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Top 10 Short Lived Bands

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Q.V. Hough The brief yet explosive supernovas of sound. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Bands Who Had A Short Life. For this list, we're focusing on rock bands that released no more than four studio albums with their original lineup, and we’re excluding supergroups like Cream whose members came from existing bands. Special thanks to our user Jack Morris for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Q.V. Hough

Top 10 Bands Who Had A Short Life

The brief yet explosive supernovas of sound. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Bands Who Had A Short Life.

For this list, we’re focusing on rock bands that released no more than four studio albums with their original lineup, and we’re excluding supergroups like Cream whose members came from existing bands.

#10: Minor Threat

Emerging from Washington D.C. in the early 80s, this punk band forever changed the “hardcore” subgenre, as Minor Threat advocated a “straight-edge” approach to life, meaning no drugs, booze and promiscuous sex. Yet they were still indie artists to their core, producing and releasing music under their own label. Unfortunately, Minor Threat released just one full length studio album from 1980 to 1983, and the band dissolved large in part to the violence surrounding their genre. Just a fewshort years later, frontman Ian MacKaye went on to form another iconic band named Fugazi.

#9: The Runaways

Some of you may remember this band from the acclaimed 2010 film starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, however the average music fan undoubtedly correlates The Runaways with Joan Jett and Lita Ford, two prominent solo artists of the 80s rock scene. And it was the artists’ conflicting visions that led to the inevitable dissolution of The Runaways, not to mention abeef with the late Kim Fowley, producer and The Runaways’ connection to Mercury Records. After four years of partying and four studio albums, the band remained huge overseas, but North America was ready for something new.

#8: The Civil Wars

Five years, four Grammy awards and two beautiful, beautiful voices. That’s all it took to secure this Nashville folk duo a spot on our list. Releasing only two albums in their short half adecade as a group, bandmates Joy Williams and John Paul White became known for their seamless harmonies and moody lyricism, which earned The Civil Wars endless critical acclaim on top of their rapidly growing fan base. Though the band unfortunately called it quits in August of 2014, there’s no denying that what the duo accomplished is impressive. And hey, they even have Taylor Swift as a fan!

#7: The Smiths

In a time when Minor Threat offered a new approach to punk in the United States, an introspective group of Brits were doing the same across the pond. Formed by Steven Patrick Morrissey, who had previously fronted a band with Billy Duffy of The Cult, The Smiths took aim at the pretentions of the blossoming punk and new wave scene, and oddly enough, they ultimately earned the same reputation thanks to their outspoken lead singer and morose lyrical content. Releasing just four albums over the course of their five year career, the often tension filled Smiths finally went their separate ways for good in 1987.

#6: Sublime

Heavily influenced by both the reggae and punk genres, this band was quickly becoming a local favorite of the Southern California ska scene, but lead singer Bradley Nowell wouldn’t live to truly experience the band’s lasting impact. After a couple of well-received albums, Sublime released their now-iconic self-titled album in July of 1996, just months after Nowell died of aheroin overdose. Songs like “What I Got,” “Santeria” and “Wrong Way” have became modern ska classics, and Sublime certainly would have joined No Doubt in representing early 21stcentury Ska if not for their unexpected demise.

#5: The Sex Pistols

If Sublime’s music was more for a chilled-out crowd, this band was for the RAGERS!!! Today, bassist Sid Vicious has become an infamous cult figure, yet the casual music fan often has trouble naming many songs from the band’s catalogue. Before the infamous 1978 death of Sid's girlfriend Nancy Spungen and the subsequent overdose of Vicious himself, the band released just one studio album, and a highly controversial album at that. Yet despite the band's short three year run and limited discography the Pistols not only shaped punk forever but directly inspired the formation of much of the Manchester new-wave scene.

#4: N.W.A.

As an alternative musical genre to the more poppy and posturing musical styles of late 80s Los Angeles, this hip-hop ensemble formed organically thanks to their shared love for raging against the machine, whether it was the local 5-0 or the miseducation of American society. Contrary to popular belief, N.W.A. released not one, but two albums during their five years together, but it was the West Coast classic “Straight Outta Compton” that transcended the genre and introduced a new style of storytelling to the world, regardless of whether critics and consumers were ready for such a blunt approach.

#3: Nirvana

In the history of rock music, there’s obviously been a number ofshort-lived bands that were influential in their own right, but onlya select few had a front man that could take the conceptual message to the next level. While Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain may not have been ready for fame, his Seattle band transformed into the face of alternative music, even if they were operating on an entirely different wavelength than their musical contemporaries. With only three studio albums to their name, Nirvana inadvertently put an end to hair metal and kicked off a musical revolution thanks to the vision of Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.

#2: Joy Division

Coming together following a 1976 Sex Pistols show, Joy Division would shape the post-punk sound by incorporating punk-rock ideals with a new wave aesthetic. With the chaotic stage presence of Ian Curtis, Joy Division found a loyal fan base, but few knew the lead singer battled epilepsy, which, strangely, played a crucial role in his musical persona. Just 23, Curtis hung himself while separated from his wife, two months before the release of Joy Division’s second album Closer, and one day before their American tour. The band would regroup as New Order but the world lost something truly special with Ian Curtis.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

At the Drive-In

The Civil Wars

New Radicals

The Verve

#1: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

A ground breakingly innovative guitarist, Jimi Hendrix would have found fame one way or another, but as fate would have it, he was destined to become a rock legend by way of Britain. With the help of bandmates Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, the Jimi Hendrix Experience reinvented rock and reshaped the notion of a guitar hero. Through a trilogy of late 60s albums, “The Jimi Hendrix Experience” innovated a psychedelic sound that no one could quite explain, as it was a spontaneous, collective output from the minds of three brilliant musicians.

So, do you agree with our selections? What is your favorite band that had a short life? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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