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Rock music is a loosely defined genre of popular music that entered the mainstream in the mid 1950's. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rhythm and blues, country music and other influences. In addition, rock music drew on a number of other musical influences, including folk music, jazz, and classical music.

The sound of rock often revolves around the electric guitar or acoustic guitar, and it uses a strong back beat laid down by a rhythm section of electric bass guitar, drums, and keyboard instruments such as organ, piano, or, since the 1970s, synthesizers. Along with the guitar or keyboards, saxophone and blues-style harmonica are sometimes used as soloing instruments. In its "purest form", it "has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat, and a catchy melody."[1]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, rock music developed different subgenres. When it was blended with folk music it created folk rock, with blues to create blues rock and with jazz, to create jazz-rock fusion. 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 an electric 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, or horn sections of saxophones, trumpets or trombones.

1950s-early 1960sEdit

Rock and rollEdit



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.[2] 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.[2]

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[3]. 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, the electronic treatment of sound by such innovators as Joe Meek, and the Wall of Sound productions of Phil Spector. 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. The early 60's did see the rise of the Motown sound. From 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 top 10 hits, and artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Jackson 5, were all signed to Motown labels. All five of these Motown artists have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Early British Rock and the British InvasionEdit

Template:Main In the United Kingdom the trad jazz movement brought visiting blues music artists to Britain. 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 Quarrymen. 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 instrumentals. While rock 'n' roll was fading into lightweight pop and ballads, British rock groups at clubs and local dances, 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 beat 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.

British rock broke in the United States in January 1964 with the success of The Beatles. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the band's first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, starting the British Invasion of the American music charts. The song entered the chart on January 18 1964 at number 45 before it became the number one single for 7 weeks and went onto last a total of 15 weeks in the chart.[4] It also held the top spot in the United Kingdom charts. A million copies of the single had already been ordered on its release. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" became The Beatles' best-selling single worldwide.[5] Their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show February 9 is considered a milestone in American pop culture. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for an American television program. The Beatles went on to become the biggest selling rock band of all time and they were followed by numerous British bands.

In late 1964, The Kinks, The Who and The Pretty Things represented the new Mod style. The Rolling Stones broke in late 1964 as well. Their first international number-1 hit was "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", recorded in May 1965 during the band's third North American tour. Released as a US single in June 1965, it spent four weeks at the top of the charts there, and established the Stones as a worldwide premier act.[6] 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.

Garage rockEdit

Template:Expand Template:Main From the late 1950s, increasing numbers of groups were formed across the USA by young and enthusiastic musicians, often rehearsing in their parents' garages, performing at local dances and shows, and recording and releasing their own songs and covers, often on small local labels. By 1963, garage band singles were creeping into the national charts in greater numbers, including the Kingsmen (Portland), Paul Revere & The Raiders (Boise), the Trashmen (Minneapolis) and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana).

The British Invasion encouraged a further wave of imitators. Some music from this trend is included in the compilation album Nuggets. Some of the better known bands of this genre include The Sonics, Question Mark & the Mysterians, and The Standells.

Surf musicEdit

Template:Expand Template:Main 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 at the same time, popular instrumental 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".

Counterculture movement (1963–1974)Edit

Template:Main 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 rockEdit

Template:Main 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.

Inspired by the success of The Beatles to mix folk and rock, Roger McGuinn had already been playing Beatles songs acoustically in Los Angeles folk clubs when Gene Clark approached him to form an act.[7] 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 rockEdit



Psychedelic music's LSD-inspired vibe 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.

The psychedelic scene took off in 1967, with The Doors and Jefferson Airplane releasing drug-themed LPs and the Beatles releasing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Rolling Stones released Their Satanic Majesties Request. As the Summer of Love reached its peak, the Monterey Pop Festival featured Jefferson Airplane and introduced Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. The culmination of the socially unifying trend was the rock festivals such as Woodstock in 1969. The Paisley Underground bands of Los Angeles epitomized the role played by 1960s psychedelia and folk-rock in American New Wave.

Glam rockEdit

Template:Main Glam rock emerged out of the English Psychedelic and art rock scene of the late 1960s, defined by artists such as T. Rex, 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 Marc Bolan changed the band's name to T. Rex, releasing the number 1 UK single Ride A White Swan in December 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.

