Irish crossover band U2 is still one of the most prolific bands of the century. The band (The Edge, Bono, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton) got their start in the late '70s, but in 1988, following the massive success of their "Joshua Tree" album, they released their sixth effort, "Rattle and Hum." It climbed to No. 1 on several world charts (including in the States) and was followed by a film of the same name. Their success made it clear U2 was a band for the ages.
Keep reading to se the biggest bands each year from 1940 to 2010…
1940: Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra
While jazz bands were shaking up the music scene in sultry clubs throughout the country in 1940, it was swing and big band music that played over the airwaves and captured mainstream attention. One of the most prolific bands of the time was fronted by bandleader Tommy Dorsey — a well-regarded jazz trombonist, composer and conductor — and rounded out by "His Orchestra" (a popular term throughout the '40s and '50s that you'll see reappear on our list). Together, they created numerous musical hits including songs like "I'll Never Smile Again," which featured the vocal work of legendary singer Frank Sinatra and popular vocal group the Pied Pipers.
1941: Jimmy Dorsey and His Band
You might recognize the name Jimmy Dorsey because he's the older brother of Tommy Dorsey — our featured bandleader from 1940. Jimmy was a trained jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and (like his little brother) an incredibly popular bandleader. Jimmy Dorsey and His Band (alternately called Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra) were responsible for several of the biggest hits of 1941, including "Amapola" and "Green Eyes," which featured the vocals of Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell.
1942: Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
One cannot mention the 1940s music scene without talking about Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. Glenn was a composer and musician with a heavy swing influence. In 1942, this top-charting band had numerous hits, such as "I've Got a Girl in Kalamazoo" from the film "Orchestra Wives," and "Moonlight Cocktail," which was actually recorded in December of 1941, the day after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor.
1943: Harry James and His Orchestra
Harry James was a trumpeter and big band leader famous for his catchy pop-style beats and unsurpassed musical tone. In 1943, Harry James and His Orchestra recorded a cover of the song "I've Heard That Song Before," which was originally recorded by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Harry's version, which featured vocals from Helen Forrest, became an instant hit. The band's other top songs that year included "I Had the Craziest Dream" and "Two O'Clock Jump."
1944: Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Bob Eberly & Kitty Kallen
In 1944, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra returned to top the charts with the help of singers Bob Eberly and Kitty Kallen. Their song "Besame Mucho" spent seven weeks on the Best Selling Retail Records chart in 1944. Their success proved that Jimmy's band-leading skills were top-notch and still in demand.
1945: Les Brown and His Band of Renown
Two of the biggest hits of 1945 came from Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Les was an American jazz musician and bandleader who was known for his influence on swing music. The band reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts twice that year with hits "Sentimental Journey" and "My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time," which included vocals from singer and actress Doris Day.
1946: The Ink Spots
Since the '30s, the dynamic music group The Ink Spots were making listeners swoon with their hit songs. The band, which consisted of members Ivory "Deek" Watson, Jerry Daniels, Charles Fuqua, Orville "Hoppy" Jones and Bill Kenny, had a reputation for pushing the boundaries of popular music to make their sounds unique and appealing. 1946 was one of the best years for the band after the release of their single "The Gypsy," which was one of the best selling songs in the nation and the most played in juke boxes across the country. It remained on the Billboard charts for 18 weeks, peaking at No. 1.
1947: King Cole Trio
If you recognize the name King Cole, it's likely you're remembering the legendary jazz pianist Nat King Cole. The King Cole Trio consisted of Nat, Irving Ashby and Joe Comfort and was signed by Capitol Records in 1943. The band was how Nat made his debut in the music world. In 1947, the trio's single "I Love You For Sentimental Reasons" reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. While other bands covered the song, the King Cole Trio's version was the best selling of all time.
1948: Pee Wee Hunt and His Band
Unlike many bandleaders, Pee Wee Hunt wasn't just a musician and conductor — he was also a famed vocalist. In 1948, his band's cover of "Twelfth Street Rag," which was previously recorded by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven in 1927, became a smashing success over the airwaves. Pee Wee's version reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts and sold an astonishing 3 million copies.
