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Rock music

List of rock genres | Grunge | Medieval rock | Power pop | Raggare | Rock and roll | Ska | Soul music | Techno music | World music

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Stylistic origins: Rock and roll, ultimately blues (mostly jump blues and Chicago blues), country music and R&B
Cultural origins: Late 1940s United States
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums-
occasionally Keyboards
Mainstream popularity: Much, constant and worldwide since the 1950s
Derivative forms: Alternative rock - Heavy metal - Punk rock
Art rock - British rock - Christian rock - Desert rock - Detroit rock - Experimental rock - Garage rock - Girl group - Glam rock - Glitter rock - Group Sounds - Hard rock - Heartland rock - Instrumental rock - Jam band - Jangle pop - Krautrock - Post-rock - Power pop - Protopunk - Psychedelia - Pub rock (Aussie) - Pub rock (UK) - Rock en espanol - Soft rock - Southern rock - Surf
Fusion genres
Aboriginal rock - Afro-rock - Anatolian rock - Blues-rock - Boogaloo - Country rock - Cumbia rock - Flamenco-rock - Folk-rock - Indo-rock - Jazz rock - Madchester - Merseybeat - Progressive rock - Punta rock - Raga rock - Raï rock - Rockabilly - Rockoson - Samba-rock - Tango-rockéro
Other topics
Rock band

Rock is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony), electric guitars, a bass guitar, and a strong back beat; other instruments, such as the saxophone, trumpet, and trombone are common in some styles, however, horns have been omitted from newer subgenres of rock music since the 1990s. The genre of rock is broad, and its boundaries loosely-defined, with distantly related genres such as soul sometimes being included.

A major formative influence on rock was rock and roll, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. 1950s rock and roll artist Bo Diddley claims that the term rock and roll came from an Australian radio interview in which disc jockey Alan Freed described Diddley as "the man with the original sound that's going to rock and roll you out of your seat."

In the early 1960s rock 'n' roll was seen as being out of fashion, and at the outset of '60s British rock there was an insistence on using the term rock music. With the "British Invasion" this reinvigorated musical style spread back to the United States, and became a lasting international cultural phenomenon with considerable social impact on the world. Competing claims have credited it with ending wars and spreading peace and tolerance, as well as corrupting the innocent and spreading moral rot. Rock has become popular across the globe, and has evolved into a multitude of highly-varying styles with widespread popularity in most countries today. Overall in terms of album sales, rock is the most popular form of music since the advent of sound recording.



Main article: Origins of rock and roll

Rock and Roll in its various guises came from a fusion of musical cultures, and in turn its influence fed back to these cultures, a process of borrowings, influences and new ideas that continues to develop rock music.

Rock 'n' Roll diversifies

Main article: Rock and Roll

Rock 'n' Roll had runaway success in the U.S. and quickly brought sanitised rhythm and blues influenced music to an international audience. Its success led to a dilution, as promoters were quick to attach the label to other commercial pop, and original stars such as Elvis Presley were diverted into ballads more in keeping with previous ideas of pop. The excitement and drive of the music was not forgotten, and there was a widening diversification

Early Rock 'n' Roll

Main article: Rock 'n' Roll

Rock 'n' Roll started off in the early-to-mid 1950s in the United States of America. African-American artists such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Fats Domino played predominantly to African American crowds. While these key early rockers were indisposed to racism, local authorities and dance halls were very much divided upon racial lines. Mainstream acceptance of rock and roll in the mid-1950s when what Bo Diddley describes as 'au fait dudes' (or Caucasians) signed to major labels and started covering their material. Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and the Comets are the biggest examples of such stars to achieve early mainstream success. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis and the more rockabilly Johnny Cash are also early innovators of the genre. These artists were 'tight' and often toured and played together in dance halls and clubs across America and Britain.

Arguably, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley are two of the most influential guitarists in Rock and Roll history, particularly to British group the Rolling Stones. Berry was known for his guitar riff orientated style and soloing, and Diddley for his experimentation with tremolo and rhythm.

Towards the end of the 1950s "chessboard" crowds (both black and white patrons) would emerge at Rock and Roll concerts as fans discovered the original artists of the songs they knew from television and the radio, such as Little Richard's Tutti Frutti.

The genre ignited British enthusiasm for rhythm and blues and the development of British rock. The 1960 name The Fabulous Silver Beatles was partly a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and was later shortened to The Beatles.

