Rock music

Rock music

Infobox Music genre
name=Rock music
stylistic_origins=R&B Swing jazz Blues Rock and Roll
cultural_origins=Late 1940s Cleveland, Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia
instruments=Electric guitar, Bass guitar, Drums, Keyboards
popularity=One of the best selling music forms since the 1950s
derivatives=Alternative rock - Heavy metal - Post-rock - Punk rock
subgenrelist=List of rock genres
subgenres=Art rock - Christian rock - Classic rock - Desert rock - Detroit rock - Emo - Experimental rock - Garage rock - Girl group - Glam rock - Group Sounds - Grunge - Hard rock - Heartland rock - Instrumental rock -Indie rock - Jam band - Jangle pop - Krautrock - Power pop - Protopunk - Psychedelia - [Pub rock (Australia)|Pub [chat] (Aussie)] - Pub rock (UK) - Soft rock - Southern rock - Surf - Symphonic rock
fusiongenres=Aboriginal rock - Afro-rock - Anatolian rock - Blues-rock - Boogaloo - Country rock - Flamenco-rock - Folk rock - Indo-rock - Punk rock - Jazz fusion - Madchester - Merseybeat - Progressive rock - Punta rock - Raga rock - Raï rock - Rockabilly - Rockoson - Samba-rock - Space rock - Stoner rock
regional_scenes=Argentina - Armenia - Australia - Austria - Belarus - Belgium - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Brazil - Cambodia - Canada - Chile - China - Cuba - Croatia - Denmark - Dominican Republic - Estonia - Finland - France - Greece - Germany - Hungary - Iceland - India - Indonesia - Ireland - Israel - Italy - Japan - Spanish-speaking world - Latvia - Lithuania - Malaysia - Mexico - Nepal - Netherlands - New Zealand - Norway - Peru - Philippines - Poland - Portugal - Russia - Serbia - Slovenia - South Africa - Spain - Sweden - Switzerland - Tatar - Thailand - Turkey - Ukraine - United Kingdom - United States - Uruguay - SFR Yugoslavia - Zambia
other_topics=Backbeat - Rock opera - Rock band - Performers - Hall of Fame - Social impact

Rock music is a genre of popular music often, though not necessarily, employing electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums. Many styles of rock music also use keyboard instruments such as organ, piano, mellotron, and synthesizers. Other instruments sometimes utilized in rock include saxophone, harmonica, violin, flute, French horn, banjo, melodica, and timpani. Also, less common stringed instruments such as mandolin and sitar are used. Rock music usually has a strong back beat, and often revolves around the guitar, either solid electric, hollow electric, or acoustic.

Rock music has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll and rockabilly, which evolved from blues, country music and other influences. According to Allmusic, "In its purest form, Rock & Roll has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat, and a catchy melody. Early rock & roll drew from a variety of sources, primarily blues, R&B, and country, but also gospel, traditional pop, jazz, and folk. All of these influences combined in a simple, blues-based song structure that was fast, danceable, and catchy." [ [ allmusic - Rock and Roll] ]

In the late 1960s, rock music was blended with folk music to create folk rock, blues to create blues-rock and with jazz, to create jazz-rock fusion, and with electrical instrument ambiance to create psychedelic rock. In the 1970s, rock incorporated influences from soul, funk, and latin music. Also in the 1970s, rock developed a number of subgenres, such as soft rock, glam rock, heavy metal, hard rock, progressive rock, and punk rock. Rock subgenres that emerged in the 1980s included New Wave, hardcore punk and alternative rock. In the 1990s, rock subgenres included grunge, Britpop, indie rock, and nu metal.

A group of musicians specializing in rock music is called a rock band or rock group. Many rock groups consist of a guitarist, lead singer, bass guitarist, and a drummer, forming a quartet. Some groups omit one or more of these roles and/or utilize a lead singer who plays an instrument while singing, sometimes forming a trio or duo; others include additional musicians such as one or two rhythm guitarists and/or a keyboardist. More rarely, groups also utilize stringed instruments such as violins or cellos, and/or horns like saxophones, trumpets or trombones.

The 1950s & early 1960s

Rock and roll

Rock and roll evolved in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to the rest of the world. Its immediate origins lay in a mixing together of various popular musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues, gospel music, and country and western.cite web
title=Rock (music)
publisher=Encyclopædia Britannica
] In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues music for a multi-racial audience, and is credited with first using the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the music.

There is much debate as to what should be considered the first rock & roll record. One leading contender is "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (in fact, Ike Turner and his band The Kings of Rhythm), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1951. Four years later, Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" (1955) became the first rock and roll song to top Billboard magazine's main sales and airplay charts, and opened the door worldwide for this new wave of popular culture. Rolling Stone magazine argued in 2004 that "That's All Right (Mama)" (1954), Elvis Presley's first single for Sun Records in Memphis, was the first rock and roll record [ [ Elvis Presley at Sun Studios in 1954] ] . But, at the same time, Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll", later covered by Haley, was already at the top of the Billboard R&B charts. Other artists with early rock and roll hits included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent.

