Who are The Most Iconic Rock Bands to Come from New York City?



Musicians have always been drawn to New York City for some reason, and this has inspired some of the most popular rock bands throughout the years. Here are some of the top rock bands from New York City, ranked by everything from labels to venues to CDs themselves.

Top Rock Bands from NYC

The Ramones

Richie Ramone en vivo 2017

With its distinctly punk sound, The Ramones made their rock debut in New York City in the middle of the 1970s. This well-known band, which was founded in 1974 by four “brothers” from Forest Hills, Queens, performed bare-bones renditions of rock’n’roll tunes and quickly gained a large following. At popular venues in the city like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, the Ramones frequently performed straightforward, back-to-the-basics concerts.

Their lyrics, which combined a rush of loud joy with a mixture of pent-up agony, contributed to their future popularity on a global scale despite the fact that their music was comprised of extremely brief songs with upbeat tempos. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, and Blitzkrieg Bop are just a few songs that demonstrate how long-lasting their groundbreaking punk-rock style has been.

New York Dolls

New York Dolls in 2011

In 1971, New York Dolls were established in the city, joining groups like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges on the proto-punk scene. Even before the genre had a name, the band swiftly came to represent punk rock because to their androgynous attire and unparalleled profanity. The New York Dolls, who were composed of David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Arthur Kane, Rick Rivets, and Billy Murcia—the last two having been replaced by Syl Sylvain and Jerry Nolan, respectively—rose quickly and produced a lot of music.

Their first two albums, New York Dolls (1973) and Too Much Too Soon (1974), were the most well-liked because they best captured their cutthroat personalities and New York background. They dominated places like the Mercer Arts Center in Greenwich Village’s 1970s underground music scene, which was known for its powerful sound. Listening to songs like “Trash” and “Personality Crisis” is worthwhile, especially if you can picture yourself rocking out at a seedy Lower East Side dive bar. Discover more of the NYC music scene by learning about the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance. Visit Discover the Harlem Renaissance of Black Culture in New York City

The Velvet Underground

Velvet Underground publicity photo

In New York, the Velvet Underground was founded in 1964. The group entered the underground rock scene with an unrivaled attitude and provocativeness, where it left a long-lasting impression. Lou Reed, a co-founder, was born in Brooklyn, where he first started composing and playing music with several city-based garage bands. The Velvet Underground was founded after he met John Cale, a Welsh musician who had immigrated to the United States to study classical music.

The band didn’t begin to develop popularity or land bigger concerts until they were exposed to Andy Warhol in the late 1960s. Despite the band’s limited economic success and the fact that their music had poetic and artistic roots, they are now considered as one of the most significant rock bands of the 1960s because to their devoted cult following.

The Strokes

Live Collage of The Strokes

The Strokes were founded in 1998 in New York City by Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond Jr., Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti. The band’s 2001 first album Is This It, which helped them gain global renown and favorable reviews, was maybe their finest achievement. Their distinctive melodic garage-rock sound influenced the development of modern indie rock. Their first live performance took place at The Spiral in New York City, but it wasn’t until after those shows that they started to draw in larger crowds.

Comedown Machine, their most recent album, was released in 2013, however their earlier albums are better and merit repeat listening. You’ll be reminded of their finest achievement by songs like “Barely Legal” and “Alone Together,” which have an unashamed, confident vibe from the outset. Learn more about the Studio 54 and its craze. Visit The Electric Pulse of Studio 54 and New York City’s Disco Craze


Blondie in Brixton Academy

In NYC in the late 1970s, Blondie had a significant impact on the punk and new wave culture. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein started the band, which quickly gained popularity thanks to eight Top 40 hits and a youthful, dynamic musical mood. Their infectious pop songs strayed into disco, rap, and reggae. With her bleached blond hair and pouty lips, Harry embodied glam rock and gave off an edgy, fun vibe that many admirers tried to imitate. Although ‘Heart of Glass’ may be their most well-known song, you can get a fuller understanding of the band’s style by listening to ‘The Tide Is High’ and ‘Call Me’.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth in 2009

Sonic Youth, an underground group founded in New York City in 1981, must be mentioned when discussing the ’80s punk revolution. The name is a combination of Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith’s MC5 moniker with the word ‘Youth’ from Big Youth’s reggae song. The band, which was established by Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Lee Ranaldo, was closely related to the developing “no wave” music movement of the late 1970s. Most notably, Sonic Youth is recognized for introducing rebellious guitar noise into the alternative-rock scene with songs like “Kool Thing” and “Teenage Riot.”

Steely Dan

Becker & Fagen of Steely Dan

Before disbanding in 1981, Steely Dan experienced great commercial success after being founded in 1972 by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. This American group was renowned for its humorous and unique song lyrics and mixed jazz, funk, R&B, and pop. The sophisticated sounds on their 1972 first album Can’t Buy a Thrill broke through a lot of what rock’n’roll later came to be known for. This distinction was the key to the band’s success; it enabled them to get praise from critics even after they disbanded. It’s simple to understand why people were captivated to their music after listening to popular songs like “The Boston Rag” and “Do It Again”; it was new while yet being a representation of rock.

Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel in 1972

The iconic folk-rock duet of the 1960s was Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The two artists first connected in Queens in 1953 and began collaborating on music; nevertheless, it wasn’t until ten years later that they became an official group. Their second studio album, Sounds of Silence (1966), launched their statewide college tours and helped them achieve commercial success. ‘I Am a Rock’ and ‘Mrs. In the 1960s and the first few years of the 1970s, Simon & Garfunkel created some of the most treasured musical works. They will be most known for their beautiful vocals and creative songs, which will live on in memory.