Surf music

Main article: Surf music

The rockabilly sound influenced the West Coast development of 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 processed electric guitar sounds with a British equivalent at the same time from groups like The Shadows, which would be highly influential upon future rock guitarists. Other West Coast bands, notably The Beach Boys, Mr. Shears and the Wavettes, and Jan and Dean, would capitalize on the surf craze, slowing the tempos back down and adding harmony vocals to create the "California Sound."

British rock

In the United Kingdom the Trad jazz movement brought visiting blues music artists and Lonnie Donegan's 1955 hit "Rock Island Line" began Skiffle music groups throughout the country, including John Lennon's "The Quarry Men" formed in March 1957 as a precursor to The Beatles. Britain was quick to become a new centre of rock and roll, without the colour barriers which kept "race records" or Rhythm and Blues separate in the U.S.. Cliff Richard had the first British rock 'n' roll hit with "Move It", beginning the different 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. Rock 'n' Roll' was fading into lightweight pop and schmaltzy ballads, but at clubs and local dances British rock groups were starting to play with an intensity and drive seldom found in white American acts, heavily influenced by Blues-rock pioneers like Alexis Korner. By the end of 1962 the British rock scene had started, with groups drawing on a wide range of American influences including Soul music, Rhythm and Blues and Surf music, playing for dancers doing the Twist. The music quickly evolved and developed to dominate pop music world-wide. First reinterpreting standard American tunes, these groups then infused their original rock compositions with an industrial-class sensibility and increasingly complex musical ideas.

The Beatles rose to the fore, bringing together an appealing mix of image, songwriting, and personality. In late 1963 the Rolling Stones started, as one of a number of groups increasingly showing blues influence such as The Animals and The Yardbirds, and in late 1964 The Kinks, followed by The Who, represented the new Mod style. The increasing musical adventurousness of the groups is exemplified by the Beatles' Rubber Soul of 1965. Drug references increased as music moved towards the birth of Psychedelia.

British invasion

After their initial success in the UK, The Beatles launched a large-scale US tour to ecstatic reaction, a phenomenon quickly dubbed Beatlemania. Although they were not the first British band to come to America, The Beatles spearheaded the Invasion, triumphing in the US on their first visit in 1964 (including historic appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show). In the wake of Beatlemania other British bands headed to the U.S., notably the Rolling Stones (who disdained the Beatles' clean-cut image and presented a darker, more aggressive image), and other acts like The Animals and The Yardbirds. Throughout the early and mid-'60s Americans seemed to have an insatiable appetite for British rock. Other British bands, including The Who, had some success during this period but saved their peak of popularity for the second wave of British invasion in the late 1960s.

1960s garage rock

Main article: Garage rock

The British Invasion spawned a wave of imitators in the U.S. and across the globe. Many of these bands were cruder than the bands they tried to emulate. Playing mainly to local audiences and recording cheaply, very few of these bands broke through to a higher level of success. This movement, later known as Punk rock or Garage Rock, latergained a new audience when record labels started re-issuing compilations of the original singles; the best known of these is a series called Nuggets. Some of the better known band of this genre include The Sonics, ? & the Mysterians, and The Standells.

Development of a counterculture (1963-1974)

In the late 1950s the U.S. 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 jazz and with the growing folk song movement, which attracted idealistic communists and left-wingers working for an egalitarian overthrow of race discrimination in the U.S. and of the class structure in Britain.

Rock and roll was seen as commercial pop, but subverted the race barriers in the U.S., and with the British invasion the reverence of groups for black Rhythm and blues stars brought these stars a wider public. The Beatles era brought outrage at longer hair styles, with unsmiling or sullen groups on record covers in contrast to the previous standard of clean-cut, smiling musicians. The Rolling Stones took this further and are credited with being the first band to dispense with band uniforms; band members simply wore whatever clothes they wished, and these clothes were often outlandish or controversial. Such seemingly trivial rebelliousness led to bigger shifts.

Bob Dylan and folk-rock

Main article: Folk-rock

The folk scene had strong links between Britain and America, and in both countries a puritanical opposition to electric instruments and revival of traditional songs combined with enthusiasm for acoustic blues music and promotion of new songs with a social message, a genre pioneered by Woody Guthrie. Despite his adolescent musical forays into electric rock 'n' roll, 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. Like others on the folk circuit, he viewed The Beatles at first as tritely commercial bubblegum pop, but just as they drew inspiration from his The Times They Are A-Changin album, he in turn was influenced by them to bring in electric rock instrumentation in his March 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home.