The 1950s saw the growth in popularity of the electric guitar, and the development of a specifically rock and roll style of playing through such exponents as Berry, Link Wray, and Scotty Moore. It also saw major developments in recording technology such as multitrack recording developed by Les Paul, and the electronic treatment of sound by such innovators as Joe Meek. All these developments were important influences on later rock music.

The social effects of rock and roll were worldwide and massive. Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language. In addition, rock and roll may have helped the cause of the civil rights movement because both African American teens and white American teens enjoyed the music. However, by the early 1960s, much of the initial musical impetus and social radicalism of rock and roll had become dissipated, with the growth of teen idols, an emphasis on dance crazes, and the development of lightweight teenage pop music.

Early British rock

In the United Kingdom the trad jazz movement brought visiting blues music artists to Britain, While BAC was developing the Concorde, Lonnie Donegan's 1955 hit "Rock Island Line" was a major influence, and helped to develop the trend of skiffle music groups throughout the country, including John Lennon's the Quarry Men. Britain developed a major rock and roll scene, without the race barriers which kept "race records" or rhythm and blues separate in the US.

Cliff Richard had the first British rock 'n' roll hit with "Move It", effectively ushering in the sound of British rock. At the start of the 1960s, his backing group The Shadows was one of a number of groups having success with surf music instrumentals. And while rock 'n' roll was fading into lightweight pop and schmaltzy ballads, at clubs and local dances British rock groups, heavily influenced by blues-rock pioneers like Alexis Korner, were starting to play with an intensity and drive seldom found in white American acts.

By the end of 1962, the British rock scene had started with groups like the Beatles drawing on a wide range of American influences including soul music, rhythm and blues and surf music. Initially, they reinterpreted standard American tunes, playing for dancers doing the twist, for example. These groups eventually infused their original rock compositions with increasingly complex musical ideas and a distinctive sound.

In mid-1962 The Rolling Stones started as one of a number of groups increasingly showing blues influence, along with The Animals and The Yardbirds. In late 1964, The Kinks, The Who and The Pretty Things represented the new Mod style. Towards the end of the decade, British rock groups began to explore psychedelic musical styles that made reference to the drug subculture and hallucinogenic experiences.

1960s Garage rock

The British Invasion spawned a wave of imitators that played mainly to local audiences and made inexpensive recordings, a movement later called garage rock. Some music from this trend is included in the compilation album "". Some of the better known bands of this genre include The Sonics, Question Mark & the Mysterians, and The Standells.

1960s Surf music

The rockabilly sound influenced a wild, mostly instrumental sound called surf music, though "surf culture" saw itself as a competing youth culture to rock and roll. This style, exemplified by Dick Dale and The Surfaris, featured faster tempos, innovative percussion, and reverb- and echo-drenched electric guitar sounds. In the UK, British groups included The Shadows. Other West Coast bands, such as The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean slowed the tempos down and added lush harmony vocals to create what became known as the "California Sound"...

Rock as a counterculture movement (1963–1974)

In the late 1950s the US beatnik counterculture was associated with the wider anti-war movement building against the threat of the atomic bomb, notably CND in Britain. Both were associated with the jazz scene and with the growing folk song movement.

Folk rock

The folk scene was made up of folk music lovers who liked acoustic instruments, traditional songs, and blues music with a socially progressive message. The folk genre was pioneered by Woody Guthrie. Bob Dylan came to the fore in this movement, and his hits with "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Masters of War" brought "protest songs" to a wider public.

The Byrds, playing Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", helped start the trend of folk rock, and helped stimulate the development of psychedelic rock. Dylan continued, with his "Like a Rolling Stone" becoming a US hit single. Neil Young's lyrical inventiveness and wailing electric guitar attack created a variation of folk rock. Other folk rock artists include Simon & Garfunkel, Joan Baez, The Mamas & the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Bobby Darin and The Band.

In Britain, Fairport Convention began applying rock techniques to traditional British folk songs, followed by groups such as Steeleye Span, Lindisfarne, Pentangle, and Trees. Alan Stivell in Brittany had the same approach.

Psychedelic rock

Psychedelic music began in the folk scene, with the Holy Modal Rounders popularizing the term in 1964. With a background including folk and jug band music, bands like the Grateful Dead and Big Brother & the Holding Company became two famous bands of the genre.

The Fillmore was a regular venue for groups like another former jug band, Country Joe and the Fish, and Jefferson Airplane. Elsewhere, The Byrds had a hit with "Eight Miles High". The 13th Floor Elevators titled their album "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators". The music increasingly became associated with opposition to the Vietnam War.

In England, Pink Floyd had been developing psychedelic rock since 1965 in the underground culture scene. In 1966 the band Soft Machine was formed. Donovan had a folk music-influenced hit with "Sunshine Superman", one of the early psychedelic pop records. In August 1966 The Beatles released their "Revolver" album, which featured psychedelia in "Tomorrow Never Knows" and in "Yellow Submarine", along with the memorable album cover. The Beach Boys responded in the U.S. with "Pet Sounds". From a blues rock background, the British supergroup Cream debuted in December, and Jimi Hendrix became popular in Britain before returning to the US.

