The blues ate rock and roll!

I’ve been diving into the history of rock music recently because, quite by chance a few weeks ago, I glimpsed an answer to a couple of odd little questions that had been occasionally been bothering me for decades.

The most obtrusive of these questions is: Why does nothing in today’s rock music sound like the Beatles?

It’s a pertinent question because the Beatles were so acclaimed as musical innovators in their time and still so hugely popular. And yet, nobody sounds like them. Since not long after the chords of the “Let It Be” died away in 1969, every attempt to revive the Beatlesy sound of bright vocal-centered ensemble pop has lacked any staying power among rock fans. It gets tried every once in a while by a succession of bands running from Badfinger to the Smithereens, and goes nowhere. Why is this?

Another, related question is: Why does so very little in today’s rock music sound like Chuck Berry?

Inventor of rock and roll, they still call him. And yet outside of occasional tributes and moments of self-conscious museumizing, nobody writes rock music that sounds anything like “Johnny B. Goode” anymore. Modern tropes and timbre are vastly different. Only the rock beat – only the drum part – survives pretty much intact.

It’s odd, when you think about it. The sound that electrified the late Fifties and Sixties is still revered, but it’s gone. The basic rock beat remains, but everything above it has been flooded out, replaced by something harder and darker.

We all sort of know, even as casual listeners, that rock has evolved a lot. There’s even a tendency for the term “rock and roll” to nowadays be specifically confined to the older sound, with “rock” standing alone to refer to the more modern stuff.

But…what happened? What made the newer sound we all take for granted? Where did it come from?

If and when you start wondering about this, YouTube is a terrific research library. You can use the search facility to hop across decades and genres. With Wikipedia to trace connections among artists this sort of musicological forensics is probably easier than it has ever been before.

I’ve been listening while I programmed, and taking occasional times out to think about what I was hearing and how it fits into a larger picture. My first clue was a quip in an article about the legendary Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy, who reported bring irritated when people thought he was imitating Jimi Hendrix when in fact it was rather the other way around.

Here’s what I found. The sea-change happened between 1969 and 1971. The moving figures were: Jimi Hendrix. British Invasion bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and the Who. American West Coast bluesmen like Mike Bloomfield and Al Cooper. The San Franciso acid-rock scene. And many lesser imitators.

What they did was raze old-school rock-and-roll to the ground, replacing it with a bastard child of LSD and Chicago-style hard electric blues. That angry, haunting, minor-key idiom is what buried the Beatles and put a stamp on rock music so final that today the sound of any modern arena rocker – like, say, Guns’n’Roses – is recognizably the same thing musicians began to record around 1970.

(Which it should be pointed out, is a very long run for a mass-market pop genre. It’s as though in 1970 our radios had still been full of pop in forms dating from 1925…)

Yesterday I listened to the first three albums by the James Gang (“Yer Album”, 1969, “The James Gang Rides Again”, 1970; “Thirds”, 1971) for the first time in probably 35 years. Why? Because when I stretched my mind back to try to remember the earliest pieces of music that would sound completely in place on a modern rock playlist and were recorded by people neither black nor British, “Funk #49” and “Walk Away” leapt to mind. Go listen, and think about how undated and modern Joe Walsh’s guitar work sounds…

You can hear the transition happening on these albums. The 1969 one sounds like a midwestern imitation of a Fillmore acid jam session – loose, spacy, a collage of half-assimilated influences from old-school rock and roll, country, blues, and psychedelia. It has clever bits but is kind of a mess. Walsh’s signature guitar tambre is there, but he’s still stumbling.

1971 is subtly different. It’s played harder; the phrasing is tighter, the dynamic range is wider, the compositions sure-footed. We’re not listening to a collage of influences any more; this is its own thing, and the mature playing style Walsh would exhibit on later solo classics like “Rocky Mountain Way” and bring to the Eagles in 1975 is established.

Stepping back a bit, the style he settles into is much, much more like hard Chicago blues than it is like like Chuck Berry or the Beatles or Buddy Holly. You can’t really pick this up by listening to modern rock, because that’s what everything sounds like (Walsh’s later fame was a contributing factor). You have to go back to pre-1970s blues, from before the transition I’m talking about, to really get it.

I’m pointing at players like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James…the men who took Delta blues and urbanized it and amped it up, adding electric guitars and jazz-inflenced rhythm sections. John Lee Hooker was more Delta than Chicago but seems to have had a particularly strong influence on the Chicago sound as rockers received it.

This was all going on in the decade and a half before “Yer Album”, parallel to 1950s proto-rockers and the Beatles but running pretty separate from them. It was blacker and more urban, while white proto-rockers owed more to Texas swing and country music and gospel than to blues. You can hear that in, for example, Buddy Holly or Elvis Presley.

Earlier, I had “or British” in some qualifiers. It’s pretty well-trodden ground that the British Invasion bands were made of guys who had become fascinated by blues music in the England of the early 1960s. They crossed the Atlantic bringing that enthusiasm with them. This is well known, but it’s often thought of as a minor historical point with only unspecified and vague relevance to later music.

What I’m arguing is that the ensuing victory of hard blues over pre-1969 “rock and roll” was so total that it made itself nigh-invisible. We can see it, sideways, by noticing that today everyone from before the transition sounds quaint and rootsy and – even when as listenable as the Beatles – not actually very relevant to modern rock.

Cue up any modern leather-jacketed rock hero. Then cue up Buddy Holly or a random early Beatles single. Then cue up Howlin’ Wolf. I think you’ll see what I mean – or, properly, hear it.

174 thoughts on “The blues ate rock and roll!

  1. This is closely related to a question I’ve been pondering for years.

    Who was the last “Rock and Roll”er, musician who performed Rock because that’s what they performed, for the joy and style of Rock, instead of doing just as ironic echo, as historical callback, or as deconstruction.

    I think it was Bruce Springsteen.

    • Bruce did rock absolutely for the money despite his carefully constructed blue collar image. There’s a reason he’s called “The Boss” and it’s not flattering.

    • If we’re talking major players, my money is on the late great Tom Petty.

      John Mellencamp is an authentic rocker, too.

      • >If we’re talking major players, my money is on the late great Tom Petty. John Mellencamp is an authentic rocker, too.

        Personal opinion: I never liked Mellencamp’s schtick. People who spend a lot of energy yelling “Look at me! I’m authentic!” generally aren’t. I give him props for the first 2.5 of “I need a Lover”, though – evidently when he can STFU about his aw-shucks-Midwestern-boy thing he can actually play.

        Tom Petty mostly avoided that kind of behavior, though “Southern Accents” had some pretty embarrassing moments. “I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils…” Really, Tom? In 1985? *rolls eyes* I liked his earlier, harder, slightly punk-tinged sound.

  2. Where do you think Billy Gibbons fits in all this? He was Hendrix’s favorite guitarist, after all.

    • >Where do you think Billy Gibbons fits in all this?

      I actually almost mentioned ZZ Top, then realized I couldn’t say anything much more interesting than “They haven’t changed. The mainstream rock sound moved closer to where they are.” This is, of course, leaving out their embarrassing syntho-pop period in the 1980s.

      Actually another one of my clues was a concert video of Gibbons and Axl Rose jamming.

      Likely won’t surprise you that I’m a big fan of their first couple albums.

      • The first song that I thought of when I read this entry was My Head’s in Mississippi… which was on 1990’s Recycler

        • >The first song that I thought of when I read this entry was My Head’s in Mississippi… which was on 1990’s Recycler…

          ZZ Top’s oeuvre is full of sly call-outs to the fact that, though they make a big deal of being from Texas, their blues roots are actually Chicago (where Jesus done left from) and the Mississippi Delta.

      • My wife and friends met Billy Gibbons while skeet shooting. His business card reads:
        “Billy Gibbons

        Friend of Eric Clapton”

  3. And on a related note, as I was listening to Christmas music streams these past two months, a thought occurred to me.

    I think for most kids now, their only regular exposure to old Rock&Roll now is… in Christmas music. All those old Christmas Rock&Roll songs that used to be seasonal once offs and novelty jokes, hilarious 30 years ago for injecting that style of music into a lexicon that had been almost completely dominated by religious hymns and mid20C crooners, are now a fossil remnant of R&R.

    I had to explain to my kid the sound of “Jingle Bell Rock” used to fill the radio dial, and was the EDM of it’s day.

    And as I think farther, for many people now, most of their exposure to religious hymnal music and to 20thC crooner music is now… Christmas music.

    • >All those old Christmas Rock&Roll songs that used to be seasonal once offs and novelty jokes, hilarious 30 years ago for injecting that style of music into a lexicon that had been almost completely dominated by religious hymns and mid20C crooners, are now a fossil remnant of R&R.

      Zounds! You are, now I think about it, entirely correct.

    • Actually, most folks’ exposure to early music is Christmas music, at least to the extent that anybody hears non-secular Christmas music any more. “The Friendly Beasts” is a seriously wimpy version of “Orientis Partibus”; “Ding Dong Merrily on High” is the bransle “L’Officiel”, “What Child is This” is “Greensleeves”, “Good King Wenceslas” stole the tune from “Tempus Adest Floridem”, just to name a few. (Remember when the Monkees sang “Riu Riu Chiu”?)

    • Funnily enough, for this millennial, Jingle Bell Rock almost strikes me as a crooner piece. Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with either genre (though not for the reasons you might think, given my age, it’s more a general disinterest in music, and a preference for classical when I listen to anything at all). But in general, such as I’m conscious of the popular music of the past century, I had noticed a difference between rock pre/post 1970, and pre-1970 rock strikes me as stylistically similar to a lot of the popular music of the 30s and 40s.