Talking Heads

Talking Heads during SXSW 2010

Talking Heads were established in 1975, and in the early 1980s, they joined the massive new-wave movement. David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth, all graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, formed the band. It’s simple to hear how well the band was able to master so many sounds by listening to “Once in a Lifetime,” which is just one example of their avant-garde music that incorporates elements of punk, funk, dance, and African rock. The Talking Heads were swiftly signed to Sire Records in 1976 following their debut performance at CBGB as the Ramones’ supporting act. Even though the band members eventually split up to work on individual projects, their distinctive sound impacted many bands over the years, such as Arcade Fire and Gorillaz.

Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys in 2009

Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond, Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, and Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz formed the hip-hop/rock group The Beastie Boys in 1981 in New York City. The band, who had been performing punk music in local underground bars, didn’t really become well-known until their smash rap track, “Cookie Puss,” which signaled their transition to the rap scene.

The trio established their place in the hip-hop genre after joining up with renowned producer Rick Rubin in 1984 and signed with Def Jam Recordings. They even served as Madonna’s opening act on her Virgin Tour. The biggest-selling rap album of the 1980s was Licensed to Ill, which was released in 1986 and was the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard charts. Even after Yauch’s passing in 2012, The Beastie Boys continue to be a pop cultural phenomenon and a major influence on a huge number of musicians.


Caroline Polachek during Heart is Unbreaking Tour

The synth-pop duo Chairlift was created by Aaron Pfenning and Caroline Polachek while they were both undergraduates at the University of Colorado. After recording a self-released EP in 2007 called Daylight Savings, Pfenning and Polachek moved to Brooklyn, where bassist Patrick Wimberly soon joined them. Their original intention was to create music to play in the background at haunted houses, but their output quickly went beyond their unlikely origin story. Due to Polachek’s incredible voice and the group’s avant-garde synth-sound, the trio immediately signed a record deal with the local independent label Kanine Records, and their 2008 first full-length, Does You Inspire You, was well received by almost the entire music industry.



It’s incredible that Oracular Spectacular by MGMT was released in 2007. Their psychedelic fusion of rock, pop, and electronic music had a clear influence on later music, and it sparked a wave of big label music that drew in young people who preferred independent music over the stadium rock or radio pop that had ruled the mainstream for so long.

Three successes from their debut album—”Kids,” “Time To Pretend,” and “Electric Feel”—set the tone for music that was at once immediate and approachable while yet being strange and edgy enough to keep things fresh. Since then, MGMT has become increasingly wilder and more experimental rather than just producing more singles. Although it may seem a reach to call MGMT one of the most influential bands to come out of New York, they were one of the key artists to popularize the present “indie” sound and attitude.

The National

The National during Sleep Well Beast Tour 

The brothers Aaron and Bryce Dressner, Scott and Bryan Devendorf, vocalist Matt Beringer, and brothers Bryan and Scott Devendorf make up The National. Scott and Matt met while attending college, and Bryan, Bryce, and Aaron were friends and even former bandmates in their hometown of Cincinnati. However, it wasn’t until they all moved to Brooklyn that the group came together, releasing their debut self-titled album The National in 2001 through their own label Brassland Records. The compositions probed the dark, twisting corridors of the American psyche with Beringer’s eerie, haunting baritone voice, swiftly catapulting the band to fame.

Nada Surf

Nada Surf with Daniel Brummel

In many aspects, Nada Surf’s narrative is extremely New York; for instance, they got their start thanks in large part to a chance meeting with renowned producer Ric Ocasek (The Cars, Weezer) outside of a performance at the Knitting Factory, a classic New York venue. The group faced enormous pressure to recapture the same commercial success on their follow-up albums, and though they experienced a burst of popularity in Europe, their next album Proximity Effect fell flat, so the band ruthlessly toured to re-gain support. Ocasek ended up producing their first full-length High/Low, which produced their hit single “Popular.” In addition to learning about the most iconic rock bands in NYC, explore more of the city’s music. Visit Echoes of Rebellion – Tracing Punk Rock’s Roots in the Lower East Side of New York City


Kiss Concert in Cracow 2019

With their blood-spitting, fire breathing, and white face paint, Gene Simmons and Kiss are undoubtedly more famous for their antics than their music. It’s difficult to recall that the band has received 28 gold albums and has so far sold over 40 million copies. Despite being mostly identified with the Detroit music scene, Kiss was really founded in New York City in 1973 by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss.

Although their act today appears campy, the group’s early years were wildly popular due to their gimmick of adopting comic book-like avatars when they performed. The band’s musical glam rock style continued where bands like the New York Dolls had left off, and even with later line-up changes, they stayed fairly true to this sound throughout their extensive record. Kiss serves as a poignant reminder that music is more than just sounds and sonics; the characters and backstories of the bands that stick with their sound are just as significant, for better or ill.


Whether it is music, theater, visual arts, or cinema, New York City has constantly been a cradle of amazing creation. However, there is something unique about the city that has always attracted artists, that has brought out the best in individuals who live here, and that has inspired some of the most popular rock bands over the course of the previous several decades. New York bands are distinguished by their mixed-up personnel, regional inspirations, and ongoing innovations. This is true of the hardcore scene as well as the birth of punk music, indie rock, shoegaze, folk-rock, and so much more.

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