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Rock music is a genre of popular music that entered the mainstream in the 1960s. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country music and also drew on folk music, jazz and classical music.

The sound of rock often revolves around the guitar 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."

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 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 or a keyboardist. More rarely, groups also utilize stringed instruments such as violins or cellos, woodwind instruments such as saxophones, and brass instruments such as trumpets or trombones.

More recently the term rock has been used as a blanket term including forms such as pop music, soul music, and sometimes even hip hop, with which it has often been contrasted through much of its history.

1950s-early 1960s

Rock and roll

Rock and roll originated in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to much of 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. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohiomarker disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues music for a multi-racial audience, and is credited with first using the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the music.

There is much debate as to what should be considered the first rock and 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 " (1954), Elvis Presley's first single for Sun Records in Memphismarker, was the first rock and roll record., 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. Soon rock and roll was the major force in American record sales and crooners, such as Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and Patti Page, who had dominated the previous decade of popular music, found their access to the pop charts significantly curtailed.

Rock and roll has been seen as leading to a number of distinct sub-genres, including rockabilly, combining rock and roll with "hillbilly" country music, which was usually played and recorded in the mid-1950s by white singers such as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and with the greatest commercial success, Elvis Presley. In contrast doo wop placed an emphasis on multi-part vocal harmonies and meaningless backing lyrics (from which the genre later gained its name), which were usually supported with light instrumentation and had its origins in 1930s and 40s African American vocal groups. Acts like The Crows, The Penguins, The El Dorados and The Turbans all scored major hits, and groups like The Platters, with songs including "The Great Pretender" (1955), and The Coasters with humorous songs like "Yakety Yak" (1958), ranked among the most successful rock and roll acts of the period. The era also 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.

In the United Kingdom, the trad jazz and folk movements 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, many of which, including John Lennon's The Quarrymen, moved on to play rock and roll.

Commentators have traditionally perceived a decline of rock and roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By 1959, the death of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens in a plane crash, the departure of Elvis for the army, the retirement of Little Richard to become a preacher, prosecutions of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry and the breaking of the payola scandal (which implicated major figures, including Alan Freed, in bribery and corruption in promoting individual acts or songs), gave a sense that the initial rock and roll era had come to an end.

The "inbetween years"

The period of the later 1950s and early 1960s, between the end of the initial period of innovation and what became known in the USA as the "British Invasion", has traditionally been seen as an era of hiatus for rock and roll. More recently a number of authors have emphasised important innovations and trends in this period without which future developments would not have been possible. While early rock and roll, particularly through the advent of rockabilly, saw the greatest commercial success for male and white performers, in this era the genre was dominated by black and female artists. Rock and roll had not disappeared at the end of the 1950s and some of its energy can be seen in the Twist dance craze of the early 60s, mainly benefiting the career of Chubby Checker. Having died down in the late 1950s, Doo Wop enjoyed a revival in the same period, with hits for acts like The Marcels, The Capris, Maurice Williams and Shep and the Limelights. The rise of girl groups like The Chantels, The Shirelles and The Crystals placed an emphasis on harmonies and polished production that was in contrast to earlier rock and roll. Some of the most significant girl group hits were products of the Brill Buildingmarker Sound, named after the block in New York where many songwriters were based, which included the number 1 hit for the Shirelles "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in 1960, penned by the partnership of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

Cliff Richard had the first British rock and 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 the most successful of a number of groups recording 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.

Also significant was the advent of soul music as a major commercial force. Developing out of Rhythm and Blues with a re-injection of gospel music and pop, led by pioneers like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke from the mid-1950s, by the early 60s figures like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder were dominating the R&B charts and breaking through into the main pop charts, helping to accelerate their desegregation, while Motown and Stax/Volt Records were becoming major forces in the record industry. All of these elements, including the close harmonies of doo wop and girl groups, the carefully crafted song-writing of the Brill Building Sound and the polished production values of soul, have been seen as influencing the Merseybeat sound, particularly the early work of The Beatles, and through them the form of later rock music. Some historians of music have also pointed to important and innovative technical developments that built on rock and roll in this period, including the electronic treatment of sound by such innovators as Joe Meek, and the elaborate production methods of the Wall of Sound pursued by Phil Spector.

Surf music

The instrumental rock and roll pioneered by performers such as Duane Eddy, Link Wray, and The Ventures was developed by Dick Dale who added distinctive "wet" reverb, rapid alternate picking, as well as Middle Eastern and Mexican influences, producing the regional hit "Let's Go Trippin'" in 1961 and launching the surf music craze. Like Dale and his Del-Tones, most early surf bands were formed in Southern California, including the Bel-Airs, the Challengers, and Eddie & the Showmen. The Chantays scored a top ten national hit with "Pipeline" in 1963 and probably the single most famous surf tune hit was 1963's "Wipe Out", by the Surfaris, which hit # 2 and # 10 on the Billboard charts in 1965.

growing popularity of the genre led groups from other areas to try their hand. These included The Astronauts, from Boulder, Coloradomarker, The Trashmen, from Minneapolis, Minnesotamarker, who had a number 4 hit with "Surfin Bird" in 1964 and The Rivieras from South Bend, Indianamarker, who reached #5 in 1964 with "California Sun". The Atlantics, from Sydney, Australiamarker, made a significant contribution to the genre, with their hit "Bombora" (1963). European instrumental bands around this time generally focused more on the more rock and roll style played by The Shadows, but The Dakotasmarker, who were the British backing band for Merseybeat singer Billy J. Kramer, gained some attention as surf musicians with "Cruel Sea" (1963), which was later covered by American instrumental surf bands, including The Ventures.