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 its 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 biggest 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, Johnny Rotten, Billy Corgan, Peter Murphy (whose 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 through bands such as Chainsaw Kittens.

Progressive rockEdit


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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, 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 pushed "rock's technical and compositional boundaries"[8] by going beyond the standard rock or popular verse-chorus-based song structures. Additionally, the arrangements often incorporated elements drawn from classical, jazz, and world music. Instrumentals were common, while songs with lyrics were sometimes conceptual, abstract, or based in fantasy. Progressive rock bands sometimes used "concept albums that made unified statements, usually telling an epic story or tackling a grand overarching theme."[8] Progressive rock came into most widespread use around the mid-1970s. Few bands achieved major mainstream success, but large cults followed many of the groups. Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Marillion, Rush, Jethro TullGenesis, 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.

With the advent of punk rock in the late 1970s, critical opinion in England moved toward a simpler and more aggressive style of rock, with progressive bands increasingly dismissed as pretentious and overblown, ending progressive rock's reign as one of the leading styles in rock.[9][10] This was part of a wider commercial turn in popular music in the second half of the 1970s, during which many funk or soul bands switched to disco, and smooth jazz gained popularity over jazz fusion.

However, established progressive bands still had a strong fan base; Rush, Genesis, ELP, Yes, Queen, and Pink Floyd all regularly scored Top Ten albums with massive accompanying tours, the largest yet for some of them. From 1976 to 1980, heavy metal pioneers Led Zeppelin would display a minor prog-influence on their Presence and In Through the Out Door albums.

By 1979, by which time punk had mutated into new wave music, Pink Floyd released their rock opera The Wall, one of the best selling albums in history. Many bands which emerged in the aftermath of punk, such as Siouxsie & the Banshees, Cabaret Voltaire, Ultravox, Simple Minds, and Wire, all showed the influence of prog, as well as their more usually recognised punk influences.[11]

Mid to late 1970sEdit

Hard rock and heavy metalEdit


Main article heavy metal and hard rock
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A second wave of British and American rock bands became popular during the early 1970s. Bands such as AC/DC, Grand Funk Railroad, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Status Quo, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Kiss and Uriah Heep played highly amplified, guitar-driven hard rock. The genre was marked with aggressive, hard driven sounds of overdriven electric guitars and an insistent 4/4 drumbeat. As the decade progressed, bands began incorporating different sounds into their music such as the use of synthesizers and using influences from progressive rock and disco in their records. Although it remained popular throughout the decade, music critics overwhelmingly disliked the hard rock 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, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax returned to the original metal scene.

Arena rockEdit



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."[12] 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."[13] Eventually, arena rock would lose its popularity to alternative rock and grunge for a number of reasons.[13] 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 music, 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."[13]

Punk rockEdit


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Punk rock developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States and the United Kingdom. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They created fast, hard-edged music, typically with short songs, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY (do it yourself) ethic, with many bands self-producing their recordings and distributing them through informal channels.

By late 1976, acts such as the Ramones and Patti Smith, in New York City, and the Sex Pistols and The Clash, in London, were recognized as the vanguard of a new musical movement. The following year saw punk rock spreading around the world. Punk quickly, though briefly, became a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom. For the most part, punk took root in local scenes that tended to reject association with the mainstream. An associated punk subculture emerged, expressing youthful rebellion and characterized by distinctive clothing styles and a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies.

By the beginning of the 1980s, faster, more aggressive styles such as hardcore and Oi! had become the predominant mode of punk rock. Musicians identifying with or inspired by punk also pursued a broad range of other variations, giving rise to post-punk and the alternative rock movement.

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 have a strong underground cult following. 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.

New WaveEdit

Template:Main 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 music 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 Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, 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 Blondie.


Template:Main Alongside New Wave, post-punk developed as an outgrowth of punk rock. In a way it 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.


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 working-class oriented 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 progressive 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 sounds of thrash metal attracted large underground audiences and a few bands, including Metallica and Megadeth, went on for mainstream success.