      • Early rock and roll was a rhythmically (and otherwise) simplified form of swing/boogie jazz–with emphasis on backbeats. It was actually classified as a form of jazz when it first became popular. Early “R & B” from the 1940s came from people who also had jazz bands, like Louis Jordan, and Jordan was very influential on the development of rock and roll.

        • >Early rock and roll was a rhythmically (and otherwise) simplified form of swing/boogie jazz–with emphasis on backbeats.

          While doing my research for the OP and this thread discussion, I learned of a genre called “jump blues” – piano- and brass-centered dance music descended from the big-band jazz of the late ’30s and early ’40s, flourishing from the ’40s to the mid-50s.

          “Jump blues” didn’t sound much like Chicago hard blues. As dance music, it was catchier. More playful. Less interested in individual instrumental virtuosity and emotional expression.

          What it did sound a whole lot like is Chuck Berry.

    • Yeah, it was only a few years ago that I realized that Christmas music isn’t its own genre, it’s just regular 40s music with Christmas lyrics. Because I’d never heard enough 40s music to notice any similarities until then. Mid-50s forward, yeah, I’ve wallowed in it. But I’d be hard-pressed to name three Sinatra songs.

      • Sinatra’s peak years were from the mid-50’s forward, and many of Sinatra’s most famous songs are from the 60’s, and even into the 70’s. Some examples:

        Fly Me to the Moon — 1964
        Strangers in the Night — 1966
        My Way — 1969
        New York, New York — 1979

    • Classic rock stations are widespread across the country and people still find them and fall in love. That’s what I did in the early 2000s.

      • Yes, but the “classic rock” stations are playing Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones (both firmly descended from the blues), not Buddy Holly, Little Richard, or Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s quite rare that you even hear Elvis on one of those stations.

        • >Yes, but the “classic rock” stations are playing Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones (both firmly descended from the blues), not Buddy Holly, Little Richard, or Jerry Lee Lewis.

          And that is really good objective evidence of the completeness of the hard-blues takeover of the genre, right there. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I have some quibbles with their categorization, but the concept is brilliant.

  4. Lot of powerful magic going on around that time in history. I hope Chris Knowles reads this post, he’d have some things to add.

  5. One reason the Beatles were nearly unique is that they were heavily influenced by the pop music of British music halls.

    And there are many bands that sound a bit like them, it’s just that they aren’t nearly as popular. The waxing and waning of musical (or any fashion) is hard to explain. Personally, these days I enjoy a lot of power pop and shoegaze, two genres that are not fashionable, but there’s a lot of good music being made in both, right now. And come to think of it, both could be said to have some roots in the Beatles.

  6. I think that nearly nobody today hears anything resembling rock or good musicianship. DJs doing mixes long ago became rock stars and the generation of music that consists of a couple samples and a steady beat over someone rapping tunelessly is all most hear from childhood forward.

    And then there’s the death of drumming – I’ve cued up things like buddy rich’s west side story suite for a variety of millenials and they’ve run screaming from the room – it’s too busy, too noisy, it’s got “too many notes”.

    Then there’s the death of top 40 radio as a common, shared, experience, and as per your example, christmas tunes are the only thing left.

    I think the force of (all kinds of) music to change lives and shape attitudes is spent – metcalfs law applied to broadcasting, too, but now things are too diffused (defused?) – 5 billion channels and nothing on. There’s not enough repetition to memorize the words, or lick, or message.

    • Speak for yourself. I know loads of songs by heart, because I download them and listen to my own playlist. It’s not shared as much as top 40 songs were, but it’s still plenty deep if I want it to be.

      Also, Buddy Rich is one I’ve never heard in the context of actual songs, but as a technical drummer I’m seriously impressed. Still, technical skill alone gets self-indulgent very quickly – you need to turn it into a complete song, not a technical showpiece, if you want it to last longer than Eruption without boring the audience.

  7. A number of years ago I went to a recital where a number of my friends played classical piano pieces. This temporarily reset my expectations of music. So, the next day I went up to my grandpa’s garage, where the radio was playing big band music from the forties. It was punk rock. The brass was blasting out the power chords and the female vocalist was singing with a punk voice.

    What goes around comes around.

    Going back a bit further, many jazz musicians wrote harmonies that got tighter and tighter together. They just jammed the notes right up against each other. Melody got lost in this desire for more harmony. This loss of melody was pushed by Chuck Berry and Elvis and, occasionally, by the Beatles. The blues infusion at the end of the 60s was a much needed correction which brought melodies back to pop music.

    • > They just jammed the notes right up against each other. Melody got lost in this desire for more harmony. This loss of melody was pushed by Chuck Berry and Elvis and, occasionally, by the Beatles.

      As Mr. Berry put it:

      I have no kick against modern jazz
      Unless they try to play it too darn fast
      And change the beauty of the melody
      Until they sound just like a symphony

  8. There’s also a possibility that some things are harder to imitate than it looks.

    I’ve never seen a satisfactory imitation of Heinlein– I’ve seen better imitations of Delany, who I would have thought was more difficult.

    • If you would like to see a great imitation of the Beatles, check out the Vinyl Kings’ release from 2002, “A Little Trip”. Their second release, “Time Machine” is also great, but they branched out into other influences, particularly the Beach Boys.

      The group was composed of a bunch of hotshot music producers who aren’t big names themselves, to the world at large, but who have worked with many big names. They decided to make an album _they_ liked, and did a spot-on imitation of the Beatles, but with all original material, that has never been equaled in my hearing. It’s frightening how well they got the sounds and songwriting down without explicitly imitating specific songs (with a few exceptions).

      If you are a Beatles fan, I think you would greatly appreciate this “alternate reality” album.

      • Thank you for the recommendation of “A Little Trip”– the Vinyl Kings definitely caught the Beatles’ sound, and I think they were even a little creative with it.

        Still, I think the fact that successful imitation was so rare is evidence that it was really hard. I can’t think of any reason why musicians wouldn’t have wanted to imitate the Beatles.

        As for bringing back classic old influences, I wasn’t too surprised to find that Pratchett had read a complete set of bound volumes of Punch when he was a child.

        • Wow, no kidding. I just listened to their song “Mind Over Matter” on Youtube, and the first half is a dead-on Beatles pastiche (except lacking in close vocal harmonies).

          And then, exactly halfway through, it switches to a Wings pastiche. :-D

      • I thought the “Oneders/Wonders” in That Thing You Do were an excellent Beatles imitation, right down to the cute spelling of the band name (before Tom Hanks set them straight.

        The Blues are the aorta of American music. Everything branches off from there (jazz, rock, bluegrass, country). If Chris Stapleton is successful in rescuing country music from the Bro Country of FGL and its ilk, you’ll be able to write that the blues ate country as well. [Insert comment about the geographic proximity of Memphis and Nashville here.]

        • >The Blues are the aorta of American music. Everything branches off from there (jazz, rock, bluegrass, country)

          That’s romantic myth again. Country has origins entirely separate from the blues and in fact predates it considerably, being rooted in the traditional music of the British Isles.

          It’s not generally understood that blues is actually a very new form. Some of its elements can be traced to spirituals and work songs from the mid-19th century but “blues” as a recognizable idiom only dates to around 1900.

          Bluegrass is…complicated. one can argue either that it’s coterminous with country music or that it was actually a mid-twentieth-century development from country music, depending on some definitional issues I’m not going to go into here.

          • As Thomas Sowell explains so well, much of “African American” culture is actually Scots-Irish (much more specific than “British Isles”) culture, which is also the source material for bluegrass/country/folk. Neither the blacks nor rednecks wanted to admit that, each for their own reasons of ethnic pride. But it’s the truth behind the Memphis/Nashville quips. Blues wasn’t a “recognizable idiom” only because the people who played it (blacks and “white trash” who rarely traveled more than a hundred miles from home, much less to places like NYC, Chicago, St. Louis, and KC, until after the turn of the 20th century) weren’t recognized.

            • >much of “African American” culture is actually Scots-Irish

              While this is broadly true, the blues is not Scots-Irish in origin. It really is African; the pathway is traceable. If it weren’t, you’d expect to find blue notes and features like the call-and-response pattern in Anglo/Irish traditional music. They’re not there.

              >Blues wasn’t a “recognizable idiom” only because the people who played it (blacks and “white trash”…)

              Nope, won’t fly. The origin and early development of blues is actually pretty well documented – though, curiously, there’s a widespread myth that it’s a huge mystery. There weren’t any “white trash” bluesmen until late in the game – the first blues recording by a white artist wasn’t until 1926, a quarter century after Ma Rainey reported she first heard the blues in New Orleans. You can theorize about whites playing blues earlier if you like, but the eyewitness accounts of early blues from performers like Ma Rainey and contemporary musicologists like Howard W. Odum don’t support it at all.

              Today we think of “blues” and “country” as stylistic labels describing particular musical idioms. And when Ma Rainey said she first heard the blues in 1902 in New Orleans, that’s how she was talking – she knew it was a different thing from country. But the record companies of the time used these terms as code for the skin color of the artists. So you got black people playing country labeled “blues”, and when white people played blues it was often labelled “country”. I think that’s where your confusion (or the confusion of your sources) comes from. It doesn’t help that by the 1920s blues and country were leaking ideas into each other.

              But if the above misleads you into thinking they had common origins or were the same idiom, dig up what early blues performers like Ma Rainey and W.C. Handy and Jelly Roll Morton reported about their formative experiences. Musicologists like Odum and Lawerence Gellert back them up – in the beginning there weren’t any white bluesmen at all.

              • OK, I think this is it:
                >So you got black people playing country labeled “blues”, and when white people played blues it was often labelled “country”. I think that’s where your confusion (or the confusion of your sources) comes from.