Surf music achieved its greatest commercial success as vocal music, particularly the work of the Beach Boys, formed in 1961 in Southern California. Their early albums included both instrumental surf rock (among them covers of music by Dick Dale) and vocal songs, drawing on rock and roll and doo wop and the close harmonies of vocal pop acts like the Four Freshmen. Their first chart hit, "Surfin'" in 1962 reached the Billboard top 100 and helped make the surf music craze a national phenomenon. From 1963 the group began to leave surfing behind as subject matter as Brian Wilson became their major composer and producer, moving on to the more general themes of male adolescence including cars and girl in songs like "Fun, Fun, Fun" (1964) and "California Girls" (1965). Other vocal surf acts followed, including one-hit wonders like Ronny & the Daytonas with "G. T. O." (1964) and Rip Chords with "Hey Little Cobra", which both reached the top ten, but the only other act to achieve sustained success with the formula were Jan & Dean, who had a number 1 hit with "Surf City" (co-written with Brian Wilson) in 1963. The surf music craze and the careers of almost all surf acts, was effectively ended by the arrival of the British Invasion from 1964. Only the Beach Boys were able to sustain a creative career into the mid-1960s, producing a string of hit singles and albums, including the highly regarded Pet Sounds in 1966, which made them, arguably, the only American rock or pop act that could rival The Beatles.

Golden age (1963–1974)

The British Invasion

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 bands like The Animals and The Yardbirds. During 1963, The Beatles and other beat groups, such as The Searchers and The Hollies, achieved great popularity and commercial success in Britain.

British rock broke through to mainstream popularity 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. It also held the top spot in the United Kingdommarker 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. 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.

During the next two years, Chad & Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits, The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, and Donovan would have one or more number one singles. Other acts that were part of the invasion included The Kinks and The Dave Clark Five. British Invasion acts also dominated the music charts at home in the United Kingdom.

The British Invasion helped make internationalize the production of rock and roll, opening the door for subsequent British (and Irish) performers to achieve international success. In America it arguably spelled the end of instrumental surf music, vocal girl groups and (for a time) the teen idols, that had dominated the American charts in the late 1950s and 60s. It dented the careers of established R&B acts like Fats Domino and Chubby Checker and even temporarily derailed the chart success of surviving rock and roll acts, including Elvis. The British Invasion also played a major part in the rise of a distinct genre of rock music, and cemented the primacy of the rock group, based around guitars and drums and producing their own material as singer-songwriters.

Garage rock

Garage rock was a form of amateurish rock music, particularly prevalent in North America in the mid-1960s and so called because of the perception that it was rehearsed in a suburban family garage. Garage rock songs revolved around the traumas of high school life, with songs about "lying girls" being particularly common. The lyrics and delivery were notably more aggressive than was common at the time, often with growled or shouted vocals that dissolved into incoherent screaming. They ranged from crude one-chord music (like the Seeds) to near-studio musician quality (including the Knickerbockers, the Remains, and the Fifth Estate). There were also regional variations in many parts of the country with flourishing scenes particularly in California and Texas. The Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon had perhaps the most defined regional sound.

The style had been evolving from regional scenes as early as 1958. "Tall Cool One" (1959) by The Wailers and "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen (1963) are mainstream examples of the genre in its formative stages. By 1963, garage band singles were creeping into the national charts in greater numbers, including Paul Revere and the Raiders (Boise), the Trashmen (Minneapolis) and the Rivieras (South Bend, Indiana). Other influential garage bands, such as the Sonics (Tacoma, Washington), never reached the Billboard 100. In this early period many bands were heavily influenced by surf rock and there was a cross-pollination between garage rock and frat rock, sometimes viewed as merely a sub-genre of garage rock.

The British Invasion of 1964-66 greatly influenced garage bands, providing them with a national audience, leading many (often surf or hot rod groups) to adopt a British Invasion lilt, and encouraging many more groups to form. Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada during the era and hundreds produced regional hits. Examples include: "I Just Don't Care" by New York City's The D-Men (1965), "The Witch" by Tacoma's The Sonics (1965), "Where You Gonna Go" by Detroit's Unrelated Segments (1967), "Girl I Got News for You" by Miami's Birdwatchers (1966) and "1-2-5" by Montreal's The Haunted. Despite scores of bands being signed to major or large regional labels, most were commercial failures. It is generally agreed that garage rock peaked both commercially and artistically around 1966. By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts and at the local level as amateur musicians faced college, work or the draft. New styles had evolved to replace garage rock (including blues-rock, progressive rock and country rock). In Detroit garage rock stayed alive until the early 70s, with bands like the MC5 and The Stooges, who employed a much more aggressive style. These bands began to be labelled punk rock and are now often seen as proto-punk or proto-hard rock.

