American rock: Wikis


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American rock is rock music from the United States. Rock and roll originated in the United States from the synthesis of blues, country and other styles of music from both white and black Americans. American rock music has had great success over the second half of the 20th century, with its success during the 1950s being mostly from artists like Bill Haley & His Comets, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. During the 1960s, Psychedelic rock dominated the later half of the decade with bands such as The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience obtaining success. Other artists to achieve success included folk rocker Bob Dylan, surf rock band The Beach Boys, and southern rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival. Several of the most influential American rock bands and artists thrived during the 1970s such as Aerosmith, Van Halen, Boston, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Eagles. American punk artists such as The Ramones also had their peak in the 1970s. In the 1980s, acts such as Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Journey, and Tom Petty achieved success with comebacks from both Aerosmith and Van Halen occurring. Metal also achieved mainstream success with Metallica and Slayer fan bases increasing. In the early 1990s, grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden dominated. In the later 1990s, bands such as Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, and Red Hot Chili Peppers gained popularity. In the current decade, American rock has been fueled by the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, as well as some popular bands such as My Chemical Romance and Panic at the Disco.



Covers: Early 50s

Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, rhythm and blues music had been gaining a stronger beat and a wilder style, with artists such as Fats Domino, Johnny Otis, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley speeding up the tempos and increasing the backbeat to great popularity on the juke-joint circuit. Despite the pioneering efforts of Freed and others, black music, or "race music", was still taboo on many white-owned radio outlets. However, savvy artists and producers recognized the popularity and potential of rock and roll and raced to cash in with white versions of this black music. Black performers saw their songs recorded by white performers, an important step in the dissemination of the music, but often at the cost of feeling and authenticity. Most famously, Pat Boone recorded sanitized versions of Little Richard songs (Little Richard retaliated by getting wilder, creating in "Long Tall Sally", a song so intense that Boone couldn't find a way to cover it). Similarly, Ricky Nelson recorded Fats Domino. Later, as those songs became popular, the original artists' recordings received radio play as well (though this seldom resulted in any remuneration to the original artists). The cover versions were not necessarily straightforward imitations. For example, Bill Haley's incompletely bowdlerized cover of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" transformed Joe Turner's humorous and racy song into an energetic teen dance number, while Georgia Gibbs replaced Etta James's sarcastic vocal in "Roll With Me, Henry" (covered as "Dance With Me, Henry") with a perkier vocal more appropriate for an audience unfamiliar with the song which James's song was an answer to (Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie").

Rockabilly: Mid-50s

At the same time that R&B was turning into rock and roll, country & western music was undergoing a similar transformation to faster tempos and more aggressive playing. In cities like Memphis, Tennessee, country and blues record producers such as Sam Phillips combined this "hillbilly" music with the driving rhythm of rock and roll and rockabilly was born. In 1954, an unknown performer named Elvis Presley would come into Phillips' studio with a request to record a disc for his mother. Recognizing talent in the shy young man, Phillips arranged to have Elvis record some ballads with professional musicians, but that date quickly turned into a jam session as Elvis sang the R&B songs he loved. Elvis' first release for Phillips' Sun Records, "That's All Right Mama" became the first rockabilly hit and established Elvis as the first true rock and roll star.

But it was in 1955 that the rock era really began to take off with Bill Haley & His Comets' seminal recording, "Rock Around the Clock". The song was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, "Clock" certainly set the mold for everything else that came after. With its combined rockabilly and R & B influences, "Clock" topped the U.S. charts for several weeks, and has since been featured on the soundtrack to such films as Blackboard Jungle and American Graffiti, as well as the original theme music to the TV series Happy Days.

Diversification of American rock: Late 50s

With the runaway popular success of rock, the style began to influence other genres. Vocalized R&B became doo wop, for example, while uptempo, secularized gospel music became soul, and audiences flocked to see Appalachian-style folk bands playing rock-influenced pop version of their style. Young adults and teenagers across the country were playing in amateur rock bands, laying the roots for local scenes, garage rock and alternative rock. More immediately, places like Southern California produced their own varieties of rock, such as surf.


British Invasion

American rock and roll had an impact across the globe, perhaps most intensely in Britain, where record collecting and trend-watching were in full bloom among the youth culture prior to the rock era, and where color barriers became less of an issue. This set the stage for Britain becoming a new center of rock and roll, leading to the British Invasion from 1958 to 1969. Although they were not the first British band to come to America, The Beatles spearheaded the Invasion allowing other British bands headed to the U.S., notably The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Who, and The Yardbirds. This invasion influenced countless American rock bands to come.

1960s Garage rock

The British Invasion spawned a wave of imitators in the U.S. and across the globe. Many of these bands were cruder than the bands they tried to emulate. Playing mainly to local audiences and recording cheaply, very few of these bands broke through to a higher level of success. This movement, later known as Garage Rock, gained a new audience when record labels started re-issuing compilations of the original singles; the known of these is a series called Nuggets. Some of the better known band of this genre include The Sonics, Question Mark & the Mysterians, and The Standells.

Surf Music

The rockabilly sound reached the West coast and mutated into a wild, mostly instrumental sound called surf music. This style, exemplified by Dick Dale and The Surfaris, featured faster tempos, innovative percussion, and processed electric guitar sounds which would be highly influential upon future rock guitarists. Other West coast bands, notably the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, would capitalize on the surf craze, slowing the tempos back down and adding harmony vocals to create the "California Sound".