                What I’m calling “blues” probably ought to be called something else entirely, because it’s the music of the lower-class Scots-Irish mixed with African influences, that preceded “Blues” per se, but also preceded nearly every other American musical genre. Due to that ethnic pride, the Scots-Irish didn’t want to claim the African elements they’d picked up from the slaves and freedmen, who didn’t want to admit they’d gotten a lot from Whitey either. So you had the “code” of two different labels for genres (ironically including Charley Pride as the counterexample) that had a lot of overlap. It’s that overlap that I consider the “aorta”, constantly pumping new blood into its distributary vessels. As you said above, if a white person is doing it, it generally wasn’t called “blues” despite being the same thing.

                • >What I’m calling “blues” probably ought to be called something else entirely, because it’s the music of the lower-class Scots-Irish mixed with African influences, that preceded “Blues” per se, but also preceded nearly every other American musical genre.

                  When is this mixture supposed to have existed?

                  The oldest American musical genre predates the Revolution; it’s the mix of English, Irish and Scottish traditional music that survives in Appalachian folk music. Country and Western is continuously descended from it.

                  Before Reconstruction there wasn’t much way for African influences to get into the mix. Free blacks were busily assimilating into white culture; we have records of the fact that some of them became folk musicians, but the only pre-20th-century record of blue notes (the flattened third and seventh) came from a British composer whose father had emigrated from Sierra Leone.

                  During and after Reconstruction, yes, it’s possible that free black songsters in the south might have influenced country music. Awkwardly for this theory (which admittedly is embraced by a lot of secondary sources) the musicology doesn’t support it – it’s hard to detect any signs at all of African influence in what survives of early country (I mean before 1920 or so). No sign of call-and-response singing, no African rhythms, no blue notes in the period sheet music. Early country wasn’t even chromatic!

                  If there were African influences, where were they hiding?

                  We can hear that country and blues mixed at the edges after 1920 (see for example Lead Belly), but this was decades after the emergence of the blues. Your “mix” was a late phenomenon, not an early one. And no wonder, when you consider the strength of the pre-1900 social taboos on whites against anything that smacked of (inferior) blackness.

      • I’ve read the Torchship books too.

        For some reason, they didn’t seem that much like Heinlein to me. I’d have to reread to be sure, but I don’t think Gallegher quite scratches the itch for me. As I recall, he doesn’t quite produce Heinlein’s sense of a universe full of lively details. I did like them– and the third less than the other two, as you did.

        Probably of interest here: A big new book of Heinlein criticism, looking at him from the angle of the politics in various books, is coming out. I’m not expecting to agree with all of it. I am expecting to find good new questions and angles on Heinlein.

        • Heinleins luster has dropped tremendously after many folks started re-examining his works, especially the later ones in the light of his actions regarding the Breendoggle letter. Also the quality of his earlier works was partially due to good external editors/editing.

          It’s a shame when you find out that a good percentage of early Sci-Fi writers/pioneers were so open minded that they didn’t consider child abuse to be an issue.

          • That’s unfair to Heinlein. You presume he believed that child abuse was taking place but did not consider it “an issue”. You don’t even consider the alternative explanation that he believed people were falsely accusing someone of heinous behavior.

    • For what it’s worth, there’s Greta Van Fleet. One could be forgiven for mistaking them for Led Zeppelin. Before I’d heard them, I wouldn’t have considered a new band nailing Led Zeppelin’s style to be a possible thing. And they’re not even old enough to drink yet. Those kids have a bright future ahead of them.

      So worthy imitations and successors, while perhaps rare, are not impossible.

  9. For what it’s worth, Cheap Trick is still going on, as good as ever, and they were always heavily influenced by the Beatles. Of course, I doubt anyone but old goats like me still listen to them.

  10. What?

    An 1100 word article and not one single mention of ABBA??? Just the greatest-est pop group ever!

    :-)

    • I love ABBA. ‘Under Attack’ rules. And according to Rolling Stone back in the day, it was the music of actual death squads. Take that, so-called ‘death metal’!

  11. I just discussed this with my son, and he noted an important addition to the British Invasion bands who brought these sounds to the U.S.

    Pink Floyd.

    So the Who, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones brought the blues. Floyd brought the psychedelia (not to mention that David Gilmour bends notes like he traded his soul for a mojo bag.) And when you add other British bands like the Moody Blues it’s not hard to argue that the psychedelia was also imported…

    • >BTW, my own experiments with youtube and history have led me to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Are you familiar?

      I was not. Now that I’ve heard her I can detect that she must have influenced Little Richard particularly strongly. And is one of the few with a claim on being the first rock and roll performer.

      • I’m glad I could send you somewhere new. What I really enjoy about listening to her music is the way bits of Rock and Roll show up, then disappear and later reappear, or how one of her tunes has a single piece of Rock, like Jerry Lewis style piano, but the rest comes from other genres, and the next tune has Rock guitar and drums, but not a Rock bass or piano line. You can literally hear all the parts of Rock being designed, selected, assembled, tested, broken down and reassembled in her music.

        And damn! That woman can play!

        • >And damn! That woman can play!

          I had long realized there was a serious gospel-music influence in early rock and roll. Now it seems obvious that this woman was the conduit. I hear anticipations of not just Little Richard, but Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley in her music.

    • Before there was rock ‘n roll there was boogie-woogie & jump blues. If Sister Rosetta was a godmother of rock ‘n roll then Louis Jordan was the godfather.

  12. I appreciate your forays into the worlds of modern culture, Eric.

    But, as of late, I have decided that anything which simply lied down and died after the dotard gates of Vatican II were opened falls plainly into the category of pop-culture sputum. This might include: Feminism, Porn, Mustaches, Porn, Disco, Porn, –>>Bad Rock<–, Porn, Shaved Porn (The WORST!), Internet, Porn, World Wide Web, and Porn, Porn, MP3s and Porn, and … "One Robot's Dream". ;-)

    Case in point: The Beatles

    [Yeah, sure. Elvis was a filthy sod. But he was an honest and filthy sod. "American Made!"]

    • >Um… Motörhead? Clearly they are more rock and roll than blues.

      Arguably, yes. And Cheap Trick, as correctly noted upthread, made a career out of sounding rather Beatlesy. (I hadn’t thought of them when I wrote the OP or I would have noted them as an exception.)

      But there are the exceptions. They stand out because they’re unusual.

      • Bread. Fleetwood Mac. America. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, in all their various configurations. Jackson Browne, James Taylor. The Eagles. Gordon Lightfoot. Bob Dylan. Todd Rundgren. John Denver. Cat Stevens. Arguably, Steely Dan. The afore-mentioned Cheap Trick. These are not exceptions. These are mainstream, huge acts, all of which fit the parameters of “bright vocal-centered pop,” many of them ensembles, and this is only in the 70s. It’s not that you’re not onto something; you are. It’s just not as extensive as you think it is.

        • >It’s not that you’re not onto something; you are. It’s just not as extensive as you think it is.

          Whoa. I think your net is too wide, there, I’ll give you Bread (as well as Cheap Trick, which I agreed before was an exception). Now that I consider it, America was a bit Beatlesy, though I didn’t think of them that way at the time.

          But Steely Dan? Oh hell no, and I say that as a huge fan back in the day. Completely different tone and aesthetic, jazzy and dark and with very weird depths. Steely Dan was its own thing, as different from the Beatles or pre-1969 rock and roll as those were from the the post-’69 rock idiom. Indeed, being sui generis was part of their appeal; they were music for thinkers and marginaux.

          I also don’t think you can sweep in Gordon Lightfoot or James Taylor or Cat Stevens or Jackson Browne or John Denver or Bob Dylan or CSN&Y or any of the singer-songwriter brigade. They too hared off in a direction very different from the Beatles, one much more influenced by early ’60s folk and (this is an important tell) often abandoning even the backbeat that the pre- and post-’69 rock idioms kept in common. Also completely missing were the layered arrangements that did so much to reward repeated listening in the Beatles’ work – part of the stylistic signature of this group was acoustic-guitar-centered minimalism. At most I’ll give you that Jackson Browne was a bit of a liminal figure here, he was fond of callbacks to the pre-’69 rock idiom.

          Fleetwood Mac…hm, I can see it if I squint, though at the time I thought of them as electric folkies. The Eagles? You might have a better case there, too, but only before ’75 when Walsh joined. I think it’s relevant both groups got less and less like the Beatles or pre-’69 rock and roll as they evolved.

          What we see here, as with the singer-songwriters, is less continuity with pre-’69 rock and roll styles than what it looked like to move away from them.

            • >Pre-Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac makes a better case than after she took over.

              True. I was never much of a fan – they were too bland and MOR for my taste – but the few pieces I did like (notably “The Chain”) were very much Nicks’s idiom.

        • @Bread. Fleetwood Mac. America . . .

          Yes, that’s the stuff I love. I also like the Bee Gees, who did bright, vocal-centered pop, and were studio musicians for the Beatles, and clearly identified with The Beatles Sound, and, well, not the most masculine-sounding band ever. Elvis fans always said Beatles music was sissy, and the Bee Gees falsetto closed that case. Pop’s been music for gays and girls ever since. Alternate world- Johnny Cash and Barry White do the Bee Gees vocals, while The Jackson Five swap the rights to the Elvis library for a banana peanut-butter sandwich.

          • >he Bee Gees, who did bright, vocal-centered pop, and were studio musicians for the Beatles, and clearly identified with The Beatles Sound, and, well, not the most masculine-sounding band ever.

            LOL. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I loathed the Bee Gees. I thought they were faggy, in the exact sense of being a disgusting uncanny-valley parody of femininity.

            Nearly fifty years ago, when one of the questions of the day was “Which British Invasion band do you like best?”, my answer was firmly “The Who”. For being everything the Bee Gees were not – masculine and willing to lay down a powerful noise, yet also thoughtful and ambitious and musically inventive. Their combination of introspection with toughness was what I wanted as a pre-teen and early teenage boy, what I needed.

