Music is contstantly changing. And the internet allows us to discover artists young and old that we never knew about before. Thousands of talented men and women have dedicating their lives to the art of music, and sadly, some of them are lost to the ages. And so begins The Most Underrated Bands (By Decade). In this list, we will take a look at a decade and present to you three artists that maybe never got the credit they deserved. This list is only covering bands/groups and not individual performers or songwriters. We will also only be coving the 1960s up to the 2000s. It was a tough decision, but was made in an effort to keep things focused.
The era of psychedelic rock, flower power, and love. It was also a great time for music as the younger generation took the rebellious attitude that began in the 50’s and really ran with it in the form of musical expression. Here are our top 3 most underrated bands from the 1960s.
3) ? and the Mysterians
How does one even tell someone about this group given the name? Anyway, they were definitely ahead of their time. Weird, but still ahead of their time. They incorporated a lot of sci-fi into their songs and did have one number 1 hit in “96 Tears” but that about does it as far as charting hits. Regardless, they were highly influential throughout the 1960’s and had many famous acts cover or perform “96 Tears” thus earning them our third spot on this list.
Song to check out: “96 Tears”
2) Procol Harum
Another group who had marginal success and one big hit in “Whiter Shade of Pale”. Influenced by baroque and classical music, Procol Harum are considered one of the first prog-rock bands and their self titled album is still one of the most influential of all time. Honored in the rock and roll hall of fame under the “singles” category. Procol Harum makes this list as the fathers of prog-rock and paving the way for experimentation and a whole new genre of music.
“Song to check out: “Whiter Shade of Pale”
1) Booker T. & the M.G.’s
One of the most underrated bands you’ve never heard of but have definitely heard before. Booker T. & the M.G.’s were working as a house band out of Stax Records providing tracks for all sorts of artists including Otis Redding and Bill Withers, when in 1962 they recorded their first solo track “Green Onions” It was an instant hit and rose to #1 on the R&B charts and #3 on the pop charts. The M.G.’s proceeded to record a whole album of mostly covers but included “Green Onions” and used it as the album title. They make our list for their unprecedented influence on early 60’s music; everyone wanted the green onions sound. You can thank The M.G.'s for that classic 60’s organ sound found in hundreds of records. You may have even heard them as part of The Blues Bother Band.
Song to check out: “Green Onions”
Rock n’ Roll, Punk, Prog-Rock, Soft Rock, Funk, the 1970s had it all. This was a hard one to put together, but we have our top 3 most underrated bands of the 70’s here for you.
A criminally underrated punk group formed in 1976. Wire influenced many styles of punk music to come after them, while they were considered post-punk. Their debut album “Pink Flag” influenced many American hardcore punk groups such as Minor Threat and Blackflag. Their influence also reached more mainstream groups such as Sonic Youth Who knows where punk music would be without Wire. They make our list for influencing so many despite less than desirable record sales and no real mainstream media buzz.
Song to check out: “I am the Fly”
2) Wishbone Ash
A widely unknown group who shouldn’t be overlooked. Wishbone Ash featured a rare two lead guitar lineup hailing praise as the best guitar duo since The Yardbirds. Wishbone Ash achieved moderate success in the early 70’s with their self-titled debut album and their follow up “Argus”. They played a Blues-Rock/Hard Rock combo that influenced such groups as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, and Metallica. If you want some killer guitar music give them a listen, you won’t be disappointed.
Song to check out: “The King Will Come”
1) Humble Pie
Maybe controversial here as Humble Pie is considered one of the first super groups, however we still believe they are criminally underrated. Originally formed in 1969 they didn’t begin to gain success until the early 70’s. Their original lineup had Peter Frampton on guitar until he left to start his successful solo career. While none of their singles ever cracked the top 50 on Billboards list, the songs still hold up today. Humble Pie played bluesy rock with a heavy R&B influence.
Song to check out: “30 Days in the Hole”
On to the 80’s, when we got cocaine, disco, arena rock, hair metal, and overdone synth music. The 80’s were a real hodge podge for music and pop culture in general, so let's see what we came up with for this decade.
3) Fun Boy Three
While only active for 3 years, Fun Boy Three had a very unique sound that helped them crack our top 3. Formed by Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding after they left the ska/punk group The Specials. They didn’t completely loose the sound they created with The Specials; instead they stripped it back and focused more on percussion and vocals and the results were amazing!