1967 was the year when the psychedelic scene truly took off. Many pioneering records came out including the first album from The Doors and Jefferson Airplane's highly successful "Surrealistic Pillow". The Beatles' groundbreaking album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was released in June, and by the end of the year Pink Floyd's "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", Cream's "Disraeli Gears" and even The Rolling Stones's "Their Satanic Majesties Request". As the Summer of Love reached its peak, the Monterey Pop Festival went underway headlining the top bands of the genre including Jefferson Airplane and also introducing Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to the mainstream.

The culmination of rock and roll as a socially-unifying force was seen in the rock festivals of the late '60s, the most famous of which was Woodstock in 1969 which began as a three-day arts and music festival and turned into a "happening", as hundreds of thousands of youthful fans converged on the site.

Psychedelic rock enjoyed a modest revival in the mid-1980s as prominent bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and R.E.M. incorporated sounds lifted from earlier groups like The Doors and The Byrds into the burgeoning post-punk scene. Additionally, the collectively-titled Paisley Underground bands of Los Angeles epitomized the role played by Sixties psychedelia and folk-rock in American New Wave.

Glam rock

Glam rock emerged out of the English Psychedelic and art rock scene of the late 1960s, defined by artists such as T. Rex (band), Roxy Music, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, and David Bowie, also with origins in the theatrics of groups such as The Cockettes, performers such as Lindsay Kemp, and acts such as Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd (as represented in David Bowie's cover of See Emily Play) and Eddie Cochran (as represented by T. Rex's cover of Summertime Blues). The commonly accepted origin of Glam rock was when Tyrannosaurus Rex - a band produced by Tony Visconti and championed by the legendary John Peel - frontman/singer changed the band's name to T. Rex, releasing the number 1 UK single Ride A White Swan in December of 1970, ushering in Glam rock and the band as a pop phenomenon. Following soon after were other notable acts such as Slade and Roxy Music, and eventually David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona, who brought Glam rock its relatively novel and modest popularity in America, and leading to American artists such as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, Jobriath, and Alice Cooper adopting Glam or Glam-influenced styles.

However, Glam rock's legend is distinctly British, where it was a culture phenomenon and its stars were among the biggest stars in pop culture circa 1971 through 1974. Glam itself was a nostalgic mesh of various styles, both visual art and music, ranging from 1930s Hollywood glamor, to 1950s pin-up sex appeal and rock n' roll teenage rebellion, to pre-war Cabaret theatrics, to Victorian literary and Symbolist styles, to ancient and occult mysticism and mythology (such as Bowie's references to Aleister Crowley's "starman" in his song of the same name, and themes of reincarnation and self-invention in T. Rex's Cosmic Dancer). Glam is most noted for it's sexual and gender ambiguity and androgyny, and use of theatrics.

Throughout glam rock's popularity, many bubble-gum acts - such as Elton John, Slade, Gary Glitter, and Alvin Stardust - adopted raunchier and more sexual takes on Glam style. Other previously famous acts such as The Rolling Stones and Lou Reed re-invented themselves in a glam fashion, often to great success (including Reed's only #1 hit single, Walk On the Wild Side). However, glam's success in America was modest at best, with artists such as T. Rex and Roxy Music having only a fraction of the success they had in the UK.

However, glam went on to influence many other genres, including punk, new wave, goth, jangle pop, college rock, and grunge, with artists as diverse as Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Kilbey, Johnny Rotten, Billy Corgan, Peter Murphy (who's band Bauhaus covered T. Rex's Telegram Sam and Bowie's Ziggy Stardust), and Adam Ant citing glam artists as key influences. Glam has since enjoyed sporadic modest revivals courtesy bands such as Chainsaw Kittens and Louis XIV (band).

Progressive rock

Progressive rock bands went beyond the established rock music formulas by experimenting with different instruments, song types, and musical forms. Some bands such as The Beatles, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues and Procol Harum experimented with new instruments including wind sections, string sections, and full orchestras. Many of these bands moved well beyond the formulaic three-minute rock songs into longer, increasingly sophisticated songs and chord structures. With inspiration from these earlier artists, referred to as "proto-prog", it flowered into its own genre, initially based in the UK, after King Crimson's 1969 genre-defining debut album, "In the Court of the Crimson King". Progressive rock bands borrowed musical ideas from classical, jazz, electronic, and experimental music. Progressive rock songs ranged from lush, beautiful songs to atonal, dissonant, and complex songs. Few achieved major mainstream success, but large cults followed many of the groups. Pink Floyd, Yes, Marillion, Rush, Jethro Tull, Genesis, and a few less notable others were able to work in hit singles to their otherwise complex and untraditional albums to garner a larger audience.

The mid to late 70s

Hard rock and heavy metal

:"Main article" "heavy metal and hard rock" A second wave of British and American rock bands became popular during the early 1970s. Bands such as Grand Funk Railroad, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Status Quo, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep played highly amplified, guitar-driven hard rock. Hard Rock fell into caricature and imitation in the late 1970s. Many practitioners released albums closer to progressive rock or disco. A few bands including Kiss, Black Sabbath, Queen, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Rush maintained large followings and there were occasional mainstream hits such as Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper". Music critics overwhelmingly disliked the genre. This began to change in 1978 following the release of Van Halen's self-titled debut album. The album helped to usher in an era of more commercialized rock and roll, based out of Los Angeles, California. After the glam side of metal started to end, bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax returned to the original metal scene.