Pop rock

The term pop has been used since the early twentieth century to refer to popular music in general, but from the mid-1950s it began to be used for a distinct genre, aimed at a youth market, often characterized as a softer alternative to rock and roll. In the aftermath of the British Invasion, from about 1967, it was increasingly used in opposition to the term rock music, to describe a form that was more commercial, ephemeral and accessible. In contrast rock music was seen as focusing on extended works, particularly albums, was often associated with particular sub-cultures (like the counter-culture), placed an emphasis on artistic values and "authenticity", stressed live performance and instrumental or vocal virtuosity and was often seen as encapsulating progressive developments rather than simply reflecting existing trends.

Nevertheless much pop and rock music has been very similar in sound, instrumentation and even lyrical content. The terms "pop-rock" and "power pop" have been used to describe more commercially successful music that uses elements from, or the form of, rock music. Pop-rock has been defined as an "upbeat variety of rock music represented by artists such as Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Everly Brothers, Rod Stewart, Chicago, and Peter Frampton." In contrast, music reviewer George Starostin defines it as a subgenre of pop music that uses catchy pop songs that are mostly guitar-based. Starostin argues that most of what is traditionally called "power pop" (a term coined by Pete Townshend of The Who in 1966, but not much used until it was applied to bands like Badfinger in the 1970s), falls into the pop rock subgenre and that the lyrical content of pop rock is "normally secondary to the music." Throughout its history there have been rock acts that have used elements of pop, and pop artists who have used rock music as a basis for their work, or striven for rock "authenticity".


Although the first impact of the British Invasion on American popular music was through beat and R&B based acts, the impetus was soon taken up by a second wave of bands that drew their inspiration more directly from American blues, including the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. British blues musicians of the late 1950s and early 60s had been inspired by the acoustic playing of figures such as Lead Belly, who was a major influence on the Skiffle craze, and Robert Johnson. Increasingly they adopted a loud amplified sound, often centred around the electric guitar, based on the Chicago blues, particularly after the tour of Britain by Muddy Waters in 1958, which prompted Cyril Davies and guitarist Alexis Korner to form the band Blues Incorporated. The band involved and inspired many of the figures of the subsequent British blues boom, including members of the Rolling Stones and Cream, combining blues standards and forms with rock instrumentation and emphasis.

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Eric Clapton Performing in Barcelona, 1974
The other key focus for British blues was around John Mayall who formed the Bluesbreakers, whose members included Eric Clapton (after his departure from The Yardbirds) and later Peter Green. Particularly significant was the release of Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (Beano) album (1966), considered one of the seminal British blues recordings and the sound of which was much emulated in both Britain and the United States. Eric Clapton went on to form supergroups Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos, followed by an extensive solo career that has been seminal in bringing blues-rock into the mainstream. Green, along with the Bluesbreaker's rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, formed Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, who enjoyed some of the greatest commercial success in the genre. In the late '60s Jeff Beck, also an alumnus of the Yardbirds, moved blues-rock in the direction of heavy rock with his band, The Jeff Beck Group. The last Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page went on to form The New Yardbirds which rapidly became Led Zeppelin, whose early work was largely based around adaptations of blues standards. Many of the song on their first three albums and occasionally later in their careers, were expansions on traditional blues songs.

In American blues-rock had been pioneered in the early 1960s by guitarist Lonnie Mack, but the genre began to take off in the mid-60s as acts followed developed a sound similar to British blues musicians. Key acts included Paul Butterfield (whose band acted like Mayall's Bluesbreakers in Britain as a starting point for many successful musicians), Canned Heat, the early Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, The J. Geils Band and Jimi Hendrix with his power trios, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, whose guitar virtuosity and showmanship would be among the most emulated of the decade. Blues-rock bands like Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and eventually ZZ Top from the southern states, incorporated country elements into their style to produce distinctive Southern rock.

Early blues-rock bands often emulated jazz, playing long, involved improvisations which would later be a major element of progressive rock. From about 1967 bands like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience had begun to move away from purely blues-based music into psychedelia. By the 1970s blues-rock had become heavier and more riff-based, exemplified by the work of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and the lines between blues-rock and hard rock "were barely visible", as bands began recording rock-style albums."Blues-rock," (Accessed September 29, 2006), /> The genre was continued in the 1970s by figures such as George Thorogood and Pat Travers, but, particularly on the British scene (except perhaps for the advent of groups such as Status Quo and Foghat who moved towards a form of high energy and repetitive boogie rock), bands became focused on heavy metal innovation, and blues-rock began to slip out of the mainstream.

Folk rock

By the 1960s, the scene that had developed out of the American folk music revival had grown to a major movement, utilising traditional music and new compositions in a traditional style, usually on acoustic instruments. In America the genre was pioneered by figures such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and often identified with progressive or labor politics. In the early sixties figures such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan had came to the fore in this movement as singer-songwriters. Dylan had begun to reach a mainstream audience with hits including "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "Masters of War" (1963), which brought "protest songs" to a wider public, but, although beginning to influence each other, rock and folk music had remained largely separate genres, often with mutually exclusive audiences.