Song to check out: “The Lunatics (Have Taken over the Asylum)”
2) Delta 5
Our personal favorite on this 80’s list, Delta 5 was a 5 piece british punk/new wave group out of Leeds. With only one official release in 1981 (“See The Whirl”), Delta 5 still makes our list for their early feminist politics mixed with funky bass lines. Lucky for us in 2006 a compilation album was released containing songs from unreleased recordings starting back in 1979-1981. The members were also a very influential part in the “Rock Against Racism” movement, which gives them extra points in our book.
Song to check out: “Mind Your Own Business”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include Mudhoney in this list. They basically created the grunge sound that we became more familiar with in the 1990’s. Formed in Seattle, of course, in 1988 Mudhoney released a lot of their early music on the “Sub-Pop” label...also of course. Despite little to no commercial success Mudhoney has released 10 studio albums, but none more influential than their debut “Superfuzz Bigmuff” named after their favorite guitar effects pedals.
Song to check out: “Touch Me I’m Sick”
Grunge enters the scene here, disco has died and is now long forgotten. Musical artists are more willing to write about their feelings, not just the good ones or sappy love songs. Things got darker and the music was great. Here’s our top 3 most underrated bands from the 90’s.
3) Nada Surf
While Nada Surf did receive a ton of airplay on MTV with their only hit “Popular” they are otherwise mostly unknown. They have that classic alt-rock 90’s sound, sometimes self-deprecating lyrics, and the teenage angst everyone was longing for in the 90’s. Nada Surf is still recording and their most recent album was released in November 2020. If you want that nostalgic 90’s sound but want it from something you haven’t heard before, give them a listen.
Song to check out: “Popular”
2) De La Soul
Some may argue De La Soul aren’t underrated, but we would beg to differ. This 3 piece rap group formed in 1988 in New York. If you’re a fan of jazz-rap like we are then you will love De La Soul. They feature some of the greatest samples of the era and feature great wordplay. It can be hard to stream their music as they are still in a dispute over their earlier releases, however, there are still ways to listen and we recommend that you do.
Song to check out: “Me, Myself, and I”
1) The Urge
Originally formed while the members were still in highschool in 1987, The Urge finally gained radio play and light commercial success in 1995 after releasing their album “The Gift of Flavor”. They toured with the likes of Korn and Incubus and were known for their lively performances. With their interesting style fusing ska and reggae with punk and rock you can see how they used to put on quite the show. They have 7 studio albums for you to enjoy if you haven’t listened to them before.
Song to check out: “Jump Right In”
Our last decade on the list, the 2000’s saw a heavy influence of euro-trance music enter the scene as well as a strong latin influence. Hip-Hop was gaining mainstream attention and the classic rock ‘n roll band was quickly becoming a thing of the past. Let’s explore our top 3 underrated groups of the 2000’s.
3) Presidents of the United States of America
These guys could have been lumped in with the 1990’s but we decided to include them in the 2000’s because the bulk of their albums were released after the year 2000. Although none of their subsequent releases reached the peak that their debut album did in 1995, their music still made an impact. Album sales never reached what they did in the 90’s due to their record label going bankrupt mid distribution and then trying to self release their albums after that. Regardless, all albums were met with great critical praise and are definitely worth a listen.
Song to check out: “Lump”
An English rock band formed in 1995 who didn’t release their first album until 2000, “The Noise Made by the People”. Often their style is described as avant-pop or dream-pop, which isn’t for everyone but gained them a cult following in the 2000’s. They wrote music which resonated deeply with their fans and connected them on a deeper level than most of the music being put out that decade. The untimely death of lead vocalist Trish Keenan in 2011 led to the band ending their career earlier than expected, but there is still a great catalog of music to explore.
Song to check out: “Tears in the Typing Pool”
1) The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
Okay, that’s a mouthful, lucky for us they regularly go by just The Eighties. The Eighties have a refreshing sound, sort of like a refined Misfits with a little more rockabilly. Why they aren’t more popular is anyone’s guess. The English rockers released 3 albums between 2000 and 2010 and none of them disappoint. Lovers of 70’s and 80’s hardcore punk or horror punk will definitley enjoy The Eighties, hopefully as much as we do.
Song to check out: “Mister Mental”
That does it for our list of the most underrated bands of each decade. We hope we either introduced you to some new artists you’ll love or reminded you of artists you may have forgotten about. If we missed some of your favorites let us know, we’d love to hear from you!