1949: Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra
Vaughn Monroe was a man of many talents. Along with being a big band leader, the trumpeter and singer was also an actor. In 1949, his music talents took his band, Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra, straight to No. 1 with their cover of the country ballad "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky." It spent 22 weeks on the charts and was the most successful recorded version of the tune, beating out efforts by Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and Spike Jones.
1950: Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians
Since the mid-1920s, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians — a band comprised of his three brothers (Carmen, Lebert and Victor Lombardo) as well as other musicians — had achieved success around the world with their catchy musical scores. In 1950, after a quarter century of making music, the band released a cover of the Anton Karas original song "The Third Man Theme" using the guitar in addition to classical instruments. Their version became the most widely known and loved in America.
1951: Les Paul and Mary Ford
Although the duo might not be considered a band in technical terms, it's hard to leave this husband and wife musical team out when talking about 1951. Still newlyweds, Les Paul (a major innovator in music) and Mary Ford had three top singles that year. Their first hit was a cover of the song Les had sung as a member of the Les Paul Trio in 1945 — "How High the Moon," which remained on the Billboard charts for 25 weeks and peaked at No. 1. Their other hits that year, "Mockin' Bird Hill" and "The World is Waiting for Sunrise," also charted, with the latter selling more than a million records.
1952: Johnnie Ray
While Johnnie Ray might have been billed as a solo artist, this singer, songwriter and piano maestro did not compose or perform his music alone. His band members, who included Mundell Lowe, Buddy Cole and Edward "Eddie" Safranski (among others), are the force behind the immense success Johnnie achieved in 1952 with the release of the first-ever title-less album (later known simply as "Johnnie Ray"). The album featured the hit single "Cry" (with vocal help from The Four Lads). Johnnie earned the nickname "The Cry Guy" due to his contorted, emotion-filled face while performing. Johnnie's flamboyant style, as well as his use of jazz and blues, have inspired numerous music historians to refer to him as a pioneer of early rock 'n' roll music.
1953: Percy Faith and His Orchestra
Percy Faith was a Canadian bandleader and composer who spent much of the '40s as the orchestra leader for NBC and, later, CBS. In the 1950s, he, along with his famed orchestra, became staples on the modern music scene. In 1953, they released the top hit of the year, "The Song from Moulin Rouge," a cover of the soundtrack theme song for the movie "Moulin Rouge." It remained on the Billboard charts (peaking at No. 1) for 24 long weeks and catapulted the band to fame over the following decade.
1954: Bill Haley and His Comets
Newcomers to the rock 'n' roll scene Bill Haley and His Comets, who included Johnny Grande, Billy Williamson, Rudy Pompilli, Al Rex, Ralph Jones and Franny Beecher, took the country by storm with their cover of the Joe Turner original "Shake, Rattle and Roll." The song reached No. 7 on the Billboard top charts and was considered a lively, edgier recording than the previous version. The song made the band wildly successful and opened the door to even bigger fame the following year.
1955: Bill Haley and His Comets
Riding high from their 1954 success with "Shake, Rattle and Roll," Bill Haley and His Comets released their first (and only) No. 1 hit single, "Rock Around the Clock," in 1955. Although it wasn't the first recording of the song (it had originally been released by Max C. Freedman and Jimmy De Knight), the Bill Haley version was a clear hit with fans and was later called the anthem for the emerging young rebels of the 1950s.
1956: Les Baxter and His Orchestra
In 1956, any musician whose name wasn't Elvis Presley might have felt lost in the shadows. However, Les Baxter and His Orchestra — Les was a composer who's credited with creating a new style of music called "exotica" — managed to snag a No. 1 hit with their cover of "The Poor People of Paris." The song spent four weeks on the top charts and was the last tune to climb to No. 1 before Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel" took over the airways and made all other music that year second best.