Before the album came out, The Byrds beat him to it with a jangling electric hit single version of Mr. Tambourine Man taken from a preview of an acoustic track on the album. This effectively started Folk-rock, as well as setting off Psychedelic rock. Dylan's own contribution continued, with his "Like a Rolling Stone" becoming a U.S. hit single. Among his many disciples, Neil Young's lyrical inventiveness and often wailing electric guitar attack further widened Folk-rock's audience and presaged grunge. Others including Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & the Papas, Joni Mitchell and The Band developed the genre in America.

In Britain, Fairport Convention began applying rock techniques to traditional British folk songs, followed by groups such as Steeleye Span, Lindisfarne and Pentangle in an approach which is still going strong today. The same approach was made (and is made) in Brittany by Alan Stivell .

Psychedelic rock

Main article: Psychedelic music

Psychedelia began in the folk scene, with the Holy Modal Rounders introducing the term in 1964. With a background including folk and jug band music, The Grateful Dead fell in with Ken Kesey's LSD fuelled Merry Pranksters, playing at their Acid Tests then providing an electric Acid rock soundtrack to their Trips Festival of January 1966 , together with Big Brother & the Holding Company. Within a fortnight the Filmore Stadium was providing a regular venue for groups like another former jug band, Country Joe and the Fish, and the Jefferson Airplane whose debut album, recorded at the end of 1965, would have widespread influence that year. Elsewhere, The Byrds had a hit with Eight Miles High and the 13th Floor Elevators titled their album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. The music increasingly became involved in opposition to the Vietnam War.

In Britain, Pink Floyd had been developing psychedelic rock since 1965 in the underground culture scene, and in 1966 the Soft Machine formed. From the folk music side, Donovan had a hit with Sunshine Superman, one of the very first overtly psychedelic pop records. In August 1966 The Beatles joined in the fun with their Revolver featuring psychedelia in Tomorrow Never Knows and in Yellow Submarine which combined these references with appeal to children and nostalgia, a formula which would keep their music widely popular. 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 storm America.

January 1967 brought the first album from The Doors. As the year went by many other pioneering groups got records out, with Pink Floyd's Arnold Layne in March only hinting at their live sound. 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 and Cream's Disraeli Gears.

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 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.

Progressive rock

Main article: Progressive rock

The music itself broadened past the guitar-bass-drum format; while some bands had used saxophones and keyboards before, now acts like The Beach Boys and The Beatles (and others following their lead) experimented with new instruments including wind sections, string sections, and full orchestration. Many bands moved well beyond three-minute tunes into new and diverse forms; increasingly sophisticated chord structures, previously limited to jazz and orchestrated pop music, were heard.

Dabbling heavily in classical, jazz, electronic, and experimental music resulted in what would be called progressive rock (or, in its German wing, krautrock). Progressive rock could be lush and beautiful or atonal and dissonant, highly complex or minimalistic, sometimes all within the same song. At times it was hardly recognizable as rock at all. Some notable practitioners include Pavlov's Dog, King Crimson, Caravan, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant, The Nice, Yes, Gong, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Soft Machine, Steve Hillage, Barclay James Harvest, Magma, Can, Pink Floyd, Rush, Queen and Faust.

German prog

Main article: Krautrock

In the mid-1960s, American and British rock entered Germany, especially British progressive rock bands. At the time, the musical avant-garde in Germany were playing a kind of electronic classical music, and they adapted the then-revolutionary electronic instruments for a progressive-psychedelic rock sound. By the early 1970s, the scene, now known as krautrock, had begun to peak with the incorporation of jazz (Can) and Asian music (Popol Vuh). This sound, and later pioneers like Neu! and Kraftwerk, were to prove enormously influential in the development of techno and other genres later in the century.

Italian prog

In Italy progressive rock had a great success in the 1970s and some bands played prog at the same level of the more famous American groups and went in tour in the States.

Some Italian progressive rock bands were Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Area International Popular Group.

Birth of heavy metal

Main article: Heavy metal music

A second wave of British bands and artists gained great popularity during this period. These bands typically were more directly steeped in American blues music than their more pop-oriented predecessors, but their performances took a highly amplified, often spectacular form. Guitar-driven acts such as Cream and Led Zeppelin were early examples of this blues-rock form, but heavier rock bands including Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, and most notably Black Sabbath are all believed to have had greater influence on metal music. This more aggressive style of rock would come to be known as heavy metal.