            The others of the big three? I thought the Beatles were OK but felt no special pull there. Disliked the Rolling Stones and still do. (Their…hm, I think “fake blackness” will do…bothered me.) The Who, them I heard coming from the kind of alienation I was experiencing myself. They were for real. Daltrey singing “Can you see the reeeeal me? Can you? Can you?” in that gravelly voice, the crashing tortured chords of Townshend’s guitar…

            (Decades later I found out that music industry marketers of the time aimed the Who at restless, bright, high-testosterone boys like me. Smart of them; it worked, and deserved to. This was a bit before progressive rock emerged to appeal more directly and specifically to intellectual tastes; when that happened I latched onto it hard.)

            So no, I was not a pop fan. Nor did I have any patience for old-fashioned rock and roll in the Chuck-Berry/Elvis-Presley/Buddy-Holly vein; I thought it was jejune and cheesy, even then (I especially disliked Elvis, and still do). That stuff was, to me even at the age of 11, simplistic. Dumb.

            The hard-blues takeover (which I failed to understand analytically at the time, gimme a break I was barely into my teens) suited my developing tastes very well. It felt tough and real and powerful. Authentic of something, even if I wasn’t clear what.

            I’m telling this personal history because….I think that sense of power and authenticity persuaded a lot more people than one bright kid. The hard-blues rockers got to reinvent rock because they were stronger meat than the old-school rock and rollers and MOR pop. Not just louder and harder, deeper. More challenging. Emotionally compelling and subtle in the way the blues idiom had long been.

            • >Their combination of introspection with toughness was what I wanted as a pre-teen and early teenage boy, what I needed.

              While I’m being personal, here’s an example of that sort that really helped me cope.

              Argent, 1972: Hold Your Head Up. When I was a 14-year old boy with CP and too bright to fit in, constantly bullied, that was exactly what I fucking needed to hear.

              “And if they stare, just let them burn their eyes on you moving / And if they shout, don’t let it change a thing that you’re doing.”

              I’m a better person because I heard this music. And took the message. It affected me so much that I still tend to tear up a little when I hear it. Yes, music can change your life; this, I think, changed mine – or at least strongly validated a direction I admittedly might have gone anyway.

              And here’s the thing that makes it relevant to the OP: as an old-school, pre-blues-takeover, pre-prog-rock piece of pop, it wouldn’t have worked for me. It has the kind of complexity and seriousness that my brain needed to engage it. That organ solo is still a classic of its kind.

              • This is an illuminating insight. Music (and it’s accompanying lyrics) represent a highly effective mechanism for propagating memes in society, and the associated popularity may be a surrogate indicator of efficacious impact. In other words, music evolves quickly in response to changes in the social environment and then propounds new forms of wisdom that otherwise might not receive wide distribution. The influence of music is very likely a key component of modern memetic evolution.

              • I’ve been listening to Argent on Youtube for the past 30 minutes. This is very nice stuff. I’d heard “Hold Your Head Up” previously, but the rest of it is really, really good! I’ll share this with my son, and I suspect he’ll like it too!

                  • >Very much old-school rock/blues and the singer reminds me of Janis Joplin.

                    Now, in terms of this discussion I wouldn’t call it old-school rock – that’d refer back to the pre-’69 idiom which this is not. It’s definitely from after the hard-blues takeover, stylistically, but showing quite a blend of influences from gospel, country, funk, and soul over the blues-rock base. I think the closest similitude I can retrieve is Eric Clapton in the 1980s – reminds me a bit of “The Core”, a favorite of mine from that time.

                    The woman is damned impressive. I’d trade half a dozen attitude-coping black-spandex divas for her and consider myself ahead. The comparison with Janis Joplin is bold but merited.

                    I was thinking as I listened…up-thread Monster was pushing a theory that a blues/country gumbo was the aorta of American popular music, the ancestral stock from which later forms differentiated. His model was historically wrong, but if that kind of transracial ur-American primitivity had actually existed, and you snatched its best players forward in time and magically implanted post-1969 technique in them, I think you’d get something like the Alabama Shakes.

                    We’re talking deep roots music here, from roots in a desegregated past that never quite existed. A great antidote to the ironic hipster band of the week. I like it.

                • >I’ve been listening to Argent on Youtube for the past 30 minutes. This is very nice stuff.

                  It is. Argent was very good – significant figures in early prog rock between ’72 and ’75. I think their influence on later artists has been seriously underestimated, maybe because they quietly faded from view rather than either continuing to record or coming to a scandalous end.

                  • What’s the old canard? “Everyone who bought the album started a band?” They’re in that territory.

    • Interestingly, Lemmy used to shy away from calling his music “metal” – he actually preferred calling it “Rock n Roll”.

      Although Motörhead is often considered a heavy metal band, Lemmy always described Motörhead’s music as simply “rock and roll”. In 2011, he said: “We were not heavy metal. We were a rock ‘n’ roll band. Still are. Everyone always describes us as heavy metal even when I tell them otherwise. Why won’t people listen?”[108] In 2014, he reiterated to Der Spiegel that he did not particularly like heavy metal.[109]

      • It should have been clear from the start that what Motörhead were doing was utterly different from the likes of Black Sabbath, who probably have the strongest claim to being the inventors of actual Metal.

        When I was young, and saw Motörhead on their first two or three UK tours, I was too busy being proud of being an aficionado the hardest of hard rock – and generally young & ignorant – to actually think profoundly about these things. Decades later, when I came back around, I was astounded by how melodic they sound in hindsight compared to what came after.

        See also the huge at the time but historically drastically underrated Thin Lizzy (the Derby 1975 live album is the definitive document; sadly I didn’t get to see them until ’78)

        There’s some kind of fusion in Metallica: they’re clearly a (the?) metal band, but they revered Motörhead, and their cover of Whiskey in the Jar is really rather good.

        There’s also a non-trivial English folk influence in Led Zep, early Floyd, early Fleetwood Mac. A different thing from the music hall tradition that influenced the Beatles (and, later, Elvis Costello)

  13. Buddy Guy is completely commercial now and mundane,
    and Jimi Hendrix copied Albert King, not Buddy,
    it’s well known, but it would be a grievous disrespect to both for anyone to confuse what Jimi did with what Albert did.

  14. The popularity of music (and many other things) is a two-sided coin. There is the uniqueness of the music itself (and by extension, it’s writers/performers), and there is the uniqueness of the fan-base that resonates with this form of stimulation. The “classic” rock era of the sixties was a product of it’s time and the confluence of many titanic shifts in our society and culture. I think future historians and academics will record that our specie’s evolutionary track shifted fundamentally at about this juncture. In the 60s, music was a leading indicator of this paradigm change. And this change is not trivial.

  15. A friend in a party band once told me that covering most sounds was easy – you need a voice, someone to play lead, and two or three others that can keep time – but The Beatles required four musicians that could actually sing. Lightning in a bottle.

    In the late 70s and 80s radio play became dominated by record company A&R departments which were often more about profit than risk [plus the abomination of Disco] – as Cheech & Chong said in 1974, “I’m so bloody rich […] And I only know three chords.”

    Still, something about that era sticks with us – I was at a wedding of kids from the 90s and much of the music (like 20% – 30%) was Stevie Wonder from the 70s. Where are today’s Folk Rock (think anything with David Crosby or The Mamas and the Papas), Funk/Soul (from Marvin Gaye to Earth Wind and Fire) or Motown (Supremes, Smokey Robinson) bands? I think they’re in places I don’t listen to like Rap, Hip Hop, and Synth-Everything – genres I’ve never heard of that will win this year’s Grammys. Cutting edge music today isn’t reacting to a war in Vietnam, it’s about a war in city streets.

  16. The rock in Rockabilly is also clearly pre-’69 style, while the post-69 style has also extended its influence into today’s country music, which used to be more folk influenced.

  17. “What they did was raze old-school rock-and-roll to the ground, replacing it with a bastard child of LSD and Chicago-style hard electric blues. That angry, haunting, minor-key idiom is what buried the Beatles…

    I thought about that one for awhile, and then wondered… which Beatles? So while I drove to a job today I listened to “Abbey Road,” (release in 1969.*) and I think the Beatles were making the rock/blues changeover too, and probably would have completed it if they hadn’t broken up, because Abbey Road sounds like British Pop and The Blues went on a very hot date, took some really weird drugs together, all while driving much too fast on the Delta’s dirt roads! **

    This isn’t true for every song, of course, and some of the songs are clearly transitional in the sense you observed in your top post, (note the bluesy riffs in Octopus’s Garden, for example, which is clearly not a Blues song) but consider “Oh Darling” or “I Want You…”

    * Don’t forget that Abbey Road was the second-to-last album the Beatles released, but the last album they recorded.

    ** And forty-five years later, still sounds fifty years ahead of its time.

  18. Brilliant analysis, but you’re overlooking something.

    Rock is, fundamentally, revolutionary in its mindset, and at no time did this become more apparent than during the late 1960s when the powers that be thrust America headlong into an unpopular (but very profitable) war, and revolution seemed more necessary than ever. At that time the nation’s young, who had grown up listening to rock and roll and heard how it had revolutionized music and (perhaps more importantly) pissed off the older generations, took this new art form and channelled their anger through it.

    Even rock that isn’t overtly political is aesthetically transgressive, else it isn’t rock. This is why “bright, vocal-centered ensemble pop” hasn’t had any truck with rock fans for decades: it’s considered too cheesy and inauthentic, pandering to mainstream tastes. You don’t hear the individual voice, the suffering in that sound.

    There’s a whole school of critical thought called “rockism” that centered around this idea of authenticity and transgressiveness, and it is contrasted with “poptimism” which favors the brighter sounds. Those sounds are still around; they’re just not called rock anymore. Note that music critics started distinguishing between rock and pop around 1967, just before you say rock took its darker turn towards exclusively a hard blues sound. Pop was comfortable, pleasing to listen to. Rock was supposed to make you somewhat uncomfortable. It was supposed to challenge you, to question your assumptions.