1957: The Everly Brothers
1957 was another big year for music, but mostly, for Elvis Presley. However, one new band, The Everly Brothers, managed to make a name for themselves with their debut single, "Bye Bye Love." Although it didn't reach No. 1 on the pop charts (that spot was taken by Elvis's song "Teddy Bear"), it did make it to No. 2 and made Phil Everly and Don Everly household names with a steadily growing and enthusiastic fan base.
1958: The Everly Brothers
Guitar-playing siblings Phil Everly and Don Everly's The Everly Brothers was the most popular band two years running, thanks in part to the release of their debut, self-titled album in 1958. The album garnered the duo three top hits, including "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Bird Dog" and "Devoted to You," which kept them on the charts for months. Their success solidified the brothers' standing in the music world and led to them touring with larger-than-life music icon Buddy Holly later that year.
1959: Santo & Johnny
Steel guitar-playing brothers Santo Farina and Johnny Farina, along with their drummer and uncle, Mike Dee, found musical fame in 1959 with the release of debut single "Sleep Walk." The haunting, twangy instrumental melody captured audiences and became the slow-dancing anthem of the summer, landing them at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 40 chart — where it remained for two weeks, while later claiming the No. 4 spot on the R&B chart.
1960: Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
In 1960, singer and songwriter Hank Ballard — who wrote the No. 1 song "The Twist," which was covered by Chubby Checker that same year — along with Charles Sutton, Henry Booth, Ardra "Sonny" Wood and Alonzo Tucker formed the band Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Their hit song "Finger Poppin' Time" was on the Billboard top charts that year and later earned the band a Grammy nomination.
The five-man instrumental group the String-A-Longs included lead guitarists Richard Stephens and Jimmy Torres, rhythm guitarist Keith McCormack, bass guitarist Aubrey de Cordova and Don Allen on drums. The band's big break came in 1961 when their catchy tune "Wheels" debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, becoming the No. 8 song of the year. After selling more than a million copies, the band earned a gold disc award.
1962: Booker T and the MGs
The revolutionary instrumental R&B/funk band Booker T and the MGs was big in 1962 for more reasons than just their hit music. This influential band, which included Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewie Steinberg and Al Jackson Jr., was one of the first to incorporate white and African-American members, which was otherwise unheard of in the racially segregated South. Their hit song "Green Onions" reached No. 1 on the R&B singles chart and was called "one of the most popular instrumental rock and soul songs ever" by author and music historian Richie Unterberger.
1963: The Beach Boys
By 1963, the West Coast knew and loved Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love of The Beach Boys. But it wasn't until the release of their sophomore album, "Surfin' U.S.A.," that year, followed by an unprecedented two more album releases — "Surfer Girl" and "Little Deuce Coupe" — all within months, that this rock band was catapulted to superstardom. With multiple songs on the Billboard charts, including two title tracks from their second and third albums and the drag-racing hit "Shut Down," it was clear that 1963 was dominated by their new, groovy sound.
The 1964: The Beatles
The Beatles were already a big deal throughout Europe, but after their arrival in the States in 1964, Beatlemania took hold of the world. The band, consisting of members Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr, debuted to American audiences on the "Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964, when they played numerous songs, including their No. 1 hit "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which spent 15 weeks on the Billboard top chart. From there, fans were hungry for any and everything to do with The Beatles.
1965: The Beatles
Following two successful album releases in 1964, The Beatles — Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon — were the band whose name was on nearly everyone's lips in 1965. The Beatles released their next two albums that same year, "Help!" and "Rubber Soul," both of which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and included hit songs like "Yesterday" and "Ticket to Ride."
1966: The Association
Known as an "American sunshine pop band" out of California, The Association — which included members Terry Kirkman, Brian Cole, Russ Giguere, Jim Yester, Jules Alexander, Ted Bluechel and Ric Ulsky — achieved top chart success in 1966 with the release of their single "Cherish." The track reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and turned The Association into more widely recognized figures of modern rock 'n' roll.
