethridge and then Dusty Hill. From 1969 onward, it was Gibbons, Hill, and Beard as the face and sound of ZZ Top — and in 2014, those guys are still rocking.
6. The Eagles
Continuing with the American classic rock bands, the Eagles came from an entirely different area from the last two bands. While Blue Öyster Cult was out of New York and ZZ Top out of Texas, the Eagles formed their sound on the West Coast in California, and the influence of Hispanic culture shows in their music.
Early members Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner may no longer be with the band — replaced in the mid-1970s by Joe Walsh of James Gang fame and Timothy B. Schmit. After the ’70s, the band disappeared, but has since reappeared with its lineup of Walsh, Schmit, and perennials Glenn Frey and Don Henley still intact. Now the four of them are touring together around North America and Europe with evens planned through June.
For being around as long as they have, Aerosmith has had relatively little volatility in band personnel. From their formation in Boston in 1970, Steven Tyler, Tom Hamilton, and Joey Kramer have lived and breathed Aerosmith. Original guitarist Ray Tabano was quickly replaced by Brad Whitford, who has been a mainstay in the band since then, with only a brief period out of it between ’81 and ’84. Guitarist and backing vocalist Joe Perry similarly had a small period of absence — just between 1979 and 1984 — but he has otherwise been a consistent member of the band.
Through Aerosmith’s most formative years, the band was cohesive, and that bond did not want to be broken. Through the ’80s, ’90s, and the turn of the Millennium, Aerosmith has continued to grace the stage, so it should be no surprise that they are still doing it more than 40 years after forming. They will be touring around Europe until summer.
If you’re in the right place, or have the money to get there, you don’t have to wish for a time machine to see some of classic rock’s greatest heroes still playing together.
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