The Loudest Concerts in the History of Rock: Ear-Splitting Performances That Made The Record Books

Key takeaways:

  • Rock concerts are loud, with most coming in at around 104 decibels
  • These days, there are more regulations around how loud concerts can be, but in the past, rock bands would actively try to be the loudest ever so they could make it into the record books
  • Led Zeppelin, The Who and Deep Purple had some of the loudest concerts in history
  • With concerts being so loud, it’s important to protect your hearing with earplugs or earmuffs

Rock concerts are loud, with many easily exceeding 104 decibels (dB). Ouch.

It’s only in recent years that bands have had to tone down their live shows as we’ve learned more about the dangers of loud noises and hearing loss. In the past, that wasn’t so much of a concern, with some of the loudest rock concerts even making the record books.

There are loud rock concerts, and then there are ear-splitting ones. Some bands took it further than others when it came to pushing the boundaries of noise. So, let’s take a look at the loudest concerts in history.

1. Deep Purple

British band Deep Purple were so raucous that they were included in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the world’s loudest band. 

They were given this distinction in 1972 after a concert at the London Rainbow Theatre, during which sound levels reached 117 decibels – that’s roughly the same level as a leaf blower. It’s reported that three members of the audience even fell unconscious during the concert due to the incredible noise levels!

2. The Who

Another band who reached world-record sound levels were The Who. They had the loudest concert ever in the Guinness Book of Records for their concert in May 1976 at The Valley in London. The show reached 126 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to the noise a snowmobile makes!

That wasn’t their only loud concert, though. They had a reputation for delivering high-energy, high-volume concerts that got the crowd going. The legendary band is touring again in 2023 – but this time, they have noise control levels to contend with so they’re unlikely to break their previous record. It’s just as well, really, for the sake of everyone’s ears.

3. Manowar

Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio once told The Gauntlet that “the whole purpose of playing live is to blow people’s heads off.” That’s some mission!

In 1994, they reached 129.5 decibels during a concert in Hanover, Germany, making it one of the loudest rock concerts ever. With two sound specialists from the Guinness Book of World Records measuring the volume, Manowar delivered a reverberating tour de force so loud that they leapfrogged Deep Purple and The Who in the record books.

And just FYI – 129.5 dB is equivalent to a navy jet taking off from an aircraft carrier. Ooft.

4. Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is arguably one of the best rock bands of all time. They’re also known as being one of the loudest and played some of the loudest concerts ever recorded.

They were known for their explosive live shows, and cemented their legacy during their 1969 North American tour. With massive stacks of Marshall amplifiers, they created an ear-splitting onslaught of sound that left a lasting impact. Led Zeppelin were well-known for playing extended versions of their songs – all at an unbelievably loud volume. 

In 1969, they played a rollicking rendition of Heartbreaker that’s said to have reached 130 decibels. That’s similar to the sound of a hydraulic press, and is enough to cause immediate hearing damage.

5. Sleazy Joe

The award for the loudest of the loud goes to Sleazy Joe. The rockers from Sweden proclaim that they’re the loudest band in the world on their official Facebook page – and for good reason.

Back in 2008, they held a concert in their hometown of Hässleholm, where they allegedly reached a mind-blowing 143.2 dB. Imagine standing close to a jet plane during take-off. That’s how loud that concert was. Yikes – we can only hope the band and audience were protecting their hearing!

The importance of hearing protection during concerts

We’re not joking when we say we hope Sleazy Joe and their fans were wearing hearing protection. Rock concerts can really mess up your ears.

As we’ve seen, live music can be loud. These days, there are regulations in place which mean that concerts and festivals aren’t allowed to be quite as loud as some of these record-breaking bands, although these restrictions vary from country to country. 

In the UK, for example, the Health and Safety Executive strongly recommends that the A-weighted sound level (that is, the average noise levels) in the audience area should not exceed 107 dB, and the C-weighted level (the peak noise level) shouldn’t exceed 140 dB.

That’s because prolonged exposure to high levels of noise can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, which can happen when exposed to sounds of 85 decibels or more for prolonged periods.

There’s another risk that comes with loud concerts: tinnitus. It’s no wonder that many musicians have tinnitus, like Pete Townshend from The Who, who suffers from ringing in his ears. After all, they’ve spent many years rocking out right next to stacks of amplifiers that make their loud music even louder.

How to protect your hearing at concerts

So, what’s the solution? You want to see your favorite bands playing their songs, loud. And while noise levels might be limited nowadays, these regulations vary by country (and by state or area). Oftentimes, they’re guidelines to follow, rather than strict rules. Plus, the permissible noise levels are still loud. If you’re at a rock concert that’s 104 dB, without any hearing protection, you run the risk of hearing damage within just 7.5 minutes.

It’s not worth taking the risk. The best way to protect yourself is by using hearing protection, like earmuffs or earplugs. Earmuffs completely block the sound out, while you have a couple of options for earplugs: foam ones, which also make sound muffled, or silicone earplugs which filter sound.

Completely blocking the sound out offers a high level of noise reduction, but since you’re there to hear the music, you actually want to be able to hear what’s going on, right?

That’s where earplugs like Loop Experience come in. Most earplugs muffle sounds because they block sound waves, but Loop Experience uses a patented acoustic channel and mesh to filter them instead. That keeps sound quality clear, while reducing the noise – by up to 18 dB, or you can get an extra 5 dB of noise protection with Loop Experience Plus, thanks to the Loop Mute accessory which stops sound from entering the acoustic channel.

Enjoy the experience, protect your ears

We love live music – but not at the expense of our hearing! We bet that the loudest concerts ever by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who, and other legendary rock bands were a whole load of fun, but we’re glad we weren’t there, for the sake of our hearing.

Today, we can still enjoy going to see our favorite bands play live, but with the added benefit of protecting ourselves from hearing damage and tinnitus. 

Along with hearing protection like earplugs, it’s also a good idea to stay away from the speakers if you can. The closer you are to the source of the noise, the higher your risk of hearing damage. But if you bear these tips in mind when you head to your next live concert or festival, you’re sure to enjoy the full experience (without ringing ears the next day).

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