The loudest bands of all time

31 May 2024, 08:00

The loudest bands in the world: Motörhead, The Prodigy and The Who
The loudest bands in the world: Motörhead, The Prodigy and The Who. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / David Hickes / Alamy Stock Photo

31st May is Save Your Hearing Day, so Radio X looks at some of the loudest acts in history from The Who to The Prodigy...

It’s been claimed that The Killers’ set at Glastonbury 2019 was the festival’s LOUDEST EVER headliner. According to the team behind the PA, the sound hit 106 decibels at the front of the Pyramid Stage. But, as we’ll see, 106dB is a walk in the park compared to some of these bands… with testimony from Radio X listeners.

Listen to the Radio X Classic Rock 10@10 Loudest Bands playlist at 10am on Friday 31st May via Global Player, the Radio X app

Listen to Radio X Classic Rock on Global Player now!
Listen to Radio X Classic Rock on Global Player now! Picture: Radio X


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  1. Motörhead

    During a 1984 gig at the Cleveland Variety Theatre, the plaster in the ceiling of the building started to crack and fall onto the crowd below, after the band reached a whopping 130 decibels. Listener Louise Meek saw them in Hull in 1990 and claims: "My ears rang for three days..."

    Motörhead - Ace of Spades live 1984

  2. The Who

    The legendary band claimed a Guinness World Record after they hit 126dB during a gig at Charlton Athletic's ground The Valley on 31 May 1976. Pete Townshend famously suffers from tinnitus and Roger Daltrey told reporters in 2018: "I advise all you rock-and-roll fans - take your f***ing ear plugs to the gigs. If only we had known when we were young ... we are lip-reading.” Here’s a clip of them in ear-punishing action at the same venue in 1974.

    The Who - Baba O'Riley (Charlton '74)

    ..and here’s a quick of the gig in question: The Valley, 31 May 1976.

    The Who - My Generation - Charlton 1976 (19)

  3. Foo Fighters

    At a gig in New Zealand on 13 December 2011, the Foos managed to gain a reading on the GeoNet seismograph. GeoNet's website claims: "The concert vibrations were recorded as a semi continuous harmonic signal with a peak osculation of 3Hz, ie the ground was shaking 3 times per second in a nice rhythmic motion." MOSHPIT! When the Foos returned to NZ in 2018, Big Dave Grohl called the audience “You crazy earthquake-starting motherf**kers!”

    Foo Fighters - Monkey Wrench, Auckland 2011

  4. Leftfield

    The British dance act managed to top 137 dB in June of 1996 when they played Brixton Academy on their Leftism tour. Another instance of plaster literally falling from the ceiling.

    Leftfield Live Brixton Acadamy summer

  5. My Bloody Valentine

    MBV are so well known for their loud, vibrating music that they actually hand out earplugs as you go in to watch their shows. The climax is the section of You Made Me Realise, 20-minutes of unrelenting noise that batters the audience into submission. Ouch. As one YouTube commenter has it: "I FELT that whole 15 minutes of feedback pummeling me like an air machine gun last night in Chicago. You literally FEEL the sound not emotionally but FEEL it on your skin. That was a sonic assault. I was blown away. I loved it. I tripped out a little. Amazing show."

    My Bloody Valentine, "You Made Me Realise" feedback excerpt

  6. The Prodigy

    Mandy Winter nominated the Essex ravers, featuring the late great Keith Flint, claiming that "Every time I've seen them, I could feel the bass in my chest and stomach, I could hardly breathe!" Respect!

    The Prodigy - Breathe (HD) LIVE @ Rock am Ring 2009