    About two decades later, a similar revolution occurred in hip-hop music: it was formerly bright, danceable party music. Then the crack epidemic happened, and rap artists like Public Enemy channelled their rage at systemic racism and police brutality through their music, and the hip-hop sound got darker and more aggressive.

    • >Rock is, fundamentally, revolutionary in its mindset,

      No. It is not. That is a form of self-aggrandizing bullshit invented by a handful of musicians and critics in the late 1960s. A recent article in Reason correctly described this as part of a “romantic myth” of the history of rock, the other sequelae of which are (a) an insistence that rock is a Whitmaneque barbaric yawp perpetually subject to constant taming attempts by cold-eyed profit seekers, and (b) overemphasis on the blues elements in pre-1969 rock and roll, (c) denial of rock’s connections with the MOR pop music of the early 60s and similar preceding forms such as big-band jazz.

      In fact, pre-’69 rock and roll was anything but revolutionary or political or social-protest music. It was mostly adolescent angst, mating chants, and soppy romanticism. The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” and “O-bla-di, O-bla-da” are no mockery of the suburban bourgeoisie, it’s a celebration of them. Only after 1969 did politics infiltrate the form, and then not very successfully – Pete Townshend kicked the Yippies off his stage at Woodstock. Since then, no form of political or “revolutionary” rock has attracted more than niche audiences – not the leftism of MC5, not the neo-Nazi skinhead bands, and not (alas) the libertarianism of Rush. To the extent that “message” bands like Rush succeeded, it was the music selling the message, not the message selling the music.

      The same romantic myth insists on an early influence of Chicago blues on rock much stronger than the record shows. As I’ve noted upthread, rock-and-rollers like Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley owed more to gospel, country, and swing music than to the blues; Troutwaxer was right to point to Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s uptempo gospel sound as a key connecting link. Chuck Berry himself is more reminiscent of the brass- and piano-centered “jump blues” than Chicago hard blues.

      • I agree in part, but not as an absolute. The Doors premiered in January 1967 – Break on Through to the Other Side & The Wall are classics. Jefferson Airplaine’s Surrealistic Pillow came out a month later – including White Rabbit. The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis Bold and Beautiful came out in December 1967. All of these albums were, IMHO, unique and gave us a glimpse of where the genre was heading.

        • Yes but he still has a point. Just pretend that wherever he said “pre-1969” he said “pre-1964” instead.

          • >Yes but he still has a point. Just pretend that wherever he said “pre-1969” he said “pre-1964” instead.

            No, I’m going to stick with “pre-1969” while recognizing the argument for the earlier date is not without merit.

            Every transition in an art form has forward scouts, early innovators. I won’t deny that you can see the first stirrings of this one in the early Sixties – in America mostly on the psychedelia side, while in Great Britain that’s the period during which the musicians who formed the great British Invasion bands were imprinting on electric blues imported from the US. Mention could be made of Dick Dale and his instrumental surf guitar, pioneering use of controlled feedback and distortion between ’62 and ’64 in ways that would prepare the ground for the likes of Jimi Hendrix.

            To call out 1964 you have to fold in the hindsight that these different phenomena were going to syncretize into a massive transformative wave that wouldn’t happen until years later and nobody could have really seen coming that far in advance. I cite 1969 because I see that as the year the fusion of hard blues with pyschedelia began to rise and loom over the rock and roll and pop of the earlier Sixties – the first year you could see this was the coming thing rather than a bunch of disconnected experiments. A good marker for this is the release of Led Zeppelin’s first album.

            Because post-1969 rock remade itself in Led Zeppelin’s image, it’s possible to forget what a thunderbolt that album was at the time it shipped – what a break with old-school rock and roll it represented. Of course there were other bands, many less remembered, running on parallel courses – I’ve already discussed the James Gang, someone else rightly brought up Blue Cheer, and just for a third data point I’m going to gesture at Santana.

            My argument is that all these bands exploring the hard-blues/psychedelia fusion, and getting airplay, and selling out concert venues, affected mass expectations about rock music in a way the earlier pioneers had not. This was the new sound not as avant-garde any more, but crossing the chasm to the mainstream.

      • I think most of the political or revolutionary element of the 60s music scene was to be found among the balladeers, both male and female; e.g. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, etc.

      • Rock is obviously more left-wing that John Phillips Sousa. Drums and brass and trad military marches aren’t drums and guitars and booty-shaking. Revolutionary? No. Unmilitary? Yes.

        • An entire genre is less visibly to some extrema than an individual composer chosen for the purpose of being an extreme? Well, yeah. That doesn’t prove much at all.

          Is marching band music more or less left-wing than rock and roll? I’d submit that if the question makes sense at all, it is only just barely.

          • Sousa wasn’t extreme in anything but talent. Military marches were at least half of what you’d hear on the street 1720-1920.
            Is military march music less left-wing than rock and roll? I submit the answer ‘no shit Sherlock’. Although the last really good military march I heard was ABBA’s ‘Soldiers’.

            • Military marches aren’t left-wing? Tell that to the people who composed the Marseillaise and the Internationale. “Qu’un sang impur/Abreuve nos sillons” seems like a revolutionary sentiment to me.

      • In a way you are both right. @ESR @Jeff Read

        Rock is testosterone-music, it is a young man yelling “more power to me”. This type of young man used to be predominantly working class, as the elites were less comfortable with their masculinity.

        This sort of thing is transgressive only so far as the elites are “classicists”, which means an overlap of older and more elite tastes and the kind of highbrow conservatism best examplified by TS Eliot’s New Criterion. No wonder those types never liked it – Roger Scruton grumbled against it all his life.

        But once those old elites faded away the will to power of the young, mostly white, mostly straight man gradually got to be seen socially differently… people today associate metal with the right wing and they are not wrong.

        Being a revolutionary means a will to power – it looks authentically transgressive only as long as you have little of it. Once you have some power or seen as having some, the whole testosterone drive turns into more of a dominance-positive attitude.

        Note that this is a value-free analysis from me. I am not saying egalitarian revolution is good and dominance is bad. I am just saying the nature of the testosterone driven young man is to want more power, demand it, fight for it, undermine the ruling power elite by all means, and then when he got it of course stick to it.

        This is why good rock was mostly of the period where working class young men could feel sufficiently underpowered to be angry and revolutionary and transgressive.

        A society that sees all young white men as powerful of course puts them in the role where they will play music that sounds dominance-positive.

        Once it was women, gays and blacks seen as the new lower stratum hungry for more power, it did not really work the same way anymore. For blacks there is hip-hop which is far closer to their culture. For women and gays, I am sure they have bands but rock’s aggressivity came from being testosterone driven young straight males and whatever they do, they are doing it differently.

    • Jeff, having read both your post and Eric’s reply, it’s worth considering the difference between “rebelling from” and “rebelling to.”

      “Rebelling From” is a response to poverty, oppression or prejudice, whether perceived or real. It might (or might not) involve some piece of propaganda, like the Communist Manifesto* or the Declaration of Independence, which sets forth the causes of the revolution and proposes a solution.

      “Rebelling To” is the form of that rebellion: music, art or poetry that defines the movement. The uniform, not the cause. A lot of people have rebelled to Rock. Very few have rebelled from Rock. In fact, the idea that Rock is revolutionary brings out the cynic in me, particularly the old SubGenius canard about how “they will buy your revolution and sell it back to you!” **

      * I originally wrote “The Communist Manifest,” which involved a rather silly moment of imagining someone opening a box with paperwork which read:

      1 Guerrilla Leader
      1 Ontologist
      2 Commissars

      etc.

      ** Police recruitment videos set to Heavy Metal should forever lay to rest the idea that Rock is revolutionary.

      • You should be more cynical. There is only will to power, not much else in this context. Idealists (some leftists) think the oppressed rebels want to be equal and fight for that. It is stupid. Everybody fights to be become the next overdog. That is all. The reason rebellion is sexy is that it has the whole testosterone-driven will to power out in the open, admitting it. The people who are actually in power have to hide their power to a certain extent, act more complacent than hungry, hence it is less sexy. They are softer, softened by a good life, do not emit those alpha male vibes anymore. Getting power, fighting for power is far more sexy than just having it, just having power makes one soft, complacent and portly. You will stop being a leftist once you realize the revolutions aren’t betrayed: their whole purpose is precisely what they deliver: remove an older ruling caste, install a new ruling caste. This sort of stuff is always zero sum. There are other stuff not zero sum but outside this context.

    • You say you’ll change the constitution
      Well, you know
      We all want to change your head
      You tell me it’s the institution
      Well, you know
      You better free your mind instead
      But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
      You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

      The Beatles call bullshit.

    • > Rock is, fundamentally, revolutionary in its mindset,

      No, it’s not.

      It was *rebellious*, but not revolutionary.

      There were attempts to hijack it for the purposes of leftist propaganda, which is true of pretty much everything because that’s what leftist buttheads do, but those didn’t work so well because really people don’t pay attention to the words much, and those who do were already encamped on one side or the other.

      Now it’s just a printing press for Big Music.

  19. I think the lack of a successful Beatles sounding group says a lot more about the listeners than the performers. There have been very good groups to attempt this. In the early 90s there was a British group that was pretty successful everywhere except in America, called the Wonder Stuff. The reason they failed in America is not singular, but it certainly didn’t help that they were at their peak at the height of the Seattle grunge sound. Their own greatest hits album is even called “If the Beatles Had Read Hunter” (Hunter Thompson). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_The_Beatles_Had_Read_Hunter…The_Singles

  20. the earliest pieces of music that would sound completely in place on a modern rock playlist and were recorded by people neither black nor British

    Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly and Blue Cheer were neither black nor British, either.