Arena rock

Arena rock's origins can be traced to the late 1960s, with bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Those bands "set the stage for huge live performances in stadiums and arenas around the globe."cite web| url= |title= Arena Rock Morphs |publisher= |author=Richards, Kelli |date=2006-07-13 |accessdate=2007-11-11] The genre itself, though, was created by bands such as Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Journey, Queen, Kansas, Peter Frampton, and (Phil Collins-era) Genesis. Those bands would go on to "sell-out the world’s largest venues throughout most of (the 1970s) and beyond" and help make arena rock popular in the 1980s.

Arena rock's popularity peaked in the 1980s with bands such as Heart, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Asia, Bon Jovi, KISS and Aerosmith "were at the zenith of their popularity, selling millions of units". At this time, arena rock's popularity "only seemed on the way up."cite web| url= |title= Sunday Morning Playlist: Arena Rock |publisher= |author=Uao |date=2005-09-11 |accessdate=2007-11-11]

Eventually, arena rock would lose its popularity to alternative rock and grunge for a number of reasons.cite web| url= |title= Sunday Morning Playlist: Arena Rock |publisher= |author=Uao |date=2005-09-11 |accessdate=2007-11-11] One reason was the "limitations in the style". Many of the younger fans felt a more personal connection with genres such as punk, new wave, and indie rock, and the older fans tired of stadium rock, as many of "the performers were ants on the stage from the upper decks." Other reasons include "declining admission sales and album sales" and stadiums decreasing in size. By the time MTV had formed, "it no longer bore any relevance."cite web| url= |title= Sunday Morning Playlist: Arena Rock |publisher= |author=Uao |date=2005-09-11 |accessdate=2007-11-11]

Punk rock

Punk rock lyrics are typically frank and confrontational; compared to other popular music genres, they frequently comment on social and political issues. [Sabin (1999), pp. 4, 226; Dalton, Stephen, "Revolution Rock", "Vox", June 1993. See also Laing (1985), pp. 27–32, for a statistical comparison of lyrical themes.] Trend-setting songs such as The Clash's "Career Opportunities" and Chelsea's "Right to Work" deal with unemployment and the grim realities of urban life. [Laing (1985), p. 31.] Especially in early British punk, a central goal was to outrage and shock the mainstream. [Laing (1985), pp. 81, 125.] The Sex Pistols classics "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" openly disparage the British political system and social mores. There is also a characteristic strain of anti-sentimental depictions of relationships and sex, exemplified by "Love Comes in Spurts", written by Richard Hell and recorded by him with The Voidoids. Anomie, variously expressed in the poetic terms of Hell's "Blank Generation" and the bluntness of the Ramones' "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", is a common theme. Identifying punk with such topics aligns with the view expressed by "Search and Destroy" founder V. Vale: "Punk was a total cultural revolt. It was a hardcore confrontation with the black side of history and culture, right-wing imagery, sexual taboos, a delving into it that had never been done before by any generation in such a thorough way." [Quoted in Savage (1991), p. 440. See also Laing (1985), pp. 27–32.] However, many punk rock lyrics deal in more traditional rock 'n' roll themes of courtship, heartbreak, and hanging out; the approach ranges from the deadpan, aggressive simplicity of Ramones standards such as "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" [cite web|author=Segal, David|title=Punk's Pioneer|work=Washington Post|url=|date=2001-04-17|accessdate=2007-10-23] to the more unambiguously sincere style of many later pop punk groups.

In 1976 the Ramones, along with British punk band the Sex Pistols, went on a tour of the United Kingdom. The tour was widely credited for inspiring the first wave of English punk bands such as The Clash, The Damned, and The Buzzcocks. In England, the music became a more violent and political form of expression, represented with the Sex Pistols first two singles "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen". Despite an airplay ban on the BBC, the records rose to the top chart position in the UK. Many in the original punk rock scene claimed that the Sex Pistols and other popular punk bands of the time were compromising a newly emerging underground DIY ethic of punk rock. This phenomenon was the origin of the phrase "Punks Not Dead." The Exploited wrote a song entitled 'Punks Not Dead' which immortalized the saying and claimed that even with the advent of more popular punk rock that hardcore punk was now emerging to raise the level of aggression in punk and take it underground once again. Other bands, like The Clash, were less nihilistic, more overtly political and idealistic.

As the Sex Pistols toured America, they spread their music to the West Coast. Before, punk was mostly an East Coast phenomenon in the US, with scenes in New York and Washington D.C.. In the late '70s, California punk bands such as the Dead Kennedys, X, Fear, the Germs, Circle Jerks and Black Flag, gained greater exposure.

