Department of English

Spring 2010 Edition

The Evolution of Rock

Amber Marabella
Argumentative 2010 1st Place
Professor: Bishop

Today it is known as classic rock, but in the 1980s it was simply called "rock." With bands ranging from Styx to Led Zeppelin, it was a time filled with a variety of subgenres including arena rock, hard rock, and glam metal. Band popularity ranged from one-hit wonders like Autograph to worldwide megastars, including Van Halen and Def Leppard. Classic rock and its subgenres have helped shape the modern rock of today. The evolution of rock included changing concert performances and entertainment structures, different instrumentation, and the development of new subgenres.

The birth of classic rock in the United States began in the 1950s. This music is linked to a merging of early 1940s blues, gospel, and jazz music in the South. The first artists in this group typically performed with instruments that included electric guitars, bass guitars, drums and a lead vocalist. Rock influenced fashion, lifestyles, attitudes, and the overall culture. The first rock and roll artists that are associated with this style are Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard. In the 1960s, rock and roll became an even bigger success with the introduction of British rock stars including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. According to Recording Industry Association of America, The Beatles have sold over 170 million albums and The Rolling Stones an impressive 66 million.

Rock of the 1970s began the division process of subgenres in rock. Some of the first offspring groups included folk rock, psychedelic rock, southern rock, and glam rock. The 1980s continued the trend of branching out from the mainstream "rock and roll" category. Countless genres were created during this era. Arena rock, hard rock, and glam metal were three of the most popular subgenres. These unique styles of sounds continue to influence music today ("Hard Rock").

Arena rock or stadium rock is typically defined as a subgenre of rock, whose artists usually played very large, theatrical concerts and were notorious for their performances along with commercial success. Bands of this type were known for having interactive concerts that engaged the audience and whose main goal was to get attendees involved in the actual performance. Journey was one of the first bands to begin the transition from traditional rock music to arena rock. With power ballads such as "Open Arms," "Faithfully," and "Don't Stop Believing," the band was well known for its chart-topping hits and sold-out stadium shows. Journey sold 47 million albums worldwide and toured in over 35 different countries ("Billboard"). Their shows were known for containing the use of large screens and "louder than life" sounds. Led Zeppelin, Styx, Boston, Queen, and Kiss are all bands that are associated with this style of music.

Arena rock influenced current rock and roll by creating a new level of entertainment in concerts. Laser and light shows, stadium screens, fire and smoke tricks, and giant amplifiers began to be incorporated into the traditional concert scene. This genre was the first of its kind to strive for a bigger focus on pleasing the audience rather than selling albums (Peake). Hard rock was another variation of 1980s classic rock that changed the face of rock and roll. In the 1980s, rock was generally categorized by a regular rock and roll band instrument set-up. For the first time, a variety of other instruments was also included. The new genre usually had strong bass beat and often contained a notable electric or bass guitar solo. The vocals in hard rock often had a distinct sound which may have included spoken word, yelling, or raspy voiced singers much different from the smooth crooning styles of earlier rock and roll bands.

AC/DC was a band that received monumental success in hard rock history with their distinct vocal style. Their album, Back in Black, was released in 1980 and is still the fifth highest selling album in United States history. The Australian band recorded the album which spawned seven singles, six music videos, and sold nearly 50 million albums worldwide ("Top Selling"). In an interesting twist, AC/DC actually had two different lead singers, but both were able to sing with very distinct "raspy" voices that are still recognizable today.

Hard rock changed the status quo of rock and roll vocals and the instrumentation as well. By including the use of pianos, keyboards, synthesizers, and other instruments, the bands began to distance themselves from the traditional rock style. The band Styx commonly used these new synthesizers in their albums. The song "Mr. Roboto" is a good example of this. It contains both an Oberheim OB-XA and a PPG Wave synthesizer (Deem). According to Billboard Music Charts, the song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983 ("Billboard").

Another subgenre of 1980s classic rock was glam metal. Glam metal was a derivative of the popular 1970's genre glam rock. It is characterized by its usage of flamboyant fashion, dramatic stage shows, and hard rock music style. Glam metal bands are also known as "hair bands" because of the long shaggy hair, excessive use of hairspray, and the androgyny style of the members of the bands ("Glam Metal"). Some of the most popular glam metal bands included Motley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, and Poison. Many other glam metal bands, including the American band Autograph, had relatively small success, only producing one or two hits. Glam metal is typically given credit for inspiring the contemporary genres of metalcore, glam pop, and post-grunge. Buckcherry, Hinder, and Andrew W. K. are all modern artists that have been inspired by the glam metal subgenre. The Broadway musical Rock of Ages was also influenced by glam metal ("Glam Metal").

Classic rock has been a large part of my own music collection for many years. As I was growing up, my parents would listen to hard rock bands frequently. I discovered arena rock artists when I was older and became a huge fan of that genre, constantly listening to Journey and Styx. In May, I was able to attend a Styx, .38 Special, and REO Speedwagon concert and got to experience arena rock for myself. I was enthralled by the bands usage of lights, pyrotechnics, and sound quality. Glam metal is another genre that I am also very interested in. Recently, I became involved with the Rock and Roll Club on campus and was excited to learn more about rock and roll and to study where it began. Arena rock, hard rock, and glam metal were all subgenres of 1980s rock and roll music. These three new categories along with countless others have helped shape modern day rock and will forever be remember for their editions in the rock and roll history books. These subgenres helped changed the concert experiences, include innovative instrumentation, and to inspire many new rock and roll offspring today.

Works Cited "Arena Rock." Wikipedia. 10 Jan. 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2010.
"Glam Metal." Wikipedia. 7 Feb. 2010. Web. 5 Feb. 2010.
"Hard Rock." Wikipedia. 7 Feb. 2010. Web. 6 Feb. 2010.
"Journey." Billboard. Billboard. n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2010.
"Top Selling Artists." Gold and Platinum. Recording Industry Association of America. 12 Feb. 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.\ AC/DC. Back In Black. Atlantic, 1980. CD.
Deem, James. "Styx Instrumentation." StyxNet. James Deem. 10 Aug. 2009. Web. 14 Feb. 2010.
Journey. The Essential Journey. Columbia, 2001. CD.
Peake, Steve. "Profile of Mainstream '80s Genre Arena Rock." About.com. 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 3 Feb. 2010.
Styx. Styx Greatest Hits. A&M Records, 1995. CD.