1967: The Monkees
Originally formed as a pseudo-band composed of four actors (including one who could actually sing) for the TV series "The Monkees," the group of the same name (Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork) actually became a huge hit off-screen. Although their musical abilities were largely improvised, they still managed to churn out a No. 1 hit at the tail end of 1966 and through the first several weeks of 1967. In fact, the song "I'm a Believer" became the best selling record of the year, leading the Monkees to head to the studio to work on a more authentic album entitled "Headquarters."
1968: The Beatles
After pumping out music at a frenetic pace from 1963 to 1965, The Beatles (Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon) were finally back on top with the release of the single "Hey Jude" in 1968. Written by Paul to comfort John's son Julian during his parents' divorce, the seven-minute track reached No. 1 on both the U.K. and U.S. charts, making it one of the longest songs to ever do so. Other hits that year included "Revolution" and "Lady Madonna," which also spent weeks on the top charts, proving The Beatles still made music magic.
1969: Crosby Stills and Nash
In 1969, three musicians — David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, who'd each previously played in other well-known bands — came together to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. They didn't want a more traditional band name that obscured their individuality, so they settled on their last names so that the band couldn't exist without each member. In May 1969, they released their self-titled debut album, which spent 107 weeks on the Billboard albums chart, peaking at No. 7. Their modest fame skyrocketed after their second-ever live performance — at the legendary Woodstock festival on Aug. 18, 1969.
1970: Simon & Garfunkel
In a twist of irony, the wildly popular folk music duo Simon & Garfunkel, founded by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, released their best selling album ever, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in January 1970 — the same year they officially split up. The album reached No. 1 in more than 10 countries and won the musical pair six Grammys. Two of their most successful songs that year included the album's title track as well as "The Boxer," which Rolling Stone magazine later listed as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
1971: Sly & The Family Stone
By 1971, the eclectic San Francisco-based band Sly & The Family Stone had already made waves on the music charts. Consisting of family members Sylvester Stone, Freddie Stone and Rose Stone, as well as Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, Greg Errico and Jerry Martini, the band was known for pioneering the combination of psychedelic, soul and funk music styles into one unique sound. Their fifth studio album, "There's a Riot Goin' On," immediately reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop album chart as well as the soul album chart. The album's first single, "Family Affair," would be the band's last No. 1 hit.
1972: Rolling Stones
The iconic British band the Rolling Stones — composed of Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor — had formed a decade earlier, but by 1972 had entered what's considered their golden age of music. That year, they released their 10th studio album, "Exile on Main St." — a double album that was widely regarded as their best work. Although early critical reception gave the album mixed reviews due to its darker, more soulful sound and incorporation of elements of blues, rock 'n' roll and even gospel, it was later recognized as one of their most vital records. It reached No. 1 in six countries and helped kick off a major American tour that year.
1973: The Allman Brothers Band
After the motorcycle deaths of band leader Duane Allman in 1971 and bassist Berry Oakley a year later in 1972, The Allman Brothers Band experienced even more changes in their lineup. Remaining band members Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johnson added newcomers Chuck Leavell and Lamar Williams and began working together to find their new creative sweet spot. The critically acclaimed album "Brothers and Sisters" in 1973 ended up becoming one of their most successful works to date. Their hit single "Ramblin Man" peaked at No. 2 on the top charts and the album spent five weeks at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200.
1974: Grand Funk Railroad
1974 was a busy year for Grand Funk Railroad members Mel Schacher, Mark Farner, Don Brewer and Craig Frost. Not only did they release their eighth studio album, "Shinin' On" (which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard top charts and included their cover of "The Loco-Motion," which made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100) — but they also released a ninth studio album titled "All the Girls in the World Beware!!!" just months later. The latter album made it to No. 5 while lead single "Some Kind of Wonderful" landed at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, bolstering their popularity.
1975: The Eagles
Formed in 1971, the Eagles (Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Don Felder) soon became one of the most successful music groups of the '70s. In 1975, they released their fourth studio album, "One of These Nights," which was later nominated for an album of the year Grammy and went all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. This album is considered their breakthrough masterpiece that launched them from fame to superstardom and turned the Eagles into one of the most beloved rock 'n' roll bands in American history.
