Before rock and roll, there was rhythm and blues. But we aren’t talking about that. Before Rhythm and Blues, there was Jazz. But we aren’t talking about that either. We’re going to be talking about Rock and Roll; its birth and more notably, its death.
It was 1955 when Elvis redefined American culture and brought rock and roll into the mainstream. Part of this success came from his abundance of talent. But I’d be negligible if I didn’t mention Rock and Roll’s rise being amplified by America’s success post World War II AND the recent affordability of electronics entering the family living rooms in the form of television.
As always the youth of the day ran with it first in effort to distinguish themselves from previous generations. The sexual overtones, while controversial at the time, were mild by today’s standards.
Fast forward to the mid ’60s and Rock and Roll was pushing new boundaries by growing more inclusive with the embracing of The Beatles from across the pond and Jimmy Hendrix showing it was crossing color barriers at home.
The Second Phase:
By the late ’60s Rock and Roll entered its second phase as new bands grew more political in tone while pushing the boundaries of what could be done, said and performed on stage. Through Rock and Roll, society was gaining a consciousness that was as much reflected by its artists as it was dictated.
The Third Phase:
Then came the ’70s and with it Rock and Roll’s transformation into a voice for the disenfranchised. Pissed off parents struggling to survive in a declining economy gave birth to pissed off teenagers who were leaving broken, intolerant and abusive homes using music as their way to vent.
Let’s pretend this never happened. Kidding. While Rock splintered into Punk, Disco rose to prominence. The genre was largely a response to rock and rolls dominance, briefly replacing it in popularity as the new friendly voice. But Disco’s dramatic rise, ended with an equally dramatic fall.
MTV: (The Beginning of the end)
By the ’80s, music had gone from albums to eight tracks, tape and CDs and soon after the dramatic rejection of Disco, as rock and roll was continuing to splinter into even more cultural sub-generes, MTV arrived.
It was with MTV that it argued the acceleration of Rock and Roll’s eventual demise began.
The Mid ’80s
By the mid ’80s Rock and Roll’s mainstream heydays were behind them. For the most part, the majority of the music began following an all too familiar formula dictated by the marketing department.
Bands released albums -> These albums contained 8 – 12 songs -> One of which was a ballad no matter what style of band it was -> All the songs had a prolonged guitar solo (please bring those back by the way!)
The Last Truly Great Rock Album:
Despite all of this, the last truly great rock album still managed to appear at the end. Metallica’s Black Album wasn’t just one of the last religious experiences of the Rock and Roll experiment, it also managed to have a lasting global impact like no other band has managed since.
Grunge (Aka Nirvana)
To me, this is the second last genre of rock and roll; an anti-mastery of instrument-punk extension whose greatest achievement was the ending of the guitar solo. Grunge rejected newer and better for the sake of embracing average. It was the end of any effort to be better. This isn’t a condemnation, to be clear, I did and do enjoy some grunge music!
Alternative Rock has since replaced Grunge and has been incorporating classical elements and orchestral themes into some of its mix along with some pioneering work into mood altering tones. But for the most part, while worthy of respect these efforts have had no impact in regaining mass market global success.
While it will never go away, rock and roll will never rise to a fraction of the dominance it once had. It went from being friendly in the ’50s, to idealistic in the ’60s, disillusioned by the ’70s, to frustrated and angry through the ’80s and ’90s… only to become soulless by 2000.
Watch the video to find out more about the rise and fall of Rock and Roll.