New Wave of British Heavy MetalEdit

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The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (frequently abbreviated as NWOBHM) was a heavy metal music movement that started in the late 1970s, in Britain, and achieved some international attention by the early 1980s. The era developed as a reaction in part to the decline of early heavy metal bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. NWOBHM bands toned down the blues influences of earlier acts, increased the tempos, and adopted a "tougher", harder-edged sound. The era is considered to be a main foundation for heavy metal sub-genres with acts such as Metallica citing NWOBHM bands like Diamond Head and Motörhead as a major influence on their musical style.[14]

The early movement was associated with acts such as: Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motörhead, Def Leppard, Angel Witch, Tygers of Pan Tang, Blitzkrieg, Avenger, Sweet Savage, Girlschool, Jaguar, Demon, Diamond Head, Samson and Tank, among others. The image of bands such as Saxon (long hair, denim jackets, leather and chains) would later become synonymous with heavy metal as a whole during the 1980s. Some bands, although conceived during this era, saw success on an underground scale, as was the case with Venom and Quartz.

Glam metalEdit


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Glam metal was popular in the 1980s. Combining a heavy metal musical style and a glam rock visual look influenced 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 and Quiet Riot. 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 and drugs. In 1987 a second wave of glam metal acts emerged including Warrant, L.A. Guns, Poison and Faster Pussycat. Although not a glam metal act, Guns 'N Roses emerged from this scene L.A. scene with strong commercial success. Guns N' Roses were formed by members of two popular Southern California glam metal bands; L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose.

Alternative rockEdit


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The term alternative rock was coined in the early 1980s to describe rock artists 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 1980s alternative movement included R.E.M., Jane's Addiction, Sonic Youth, The Smiths, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Pixies, Hüsker Dü, The Cure and countless others. Artists largely were confined to independent 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 1980s include jangle pop, Gothic Rock, college rock, and indie pop. 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 (early–mid 1990s)Edit



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By the early 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 trend, 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.[15] The developing genre came to be known as "grunge", a term meaning "dirt" or "filth".[15] 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.[15] 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.[15]

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 became a huge success thanks to the lead single "Smells Like Teen Spirit".[16] Nevermind was more melodic than its predecessors and was an instant sensation worldwide, but they refused to buy in to corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms. During 1991 and 1992, other grunge albums such as Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger and Alice in Chains' Dirt, along with the Temple of the Dog album featuring members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, became among the 100 top selling albums of 1992.[17] The popular breakthrough of these grunge bands prompted Rolling Stone to nickname Seattle "the new Liverpool."[18] 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.[19]

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.



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While the American mainstream was focused on grunge, post-grunge, and hip hop, numerous British groups launched a 1960s revival in the mid-1990s, often called Britpop, with bands such as Oasis, Suede, 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.

Britpop's popularity in America was short, with the exception of Oasis, whose second album sold 19 million copies worldwide, but the movement slowed down after numerous band breakups and publicity disasters weakened popular support in the US. The Verve disbanded after on-going turmoil in the band between singer Richard Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe, and Radiohead has since gone in a more experimental, less radio-friendly direction.

Indie rockEdit

Template:Main By the mid-1990s, 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.

Hybrid genres (mid-late 1990s)Edit

Pop punkEdit

Template:Main One result of the 1970s punk explosion was pop punk. Championed by bands such as 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. In the 2000s, pop punk is used to describe modern rock bands with a heavy pop influence such as Green Day and The Offspring 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.


Template:Main In the wake of Nirvana singer Kurt 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, Creed, Candlebox, Collective Soul, Everclear and Live helped cement post-grunge as one of the most commercially viable sub-genres of the late 1990s. 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 rockEdit

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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 the turntable scratching of rap and with the distorted guitars of metal-oriented rock. 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.

Through the turn of the century, more bands broke out like Papa Roach whose major label debut Infest became a platinum hit. Other bands like P.O.D and Disturbed also had mainstream success. By 2001 nu metal reached its peak as record labels signed many nu metal bands. Though new bands were breaking out, established bands who started the genre had massive successful hit albums like Staind (Break the Cycle), P.O.D (Satellite), Slipknot (Iowa), and Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory), which was the year's top selling album.