Corporate movements out of the counterculture (the 1970s)

Arena rock

Main article: Arena rock

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones had set the table for massive live performances in stadiums and arenas. The growing popularity of metal and progressive rock led to more bands selling out large venues. The corporate world saw the chance for huge profits and began marketing a series of what came to be called arena rock bands. Bands whose roots were in other genres, like Queen, Pink Floyd and Genesis, paved the way by putting on extravagant live shows drawing a large number of fans. Following in their wake, Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Journey, and many other bands began playing similar music, often less progressive and metal-like. This movement became a precursor to the power pop of future decades, and set the mold for live performances by popular artists

Soft rock/Pop

Main article: Pop music

Even rock music would get soft, or at least in between soft and hard. Out of the short-lived "bubble gum pop" era came such groups as The Partridge Family, The Cowsills, The Osmonds, and The Archies (the last "group" was actually one person, Ron Dante, who would go on to help manage the career of Barry Manilow).

With the demise of The Beatles as a group, other bands and artists would take this emerging soft rock format and add a touch of orchestration to partially form some of the first "power ballads". Solo artists such as Manilow, Olivia Newton-John, and Eric Carmen, and groups such as Bread, The Carpenters, and England Dan & John Ford Coley would make popular the format we know today as Soft rock.

Other well-known artists, not specifically rock stars, from the 1960s such as Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand were continuing to chart.

Classic rock emerging

Main article: Classic rock

Meanwhile, groups such as Queen, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Golden Earring and The Rolling Stones as well as such solo artists as Peter Frampton were being heard mainly on AM radio and sharing the charts with their soft rock counterparts.

For example, Frampton's 1976 live album Frampton Comes Alive, rapidly becoming the best-selling live album of all time, had spawned a number of singles that hit the Top Ten charts, such as "Show Me The Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way". Aerosmith's rock anthem "Walk This Way", among others, were becoming popular with junior high and high school students. It was an era where both soft and hard rock mixed together. Extremely popular recordings, such as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," actually put the two together.

Rock crosses borders

In the early 1970s Mexican singer Rigo Tovar took not only the musical elements of rock melody and blues and fused it with cumbia, and tropical music. He was the first to also used the rock and roll image; sporting long black shaggy hair, ray ban aviator glasses, glam outfits, and tattoos. He also started the use electric guitars, synthesizers and electronic effects previously unused in mexican music. In his live performances he would cover songs by Ray Charles and the Beatles. His fame and influence were not limited to Mexico and Latin America but eventually went world wide reaching Europe. Many of today's Mexican "rockeros" cite Rigo as an influence.

Disco, punk and New Wave (1973-1981)


Main article: Disco

While Funk music had been part of the rock and roll scene in the early 1970s, it would eventually give way to more accessible songs with a danceable beat. The Disco format was propelled by such groups as K.C. and the Sunshine Band, MFSB, The Three Degrees, The O'Jays, Barry White, Gloria Gaynor, CHIC, and The Trammps. Suddenly, many popular hits featured the danceable disco beat, and discotheques -- previously a European phenomenenon -- began to open in the U.S., notably Studio 54 in New York, which became the model for dozens of disco clubs nationwide.

The group most associated with the Disco era was The Bee Gees, whose music for the 1977 Paramount film Saturday Night Fever marked the pinnacle of the era. Many mainstream rock acts, including the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Queen and even the Grateful Dead, incorporated disco beats into their releases in attempts to keep up with the trend; many rock radio stations began to adopt all-disco formats.

But by the end of the 1970s an anti-disco backlash occurred as, in the rush to capitalize on the popular format, the overall quality of disco music began to fall and as rock fans reacted to the perceived loss of traditional rock outlets in favor of disco. The anti-disco movement culminated in the disco demolition riot in Chicago during the summer of 1979.

While much of the cachet of disco as a genre had dissipated by the end of the '70s, danceable sounds persisted; disco, in its own way, would spin off hip hop music (or "rap music") as we know today, when The Sugarhill Gang took portions of Chic's hit "Good Times" and transformed them into "Rapper's Delight", the first hip-hop recording to become a Billboard Top 40 hit single.