Punk's next evolution saw its rise in the underground movement of hardcore punk, a subgenre that originated in North America around 1980. The new sound was generally thicker, heavier and faster than earlier punk rock. Notable bands in this subgenre include Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains, among numerous others. The songs are usually short, fast and loud, covering topics ranging from apathy, boredom, politics, personal freedom, violence, social alienation, straight edge, war, and the hardcore subculture itself. Hardcore spawned several fusion genres and subgenres, some of which had mainstream success, such as skate punk, melodic hardcore and metalcore.

Since punk rock's initial popularity in the 1970s and the renewed interest created by the punk revival of the 1990s, punk rock continues to fight to remain an underground form of anti-corporate expression. This has resulted in several evolved strains of hardcore punk, such as D-beat (a distortion-heavy subgenre influenced by the UK band Discharge), anarcho-punk (such as Crass), grindcore (such as Napalm Death), and crust punk. The latter of which is a politicized fusion of hardcore and extreme metal which has arguably become a dominant voice for the modern political punk movement. Crust punk is typified by bands such as Doom, Amebix, Nausea, and Behind Enemy Lines. These strains remain largely unrecognizable to the majority of the general public and tend to focus on issues such as anarchism, freeganism, animal rights, sexism, and racism.

New Wave

Punk rock attracted devotees from the art and collegiate world and soon bands sporting a more literate, arty approach, such as Talking Heads, and Devo began to infiltrate the punk scene; in some quarters the description New Wave began to be used to differentiate these less overtly punk bands.

If punk rock was a social and musical phenomenon, it garnered little in the way of record sales (small specialty labels such as Stiff Records had released much of the punk music to date) or American radio airplay, as the radio scene continued to be dominated by mainstream formats such as disco and album-oriented rock. Record executives, who had been mostly mystified by the punk movement, recognized the potential of the more accessible New Wave acts and began aggressively signing and marketing any band that could claim a remote connection to punk or New Wave. Many of these bands, such as The Cars and the Go-Go's were essentially pop bands dressed up in New Wave regalia; others, including the Police and the Pretenders managed to parlay the boost of the New Wave movement into long-lived and artistically lauded careers.

Between 1982 and 1985, influenced by Kraftwerk, David Bowie, and Gary Numan, New Wave went in the direction of such New Romantics as Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club, Talk Talk and the Eurythmics, sometimes using the synthesizer to replace all other instruments. This period coincided with the rise of MTV and led to a great deal of exposure for this brand of synth-pop. Some rock bands reinvented themselves and profited too from MTV's airplay, for instance Golden Earring, who had a second round of success with "Twilight Zone", but in general the times of guitar-oriented rock were over. Although many "Greatest of New Wave" collections feature popular songs from this era, New Wave more properly refers to the earlier "skinny tie" rock bands such as the Knack or, more famously Blondie.


Alongside New Wave, post-punk developed as an outgrowth of punk rock. In a way was tied to punk rock. Sometimes thought of as interchangeable with New Wave, post-punk was typically more challenging, arty, and abrasive. The movement was effectively started by the debut of Public Image Ltd., Psychedelic Furs, and Joy Division and was soon joined by bands such as Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Fall, Gang of Four, The Cure, and Echo & the Bunnymen. Predominantly a British phenomenon, the genre continued into the 1980s with some commercial exposure domestically and overseas, but the most successful band to emerge from post-punk was Ireland's U2, which by the late 1980s had become one of the biggest bands in the world.

Rock diversifies in the 1980s

In the 1980s, popular rock diversified. This period also saw the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with bands such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard gaining popularity. The early part of the decade saw Eddie Van Halen achieve musical innovations in rock guitar, while vocalists David Lee Roth (of Van Halen) and Freddie Mercury (of Queen as he had been doing throughout the 1970s) raised the role of frontman to near performance art standards. Concurrently, pop-New Wave bands remained popular, with performers like Billy Idol and The Go-Go's gaining fame. American heartland rock gained a strong following, exemplified by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Donnie Iris, John (Cougar) Mellencamp and others. Bryan Adams broke into the mainstream with Reckless. Led by the American folk singer-songwriter Paul Simon and the British former prog rock star Peter Gabriel, rock and roll fused with a variety of folk music styles from around the world; this fusion came to be known as "world music", and included fusions like aboriginal rock. Also, more extreme forms of rock music began to evolve; in the early eighties, the harsh and aggressive thrash metal attracted large underground audiences and a few bands, including Metallica and Megadeth, went on for mainstream success. The Animals had their reunion in 1983.

Glam metal

One genre that was widely popular in the 1980s (c.1983) was glam metal. Taking influence from various artists such as Aerosmith, Queen, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Sweet and the New York Dolls, the earliest glam metal bands to gain notability included: Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., Ratt, Poison, Quiet Riot, and most notably, KISS. They became known for their debauched lifestyles, teased hair and use of make-up and clothing. Their songs were bombastic and often defiantly macho, with lyrics focused on sex, drinking, drugs, and the occult.

In 1987 a second wave of glam metal acts emerged including Bon Jovi, L.A. Guns, Poison and Faster Pussycat. Guns N' Roses emerged from this scene with strong commercial success, though they had a harder edged punk rock influence than most other "glam" bands, thus are not always categorized with them. Guns N' Roses were formed from L.A. Guns and another band, Hollywood Rose.