By 2002, signs that nu metal's mainstream popularity was weakening were apparent. Korn's long awaited fifth album Untouchables and Papa Roach's second album Lovehatetragedy didn't sell as well as their previous albums. Nu metal bands became less played on rock radio stations and MTV began focusing less on these bands and more on pop punk/Emo bands. Since then, many bands have changed their sound to more conventional Rock music/Heavy metal music.

Internet influence and decline in popularity (early-mid 2000s)Edit

In the early 2000s the entire music industry was shaken by claims of massive piracy using online music file-sharing software 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.

The biggest factor that affected the production and distribution of rock music was the rise of paid digital downloads in the 2000s. During the 1990s, 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.Template:Clarify me



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In the mid-1980s, the term emo described a subgenre of hardcore punk which stemmed from the Washington, D.C. music scene. In later years, the term emocore, short for "emotional hardcore", was also used to describe the emotional performances of bands in the Washington, D.C. scene and some of the offshoot regional scenes such as Rites of Spring, Embrace or Moss Icon. In the mid-1990s, the term emo began to refer to the indie scene that followed the influences of Fugazi, which itself was an offshoot of the first wave of emo. Bands including Sunny Day Real Estate, Jimmy Eat World, Far and Texas Is the Reason had a more indie rock style of emo, more melodic and less chaotic.

While Jimmy Eat World had played emocore-style music early in their career, by the time of the release of their 2001 album Bleed American, the band had downplayed its emo influences, releasing more pop-oriented singles such as "The Middle" and "Sweetness". Newer bands that sounded like Jimmy Eat World (and, in some cases, like the more melodic emo bands of the late 90s) were soon included in the genre.[20]

2003 saw the success of Chris Carrabba, the former singer of emo band Further Seems Forever, and his project Dashboard Confessional. Carraba found himself part of the emerging "popular" emo scene. Carrabba's music featured lyrics founded in deep diary-like outpourings of emotion. While certainly emotional, the new "emo" had a far greater appeal amongst adolescents than its earlier incarnations.[21]

At the same time, use of the term "emo" expanded beyond the musical genre, which added to the confusion surrounding the term. The word "emo" became associated with open displays of strong emotion. Common fashion styles and attitudes that were becoming idiomatic of fans of similar "emo" bands also began to be referred to as "emo." As a result, bands that were loosely associated with "emo" trends or simply demonstrated emotion began to be referred to as emo.[22]

In a strange twist, screamo, a more aggressive sub-genre of emo that began in the early 1990s, also had a reformulation of sound and has found greater popularity in recent years through bands such as Glassjaw.[23]The difficulty in defining "emo" as a genre may have started at the very beginning. [24]

Garage rock revivalEdit

Template:Expand Template:Main After existing in the musical underground in the 1960s, the raw, stripped-down sounds of garage rock saw a resurgence of popularity with a resurgence of interest in the garage rock revival. Bands like The White Stripes, Jet, The Strokes, The Vines, The Libertines, Kings of Leon, 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. Popular bands that fall under garage rock revival are Wolfmother, The Raconteurs, Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Broken Social Scene, My Morning Jacket.

Post-punk revivalEdit

Template:Expand Template:Main 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.

Originally, the term "post-punk" was coined to describe those groups which in the late seventies and early eighties took punk and started to experiment with more challenging musical structures, lyrical themes, and a self-consciously art-based image, while retaining punk's initial iconoclastic stance, such as Public Image Ltd.,  Gang of Four, and Joy Division. At the turn of the century, the term "post-punk" began to appear in the music press again, with a number of critics reviving the label to describe a new set of bands that shared some of the aesthetics of the original post-punk era. The Rapture, Interpol, The Killers, and Franz Ferdinand were the first commercially successful projects to revive media interest in the movement.[25]. This second wave of post-punk incorporates elements of dance music and genres that are part of the dance punk movement in much the same way that the original post-punk movement was influenced by the Krautrock, Dub, and Disco music of the 1970s. Music critic Simon Reynolds notes that these bands generally draw influence from the more angular strain of post-punk bands such as Wire and Gang of Four.[26]