Punk Rock

Main article: Punk rock

Punk rock started off as a reaction to the lush, producer-driven sounds of disco, and against the perceived commercialism of progressive rock that had become arena rock. Early punk borrowed heavily from the garage band ethic: played by bands for which expert musicianship was not a requirement, punk was stripped-down, three-chord music that could be played easily. Many of these bands also intended to shock mainstream society, rejecting the "peace and love" image of the prior musical rebellion of the 1960s which had degenerated, punks thought, into mellow disco culture.

Punk developted as more than an aesthetic movement in America, with artists Richard Hell, Television, whom Richard briefly played, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Talking Heads and others of CBGB's taking the stage and changing music for years. The Ramones were the "safer" brand of punk: equally aggressive but mostly apolitical. Richard Hell was the flip side: he was a poet, his band could play their instruments as well, and usually better, than any corporate band. The Punk movement was born out of an intellectual movement, but The Ramones took a "dumbed down" sound to the mainstream. However, Punk spread to England where it became a more violent form of expression with the proto-typical band The Sex Pistols.

The Sex Pistols chose aggressive stage names (including "Johnny Rotten" and "Sid Vicious") and did their best to live up to them, deliberately rejecting anything that symbolized the establishment in England when they toured. They were most well represented on their first two singles "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen". Despite an airplay ban on the BBC, the record rose to the top chart position in the UK. The Sex Pistols paved the way for many other political bands like The Clash, whose approach was less nihilistic but more overtly political and idealistic. More artier bands like Wire and The Fall gave Punk another side.

As the Pistols toured America, they spread their music as the first wave of Punk had been spread in theirs. Punk was mostly an East-coast phenomenon in the US until the late 1970s when Los Angeles-based bands such as X and Black Flag broke through.

It was also through punk, and to an extent, new wave, that Australia made its first major impacts on the global popular music scene. After Johnny O'Keefe's last major hit in 1961, Australian popular music was dominated by clean-cut family bands. Bubbling beneath the surface, however, was a group of pioneering bands like the surf band The Atlantics, but it was not until the late 1970s, with acts like The Birthday Party, INXS, SPK, and Midnight Oil offering an energetic experimentalism that the country's role in pop music became manifest.

New Wave

Main article: New Wave music

Punk rock attracted devotees from the art and collegiate world and soon bands sporting a more literate, arty approach, such as the 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 and Gary Numan, New Wave went in the direction of such New Romantics as Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk and the Eurythmics, sometimes using the synthesizer entirely in place of guitar. This period coincided with the rise of MTV and led to a great deal of exposure for this brand of synth-pop. 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 Blondie.

Punk and post-punk bands would continue to appear sporadically, but as a musical scene, punk had largely self-destructed and been subsumed into mainstream New Wave pop by the mid-1980s, but the influence of punk has been substantial. The grunge movement of the late 1980s owes much to punk, and many current mainstream bands claim punk rock as their stylistic heritage. Punk also bred other genres, including hardcore, industrial music, and goth.

Rock diversifies in the 1980s

In the 1980s, popular rock diversified. 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) raised the role of frontman to near performance art standards. Concurrently, pop-New Wave bands remained popular, while pop-punk performers, like Billy Idol and The Go-Go's, gained fame. American heartland rock gained a strong following, exemplified by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and others. 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.

Hard rock, glam metal and Instrumental rock

Main article: Glam metal

Heavy metal languished in obscurity until the mid- or late 1970s. A few hard rock bands maintained large followings, like Queen, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, and there were occasional mainstream hits, like Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper". Music critics overwhelmingly hated the genre, and mainstream listeners generally avoided it because of its strangeness. However this changed in 1978 with the release of the hard rock band Van Halen's eponymous debut, which ushered in an era of widely popular, high-energy rock and roll, based out of Los Angeles, California.

While bands like Van Halen, Metallica and Megadeth innovated in the genre, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal(spearheaded by bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden) found fans, a group of musicians formulated what later became known as glam metal. Taking cues from Van Halen, but without their humor, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, and Ratt are often regarded as the first glam metal bands to gain popularity. They became known for their debauched lifestyles, teased hair, feminized use of make-up, clothing (usually spandex,) and over-the-top posturing. Their songs were bombastic, aggressive, and often defiantly macho, with lyrics focused on sex, drinking, drugs, and the occult. After Def Leppard's wildly popular Pyromania, and Van Halen's seminal 1984, glam metal became ubiquitous. Many glam metal bands became one-hit wonders, or as David Lee Roth once said of them, "here today, gone later today," (for example, Winger and Slaughter.)