After The Beatles officially broke up in 1970, bass guitarist Paul McCartney, along with wife Linda McCartney, Denny Seiwell and Denny Laine, formed the rock 'n' roll band Wings in 1971, with Seiwell leaving the band in '73. In 1976, they released their fifth studio album, "Wings at the Speed of Sound," at the peak of their popularity in the States. The album went to No. 1 and single "Silly Love Songs" reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100.
1977: Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac — which included Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks and John McVie — found commercial success in 1977 with the release of their 11th studio album, "Rumours" (although it was only the second album with Stevie and Lindsey in the band). The album spent 31 weeks at the top and climbed to the No. 1 position on both the U.K. and U.S. album charts. Hit singles including "Go Your Own Way" and "Dreams" made the album the most successful release in the band's career. They went on to win the 1978 Grammy for album of the year.
1978: The Bee Gees
Brothers Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees were old hands in the music world but in 1978, they found even greater fame with the release of the hit soundtrack album "Saturday Night Fever," which made them disco icons. The album went on to win six Grammys and produced an impressive seven No. 1 hit singles including "Stayin' Alive" and "How Deep is Your Love?"
1979: The Doobie Brothers
San Jose, California, natives Cornelius Bumpus, Patrick Simmons, Keith Knudsen, John McFee, Tiran Porter, Michael McDonald and Chet McCracken of the rock 'n' roll band The Doobie Brothers technically released their fifth studio album in December of '78. However, it wasn't until April of 1979 that the album, "Minute by Minute," climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, where it spent five weeks. Their hit single "What a Fool Believes" also reached No. 1 and solidified their fame.
1980: Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd's double album "The Wall" (which was their 11th studio album) dropped at the end of 1979 but quickly picked up traction and became the most successful album of 1980. Band members Roger Waters, Nick Mason, David Gilmour and Richard Wright created what they considered to be a rock opera (conceived by Roger) that tells a complete, powerful and gripping emotional story of abandonment, abuse and isolation. The album was so evocative that it was later turned into a movie.
1981: REO Speedwagon
Members Bruce Hall, Neal Doughty, Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath of the rock band REO Speedwagon dropped their ninth studio album, "Hi Infidelity," in November 1980, and by February 1981, the album was leaving all other bands in the dust. It became the best selling album of the year and was No. 1 on the Billboard 200. They even achieved their first No. 1 single with "Keep on Loving You" — which set the tone for '80s soft rock.
1982: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
When Joan Jett and the Blackhearts released their 1982 album "I Love Rock 'n Roll" featuring the hit title track, their popularity was unstoppable. The single (which was a cover of an original song sung by the Arrows) reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 and sat there for seven straight weeks, launching the album to No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Fans couldn't get enough of edgy Joan, her guitar riffs and her unabashed love of rock.
1983: The Police
Formed in 1977 with members Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, The Police quickly established themselves as trailblazers of a new wave of rock 'n' roll. Known for their inclusion of reggae, punk and jazz elements, the band's sensual vocals and globally inspired music style took the world by storm. In 1983, they released what would be their fifth and final studio album, "Synchronicity," which became their most successful album release (and led to multiple Grammy wins the following year). Hit singles from the album include "Every Breath You Take" and "King of Pain," which both hit No. 1.
1984: Prince and the Revolution
If one band and one album changed the face of '80s music, it was Prince and the Revolution and their pivotal soundtrack album "Purple Rain." The album was Prince's sixth but the first with his newly formed band and included live recordings, making it starkly unique from other musical compilations. Prince wrote all the lyrics and incorporated electronic elements and instrumentals to create what is widely considered his magnum opus. Hit singles from the album include "When Doves Cry," "I Would Die 4 U" and the title track. Prince and the Revolution went on to win two Grammys for the album in 1985.