Alternative rock and the indie movement

Early American alternative bands such as R.E.M., The Feelies, and Violent Femmes combined punk influences with folk music and mainstream music influences. R.E.M. was the most immediately successful; its debut album, "Murmur" (1983), entered the Top 40 and spawned a number of jangle pop followers. One of the many jangle pop scenes of the early 1980s, Los Angeles' Paisley Underground was a 1960s revival, incorporating psychedelia, rich vocal harmonies and the guitar interplay of folk rock as well as punk and underground influences such as The Velvet Underground.Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. " [ American Alternative Rock/Post-Punk] ". Allmusic. Retrieved May 20, 2006.]

American indie labels SST Records, Twin/Tone Records, Touch & Go Records, and Dischord Records presided over the shift from the hardcore punk that then dominated the American underground scene to the more diverse styles of alternative rock that were emerging. [Reynolds, p. 390] Minneapolis bands Hüsker Dü and The Replacements were indicative of this shift. Both started out as punk rock bands, but soon diversified their sounds and became more melodic, culminating in Hüsker Dü's "Zen Arcade" and The Replacements' "Let It Be" (both 1984). They were critically acclaimed and drew attention to the burgeoning alternative genre. That year, SST Records also released landmark alternative albums by the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets, who mixed punk with funk and country, respectively.

R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü set the blueprint for much of the decade's alternative, both sonically and in how they approached their careers. In the late 1980s, the U.S. underground scene and college radio were dominated by college rock bands like the Pixies, They Might Be Giants, Camper Van Beethoven, Dinosaur Jr, and Throwing Muses as well as post-punk survivors from Britain. Another major force was the noise rock of Sonic Youth, Big Black, Butthole Surfers, and others. By the end of the decade, a number of alternative bands began to sign to major labels. While early major label signings Hüsker Dü and the Replacements had little success, acts who signed with majors in their wake such as R.E.M. and Jane's Addiction achieved gold and platinum records, setting the stage for alternative's later breakthrough.Azerrad, Michael. "Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana". Doubleday, 1994. Pg. 160 ISBN 0-385-47199-8] [Azerrad (1994), pg. 4] Some bands such as the Pixies had massive success overseas while they were ignored domestically. By the start of the 1990s, the music industry was abuzz about alternative rock's commercial possibilities and actively courted alternative bands including Dinosaur Jr, fIREHOSE, and Nirvana.

Alternative goes mainstream (early–mid 1990s)


By the 1990s, rock was dominated by slick and commercial glam metal, hair metal and arena rock artists. MTV had arrived and promoted this excessive focus on image and style. Disaffected by this, in the mid-1980s, bands in Washington state (particularly in the Seattle area) formed a new style of rock music which sharply contrasted the mainstream rock of the time.cite web | url = | title = Grunge | accessdate = 2007-08-03 | publisher =] The developing genre came to be known as "grunge", a term meaning "dirt" or "filth".cite web | url = | title = Grunge | accessdate = 2007-08-03 | publisher =] The term was perhaps seen as appropriate due to the dirty sound of the music and the unkempt appearance of most musicians. Grunge fused elements of hardcore punk and heavy metal into a single sound, and made heavy use of guitar distortion, fuzz and feedback.cite web | url = | title = Grunge | accessdate = 2007-08-03 | publisher =] The lyrics were typically apathetic and angst-filled, and often concerned themes such as social alienation and entrapment, although it was also known for its dark humor and parodies of commercial rock.cite web | url = | title = Grunge | accessdate = 2007-08-03 | publisher =]

Bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, the Pixies, the Melvins and Skin Yard pioneered the genre, with Mudhoney becoming the most successful by the end of the decade. However grunge remained largely a local phenomenon until 1991, when Nirvana‘s "Nevermind" which became a hugh success thanks for the lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit". [cite web | author=Olsen, Eric| title=10 years later, Cobain lives on in his music | | url= | date = 2004-04-09 | accessdate=2007-07-25] Nevermind was more melodic than its predecessors and was an instant sensations worldwide, but they refused to buy in to corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms. During 1991 and 1992, other grunge bands such as Soundgarden's "Badmotorfinger" and Alice in Chains' "Dirt", along with the "Temple of the Dog" album collaboration featuring members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, became among the 100 top selling albums of 1992. [Lyons, p. 136] The popular breakthrough of these grunge bands prompted "Rolling Stone" to nickname Seattle "the new Liverpool."Marin, Rick. "Grunge: A Success Story." "The New York Times". November 15, 1992.] Major record labels signed most of the remaining major grunge bands in Seattle, while a second influx of bands moved to the city in hopes of success. [Azerrad (2001), p. 452–53] While grunge itself can be seen as somewhat limited in range, its influence was felt across many geographic and musical boundaries; many artists who were similarly disaffected with commercial rock music suddenly found record companies and audiences willing to listen, and dozens of disparate acts positioned themselves as alternatives to mainstream music; thus alternative rock emerged from the underground. This helped pave the way for bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots who were initially stereotyped as grunge but later enjoyed commercial and critical success independent of the genre.