Early attempts to combine elements of folk and rock included the Animals "House of the Rising Sun" (1964), which was the first commercially successful folk song to be recorded with rock and roll instrumentation and the Beatles "I'm a Loser" (1965), arguably the first Beatles song to be influenced directly by Dylan. The folk rock movement is usually thought to have taken off with The Byrds' recording of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" which topped the charts in 1965. With members who had been part of the cafe-based folk scene in Los Angeles, the Byrds adopted rock instrumentation, including drums and 12-string Rickenbacker guitars, which became an major element in the sound of the genre. Later that year Dylan adopted electric instruments, much to the outrage of many folk purists, with his "Like a Rolling Stone" becoming a US hit single. Folk rock particularly took off in California, where it led acts like The Mamas & the Papas and Crosby, Stills and Nash to move to electric instrumentation and in New York, where it spawned performers including The Lovin' Spoonful and Simon and Garfunkel, with the latter's acoustic "Sound of Silence" being remixed with rock instruments to be the first of many hits.

These acts directly influenced British performers like Donovan and Fairport Convention. In 1969 Fairport Convention abandoned their mixture of American covers and Dylan-influenced songs to play traditional English folk music on electric instruments. This electric folk was taken up by bands including Pentangle, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band, which turn prompted Irish groups like Horslips and Scottish acts like the JSD Band, Spencer's Feat and later Five Hand Reel, to use their traditional music to create a brand of Celtic rock in the early 1970s.

Folk rock reached its peak of commercial popularity in the period 1967-8, before many acts moved off in a variety of directions, including Dylan and the Byrds, who began to develop country rock. However, the hybridization of folk and rock has been seen as having a major influence on the development of rock music, bringing in elements of psychedelia, and helping to develop the ideas of the singer-songwriter, the protest song and concepts of "authenticity".

Psychedelic rock

Psychedelic music's LSD-inspired vibe began in the folk scene, with the New York-based Holy Modal Rounders using the term in their 1964 recording of "Hesitation Blues". The first group advertise themselves as psychedelic rock were the 13th Floor Elevators from Texas, at the end of 1965; producing an album that made their direction clear, with The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators the following year. The Beatles introduced many of the major elements of the psychedelic sound to audiences in this period, with "I Feel Fine" using guitar feedback; in late 1965 the Rubber Soul album included the use of a sitar on "Norwegian Wood" and they employed backmasking on their 1966 single B-side "Rain" and other tracks that appeared on their Revolver album later that year.

rock particularly took off in California's emerging music scene as groups followed the Byrds from folk to folk rock from 1965. The psychedelic life style had already developed in San Francisco and particularly prominent products of the scene were The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, The Great Society and Jefferson Airplane. The Byrds rapidly progressed from purely folk rock in 1966 with their single "Eight Miles High", widely taken to be a reference to drug use. In Britain arguably the most influential band in the genre were The Yardbirds, who, with Jeff Beck as their guitarist, increasingly moved into psychedelic territory, adding up-tempo improvised "rave ups", Gregorian chant and world music influences to songs including "Still I'm Sad" (1965) and "Over Under Sideways Down" (1966). From 1966 the UK underground scene based in North London, supported new acts including Pink Floyd, Traffic and Soft Machine. The same year saw Donovan's folk-influenced hit album Sunshine Superman, considered one of the first psychedelic pop records, as well as the débuts of blues rock bands Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, whose extended guitar-heavy jams became a key feature of psychedelia.

Psychedelic rock reached its apogee in the last years of the decade. 1967 saw the Beatles release their definitive psychedelic statement in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, including the controversial track "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and the Rolling Stones responded later that year with Their Satanic Majesties Request. Pink Floyd produced what is usually seen as their best psychedelic work The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. In America the Summer of Love was prefaced by the Human Be-In event and reached its peak at the Monterey Pop Festivalmarker, the later helping to make major American stars of Jimi Hendrix and The Who, whose single "I Can See for Miles" delved into psychedelic territory. Key recordings included Jefferson Airplaine's Surrealistic Pillow and The Doors' Strange Days. These trends climaxed in the 1969 Woodstock festivalmarker, which saw performances by most of the major psychedelic acts, but by the end of the decade psychedelic rock was in retreat. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd were early casualties, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream broke up before the end of the decade and many surviving acts, particularly those from Britain, moved away from psychedelia into either more back-to-basics "roots rock", the wider experimentation of progressive rock, or riff laden heavy rock.

Roots rock

Roots rock is the term now used to describe a move away from the excesses of the psychedelic scene, back to a more more basic form of rock and roll that incorporated its original influences, particularly country and folk music, leading to the creation of country rock and Southern rock. In 1966 Bob Dylan spearheaded the movement when he went to Nashville to record the album Blonde on Blonde. This, and subsequent more clearly country-influenced albums, have been seen as creating the genre of country folk, a route pursued by a number of, largely acoustic, folk musicians. Other acts that followed the back-to-basics trend were the Canadian group The Band and the Californian-based Creedence Clearwater Revival, both of which mixed basic rock and roll with folk, country and blues, to be among the most successful and influential bands of the late 1960s. The same movement saw the beginning of the recording careers of Californian solo artists like Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George, and influenced the work of established performers such as the Rolling Stones' Beggar's Banquet (1968) and the Beatles' Let it Be (1970).

