The Greatest Rock Anthems! Who’s #1? The Beatles? Led Zeppelin? Let the “Rock-Off” Begin!

Classic Rock!

Well, as you can see Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend are over the moon with excitement about this new post. Take a moment to be impressed with just HOW HIGH Townsend leaps during his guitar playing!

For many, “classic rock” is the greatest genre of music ever thanks to The Who and many other bands. Classic rock consists of timeless songs like “Layla”, “Freebird”, “Smoke On The Water” and many, many more…but what is the greatest rock anthem of all time?

“Valhalla, I Am Coming…”

Led Zeppelin created some of the great rock songs of all, with lyrics like these:

“Hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land.
To fight the hordes and sing, and cry.
Valhalla, I am coming…”

Just seeing pictures of Led Zeppelin in concert tells you that this band KNEW they were mythical: HAMMER OF THE GODS indeed!

But did they record the greatest rock anthem of all time? As I said, there are many contenders to the throne…

Here are three choices for you to ponder, beginning with a group considered the greatest of all time:

Look at that: in just six years, The Fab Four would go from clean-cut suits in classic black’n’white photos to the greatest single concert event ever captured – their London “rooftop” performance of all new material for the documentary “Let It Be”.

It would be, of course, the last time they ever performed together – and it’s an amazing experience to see – in fact, the “Let It Be” documentary was briefly released on VHS, and I have a copy – see some of the great moments here:

The Beatles have so many great songs, but there has always been one that was more “anthemic” than all the others:

The Epic Brilliance Of “Hey Jude!”

It begins with some of the most iconic lyrics in music:

“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better”

It’s a song that runs longer than seven minutes, Paul singing a song of support to John’s young son Julian, as his parents were getting a divorce.

The band invited a studio full of friends and fans to join them for a live performance of the song, an iconic moment in music…

“Hey Jude” begins as a soft ballad, slowly building before exploding into an audience participation chant of the chorus – it was the longest single ever released at that time.

Here is the amazing “promo film”, introduced in the studio by David Frost, and it begins with a minute of goofiness before the camera cuts to Paul’s closeup, and he awaits his cue to begin:


That video has been viewed more than 64-million times! That’s tough to beat, right? You can see all of the promotional films recorded by the band on their incredible new music video release:

You can see more videos and the entire “Hey Jude” film here:

So, how do you top that? Well, do these lines strike a “classic rock” chord?

A “Bustle” In My “Hedgerow?”

Yes, Led Zeppelin have stormed into the discussion, with their greatest song ever!

Without a doubt, “Stairway To Heaven” includes some of the most unique lyrics in rock history – and the most memorable!

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.”

Jimmy Page was one of rock’s greatest Guitarists, and along with Singer Robert Plant, they wrote one of the most mystical songs of all…lyrics like this:

“And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.”

“To Be A Rock And Not To Roll” Indeed!

Well, these lyrics are known by every rock fan – from what is widely referred to as the greatest rock song of all time – the incredible musical suite known as “Stairway To Heaven”:

The song is from Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, known as “Zoso” or “Runes” – it’s a masterpiece, from the opening song “Black Dog” to the brilliance of “Rock And Roll” and straight through to the end – but one song immediately reached iconic status:

The Majesty Of “Stairway To Heaven!”

It’s a brilliant song with some of the most-known lyrics of all time:

“There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh ooh and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”

Here is the band performing the song live in 1975 from Earls Court in London – with the great Robert Plant ad-lib in the middle of the song:

“do you remember laughter?”

WOW. What an incredible performance by the greatest hard rock band of all time.

The slow build, the dramatic shift to hard rock, and the softly sung final lyrics…amazing.

All of the band’s music has been remastered with tons of extras – massive box sets that include rehearsals and alternate takes, plus great music videos as well – see more detail here:

So, there you have it – two of the greatest rock songs of all time – um, wait, there’s one more?


Yes, indeed!

The Who “Won’t Get Fooled Again!”

Before any title is bestowed upon The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, I want to make a case that The Who really nailed the rock anthem in 1971 with their classic “Won’t Get Food Again”!

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!”

Pete Townsend wrote the song, a epic statement about youth, rebellion, revolution and acceptance – eight minutes of rage, anger and energy that reaches a crescendo with what is, without a doubt, the greatest howl in rock history:


It’s almost impossible to accurately capture the power of this guttural primal scream that Roger Daltry performs in this song:

The song has great musicianship, two different solo bridges, changes in tempo, and of course, THAT SCREAM.

What follows that scream is a summation that is cutting – and iconic in rock history – as these lyrics end the song:

“Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss…”

Anger, rage – and acceptance that nothing will ever change…

Pete Townsend is famous for his powerful guitar work – and circular assault on the instrument – throughout the song – but the lyrics are just so incredibly powerful – match by the energy of the entire band – here is an amazing performance of the song live from 1977 – one of the greatest live rock songs of all:

The Who continue to perform 50 years on, and you can still see them with the same youthful energy and passion for music as always – here is a look at their 50 year anniversary:

Let me know your favorite rockers of all time!

Categories: 70's Cinema, 70's Music, Action Films, Art, Awards, Books / Media, British Cinema, Classic Rock, Cult Movies, documentary films, Hollywood, Led Zeppelin, London, Los Angeles, Memoirs, Music, Obscure Music, Talent/Celebrities, The Beatles, TV Show, Uncategorized

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15 replies

  1. How could you possibly overlook Queen and Freddy Mercury?

  2. A great line up, John and I could never choose an out and out favourite… Boston is high on my list with More than a Feeling but love The Who, Queen so many great artists 🙂

  3. Oh, so many great classic rock bands to choose from! Zepplin and The Who are definite contenders, for sure, though I’ve never been a big fan of Stairway to Heaven. Personally, my first thoughts as to classic rock anthems were Kiss (either Detroit Rock City or Rock & Roll All Night) and Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody or We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions).

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    John Rieber with his three contenters for The Greatest Rock Anthems of all Time.. I love the Beatles but I would probably go for Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

  5. Of course, I’m won’t be going for The Beatles. I never really considered them to be a ‘Rock’ band anyway.
    ‘Whole Lotta Love’ has got to rank very high in rock anthems, but a personal favourite is ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, by Rainbow. And if we are talking Rock, let’s not forget the pumping ‘Radar Love’, from Golden Earring.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Pete, all you have to do is say “best ever” and the alternatives come flooding out – on Facebook I had someone suggest “My Sharona”! I think ALL classic rock is great, nothing like it these days, that’s for sure!

  6. Traffic, Dire Straits, and Steeley Dan, too.

  7. You picked three great bands. The Beatles are the most influential. Led Zeppelin had the best musicians. But I have had a soft spot for The Who for decades. When on a Saturday, I feel like a jolt of rock, The Who, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, Yes, and old Genesis is played….


  1. The Who! Robbie Williams! Stevie Wonder! White Rabbits! Walk The Moon! Songs With A “W” “Won’t Get Fooled Again!” – johnrieber
  2. Songs With A “Z”! The Zombies-With Eminem! Zeppelin! Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves”! David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust! – johnrieber

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