A number of factors contributed to grunge's decline in prominence. During the latter half of the 1990s, grunge was supplanted by post-grunge, which remained commercially viable into the start of the 21st century. Post-grunge bands such as Candlebox and Bush emerged soon after grunge's breakthrough. These artists lacked the underground roots of grunge and were largely influenced by what grunge had become, namely "a wildly popular form of inward-looking, serious-minded hard rock." Post-grunge was a more commercially viable genre that tempered the distorted guitars of grunge with polished, radio-ready production.cite web | url = | title = Post-Grunge | accessdate = 2007-08-28 | publisher =]

Conversely, another alternative rock genre, Britpop, emerged in part as a reaction against the dominance of grunge in the United Kingdom. In contrast to the dourness of grunge, Britpop was defined by "youthful exuberance and desire for recognition." [cite web | url = | title =Britpop | publisher = | accessdate = 2006-10-11] Britpop artists were vocal about their disdain for grunge. In a 1993 "NME" interview, Damon Albarn of Britpop band Blur agreed with interviewer John Harris' assertion that Blur was an "anti-grunge band," and said, "Well, that's good. If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I'm getting rid of grunge." [Harris, John. "A shite sports car and a punk reincarnation." "NME". April 10, 1993] Noel Gallagher of Oasis, while a fan of Nirvana, wrote music that refuted the pessimistic nature of grunge. Gallagher noted in 2006 that the 1994 Oasis hit single "Live Forever" "was written in the middle of grunge and all that, and I remember Nirvana had a tune called 'I Hate Myself and I Want to Die,' and I was like . . . 'Well, I'm not fucking having that.' As much as I fucking like him [Cobain] and all that shit, I'm not having that. I can't have people like that coming over here, on smack, fucking saying that they hate themselves and they wanna die. That's fucking rubbish." ["Lock the Door". "Stop the Clocks" [bonus DVD] . Columbia, 2006.]

During the mid-1990s many grunge bands broke up or became less visible. Kurt Cobain, labeled by "Time" as "the John Lennon of the swinging Northwest," appeared "unusually tortured by success" and struggled with an addiction to heroin. Rumors surfaced in early 1994 that Cobain suffered a drug overdose and that Nirvana was breaking up. [cite news | author=Handy, Bruce | date = April 18, 1994 | title=Never mind | publisher="Time" | url=,9171,980562,00.html | accessdate= 2007-09-08] On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound; Nirvana summarily disbanded. That same year Pearl Jam canceled its summer tour in protest of what it charged as ticket vendor Ticketmaster's unfair business practices. [cite news | author=Gordinier, Jeff | date = October 28, 1994 | title=The Brawls in Their Courts | publisher="Entertainment Weekly" | url=,,304203,00.html | accessdate= 2007-09-08] Pearl Jam then began a boycott of the company; however, Pearl Jam's initiative to play only at non-Ticketmaster venues effectively, with a few exceptions, prevented the band from playing shows in the United States for the next three years. [DeRogatis, p. 65] In 1996 Alice in Chains gave their final performances with their ailing estranged lead singer, Layne Staley, who subsequently died from a heroin overdose in 2002. That same year Soundgarden and Screaming Trees released their final studio albums, "Down on the Upside" and "Dust", respectively. Soundgarden broke up the following year.


While the American mainstream was focused on grunge, post-grunge, and hip hop, numerous British groups launched a 1960s revival in the mid-90s, often called Britpop, with bands such as Suede, Oasis, Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers, Pulp and Blur among the front-runners. These bands drew on myriad styles from the 80s British rock underground, including twee pop, shoegazing and space rock as well as traditional British guitar influences like the Beatles and glam rock. For a time, the Oasis-Blur rivalry was similar to the Beatles-Rolling Stones rivalry, or the Nirvana-Pearl Jam rivalry in America. While bands like Blur tended to follow on from the Small Faces and The Kinks, Oasis mixed the attitude of the Rolling Stones with the melody of the Beatles. The Verve and Radiohead, though not Britpop but at the forefront of the British revival of the rock, took inspiration from performers like Elvis Costello, Pink Floyd and R.E.M. with their progressive rock music, manifested in Radiohead's most heralded album, "OK Computer". Many of these bands became very successful (although Britpop's popularity in America was short, with the exception of Oasis), and for a time Oasis was given the title "the biggest band in the world" thanks to an album selling some 19 million copies worldwide, but the movement slowed down after numerous band breakups, publicity disasters in the United States and slightly less popular support. The Verve disbanded after on-going turmoil in the band between singer Richard Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe. Radiohead has since gone in a more experimental, less radio-friendly direction, beginning with their critically well-received album "Kid A". As a consequence, they have been subject to reduced general popularity, but still sell well and In Rainbows is thought to have gained good international sales. Of the major Britpop bands, only Manic Street Preachers, Oasis, Supergrass and Radiohead are still active.