In 1968 Gram Parsons recorded Safe at Home with the International Submarine Band, arguably the first true country-rock album.V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, All music guide to rock: the definitive guide to rock, pop, and soul (Backbeat Books, 3rd edn., 2002), p. 1327. Later that year he joined the Byrds for Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968), generally considered one of the most influential recordings in the genre. The Byrds continued in the same vein, but Parsons left to be joined by another ex-Byrds member Chris Hillman in forming The Flying Burrito Brothers who helped establish the respectability and parameters of the genre, before Parsons departed to pursue a solo career. Country rock was particularly popular in the Californian music scene, where it was adopted by bands including Hearts and Flowers, Poco and Riders of the Purple Sage, the Beau Brummels and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. A number of performers also enjoyed a renaissance by adopting country sounds, including: the Everly Brothers; one-time teen idol Rick Nelson who became the frontman for the Stone Canyon Band; former Monkee Mike Nesmith who formed the First National Band; and Neil Young. The Dillards were, unusually, a country act, who moved towards rock music. The greatest commercial success for country rock came in the 1970s, with artist including the Doobie Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles (made up of members of the Burritos, Pocos and Stone Canyon Band), who emerged as one of the most successful rock acts of all time, producing albums that included Hotel California (1976).

The founders of Southern rock are usually thought to be the Allman Brothers Band, who developed a distinctive sound, largely derived from blues rock, but incorporating elements of boogie, soul, and country in the early 1970s. The most successful act to follow them were Lynyrd Skynyrd, who helped establish the "Good ol' boy" image of the sub-genre and the general shape of 1970s guitar rock. Their successors included the Dixie Dregs, the more country-influenced Outlaws, jazz-leaning Wet Willie and (incorporating elements of R&B and gospel) the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. After the loss of original members of the Allmans and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the genre began to fade in popularity in the late 1970s, but was sustained the 1980s with acts like .38 Special, Molly Hatchet and The Marshall Tucker Band.

Progressive rock

Progressive rock, sometimes used interchangeably with art rock, was an attempt to move beyond established musical formulas by experimenting with different instruments, song types, and forms. From the mid-1960s The Left Banke, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys, had pioneered the inclusion of harpsichords, wind and string sections on their recordings to produce a form of Baroque rock and can be heard in singles like Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967), with its Bach inspired introduction. The Moody Blues used a full orchestra on their album Days of Future Passed (1967) and subsequently created orchestral sounds with synthesisers. Classical orchestration, keyboards and synthesisers were a frequent edition to the established rock format of guitars, bass and drums in subsequent progressive rock. Instrumentals were common, while songs with lyrics were sometimes conceptual, abstract, or based in fantasy and science fiction. The Pretty Things' SF Sorrow (1968) and The Who's Tommy (1969) introduced the format of rock operas and opened the door to "concept albums, usually telling an epic story or tackling a grand overarching theme." King Crimson's 1969 début album, In the Court of the Crimson King, which mixed powerful guitar riffs and mellotron, with jazz and symphonic music, is often taken as the key recording in progressive rock, helping the widespread adoption of the genre in the early 1970s among existing blues-rock and psychedelic bands, as well as newly formed acts.

The vibrant Canterbury scene saw a number of acts following Soft Machine from psychedelia, through jazz influences, toward more expansive hard rock, including Caravan, Hatfield and the North, Gong, and National Health. Greater commercial success was enjoyed by Pink Floyd, who also moved away from psychedelia after the departure of Syd Barrett in 1968, with Dark Side of the Moon (1973), seen as a masterpiece of the genre, becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. There was an emphasis on instrumental virtuosity, with Yes showcasing the skills of both guitarist Steve Howe and keyboard player Rick Wakeman, while Emerson, Lake & Palmer were a supergroup who produced some of the genre's most technically demanding work. Jethro Tull and Genesis both pursued very different, but distinctly English, brands of music. Most British bands depended on a relatively small cult following, but a handful, including Pink Floyd, Genesis and Jethro Tull, managed to produce top ten singles at home and break the American market.

The American brand of prog rock varied from the eclectic and innovative Frank Zappa,Ethan Sunder, Captain Beefheart and Blood, Sweat and Tears, to more pop rock orientated bands like Boston, Foreigner, Kansas, Journey and Styx. These, beside British bands Supertramp and ELO, all demonstrated a prog rock influence and while ranking among the most commercially successful acts of the 1970s, issuing in the era of pomp or arena rock, which would last until the costs of complex shows (often with theatrical staging and special effects), would be replaced by more economical rock festivals as major live venues in the 1990s.

The instrumental strand of the genre resulted in albums like Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (1973), the first record, and worldwide hit, for the Virgin Records label, which became a mainstay of the genre. Instrumental rock was particularly significant in continental Europe, allowing bands like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can and Faust to circumvent the language barrier. Their synthesiser-heavy "Kraut rock", along with the work of Brian Eno (for a time the keyboard player with Roxy Music), would be a major influence on subsequent synth rock,

With the advent of punk rock and technological changes in the late 1970s, progressive rock was increasingly dismissed as pretentious and overblown. Many bands broke up, but some, including Genesis, ELP, Yes, and Pink Floyd, regularly scored top ten albums with successful accompanying worldwide tours. Some bands which emerged in the aftermath of punk, such as Siouxsie & the Banshees, Ultravox and Simple Minds, showed the influence of prog, as well as their more usually recognised punk influences.