    • I think it depends on how you define “modern.” Part of the problem is that we had at least one failed musical revolution in the eighties – check out Wikipedia’s list of one-hit wonders if you don’t know what I’m talking about and see listed Devo, Thomas Dolby, The Vapors, Flock of Seagulls, etc. (Dolby’s first album still sounds fresh.)

      Hip Hop and Rap also were not successful revolutions. They still have lots of energy and will be producing hits for years to come, but they haven’t come close to pushing the trap drum kit, bass, guitar and a melody out of first place.

      But leaving that aside, I think most people’s version of “modern” starts with the British Invasion. Any later material by the Beatles still sounds fresh, and there’s lots of Led Zeppelin that could go on a modern playlist, as could much of The Who. These days The Doors sound pretty retro to me – the Farfisa organ sound is very dated – and I’ve never been a fan of the Stones. The Monkeys sound old (look up Shonen Knife’s version of “Daydream Believer” on Youtube for a real treat) and lots of Punk sounds pretty dated these days (maybe everyone but the Clash and the Ramones?) So yeah, blues-loving bands from the sixties are definitely still on the leading edge – which is kind of sad when you think about it. Modern music is pretty stagnant.

      • Did you mean to reply to the post itself rather than my comment?

        But yeah, I should have mentioned the Doors too. (Sure, their organ sound isn’t something that you would often hear in later rock music, but you wouldn’t often hear it in contemporary or earlier rock music either.) Their debut album being from 1967, it’s an even better candidate for the earliest well-known modern rock (“rock without roll” if you will) record by non-black non-Britons than those I mentioned in my previous comment. (Of course, this only confirms ESR’s point, Back Door Man being by Willie Dixon.)

  21. What I’ve noticed is that trumpet playing has completely disappeared from modern music. It disappeared around 1980, its role replaced (poorly) by synthesizers. Trumpets were last heard on late 70’s disco albums.

    When was the last time you heard anything remotely like Herb Alpert’s playing?

    • They don’t give a damn
      ’bout any trumpet-playin’ band
      It ain’t what they call rock and roll…

      Alpert was a bit too mainstream to really have that much influence on rock.

    • Saxophone solos, on the other hand, were a staple in at least the lighter form of rock right until the time grunge took over.

      They’ve started to make a comeback, albeit only in bands with a self-consciously 1980s shtik.

    • There’s a trumpet player live on BBC One right now with Chic. And IIRC horn sections have long been a part of diverse music. Not necessarily modern of course. He’s getting a solo as I write….

      No idea about Herb Alpert though.

      ISTM that ‘sounds like’ is too crude a measure of ‘influence’. The Beatles pioneered the idea and practice of the album, created in the studio. For example.

      And doesn’t ‘Good Morning’ count as social commentary?

    • > What I’ve noticed is that trumpet playing has completely disappeared from modern music.

      What about Ska genre?

    • Björk’s Volta (2007) comes to mind. She deliberately wrote one album for strings and electronic instruments (Vespertine, 2001) and one for brass wind and electronic instruments (Volta). The one in between is mostly voice only (Medulla, 2004).

  22. Funny question: How would you compare the work of The Beatles to the work done subsequently by the former members of The Beatles? Paul McCartney & Wings achieved popular success, and George Harrison seems to have collaborated with everybody. But it seems like even The Beatles couldn’t maintain the sound of The Beatles.

    • >Funny question: How would you compare the work of The Beatles to the work done subsequently by the former members of The Beatles?

      I think McCartney kept the sound, but not the songwriting chops. The output of the other ex-Beatles was, alas, largely forgettable.

      • Lennon kept the songwriting ability (although the subject matter and philosophy of his songs was execrable). Harrison continued with the Eastern mysticism. Ringo got… er… still thinking…

        • Starkey is still the bad-ass drummer he always was, and is touring with the All Starrs.
          And he’s passed his genes to his son Zac, who is (among other engagements) sitting in (quite well) for Keith Moon.

  23. “Yeah, it was only a few years ago that I realized that Christmas music isn’t its own genre, it’s just regular 40s music with Christmas lyrics.”

    If you mean secular Christmas music, yes. Religious Christmas music has a much wider range, from hymns of over 100 years ago (O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night) to African-American spirituals (e.g., Go Tell It On The Mountain).

  24. “Still, I think the fact that successful imitation was so rare is evidence that it was really hard. I can’t think of any reason why musicians wouldn’t have wanted to imitate the Beatles.”

    It must be something like that. Given how popular the Beatles still are, there are clearly many listeners who like their sound. It would be interesting to see how strong their following is among listeners who aren’t old enough to remember then before they broke up. I know they were still popular when I was in college in the late Eighties.

    “A friend in a party band once told me that covering most sounds was easy – you need a voice, someone to play lead, and two or three others that can keep time – but The Beatles required four musicians that could actually sing. Lightning in a bottle.”

    Yes, *something* must have made it hard to imitate. I enjoy the Beatles, but I’m not much of a fan of the “rock” that came later. I doubt I’m the only person who likes one much more than the other.

    • The problem is that you can’t be too like the Beatles. That’s the critical kiss of death, and that’s true for a reason: the Beatles are part of our musical DNA. We’ve all heard the Beatles all our lives, almost certainly from well before we were able to talk.

      If a competent musician can imitate the Beatles they can probably also walk and chew gum at the same time. This is not to say anything remotely bad about the Beatles, but to comment on the immense power of the band’s reach and influence… less people understand this than should.

  25. “It’s odd, when you think about it. The sound that electrified the late Fifties and Sixties is still revered, but it’s gone.”

    Eric, what’s your thought on *why* this happened? If it’s still revered (and it is), why isn’t anyone doing it successfully in a major way?

    • >Eric, what’s your thought on *why* this happened?

      I would have thought that was obvious. It was replaced by something more interesting, with a wider range of possibilities.

      The objective evidence that this is true is the extreme persistence of the post 1969 hard-blues-based rock form. Nothing has displaced it, despite several spirited attempts.

      • Or maybe something easier. I am not a musician, I am not sure blues is easier than R’n’R, but in a market where 1) providing the service is in itself enjoyable 2) most amateur providers hardly even make beer money, I would expect constant pressure to reduce the barrier to enter, the general consensus of what is acceptable as amateur rock – so that any random dude with minimal practice can be a 15 minute star for the drunk girls at a rural music bar? And then the rest, what happens on the top level, could be path dependence? I am not confident about this but may worth a thought – that hobbyist things, services that people LOVE to provide at an amateur level, tend to gravitate towards easiness?

        • Pre-1969 rock and roll is easier to play competently than blues, which has some deep subtleties of timing and articulation.

          I speak from experience here.

          In fact blues is sufficiently difficult that it takes long immersion in the form to get the subtleties right.

          Many Americans don’t get this, because we grow up with blues in the air and the water. You figure it out when you listen to people from outside the US try to do it competently – the results are usually laughable, non-Americans like Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler who really get it are the exception rather than the rule.

  26. If you look at this from an European perspective, the brit-pop/Manchester wave of the 1980s/1990s (esp. The Stone Roses, perhaps The Smiths) is obviously inspired by the Beatles.

    • I forgot about Britpop which, afaik was started or at least promoted as a reaction to the grunge wave sweeping the USA in the early 90s.

      Confusing the USA with the world is a common trap for Americans to fall into.

  27. Atari introduced Pong to arcades in 1973 and had a home version in 1975 – the first step on the path to Guitar Hero. A sinister video game plot by Nolan Bushnell to kill rock and roll?

  28. Pingback: Let's Review 25: Baby It's Cold Outside Edition - American Digest

  29. Seems to me that all the styles of music are still there to be heard but there are many more to be found today. Since the recording industry lost control after the internet zapped the “album” there have been an explosion of styles. As an example, electronica, switched on Bach & Moog styles morphed into glitch, house, IDM, industrial, jungle, techno, trance, and a bunch of others, all more or less going strong today.

    We still listen to older forms like Ragtime, 300 year old classics, and those still influence today’s music, just as the profusion of rock & blues styles result from 60’s & 70’s music. Nothing has been lost; just more has been gained.

    • Since the recording industry lost control after the internet zapped the “album” there have been an explosion of styles. As an example, electronica, switched on Bach & Moog styles morphed into glitch, house, IDM, industrial, jungle, techno, trance, and a bunch of others, all more or less going strong today.

      It wasn’t the internet that exploded things, it was the CD. In the late 70s (If I recall the numbers correctly) it cost about 6 bucks to produce a LP. It sold for 7 to 8 dollars (that doesn’t seem right, to me now, but the actual number isn’t that important). LPs degraded as you played them and so did the masters used to press them.

      Then came CDs. They cost (in volume) about a dollar to press, were cheaper and less prone to breakage, and sold for 14-16 dollars.

      Even if the 6 dollar figure for LPs is wrong, CDs made a LOT more profit than LPs. So there was more room to experiment. Also you had cassette tapes commercialized in the mid-70s (IIRC, I was 9 in 1975), which were crap audio wise, but you could get a 4 track recorder for not a lot of money and make your own tapes. Pre-recorded cassettes were cheaper than LPs, and you could take them with and play them anywhere.

      I remember my cousin had probably 50 Country, Western and Country and Western CDs on his dashboard.

      This is what allowed Rap and Punk (the two big “alternatives” in the late 70s to get so big, and (along with MTV). Then, as the economy improved in the 80s and people had more spending money these things do, it got all recombinatitorial, and really exploded. How many kinds of “metal” are there? Pre-69 rock and roll, surviving somewhat in the hands of the Rockabilly groups bred with the Horror Punk (Misfits etc al) and you got the Cramps. Then GWAR. Punk spawned post-punk which morphed into New Wave and Shoe Gazer and spit out bands like the Cure. Ian hung himself, and the surviving members of Joy Division ingested WAY too much disco and New Order was born. (time is out of joint here).