Indie rock

By the mid-90s, the term "alternative music" had lost much of its original meaning as rock radio and record buyers embraced increasingly slick, commercialized, and highly marketed forms of the genre. At the end of the decade, hip hop music had pushed much of alternative rock out of the mainstream, and most of what was left played pop punk and highly polished versions of a grunge/rock mishmash.

Many acts that, by choice or fate, remained outside the commercial mainstream became part of the indie rock movement. Indie rock acts placed a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, often releasing albums on their own independent record labels and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, and airplay on independent or college radio stations for promotion. Linked by an ethos more than a musical approach, the indie rock movement encompasses a wide range of styles, from hard-edged, grunge influenced bands like The Cranberries, Superchunk to do-it-yourself experimental bands like Pavement to punk-folk singers such as Ani DiFranco.

Currently, many countries have an extensive local indie scene, flourishing with bands with much less popularity than commercial bands, just enough of it to survive inside the respective country, but virtually unknown outside them.

Success of hybrid genres

Pop punk

One result of the 70s punk explosion was pop punk. Championed by bands such as the Buzzcocks and the Ramones, the genre was never as commercially successful as the name may have suggested, but its influence can be still be heard in many artists today; the fusion of pop melodies, rapid-fire playing of instruments, and the raw and visceral lyrics and sound of punk rock is apparent in everyone from Nirvana to Oasis.

Today, pop punk is used to describe modern rock bands with a heavy pop influence such as Green Day and Fall Out Boy are common examples of the sub-genre, while Blink-182 and Sum 41 brought the sub-genre to new commercial heights in the late nineties to early 2000s.


In the wake of Cobain's death a new style of music called "post-grunge" evolved. Similar to the relationship between pop punk and punk rock, post-grunge differed from grunge in its more radio-friendly pop-oriented sound. After Australia's Silverchair achieved international success with their debut album Frogstomp record labels began to actively search for the "next Nirvana". Former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl's new band the Foo Fighters helped further popularize the genre, and other bands such as Bush, Seether, Creed, Collective Soul, Everclear and Live helped cement post-grunge as one of the most commercially viable sub-genres of the late nineties.

Female solo artist Alanis Morissette also found success while being labeled under the post-grunge tag. In 1995 her album "Jagged Little Pill" became a major hit by featuring blunt, revealing songs such as "You Oughta Know". Combining the confessional, female-centered lyrics of artists such as Tori Amos with a post-grunge, guitar-based sound created by producer Glen Ballard, it succeeded in moving the introspection that had become so common in grunge to the mainstream. The success of "Jagged Little Pill" influenced successful more pop-oriented female artists during the late 90s including Fiona Apple, Jewel and Liz Phair.

Nu metal and rap rock

In 1990, Faith No More broke into the mainstream with their success of the single 'Epic', which combined heavy metal with rap. This paved ways for bands like Rage Against the Machine and later Limp Bizkit, Korn, System Of A Down and Slipknot. This brought a fresh sound by combining rap and rock with much success. Later in the decade this style, which contained a mix of grunge, metal, and hip-hop, became known as rap rock and spawned a wave of successful bands like Linkin Park and P.O.D.. Many of these bands also considered themselves a part of the similar genre "nu metal".

Present day (2000–present)

Internet influence

In the early 2000s the entire music industry was shaken by claims of massive theft of music rights using file-sharing tools such as Napster, resulting in lawsuits against private file-sharers by the recording industry group the RIAA.

During much of the 2000s, rock has not featured as prominently in album sales in the US as in other countries such as the UK and Australia. By contrast to those countries, hip hop music has [ dominated the US single charts] , with a recent study by Teenage Research Unlimited stating hip hop is the most popular format of music among adults from ages 18-34 in the United States.

The biggest factor that has affected the production and distribution of rock music is the rise of paid digital downloads in the 2000s. During the 90s, the importance of the buyable music single faded when "Billboard" allowed singles without buyable, album-separate versions to enter its Hot 100 chart (charting only with radio airplay). The vast majority of songs bought on paid download sites are singles bought from their albums; songs that are bought on a song-by-song basis off artist's albums are considered sales of singles, even though they have no official buyable single.

Garage rock revival

After existing in the musical underground, garage rock saw a resurgence of popularity with the garage rock revival. Bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Vines, The Libertines and The Hives all released successful singles and albums. This wave is also sometimes referred to as "back-to-basics rock" because of its raw sound.

Post-punk revival

Additionally, the retro trend has led to a Post-punk revival with bands like The Hives, The Libertines, The Killers, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, and Editors, which were often heavily influenced by 1990s bands such as Radiohead and Nirvana, as well as the punk genre, and post-punk bands such as Joy Division.

Social impacts

The influence of rock and roll is far-reaching, and has had significant impact worldwide on fashion and film styles. Its impact has been positive as well, with the trend of many rock stars facilitating charity events such as Live Aid. Saving the World is becoming a more and more common phrase associated with rock music today.

There are also spiritual aspects tied to rock music. Songwriters like Pete Townshend have explored these in their work. The common usage of the term "rock god" acknowledges the religious quality of the adulation some rock stars receive.

ee also

* Pop music
* Origins of rock and roll
* Popular music pedagogy


External links

* [ (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 10, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.]

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