1985: Dire Straits
British band Dire Straits — which included members Mark Knopfler, David Knopfler, John Illsley and Pick Withers — had one of their best years in 1985 when they released their biggest selling album, "Brothers in Arms." The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and charted internationally. Interestingly, theirs was one of the first albums to be pushed toward the newly created CD market. Their hit single "Money For Nothing" also reached No. 1 and earned them a Grammy Award in 1985, while the song's video took home the video of the year prize at the then-nascent MTV Video Music Awards.
1986: Van Halen
In 1986, Van Halen — consisting of Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar (who'd replaced David Lee Roth on vocals) — dropped their seventh studio album, "5150." The album name was a reference to the California enforcement code describing someone as mentally ill. "5150" reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Although it didn't receive favorable reviews from critics, fans loved the music. Lead single "Why Can't This Be Love" also performed well, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1987: Guns N' Roses
The world was ready for Guns N' Roses in 1987 when they released their debut album, "Appetite For Destruction." Almost immediately, the band — which included Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler — became one of the biggest names in rock music as the album climbed to the top of the charts. Not only did it hold steady at No. 1, but "Appetite" also became the highest selling debut album of all time. It included some of their top singles to date: "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City."
1989: Fine Young Cannibals
In February 1989, Fine Young Cannibals (Andy Cox, Roland Gift and David Steel) released their second studio album, "The Raw & the Cooked," in the States and earned a new wave of fans. The album reached No. 1 on several European charts, holding tight for 66 weeks. It also reached No. 1 on the U.S. charts, which lasted for seven weeks. Hit singles "She Drives Me Crazy" and "Good Thing" both reached No. 1 and brought the band major commercial success.
1990: The Black Crowes
Music was about to change, and leading the new wave was the American rock band The Black Crowes. Formed in 1989 with members Chris Robinson, Rich Robinson, Steve Gorman, Johnny Colt and Jeff Cease, they released debut album "Shake Your Money Maker" in early 1990 and found fans eager for something harder and stronger than the softer ballads of the '80s. The band's first single was a cover of the 1968 Otis Redding song "Hard to Handle," which climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's mainstream rock chart. It was immediately followed by "She Talks to Angels," which also rose to No. 1.
One of the first alternative rock bands to be embraced by the mainstream was R.E.M. (Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck). In 1991, they released their seventh studio album, "Out of Time," which was an instant commercial and critical success. Not only did the album reach No. 1 on multiple charts around the world, but lead single "Losing My Religion" became their biggest U.S. hit and greatly expanded their fanbase.
Fans knew from the start that there was something truly special about Seattle-based grunge-rock band Nirvana. Lead singer Kurt Cobain, along with bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl (the current frontman of the Foo Fighters) created a sound that resonated with a generation of angsty, disillusioned youth. In 1992, just four months after the release of their first major studio album, "Nevermind," the band skyrocketed to superstardom due in part to the huge success of lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Their popularity was later bolstered by second single "Come As You Are," which landed at No. 3 on Billboard's alternative songs chart.
By 1993, both teenagers and their parents knew and loved Aerosmith. The band, comprised of members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford, had been churning out blues-based rock since 1973, but two decades later, they weren't ready to quit. They released their 11th studio album, "Get a Grip," that April and it took the world by storm, becoming their best selling record of all time. Not only did it reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but singles "Cryin'" and "Livin' on the Edge" also peaked at No. 1.
1994: Green Day
If anyone laid claim to 1994, it was punk band Green Day. Formed by Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, the trio achieved moderate underground success with their independent label debut, "39/Smooth," in 1990, but it was their major label debut in '94, "Dookie," that helped turn Green Day into a household name. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and created a radio demand for the band based on hit singles "Longview," "When I Come Around" and "Basketcase," among others. Green Day would later win a Grammy Award for best alternative music album, cementing their status as new rock icons.
1995: No Doubt
1995 was the year No Doubt found their footing in mainstream music and introduced eager listeners to the magic of ska-laced pop punk. After growing disillusioned with their label, Interscope, band members Gwen Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young financed their second studio album, "The Beacon Street Collection," in '95, recorded in their own studio. They sold an impressive 100,000 copies, which motivated Interscope to cover their third album, "Tragic Kingdom," which was also released in '95. It included hits "Just a Girl," "Spiderwebs" and "Don't Speak," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album earned the band two Grammy nominations and transformed them — especially Gwen — from obscure Orange County, California, rockers into international superstars.