      THEN the internet came in and things got weirder.

      • >Pre-69 rock and roll, surviving somewhat in the hands of the Rockabilly groups

        I meant to mention this in an earlier comment. Of all the little splinter genres that preserved rock and roll from before ’69, the rockabillies have indeed shown the most ability to reach post-’69 audiences.

        Not my favorite, though – if I’m in a retro mood I’d rather listen to Dick-Dale-style instrumental surf guitar.

      • >Punk spawned post-punk which morphed into New Wave and Shoe Gazer and spit out bands like the Cure.

        Since it might be of interest to my regulars I’ll mention that I quite like the few items of shoegaze that show up in my Pandora feed. I have a suspicion they’re probably selected for prog tendencies by my filters (because, like, everything is selected for prog tendencies by my filters) though, so they might not be representative.

        Note to self: Trawl YouTube for more Engineers music.

        • I wish there was a way to tell Pandora that I want the music that fits in the intersection of these N bands.

          I tried that by putting Joy Division, the Butthole Surfers, The Cramps and the Legendary Pink Dots in one station, but it wasn’t nearly as weird as I needed.

          I don’t think adding Warren Zevon would have helped.

  30. I spent some time today in a store where they had the radio tuned to a Christian Rock station. The bands I listened to did an excellent job of imitating modern rock; same drums, same keyboards, same guitars, same bass, but after listening for a little while I realized that they were all in a major key. No blues scales, and very, very White.

    I don’t know whether the “lack of blues” was an artifact of this particular station – I don’t usually listen to Christian music – but I once I realized why the music (not the lyrics) sounded a little off I immediately flashed on this discussion.

    • >The [Christian] bands I listened to did an excellent job of imitating modern rock; same drums, same keyboards, same guitars, same bass, but after listening for a little while I realized that they were all in a major key. No blues scales, and very, very White.

      Yep. No, it’s not that one station. It’s a genre code, a callback to diatonic country music. Here’s what it’s saying:

      “OK, we’re playing electric guitars loud under hot lights, but we’re really upright clean-living folks with rural Christian values underneath.”

      The major scales are a promise to not corrupt your kids. No, I’m not joking.

      I’ve actually wondered how long it will be until some SJW idiot notices this and starts ranting about Christian rock being dog-whistle white supremacism…

        • >You’re assuming they understand that much about music.

          Heh. Since when have SJWs ever been inhibited by a lack of clue? Sin Racism is everywhere; zeal to sniff it out easily trumps mere facts or reason.

          No, this one’s a fat target because the religious traditionalist’s suspicion of urbanity (all cities are Sodom, places where people to go to get away with sexual license and perversion that that wouldn’t be tolerated among upright country folks) drives a hostility to urban musical genres (people dance to it and then have forbidden sex) which, demographics being what they are, becomes avoidance of musical styles coded “black”. Blues and rock and jazz and disco are all fuck music, don’t you know.

          The funny part, if you have my mordant sense of humor, is that this isn’t even wrong! Etymologically, the genre labels “rock and roll” and “jazz” both originated as black slang for having sex. There’s a subgenre of R&B that insiders call “fuck music”, and not without reason (Barry White made a career of it). If you have the moral premises of a Christian evangelical, keeping your kids well clear of black music is common sense – completely reasonable. This is not racism, it’s defensive culturism.

          Of course SJWs aren’t good at noticing that distinction (he understated massively). In the case of evangelicals, hatred and contempt give them extra motivation to miss it.

          • “Since when have SJWs ever been inhibited by a lack of clue?

            Oh, no argument there. But for them to argue that major scales are a dog whistle for white supremacy first requires them to notice the major scales, and the difference between that and the blues-driven rock you’re talking about. They can’t complain about dog whistles that they don’t know exist.

          • “If you have the moral premises of a Christian evangelical, keeping your kids well clear of black music is common sense – completely reasonable. This is not racism, it’s defensive culturism.”

            Meh. The sad thing about this is that plenty of people move to the country because they want some privacy for their sexual practices, which may (or may not) be sane or lawful, with the frequent result that country living can be MUCH MORE SINFUL than city living if you know where/how to find it. The really ugly ones then join churches to give themselves even better cover than the privacy of their farms, which is important because your typical fundamentalist church places a premium on the wimmin and chillin keepin their damn sinful mouths shut (about what the men have done to them. And thus are southern gothics inspired.)

            The minor racial scent cloud around “defensive culturism” is tame by comparison! The fundies are so trapped in the past they probably think they’re protecting their kids from Lucille Bogan. (Now those are some explict lyrics… I am amused!)

            • >The sad thing about this is that plenty of people move to the country because they want some privacy for their sexual practices, which may (or may not) be sane or lawful, with the frequent result that country living can be MUCH MORE SINFUL than city living if you know where/how to find it.

              You might be right. I was describing the evangelicals’ beliefs about city vs. country, not asserting them to be correct.

              As a separate issue, I think you’re probably not right – anonymity is more difficult when the population density is lower. But this is a point on which data is thin and disputable and reasonable people may differ.

            • >(Now those are some explict lyrics… I am amused!)

              I didn’t give that a listen until after I wrote my previous reply.

              Dear Goddess. That comes pretty close to inducing me into a moral panic, and I’m so far down the other end of the prudishness bell curve from a fundy that you’d need a telescope to find me.

              • Merciful $DEITY. I’m more than just a little bit surprised someone went to all the trouble of using 1935 technology to record that.

                • >sigh<

                  Study some art history.

                  Really.

                  The first use for just about every new technology is spreading "sin".

                  One of the early uses of woodblock printing was playing cards.

                  Pornographic films go back to *at least* the mind 1890s.

                  And as we all know the internet was for porn.

              • I can play that tune. And if I had a female singer that could sing that with proper amounts of emotion… I’d marry her.

          • I think this model of “religious traditionalists see the city as Sodom” is a far too simplistic view. The thing, sex is a competitive thing, that is the most important aspect of it to understand. So rural boys go to the city in order to get rich and famous and powerful in order to either be more attractive to the plain girls at home, or even better, to attract a real beauty city girl. And rural girls go to the city in order to learn how to be pretty and mingle in the right circles where the rich and famous and powerful men are hoping to catch one. So the whole point is competition.

            No offense, ESR, but I sometimes think you are stuck in 1968 where sexual liberation was expected to be a easy does it thing where people peacefully and happily fuck randomly like in some swingers club.

            Today we know better, mostly through the spectacular frustrations of young people who, when male, just can’t seem to find a girl in all this freedom, and when female, like that girl in Jersey Shore, just can’t seem to find an attractive man who is loyal to them.

            The core thing learned, and documented a gazillion time over the darkly enlightened part of the Internet is, that this type of freedom (and equality) always leads to an ever spiralling intensification of *competition*.

            I don’t know if the fundies imagine Sodom as an easy, low effort, peaceful, “hug me brah and stick it in” type of swinger club. But if they imagine it as ultra-intense competition for slightly prettier women / slightly higher status men, with everything that competition means, backstabbing and all that, then they are spot on.

            Basically, we from our darwinian perspective figured that humanities “original sin” is ultra-intense sexual competition (and all that comes with it: status competition, power competition) which always spirals out of control once authority does not repress it into some amount of sanity. And I often wonder if through some entirely different path the Christians somehow managed to figure that, too.

            Seriusly, ESR just go to any bar of the kind where the women look like models and the men order bottle service in a vain hope of impressing them. It is absolutely not a happy relaxed place. It feels a lot like the stock exchange floor.

            • >No offense, ESR, but I sometimes think you are stuck in 1968 where sexual liberation was expected to be a easy does it thing where people peacefully and happily fuck randomly like in some swingers club.

              No. I was describing the fundamentalists’ more-than-a-bit-envious-fantasy of cities as fleshpits of easy sex, not my own.

              Actually, I learned early that random fucking doesn’t work by observing people slightly older than me who were doing that. As a result, I don’t think I ever went after a woman intending a one-night stand, and if I did it was so long ago that I can no longer recall the intention.

              I was as fond of dalliance with lots of women as the next young man, but I wanted to keep mine interested rather than throwing them over after the first bang. I never actually quite understood guys whose sexual metier was to do lots of one-offs. I mean, if I found a woman interesting enough to bed I generally wanted to do that lots of times rather than just once, so what was going on in their heads? Mindless notch-scoring? Short attention span? Well…not my problem.

              It is not unrelated that I always turned down passes from intoxicated woman. “If you ask me again when you’re sober…” was my response. Not one ever did, and I was OK with that.

              None of this was prudery or inhibitions – I was maximizing a different utility function than the guys who’d go to your swinger club. Some of the things I did do back in the day would have set set your typical fundy’s hair on fire. Good memories…

            • > I think this model of “religious traditionalists see the
              > city as Sodom” is a far too simplistic view.

              Nope.

              The thing is when you live in a town of 5 or 10 thousand you *can’t* be “easy” without everyone knowing it. You can’t be gay, you can’t be into threesomes or orgies. About all you can do is f*k the livestock. Which I’m told happens more than we’d want to acknowledge.

              You *can* do these in St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans or wherever.

              It’s practically mandatory in San Francisco.

          • > all cities are Sodom, places where people to go to get
            > away with sexual license and perversion that that wouldn’t
            > be tolerated among upright country folks

            Not all of them.

            Just the good ones.

      • Thanks for addressing that issue. I was beginning to think I’d asked my question to the void.

