10 Best Los Angeles Bands
Los Angeles may be ruled by the silver screen, but it’s still rock music that has its finger on the pulse of the City of Angels. A creative outlet steeped in an authenticity and immediacy that Hollywood could never muster, the music that blares from mansions along Mullholland Drive, cars charging down the Sunset Strip and radios on Skid Row is what truly brings together the divergent cultures of this thriving metropolis. There has never been one single sound synonymous with the L.A. music scene, that’s for sure, but the following 10 bands do a great job at representing the biggest and brightest Los Angeles has had to offer.
Forget Los Angeles: The Doors were one of the biggest bands in the world when they broke on through to the charts with with their self-titled 1967 debut album and its smash single, ‘Light My Fire.’ Critics may say biggest doesn’t mean best, but the band’s wild take on whiskey-fueled blues and psychedelic rock mixed with shamanic singer Jim Morrison’s poetic lyrics certainly carried enough weight to grab the zeitgeist of the ’60s counter-culture movement.
Initially a harmony-driven vocal quintet singing ditties about California beach life — surf, sun and bikini girls — the Beach Boys evolved into a creative outlet for singer Brian Wilson’s ambitious and ever-evolving artistic vision. The group’s 1966 album ‘Pet Sounds’ was his grand artistic statement. It was instrumental in inspiring the ’60s psychedelic rock movement in general and the Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in specific.
A rap-metal band formed in the early-’90s, before rap metal was forever tainted by Fred Durst, Rage Against the Machine fought the power by fusing propulsive hard rock and fierce rhymes, singer Zach de la Rocha’s leftist political views fueling the musical molotov cocktail. RATM faced some backlash for choosing a major label as the platform for their anti-establishment message, but they used the corporate soapbox to deliver it from the belly of the beast to suburban teenagers across Amerika — and shifted millions of units in the process.
Rising out of the glam-metal slums of L.A.’s Sunset Strip in the early ’80s, Guns N’ Roses grew to become platinum arena rockers thanks to one of the single greatest debut albums in rock history (‘Appetite for Destruction’) and its relentless string of hit singles, including ‘Paradise City,’ ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ and ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ — and earned their nickname of “The Most Dangerous Band in the World” on the back of a serious hedonistic streak.
Funk-rock mainstays Red Hot Chili Peppers became heroes of the ’80s underground with albums like ‘Freaky Styley’ and ‘Mother’s Milk’ and mainstream ’90s superstars thanks to ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ and ‘Californication.’ Their 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame cemented their legacy as one of the all-time 10 Best Los Angeles Bands.
These days he may be better known as the ring leader of Lollapalooza, but Perry Farrell’s first true musical muse was Jane’s Addiction, who quickly rose above the L.A. club scene to ink a six-figure major label deal and release their now-iconic first two studio albums, ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ and ‘Ritual de lo Habitual.’ Jane’s broke barriers with their ingenious mix of classic (the Velvets, Led Zeppelin) and progressive (the Cure, Bauhaus) rock, inspiring the ’90s Alternative Nation in the process.
New York had the Ramones and Television; Los Angeles had Black Flag and X. An important cog in the first wave of West Coast punk, X brought together such wildly divergent genres as rockabilly, country and raw-edged punk rock, with singer Exene Cervenka’s poetry-cum-lyrics connecting the dots on such influential albums as ‘Los Angeles’ and ‘Under the Big Black Sun.’ Black Flag are better known, but their suburban L.A. roots (they’re from Hermosa Beach) mean it’s X that land on our list of the 10 Best Los Angeles Bands.
The Byrds, like most great bands, were greater than the sum of their very talented parts. Yet despite commercial popularity and resounding critical acclaim for taking folk rock to new heights, post-Byrds projects like the Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young often get more attention than the group that spawned them. Regardless, the Byrds still certainly earned their high-flying success.
No matter where your hip-hop allegiances lay — East Coast or West Coast — there’s no denying the importance of N.W.A., the pioneering gangsta rap outfit known as much for its courting of controversy as for its musical output, two albums (‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘Niggaz4Life’) that are both considered hip-hop classics. But it’s the post-N.W.A. careers of the band’s members, including platinum-selling stars Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, that may be the group’s best-known legacy.
The Go-Go’s weren’t the first all-female rock band to top the Billboard charts, but they were the first to accomplish that feat while writing and performing their own original music. That No. 1 album, 1981’s ‘Beauty and the Beat,’ spent six weeks atop the tally, selling 3 million copies behind hit singles ‘We Got the Beat’ and ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ while inspiring whole generations of female rockers, from the Bangles to Courtney Love and Hole.