Glam rock

Glam rock emerged out of the English psychedelic and art rock scenes of the late 1960s and can be seen as both an extension of, and reaction against, those trends. Musically it was very diverse, varying between the simple rock and roll revivalism of figures like Alvin Stardust to the complex art rock of Roxy Music, and can be seen as much as a fashion as a musical sub-genre.R. Shuker, Popular Music: the Key Concepts (Routledge, 2nd edn., 2005), pp. 124-5. Visually it was a mesh of various styles, ranging from 1930s Hollywoodmarker glamor, through 1950s pin-up sex appeal, pre-war Cabaret theatrics, Victorian literary and symbolist styles, science fiction, to ancient and occult mysticism and mythology; manifesting itself in outrageous clothes, makeup, hairstyles, and platform-soled boots. Glam is most noted for its sexual and gender ambiguity and representations of androgyny, beside extensive use of theatrics. It was prefigured by the showmanship and gender identity manipulation of American acts such as The Cockettes and Alice Cooper.

The origins of glam rock are associated with Marc Bolan, who had renamed his folk duo to T. Rex and taken up electric instruments by the end of the 1960s. Often cited as the moment of inception is his appearance on the UK TV programme Top of the Pops in December 1970 wearing glitter, to perform what would be his first number one single "Ride a White Swan". From 1971, already a minor star, David Bowie developed his Ziggy Stardust persona, incorporating elements of professional make up, mime and performance into his act. These performers were soon followed in the style by acts including Roxy Music, Sweet, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Mud and Alvin Stardust. While highly successful in the single charts in the UK, very few of these musicians were able to make a serious impact in the United States; Bowie was the major exception becoming an international superstar and prompting the adoption of glam styles among acts like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls and Jobriath, often known as "glitter rock" and with a darker lyrical content than their British counterparts. In the UK the term glitter rock was most often used to refer to the extreme version of glam pursued by Gary Glitter and his support musicians the Glitter Band, who between them achieved eighteen top ten singles in the UK between 1972 and 1976. A second wave of glam rock acts, including Suzi Quatro, Roy Wood's Wizzard and Sparks, dominated the British single charts from about 1974 to 1976. Existing acts, some not usually not considered central to the genre, also adopted glam styles, including Rod Stewart, Elton John, Queen and, for a time, even the Rolling Stones. It was also a direct influence on acts that rose to prominence later, including Kiss and Adam Ant, and less directly on the formation of gothic rock and glam metal as well as on punk rock, which helped end the fashion for glam from about 1976. Glam has since enjoyed sporadic modest revivals through bands such as Chainsaw Kittens and The Darkness.

Soft rock, hard rock and heavy metal

From the late 1960s it became common to divide mainstream rock music into soft and hard rock. Soft rock was often derived from folk rock, using acoustic instruments and putting more emphasis on melody and harmonies. Major artists included Carole King, Cat Stevens and James Taylor. It reached its commercial peak in the mid- to late- 70s with acts like Billy Joel, America and the reformed Fleetwood Mac, whose Rumours (1977) was the best selling album of the decade. In contrast, hard rock was more often derived from blues-rock and was played louder and with more intensity. It often emphasised the electric guitar, both as a rhythm instrument using simple repetitive riffs and as a solo lead instrument, and was more likely to be used with distortion and other effects. Key acts included British Invasion bands like The Who and The Kinks, as well as psychedelic era performers like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and The Jeff Beck Group. Hard rock bands that enjoyed international success in the later 1970s included Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith and AC/DC.

From the late 1960s the term heavy metal began to be used to describe some hard rock played with even more volume and intensity, first as an adjective and by the early 1970s as a noun. The term was first used in music in Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" (1967) and began to be associated with pioneer bands like Boston's Blue Cheer and Michigan's Grand Funk Railroad. By 1970 three key British bands had developed the characteristic sounds and styles which would help shape the sub-genre. Led Zeppelin added elements of fantasy to their riff laden blues-rock, Deep Purple brought in symphonic and medieval interests from their progressive rock phrase and Black Sabbath introduced facets of the gothic and modal harmony, helping to produce a "darker" sound. These elements were taken up by a "second generation" of heavy metal bands into the late 1970s, including: Judas Priest, Motörhead and Rainbow from Britain; Kiss, Ted Nugent, and Blue Öyster Cult from the US; Rush from Canada and UFO and Scorpions from Germany, all marking the expansion in popularity of the sub-genre. Despite a lack of airplay and very little presence on the singles charts, heavy metal built a considerable following, particularly among adolescent working-class males in North America and Europe.

Christian rock

Rock has been criticised by some Christian religious leaders, who have condemned it as immoral, anti-Christian and even demonic. However, Christian rock began to develop in the late 1960s, particularly out of the Jesus movement beginning in Southern California, and emerged as a sub-genre in the 1970s with artist like Larry Norman, usually seen as the first major "star" of Christian rock. The genre has been particularly popular in the United Statesmarker. Many Christian rock performers have ties to the contemporary Christian music scene, while other bands and artists are closely linked to independent music. Since the 1980s a number of Christian rock performers have gained mainstream success, including figures like Amy Grant and in Britain Cliff Richard. From the 1990s there were increasing numbers of acts who attempted to avoid the Christian band label, preferring to be seen as groups who were also Christians, including P.O.D and Collective Soul.