1996: Pearl Jam
Any discussion of '90s bands isn't complete without paying tribute to Pearl Jam. The band (Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament) was pivotal in the grunge-rock movement of the decade, along with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. In 1996, after a highly publicized boycott of Ticketmaster and issues with their 1994 tour in support of album "Vitalogy," Pearl Jam was ready for something new. They released their fourth studio album, "No Code," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. While reviews were mixed, it was clear that Pearl Jam was evolving and fans were willing to grow with them.
Radiohead was formed in 1985 in Oxfordshire, England, when Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway came together at their all-boys school and decided to make music. By 1997, the band had built a steady following, but nothing would prepare them for the success of their third studio album, "OK Computer," which many critics consider to be as revolutionary as Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." The album debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. and slowly climbed the U.S. charts, peaking at No. 21 and earning them a Grammy for best alternative album the following year.
1998: Smashing Pumpkins
In 1998, members D'arcy Wretzky, James Iha and Billy Corgan from the band The Smashing Pumpkins were already well-established on the alternative rock music scene. Their sound, led by Billy's writing and visionary style, was an eclectic, guitar-heavy mix of goth, metal, psychedelia and pop that carved a clear niche for the band in a heavily punk-influenced music scene. While not their most commercially successful year, '98 represented their drastic shift toward electronica with the release of fourth studio album "Adore." Critics hailed the music as "groundbreaking" and "intimate" — leading the band to their third Grammy nomination for best alternative music performance.
1999: Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers arrived on the funk-rock scene in '83, but by 1999, members Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith were ready to recapture the elements of sound that had defined their music in the early '90s. With the return of John — who'd departed in '92 after battling drug addiction — the band got to work on their seventh studio album, "Californication," which became their most commercially successful album. Peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, the album also gave the Chili Peppers some of their most popular singles, including the title track and "Scar Tissue," which became their bestselling song and won them a Grammy for best rock song the following year.
Lead by master guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Carlos Santana, the band Santana — which also included members Karl Perazzo, Andy Vargas, Jeff Cressman and more — released their 17th studio album, "Supernatural," in June 1999. They had no idea how big it would become. Tracks included musical collaborations with other big-name artists like Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill of the Fugees, Dave Matthews and more. By 2000, demand for the album and hit singles like "Smooth" and "Maria Maria" kept Santana at the top of the charts. Eventually, "Supernatural" became the highest selling album by an artist already in the Hall of Fame, won eight Grammys (including album of the year), went 15-times platinum and opened their fanbase to a newer, younger generation of music lovers.
2001: Linkin Park
If there was any band that dominated the charts in 2001, it's Linkin Park. After forming in 1996 with Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda, Brad Delson, Dave Farrell, Joe Hahn and Rob Bourdon, they released debut studio album "Hybrid Theory" in October 2000 and were launched to international fame: The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and was certified 11-times platinum by the R.I.A.A. Lyrically, the album disclosed lead singer Chester's adolescent experiences including his drug abuse and his parent's divorce. Four singles were released off their debut — "One Step Closer," "Crawling," "Papercut" and "In the End." To date, "Hybrid Theory" has sold more than 30 million copies globally, making it the bestselling rock album of the 21st century.
While they're often the butt of jokes these days, Nickelback was among the most popular bands of 2002. Consisting of members Chad Kroeger, Ryan Peake, Mike Kroeger and Daniel Adair, Nickelback is considered one of the most successful Canadian rock bands of all time. In August 2001, they released "How You Remind Me," the lead single off their third studio album, "Silver Side Up." In addition to being the most played single of 2002 and the No. 1 song on Billboard's 2002 year-end Hot 100 Singles chart, "How You Remind Me" was also Billboard's No. 1 rock song and No. 4 alternative song of the decade.
