Best Band Logos?

Today Paste magazine contributor Josh Jackson posted his list of the top 50 band logos. Any subjective list like this is fodder for debate, so I thought I’d offer comments and share picks XK9’s Top 25 logo list (see below).

Paste's Top 20

Here are the Paste’s Top 20. The remaining 30 are below.

Paste's Other 30


My biggest gripe about Jackson’s list is that many of these really don’t meet basic qualifications for a logo. Just because it’s been on an album cover, doesn’t grant it logo status. To be a logo or brand mark, it must be used consistently represent the band. There are a number of logos seen above that fail to meet that criterium. Pink Floyd’s paint scrawl (45) is from one album, The Wall. The Who’s barely legible conjoined letters and arrow (35) may have appeared on Keith Moon’s drum kit once upon a time, but it was never regularly used by the band. The only album covers that use the type treatment are a 1994 box set and hits compilations released since 2006. But, I suppose it’s recognizable enough to pass. The same goes for The Beatles (30) treatment familiar mostly from Ringo’s drum kit in A Hard Day’s Night and on Ed Sullivan. That treatment really got the most use during the 1996 Anthology mini-series and on the 2009 mono and stereo remasters. But it’s become so associated with the band (it’s on the Beatles website) that it’s achieved logo status.

Other questionable logos in Jackson’s bunch include Radiohead (05) and Nirvana (18)- these are more ancillary art than logos. I think Weezer’s logo is more the lower case Avant Garde typeface version of their name; I believe the flying W (36) was stolen from Waylon Jennings. The Bauhaus profile (22) is the emblem of the German Bauhaus art and design movement; it’s an appropriation of another entity’s logo. Nas’ logo (38) is just ugly; ditto Phish (07?!) and Ween (10). And who are Mastodon (49) or Vintage Trouble (40)?! Not that I care, their logos are ugly too.

Here is the XK9 selection for the Best 25 Band Logos.

XK9's Top 20


While my list might seem a little heavy with 1970s selections, I would argue that time was the golden age of arena rock and band logos. I think Paste missed a few obvious choices like Boston (18), Cheap Trick (11), ELO (20) Styx (24) and yes, The Monkees (10). I’m particularly fond of a couple newer logos for Gorillaz (25) and Odd Future (23). I figure that if Dave Grohl is willing to tattoo the Foo Fighters double F (13) on the back of his neck, it deserves to be in this list.

I think the Rolling Stones’ tongue deserves to be number 1 without question. It’s the emblem of one of music’s biggest acts- it drips of sticky rock and roll. I also think the rest of the XK9 top ten is pretty strong, particularly the remainder of the top five- RUN DMC, Grateful Dead, Nine Inch Nails and AC/DC. All are potent brand marks. They exude the attitude and swagger, swoon, sting or strut of their respective bands. You can feel their mnemonic power.

  1. The Ramones
  2. Rolling Stones
  3. Public Enemy
  4. Grateful Dead
  5. Radiohead
  6. Wu-Tang Clan
  7. Phish
  8. Outkast
  9. The Strokes
  10. Ween
  11. Deadmau5
  12. Nine Inch Nails
  13. Queen
  14. The Pixies
  15. Black Flag
  16. Scissor Sisters
  17. Le Zeppelin
  18. Nirvana
  19. Van Halen
  20. Kiss
  21. Sigur Ròs
  22. Bauhaus
  23. Abba
  24. Yes
  25. The XX
  26. Misfits
  27. Public Image Ltd
  28. Sex Pistols
  29. AC/DC
  30. The Beatles
  31. The Doors
  32. Dead Kennedys
  33. Aerosmith
  34. Eminem
  35. The Who
  36. Weezer
  37. Emerson Lake & Palmer
  38. Nas
  39. Ozzy Osbourne
  40. Vintage Trouble
  41. New York Dolls
  42. Blitzen Trapper
  43. Daft Punk
  44. Red Hot Chili Peppers
  45. Pink Floyd
  46. The Cramps
  47. Muse
  48. RUN DMC
  49. Mastodon
  50. Metallica

(*denotes logos missing from Paste list)

  1. Rolling Stones
  2. RUN DMC
  3. Grateful Dead
  4. Nine Inch Nails
  5. AC/DC
  6. Public Enemy
  7. Kiss
  8. The Beatles
  9. Black Flag
  10. The Monkees*
  11. Cheap Trick
  12. Wu-Tang Clan
  13. Foo Fighters*
  14. Aerosmith
  15. The Doors
  16. Led Zeppelin
  17. Yes
  18. Boston*
  19. The Ramones
  20. ELO*
  21. Van Halen
  22. Metallica
  23. Odd Future*
  24. Styx*
  25. Gorillaz*
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