By the middle of the 1980s, a formula developed in which a glam metal band had two hits -- one a soft ballad, and the other a hard-rocking anthem. The original line-up of Van Halen broke up in 1985, creating something of a quality vacuum in the genre; however, in 1987, Guns N' Roses released Appetite for Destruction, which became phenomenally successful. Until glam metal's demise in the early-1990s, Guns N' Roses were hard rock's standard-bearers, and influenced its sound by incorporating influences from punk rock, and thrash metal.

Instrumental Rock was also popularised during this period with Joe Satriani's release of "Surfing with the Alien". With many heavy metal guitarists being virtuosos, many of them felt constrained by their bands and were releasing solo albums. Guitarists such as George Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Morse have all greatly contributed to the genre.

Alternative music and the indie movement

Main article: Alternative rock

The term alternative music (also often known as alternative rock) was coined in the early 1980s to describe bands which didn't fit into the mainstream genres of the time. Bands dubbed "alternative" could be most any style not typically heard on the radio; however, most alternative bands were unified by their collective debt to punk. Important bands of the '80s alternative movement included R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Smiths, Pixies, Hüsker Dü, The Cure, and countless others. Artists largely were confined to indie record labels, building an extensive underground music scene based around college radio, fanzines, touring, and word-of-mouth. Although these groups never generated spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on the generation of musicians who came of age in the 80s and ended up breaking through to mainstream success in the 1990s. Notable styles of alternative rock during the 80s include jangle pop, gothic rock, college rock, and indie rock. The next decade would see the success of grunge in the US and Britpop in the UK, bringing alternative rock into the mainstream.

Alternative goes mainstream (the 1990s)

Grunge and the anti-corporate rock movement

Main article: Grunge music

By the late 1980s rock radio was dominated by aging rock artists, slick corporate rock, and hair metal; MTV had arrived and brought with it a perception that style was more important than substance. Any remaining traces of rock and roll rebelliousness or the punk ethic seemed to have been subsumed into corporate-sponsored and mass-marketed musical product. Disaffected by this trend, some young musicians began to reject the polished, glamor-oriented posturing of hair metal, and created crude, sometimes angry music. The American Pacific Northwest region, especially Seattle, became a hotbed of this style, dubbed grunge.

Early grunge bands, particularly Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, took much of their sound from early heavy metal and much of their approach from punk, though they eschewed punk's ambitions towards political and social commentary to proceed in a more nihilistic direction. Grunge remained a mostly local phenomenon until the breakthrough of Nirvana in 1991 with their album Nevermind. A slightly more melodic, more completely produced variation on their predecessors, Nirvana was an instant sensation worldwide and made much of the competing music seem stale and dated by comparison, after Guns N' Roses' successful 1991 double-album Use Your Illusion I and II experimental hard-rock faded almost completely from the mainstream.

Nirvana whetted the public's appetite for more direct, less polished rock music, leading to the success of bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden who took a somewhat more traditional rock approach than other grunge bands but shared their passion and rawness. Pearl Jam were a major commercial success from their debut but, beginning with their second album, refused to buy in to the corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms of MTV and Ticketmaster, with whom they famously engaged in legal skirmishes over ticket service fees.

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.


Main article: Britpop

While America was full of grunge, post-grunge, and hip hop, Britain launched a 1960s revival in the mid-90s, often called Britpop, with bands like Suede, Oasis, The Verve, Radiohead, Pulp and Blur. 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. 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 took inspiration from performers like Elvis Costello, Pink Floyd and R.E.M. with their progressive rock music, manifested in Radiohead's most famous album, OK Computer. These bands became very successful, and for a time Oasis was given the title "the biggest band in the world" thanks to an album selling some 14 million copies worldwide but slowed down after band breakups, publicity disasters in the United States and slightly less popular support. The Verve disbanded after on-going turmoil in the band, but on the other hand Radiohead threw themselves into electronic experimentation in their latest records and have stood the test of time in both the U.K and the USA as a major act.

Indie rock

Main article: 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 who, 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 Superchunk 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.

Stoner rock

Main article: Stoner rock

With some influences of Psychedelic Rock and riff orientated structure of early Heavy Metal, stoner rock emerged in the late 1980s. Bands such as the Melvins, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Nebula and Queens of the Stone Age. Characterised by sludgey sounding, heavily distorted amps and detuned guitars, stoner rock tries to simulate the experience of an LSD trip or smoking marijuana. Many stoner rock bands can often play one song for up to 20 minutes with incredible variation in emotion, speed and genre.