Formed in 1996 with members Chris Martin, Johnny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion, Coldplay achieved global fame after they released the track "Yellow" in 2000. Then in 2002 they released their second studio album, "A Rush of Blood to the Head," which was met with even more critical acclaim — it became the eighth bestselling album in the United Kingdom during the 21st century and was certified nine-times platinum. It also sold 14 million copies globally. The album, which includes singles "In My Place," "The Scientist" and "Clocks," earned three Grammys including alternative album of the year.
2004: Maroon 5
After signing with Octone Records, Maroon 5 — which was founded by Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick — released debut album "Songs About Jane" in 2002. It was re-released in October 2003 and went on to become a critical success: By the end of 2004, it was one of the top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 chart. "Songs About Jane," which included singles "Harder to Breathe," "This Love" and "She Will Be Loved," has sold more than 10 million copies around the world as of 2007. It also earned the band their first Grammy Award for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals.
2005: Fall Out Boy
It was hard to go anywhere without hearing Fall Out Boy on the radio in 2005. The debut album, "Take This to Your Grave," from members Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley in 2003 was an underground success that's been cited as a pioneering album for the pop-punk genre during the 2000s. In 2005, the band released their breakthrough album, "From Under the Cork Tree" — hit singles "Sugar, We're Goin Down" and "Dance, Dance" went double platinum and the band received a nomination for best new artist at the 2006 Grammy Awards. The album debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart and is the band's bestselling album to date. 2005 was the year that launched Fall Out Boy to superstardom, while subsequently establishing bassist Pete Wentz as a tabloid sensation.
2006: My Chemical Romance
Founded in 2001 by Gerard Way, Mikey Way, Ray Toro and Matt Pelissier (Frank Iero joined later), My Chemical Romance left a lasting impact on the emo genre and also went mainstream. While they released their breakthrough album, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge," in 2004, it was their 2006 album, "The Black Parade," that established them as a household name. The album — which included singles "Welcome to the Black Parade," "Famous Last Words," "I Don't Love You" and "Teenagers" — debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. A limited edition version of the album earned the band their first and only Grammy nomination in 2008.
The band Daughtry — which was fronted by "American Idol" season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry — received widespread attention after releasing a self-titled debut album in 2006. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, sold more than six million copies in the United States and was certified six-times platinum by the R.I.A.A. 2007 proved to be the band's breakout year: According to Billboard, "Daughtry" was named the bestselling album of 2007 and made Nielsen SoundScan history as the fastest selling debut rock album.
2008: Jonas Brothers
Since breaking onto the scene in 2005, pop-rock band Jonas Brothers — which consists of brothers Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas and Nick Jonas — have been captivating girls around the globe. 2008 was the year that solidified them as musical sensations and bona fide heartthrobs. In August 2008, the Jonas Brothers released their third studio album, "A Little Bit Longer," which included hit singles "Burnin' Up," "Lovebug" and "Tonight. The album, which was named after a song penned by Nick Jonas about his Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than 525,000 copies in its debut week. Just two months after its release, "A Little Bit Longer" was certified platinum by the R.I.A.A.
2009: Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon was founded in Nashville in 1999 by brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill and their cousin Matthew Followill. The band released fourth studio album "Only by the Night" in September 2008, and it was a commercial success — it sold more than 6.2 million copies worldwide. The album, which included popular hits "Sex on Fire," "Use Somebody" and "Revelry," was a bestselling album in Australia and the 18th bestselling album in the U.K. during the 2000s. "Only by the Night" was nominated for best rock album at the 2009 Grammy Awards, while "Sex on Fire" was nominated for best rock song and took home the award for best rock vocal performance by a duo or group.
2010: Lady Antebellum
Country music act Lady Antebellum — formed by Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood — released their second studio album, "Need You Now," in January 2010. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, sold 481,000 copies in its first week and went on to go three-times platinum. Lady A won big at the 2011 Grammy Awards — "Need You Now" was nominated for album of the year and won best country album while its ubiquitous hit single of the same name won four trophies including record of the year.