Metalcore and contemporary heavy metalEdit

Template:Main Template:Main Metalcore, an originally American hybrid of thrash metal and hardcore punk,[27] emerged as a commercial force in the mid-2000s. It is rooted in the crossover thrash style developed two decades earlier by bands such as Suicidal Tendencies, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and Stormtroopers of Death.[28] Through the 1990s, metalcore was mostly an underground phenomenon. By 2004, melodic metalcore—influenced as well by melodic death metal—was popular enough that Killswitch Engage's The End of Heartache and Shadows Fall's The War Within debuted at numbers 21 and 20, respectively, on the Billboard album chart.[29] Bullet for My Valentine, from Wales, broke into the top 5 in both the U.S. and British charts with Scream Aim Fire (2008). In recent years, metalcore bands have received prominent slots at Ozzfest and the Download Festival. Lamb of God, with a related blend of metal styles, hit the Billboard top 10 in 2006 with Sacrament. The success of these bands and others such as Trivium, which has released both metalcore and straight-ahead thrash albums, and Mastodon, which plays in a progressive/sludge style, has inspired claims of a metal revival in the United States, dubbed by some critics the "New Wave of American Heavy Metal."[30]

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The term "retro-metal" has been applied to such bands as England's The Darkness[31] and Australia's Wolfmother.[32] The Darkness's Permission to Land (2003), described as an "eerily realistic simulation of '80s metal and '70s glam,"[31] topped the UK charts, going quintuple platinum. One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back (2005) reached number 11.[33] Wolfmother's self-titled 2005 debut album had "Deep Purple-ish organs," "Jimmy Page-worthy chordal riffing," and lead singer Andrew Stockdale howling "notes that Robert Plant can't reach anymore."[32] "Woman," a track from the album, won for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Slayer's "Eyes of the Insane" won for Best Metal Performance in 2007; their "Final Six" won the same award in 2008.[34]

In continental Europe, especially Germany and Scandinavia, metal continues to be broadly popular. Well-established British acts such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden continue to have chart success on the continent, as do a range of local groups. In Germany, Western Europe's largest music market, several continental metal bands placed multiple albums in the top 20 of the charts between 2003 and 2008, including Finnish melodic death metal band Children of Bodom, Norwegian symphonic extreme metal act Dimmu Borgir, and two power metal groups, Germany's Blind Guardian and Sweden's HammerFall.[35] The Swedish melodic death metal act In Flames took both Come Clarity (2006) and A Sense of Purpose (2008) to number 6 in Germany;[35] each album topped the Swedish charts.[36]

Return to popularity (late 2000s)Edit

Electronic rockEdit



As computer technology has become more accessible and music software had advanced, interacting with music production technology became possible using means that bear no relationship to traditional musical performance practices:[37] for instance, laptop performance (laptronica)[38] and live coding.[39] Electronic rock bands like MGMT and TV On The Radio have recently begun to eclipse the popularity of analog rock music. Template:Fact

In the last decade a number of software-based virtual studio environments have emerged, with products such as Propellerhead's Reason and Ableton Live finding popular appeal.[40] Such tools provide viable and cost-effective alternatives to typical hardware-based production studios, and thanks to advances in microprocessor technology, it became possible to create high quality music using little more than a single laptop computer. Such advances have, for better or for worse, democratized music creation,[41] leading to a massive increase in the amount of home-produced electronic music available to the general public via the internet.

The industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails album "Year Zero" utilized a heavily edited and distorted guitar sound modified via laptop computer. Allmusic's review described the album's laptop-mixed sound: "guitars squall against glitches, beeps, pops, and blotches of blurry sonic attacks. Percussion looms large, distorted, organic, looped, screwed, spindled and broken."[42] The French electronic duo Justice's album incorporates a strong rock and metal influence into their music and image. Canadian band Crystal Castles incorporates elements of chiptune and punk rock vocals. Icelandic singer Bjork's song "Declare Independence" from her album Volta featured a heavily modified synth bass guitar sound and strong rock feel. Canadian artist Peaches and various aspects of the Electroclash genre often reflect a strong Rock sensibility. New York's Ratatat is often cited as achieving an "electronic rock" sound.

Social impactsEdit

Template:Main The influence of rock music 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. 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 music celebrities and rock stars receive.

See alsoEdit




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