Stoner rock remains the cornerstone of the independent recording industry, with few mainstream exceptions. Most notably Josh Homme who was the songwriter for both Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age.

Post-grunge and pop punk (1995-2000)

With the death of Kurt Cobain, rock and roll music searched for a new face, sound, and trend. A second wave of alternative rock bands began to become popular, with grunge declining in the mid-90s. Green Day, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, and Creed spearheaded rock radio, and 311 and Rage Against the Machine brought a fresh rap/rock hybrid sound. In 1995, a Canadian pop star, Alanis Morissette, arose, and released Jagged Little Pill, a major hit that featured blunt, personally-revealing lyrics. It succeeded in moving the introspection that had become so common in grunge to the mainstream. The success of Jagged Little Pill spawned a wave of popularity in the late 90s of confessional rock releases by female artists including Jewel, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Liz Phair. Many of these artists drew on their own alternative rock heroes from the 1980s and early 90s, including the folksy Tracy Chapman and various Riot Grrl bands. The use of introspective lyrics bled into other styles of rock, including those dubbed alternative.

The late 1990s brought about a wave of mergers and consolidations among US media companies and radio stations such as the Clear Channel Communications conglomerate. This has resulted in a homogenization of music available. Bands like Green Day and Blink 182 defined pop punk at the end of the 90s. At this time, "nu metal" began to take popular form, it contained a mix of grunge, metal, and hip-hop. Using downtuned 7 string guitars, KoRn first created their heavy crushing riffs in 1994 with their first self-titled album. This then helped spawn a wave of nu metal bands such as Linkin Park, Slipknot, Static-X, Disturbed, and Limp Bizkit.

Present day (2000-Present)

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.

After existing in the musical underground, garage rock saw a resurgence of popularity in the early 2000s, with bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, Jet, The Vines, and The Hives all releasing successful singles and albums. This wave is often referred to as back-to-basics rock because of its raw sound. Currently popular rock trends include pop-punk, often times wrongly referred to as emo which draws its style from softer punk and alternative rock styles from the 1980s. Many new bands have become well-known since 2001, including Jimmy Eat World, Hawthorne Heights, Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday; however, this subgenre has come to be frequently maligned by many rock enthusiasts. Additionally, the retro trend has led to the revitalization of dance-rock. Bands like Franz Ferdinand, Hot Hot Heat, The Killers and The Bravery mix post-punk sensibilities with electronic beats. The most recent pop-rock successes have been acts such as Fall Out Boy, Relient K, Simple Plan, and Good Charlotte.

The biggest factor that has contributed to the resurgence 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.

Meanwhile, "Top 40" music today is dependent on either synthesizer orchestration or sampling, prominent in such pop artists like Gwen Stefani, Ashlee Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, and Kelly Clarkson.

Rap/hip hop music dominates the US charts pop charts, with artists like 50 cent, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Nelly, Eminem and Jay Z selling millions of records since the turn of the millennium. R&B acts like Mariah Carey , Usher and Alicia Keys are very popular on the pop charts, although none of these acts, rap or R&B, sell as many albums as rock did. Nearly all of the best selling albums of all time are still rock.

In many other nations, such as the UK and Australia, rock figures much more prominently in album sales than in the US. Rap and hip hop, although popular in those nations, are not as dominant as in the USA. American Bands such as The White Stripes, The Killers and The Strokes have more success in the UK than in the USA, and British bands such as The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, Oasis, Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys are still the UK's biggest selling artists. Emo remains a marginal genre, although it is arguably growing in popularity in the UK.

Social impacts

The influence of rock and roll is far-reaching, and has had significant impact worldwide on fashion, film styles, and attitudes towards sex and sexuality and use of drugs and alcohol. This impact is broad enough that "rock and roll" may also be considered a life style in addition to a form of music.


  • The first record released in Britain to feature the words Rock and Roll was "Bloodnock's Rock And Roll Call", a 1956 record from The Goon Show.
  • There have been many songs with the title "Rock and Roll" from The Treniers in the 1950s to Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, and Gary Glitter in the 1970s as well as Rainbow and Rolling Stones. However, Trixie Smith is possibly the first artist to incorporate the words in the 1922 record "My Baby Rocks with One Steady Roll".

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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