        “I’ve actually wondered how long it will be until some SJW idiot notices this and starts ranting about Christian rock being dog-whistle white supremacism…”

        I really don’t want to go there, but I’ll note that the problem in intelligently discussing the issue is one of fine distinctions, careful research, and specificity. Christian Rock is doubtless a rabbit-hole of subgenres just like every other kind of music. So which subgenre of Christian Rock are we talking about? Which subgenre of racism? Or which subgenre of Christian Rock and which subgenre of modern social ideals? ‘Nuf said, mainly because I don’t want to dive down this rabbit hole.

  31. I found a kind of minimal pair illustrating the transition today. Two songs by a now half-forgotten band called Three Dog Night that had a string of #1 hits in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

    1968: One

    1970: Liar

    Same musicians, same instrumental mix…but what a difference! From sentimental pop ballad to a tense, looming howl that doesn’t have the strict form of the blues but definitely carries its emotional punch. Only one now sounds dated; the other could have been recorded yesterday.

    This, gentleman and ladies, is what happens when you’re an amiable American 1960s MOR hit machine – they made a TV show about this kind of band and called it “The Monkees” – and then the Brits show up and rock your ass right off and you realize you’ve got catching up to do.

    Now pay attention to the difference in dynamic contour and range, because it’s a tell. We go from “One”, where you’ve got basically a steady, even volume level on everything but pauses, to a really large dynamic contrast between the understated, folky guitar lick backing the verses and the shouted chorus of “Liar”. That use of dynamic contrast to build then release tension is normal production technique today, but I remember it still being startling in late ’71, about the soonest I could have heard this (my family was living in Italy in 1970 and my access to American rock was basically nil then).

    It’s not a big secret who introduced that to rock music, either. Any historian of rock would tell you the same thing – Led Zeppelin. Emphasizing those dynamic swings with an acoustic/electric timbre contrast, as here, was a trademark of the Zep in the beginning, though later naturalized to the genre as a whole – you can hear it done to very good effect a few years later by Heart (for example). This is Three Dog Night picking up on the technique very early, basically announcing “Led Zeppelin I took us to school.” Couldn’t be much clearer if it were lit by signal flares…

    There’s a pretty clear backtrail from Led Zeppelin’s elaboration to blues shouters – not your smooth B.B.King R&B crooner types but rough men like John Lee Hooker or Howlin’ Wolf. There are parallels in the development of black popular music from the same years; think about the stylistic difference between Barry White and Sly Stone.

    • Well, I would argue that Three Dog Night embraced that dichotomy for the duration of their existence. The albums containing the songs you cite illustrate this pretty well: their debut, which opens with the pop trifle of “One,” closes with the much meatier “Try a little tenderness” — which, to my ears, leans more on gospel than blues, but still has the emotional heft, if not the specific production techniques you cite, of “Liar.” Then their fourth album, the one with “Liar,” closes with its musical and emotional opposite (and one of their biggest hits), “Joy to the world,” pop to its core — if you squint your ears, you can hear Lennon belting out its verses the way he did when the Beatles covered (sanitized?) the Isley Brothers. This is not to argue against the Zep influence you’re pointing out — it would be hard to be a working rock band in 1970 and not be influenced by them — just to say that in the case of Three Dog Night, it’s not quite as simple as an evolution from one form to another.

      • >in the case of Three Dog Night, it’s not quite as simple as an evolution from one form to another.

        For sure. I’m surprised you didn’t cite what I think would have been the best possible example of Three Dog Night sticking to its pop roots, that gooey confection “Road to Shambala” from ’75.

        Not surprising at all that a band with a fan base predating the transition would want to some extent to hold on to what it knew would sell hits to them.

        The transition wasn’t simple and unidirectional for individual bands, but it was for rock as a whole. “Shambala” sounded a lot more dated and corny in ’75 than “One” had when “Liar” was released – and I can’t remember anyone recording in that style at all since 1980.

        (Though Steve Wilson, AKA “Porcupine Tree”, did a brilliant parody of it on his first album.)

  32. So there’s easily a thousand words which could follow this (which I am too tired and buzzed to fill in) but we’re way too far into this discussion for no one to have mentioned the Kinks, in some ways the perfect Beatles-to-Blues transition band.

    • >the Kinks, in some ways the perfect Beatles-to-Blues transition band

      Heh. They actually occurred to me as a potential example while I was writing my comment about Three Dog Night.

      I didn’t write that down because I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about the Kinks in particular.

      • It is I, your VolksHypertext collaborator, with esr number of 1. I don’t see the Kinks as supporting your hypotheses. Their hardest rockers were their first two hits, “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night”. Their later material was much more artistic and intelligent and not very blues-influenced. (I prefer my rock hard, not artistic and intelligent, but the Kinks were really good throughout).

        I could go on about my other disagreements; I am 67, so 60s music was my teen and college years, and I remember it well. But there may not be anyone left reading this thread, so I’ll let it go, for now at least.

        • >It is I, your VolksHypertext collaborator, with esr number of 1.

          It is good that you have rematerialized. :-)

          >Their hardest rockers were their first two hits, “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night”.

          Very old-school, though. The vocal and guitar style on those tracks harked back to the 1950s and 1960s pop later unflatteringly known as “grease rock”. It already sounded quite dated when I first heard it in the very early Seventies. Jimi Hendrix and the acid-rock crowd had put paid to that kind of simplistic repetitive chording even before the blues wave hit in ’69 – even Dick Dale and the surf rockers played better.

          If your point is that the Kinks’ later, better stuff was more British music-hall with little or no hard-blues influence, I can’t disagree. In retrospect, I have to think they were heavily influenced by the late-period Beatles albums. There were a few other bands like that – Cheap Trick, Bread, and Three Dog Night have been mentioned upthread. But after 1971 they were very much the exception, not the rule.

          • I’m pretty sure we had not heard riffs like that with a tone like that before Dave Davies played them in 1964, and I had been listening. What predecessors did they hark back to?

            I can’t find much on the web explaining what grease rock is. What sort of bands would that encompass?

            • >I can’t find much on the web explaining what grease rock is. What sort of bands would that encompass?

              Falsetto voices. Saxophones. Very primitive guitar. Sappy teen-romance lyrics. I can’t name specific bands because I found that subgenre so offputting that I stayed the hell away from it as much as possible – I mostly know about it from accidental exposure over radio.

  33. What about ‘home sweet home alabama’ ?

    The most obtrusive of these questions is: Why does nothing in today’s rock music sound like the Beatles?

    this is so very very true my friend..

  34. Tool. Tool is the usual exception to most of rock’s rules, or trends, which reverberates into rock, which makes them the mainstream, and then they redefine themselves.

  35. Did the blues really eat rock and roll? I noticed over the past 20 years that country and western music started to get a real rock’n’roll vibe shortly after you noticed rock’n’roll disappearing and being replaced by blues.

    Then Youtube popped this up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02j69VeTkTo (Super Rare Rockabilly 1950s)

    Rockabilly has always been around. It is still here. And Hank Marvin is still the greatest guitarist ever.

    • >I noticed over the past 20 years that country and western music started to get a real rock’n’roll vibe

      Yeah, that’s no mystery. It did happen and a lot of serious country-music fans are cheesed off about it – they saw it (rightly I think) as bands and managers and promoters chasing what they thought was a bigger demographic to make more money.

      >Rockabilly has always been around.

      I don’t like the style, but I acknowledge that this is true.

  36. The differences have more to do with dance music vs listening music more than anything else. Swing and Rock & Roll are dance musics. Bebop, most blues, and rock are not.

    There is plenty of either camp right now. Radio is just crap though and based on image and clic more than sounds. it is the tail wagging the dog.

  37. There is plenty of evidence of the credible Beatles inspired music pushing through in recognisable, but evolving forms through at least until the mid 2000s. Off the top of my head I can think of a thread that includes Squeeze, Elvis Costello, XTC, Joe Jackson, Tears for Fears, Crowded House, The Stone Roses, Blur, Radiohead and ultimately (to the point of pastiche) Oasis.

    This part of the rock family tree mostly grew outside of the US mainstream FM Classic Rock market, when the English mainstream bifurcated from the US around the time of Punk. After Punk, Classic Rock in any form became very unfashionable in the UK and didn’t inform the fashion, culture or the pop charts in the way that it had in the 70s. Ironically it was US punks (Ramones, Iggy and The Stooges) that fuelled British punks and destroyed prospects of progressive rock in the UK.

    The UK rock scene only really returned to Americana through US Alternative bands (Sonic Youth, Pixies, REM, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr etc). Interestingly, some of the melodic US alternative bands like REM seemed to be more inspired by the Byrds than the Beatles. Lots of Brit bands also took inspiration from the Byrds or Neil Young (e.g. Teenage Fanclub), but very few took any inspiration from CSN, The Eagles, Rush or ELO. Nu Metal (e.g. Rage Against the Machine) was also big in the UK, but it stood on the shoulders of early dark 70s blues inspired rock (e.g. Black Sabbath) and Hip Hop.

    Basically, the Classic Rock scene outside in the UK (and related markets) has been moribund since the mid-70s. There was a bit of a resurgence of interest in retro-rock in the mid-2000s as legacy acts (including US acts previously unpopular in Europe) were forced back into live performance (mostly at festivals) when their back catalogue revenue streams were eaten up by cheap digital downloads. This was the same time that mainstream British guitar bands fell into retro-pastiche stagnation and haven’t really recovered from since (for example, Radiohead are now anything but Rock).

    Curiously, early punk is a great place to look for post 1970/Non-xmas Chuck Berry-style Rock’n’Roll. Some of these early punk bands were evolutions of competent old-school pub-rockers (The Clash, Dr Feelgood), whilst others (e.g. Sex Pistols) were DIYers for whom ham-fisted boogie-woogie was as much as they could muster musically. I don’t think it was reverence for the genre though, as punks would happily would bash out half-arsed Reggae and Ska too.

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