Mid to late 1970s

Punk rock

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 Wave

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

If punk rock was a social and musical phenomenon, it garnered little in the way of record sales (small specialty labels such as Stiff Records had released much of the punk music to date) or American radio airplay, as the radio scene continued to be dominated by mainstream formats such as disco and album-oriented rock.

Record executives, who had been mostly mystified by the punk movement, recognized the potential of the more accessible New Wave acts and began aggressively signing and marketing any band that could claim a remote connection to punk or New Wave.Many of these bands, such as The Cars and The Go-Go's were essentially pop bands dressed up in New Wave regalia; others, including The Police and The Pretenders managed to parlay the boost of the New Wave movement into long-lived and artistically lauded careers.

Between 1982 and 1985, influenced by Kraftwerk, David Bowie, and Gary Numan, New Wave went in the direction of such New Romantics as 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 synthpop. 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.


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., The Psychedelic Furs, and Siouxsie & the Banshees and was soon joined by bands such as Joy Division, 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 Irelandmarker'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, John Mellencamp and others. 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. Rhythm and blues acts like Prince and Rick James experimented with rock sounds and both had crossover appeal. 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.

By the mid to late 80's, the teen band Renegade coined the term Commercial Metal to signify a combination of heavy metal instrumentation with pop rock melodies. The term caught on and remains a viable genre description to this day.

New Wave of British Heavy Metal

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (frequently abbreviated as NWOBHM) was a heavy metal music movement that started in the late 1970s, in Britainmarker, 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, and Black Sabbath. 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.

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 metal

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: Queen, Sweet and the New York Dolls, the earliest glam metal bands to gain notability included: Mötley Crüe, 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.

Heartland rock

American working-class oriented heartland rock, characterized by a straightforward musical style, a concern with the average, blue collar American life, gained a strong following in the US during the 1980s.

While the genre emerged recognizably into the mainstream in the late 1970s with the commercial success of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Tom Petty, the genre's antecedents appeared throughout pop chart history, via popular artists like Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Van Morrison, and lesser-known examples (The Flaming Ember, whose 1971 hit "Westbound Number Nine" was an example of the mixing of garage rock, rhythm and blues and rock influences that would later exemplify the genre) and earlier ones like Eddie Cochran and Del Shannon.

The genre reached its commercial, artistic and influential peak in the mid-1980s, with John Mellencamp joining Springsteen, Seger, and Petty as its most prominent artists.

In concert, heartland rock often took the form of crowd-rousing anthems, leading to comparisons with Midwestern arena rock groups such as REO Speedwagon and Head East, whose style however owed more to seventies pop rock.

Heartland rock faded away as a recognized genre by the early 1990s, as rock music in general, and blue collar and white working class themes in particular, lost influence with younger audiences, and as heartland's artists turned to more personal works. Many heartland rock artists continue to record today with critical and commercial success, most notably Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp, although their works have become more personal and experimental and do not fit easily into a single genre anymore. Newer artists whose music would clearly have been labeled heartland rock had it been released in the 1970s or 1980s, such as Pittsburgh's Tom Breiding, often find themselves these days labeled alt-country and finding little more than a cult following.

The emergence of alternative rock

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 rock. Important bands of the 1980s alternative movement included R.E.M., Jane's Addiction, Sonic Youth, The Smiths, 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 United States and Britpop in the United Kingdom, bringing alternative rock into the mainstream.

Alternative goes mainstream (early–mid 1990s)


By the early 1990s, rock was dominated by commercialized and highly produced pop, rock, and "hair metal" artists. MTV had arrived and promoted excessive focus on image and style. Disaffected by this trend, in the mid-1980s, bands in Washington statemarker (particularly in the Seattlemarker area) formed a new style of rock music which sharply contrasted the mainstream rock of the time. The developing genre came to be known as "grunge", a term meaning "dirt" or "filth". The term was seen as appropriate due to the dirty sound of the music and the unkempt appearance of most musicians, who actively rebelled against the over-groomed images of popular artists. Grunge fused elements of hardcore punk and heavy metal into a single sound, and made heavy use of guitar distortion, fuzz and feedback. 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.

Bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, 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". Nevermind was more melodic than its predecessors, but the band refused to employ traditional corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms. During 1991 and 1992, other grunge albums such as Pearl Jam's Ten, 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. The popular breakthrough of these grunge bands prompted Rolling Stone to nickname Seattle "the new Liverpoolmarker." 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.


Oasis performing in 2005
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 Blur , Oasis, Suede, The Auteurs, Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers and Pulp 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 rock

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 and 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)

Pop punk

Green Day
One result of the 1970s punk explosion was pop punk. Championed by bands such as The Buzzcocks and The Ramones, the genre was never as commercially successful as the name may have suggested, but its influence can be still be heard in many artists today; the fusion of pop melodies, rapid-fire playing of instruments, and the raw and visceral lyrics and sound of punk rock is apparent in everyone from Nirvana to Oasis. 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 brought the sub-genre to new commercial heights in the late nineties to early 2000s.


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, Audioslave, Candlebox, Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, 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.In the beginning of the 21'st century more post-grunge bands began to emerge including Breaking Benjamin, Seether, 3 Doors Down.

Nu metal and rap rock

Linkin Park

Hip hop and rap gained attention from rock acts in the early 80's. The Clash ("The Magnificent Seven") and Blondie ("Rapture") were the first two rock acts to merge their sounds with hip hop. Early crossover acts include Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. 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 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, Disturbed and post-grunge/hard rock band Godsmack 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).

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.

Rock music in the new millenium (2000s)

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. Another reason for the decline in album sales is the rise in popularity of Hip Hop on many music charts.

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.


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.marker 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, 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.

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.

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.

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. The difficulty in defining "emo" as a genre may have started at the very beginning.

Garage rock revival

In the early 2000s, a garage rock revival gained mainstream appeal and commercial airplay, something that had eluded garage rock bands of the past. This was led by four bands, The Hives (from Sweden), The Vines (from Australia), The Strokes (from New York), and The White Stripes (from Detroit), christened by the media as the "The" bands, or "The saviours of rock 'n' roll". Other products of the Detroit rock scene included; The Von Bondies, Electric 6, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras Elsewhere, other lesser-known acts such as Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from Britain, The Noise Conspiracy from Sweden, The's from Japan, and the Oblivians from Memphis enjoyed moderate underground success and appeal. Other notable bands that enjoyed commercial success, were The Libertines, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Datsuns and the Kings of Leon.

Post-punk revival

Additionally, the retro trend has led to a post-punk revival with bands like The Hives, The Libertines, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, 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 and The Cure.

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, Arctic Monkeys, and Franz Ferdinand were the first commercially successful projects to revive media interest in the movement. 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.

Metalcore and contemporary heavy metal

Metalcore, an originally American hybrid of thrash metal and hardcore punk, 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. 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. 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 #2 spot on the Billboard charts in 2009 with Wrath. 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."

The term "retro-metal" has been applied to such bands as England's The Darkness and Australia's Wolfmother. The Darkness's Permission to Land (2003), described as an "eerily realistic simulation of '80s metal and '70s glam," topped the UK charts, going quintuple platinum. One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back (2005) reached number 11. 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." "Woman," a track from the album, won for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards.

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 band Children of Bodom, Norwegian act Dimmu Borgir, and Germany's Blind Guardian and Sweden's HammerFall. The Swedish act In Flames took both Come Clarity (2006) and A Sense of Purpose (2008) to number 6 in Germany; each album topped the Swedish charts.

Electronic rock

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: for instance, laptop performance (laptronica) and live coding.

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.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 led to a massive increase in the amount of home-produced electronic music available to the general public via the internet. Bands such as The Prodigy, Pendulum, Ratatat, and Nine Inch Nails are a few of the most popular electronic rock bands.

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." 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.


Many groups in the post-punk era adopted a more rhythmic tempo, conducive to dancing. These bands were influenced by disco, funk, and other dance musics popular at the time, as well as being anticipated by some of the 1970s work of David Bowie, Brian Eno, and Iggy Pop, and some recordings by the German groups referred to as Krautrock.

The music style re-emerged under the name dance-punk at the beginning of the 21st century. The style was championed by rock- and punk-oriented bands such as Liars, The Rapture and Radio 4, as well as dance-oriented acts such as Out Hud. Other groups, such as !!! and The Faint fell somewhere in the middle. There has since been a crystallization of musical forms within dance-punk, with bands such as Death from Above 1979, Test Icicles, Fake Shark - Real Zombie!, and Q and Not U exploring aspects of dance-punk, along with post-hardcore and other musical styles. DFA Records can be seen as the current center of the dance-punk genre. As well as James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem, the label is currently home to The Juan MacLean, Hot Chip, Hercules & Love Affair, Brinvonda, Shit Robot, Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom, Prinzhorn Dance School, Booji Boy High, Shocking Pinks, Holy Ghost!, Still Going, Syclops and YACHT.

New Rave

New Rave is a term applied to several types of music that go from fusing elements of electronic, rock, indie, to techno , hip house, electro , breakbeat . In Australia, it is also known as Electrindie .

Klaxons, Trash Fashion, New Young Pony Club,The Guardian. January 5, 2007; 2007's original soundtrack; retrieved April 12, 2007, Hadouken!, Late of the Pier, Test Icicles, Bono Must DieThe Guardian. January 5, 2007 Music: Rave on, just don't call it 'new rave'; retrieved September 2, 2008 and SHITDISCO are generally accepted as the main exponents of the genre.

The aesthetics of the New Rave scene are largely similar to those of the original rave scene, being mostly centred around psychedelic visual effects. Glowsticks, neon and other lights are common, and followers of the scene often dress in extremely bright and fluorescent colored clothing.The Guardian. February 3, 2007; The future's bright...; retrieved March 31, 2007 Indeed, many consider New Rave to be defined more by the image and aesthetic of its bands and supporters, than by the somewhat vague sonic criteria. Trash Fashion lead singer, Jet Storm has been described as the scenes very own pin up. Nevertheless, the usage of electronic instruments, a musical fusion of rock and dance styles, and a particular anarchic, trashy energy are certainly key elements.

Social impact

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 also


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