This homegrown American trend was making itself felt in the early 1960s, led by Bob Dylan. By 1963 the 22 year old Dylan had assimilated a deep variety of regional American styles and was about to work some alchemy to create an entirely new genre, usually dubbed "folk-rock". From 1961 to mid 1963 Dylan had kept his distance from rock and roll even though his first musical forays back in high school owed more to early rockers like Buddy Holly and Little Richard than to any of the more obscure folk and blues artists he would later embrace. In 1963 Dylan's release of the album The Times They Are A-Changin was a watershed event, bringing "relevant" and highly poetic lyrics to the edge of rock and roll. The Beatles listened to this album incessantly and moved away from the exclusive love themes of their work to date. In 1964 and 1965 Dylan threw off all pretense to roots purity and embraced the rock beat and electric instruments, climaxed by the release of the song "Like a Rolling Stone" which, at over six minutes, changed the landscape of hit radio and ushered in a period of intense experimentation on both sides of the Atlantic. Dylan would continue to surprise fans and critics with successful albums all the way into the early 1970s. His influence on American rock is widespread, having effect on everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Bruce Springsteen. Other American acts that included folk rock influences to achieve success in the 1960s and early 1970s include Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joan Baez, and Buffalo Springfield. Even Bob Dylan's backing band, The Band, achieved success in this era with their hugely successful Music from Big Pink.

Psychedelic rock

Psychedelic music sprang up in numerous centers - New York City, London, Los Angeles, and elsewhere - but early on, and strongly, in San Francisco. For some years, the so-called San Francisco Sound gained huge momentum in the United States. 1967 became an important year in psychedelic rock as it combined with the values of the 1960s to be dubbed the Summer of Love. Landmark albums such as Are You Experienced?, Strange Days, Surrealistic Pillow, and Axis: Bold as Love were released this year letting The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, and The Doors achieve success. In 1968, psychedelia continued to gain popularity with the release of Electric Ladyland, among others. In 1969, psychedelia had another peak at the Woodstock Festival which showcased the best American rock bands along with other international sensations.


The 1970s began with the deaths of multiple American rock musicians of the previous decade including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. This changed the face of American rock with new bands emerging in the middle of the decade.

Hard Rock

A number of groups in the early 1970s continued the trend towards heavier and heavier rock and roll begun in the 1960s. Guitar driven albums would propel bands to stardom. The early albums of American group Aerosmith would greatly reflect these influences with their 1975 album Toys in the Attic achieving great mainstream success. Van Halen also exploded onto the music scene with their self titled debut becoming one of the best selling albums of all time.[1] The guitar work of Eddie Van Halen would launch Van Halen into stadium headliners.

Glam Rock

Popular American glam rock acts such as Alice Cooper, Styx, The New York Dolls and Kiss rivaled the success of similar British artists such as David Bowie. Their music is marked by live performance kitsch antics, provocative yet catchy lyrics, and a cutting-edge sound on albums like Alice Cooper's Bob Ezrin-produced Billion Dollar Babies. Conversely, The New York Dolls sound was more stripped down and raw, influenced by 1960s girl groups, and protopunk groups like The MC5 and The Stooges. The ironic mockery of rock excess presented by glam rock acts would later influence both punk rock and glam metal.

Progressive Rock

Progressive rock can largely be seen as an expansion on the supergroup idea. It was highly technical rock that attempted to move past the dominance of blues rock improvisation into a compositional framework more reminiscent of classical music. Some of the most notable, and influential American Progressive rock bands are Kansas, Spock's Beard, and more currently Dream Theater.

Punk Rock

Fed up with what they perceived as the excess and decadence of arena rockers, a number of groups centered in urban New York and London began playing a stripped down sound that came to be called punk. These groups felt that rock had lost sight of its rebellious, cutting-edge origins and had become obsessed with money and fame. Bands like Britain's The Clash and The Sex Pistols and America's the Ramones and Patti Smith Group would lead this musical revolution. Punk rock in the US was largely an east coast phenomenon, especially centered around New York City, though the decade would later see the development of the hardcore punk movement, lead by Los Angeles' Black Flag.

Southern Rock

Building on the success of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, and The Band, southern rock peaked in the 1970s. Lynyrd Skynyrd became a band closely identified with the southern rock movement with their iconic songs "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird" becoming landmarks in this genre. ZZ Top would begin in this decade later peaking in the 1980s with their album Eliminator becoming a mainstream success. The most successful act of this genre is The Eagles, who began as a southern rock band before fusing into a more commercial rock band with the release of Hotel California. Nevertheless, a complimation album from their southern rock era, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 became the best selling album of all time in the United States.[1]


Heartland Rock

Heartland rock reached a peak in the mid-1980s after getting a strong start in the late 1970s. The big heartland rockers include Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, and John Mellencamp. Heartland rock built off the roots of music from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan creating a genre that spoke to the American public.

New Wave

In the early 1980s New Wave groups came to the forefront of the American music scene. Due in large part to heavy rotation during the early existence of MTV, groups like Blondie and Talking Heads achieved pop chart success, as well a plethora of one-hit wonders.

Thrash metal

The early and mid eighties saw the rise of a noteworthy American sub-genre of heavy metal called thrash which drew heavily on earlier British and Scandinavian metal influences. Pioneers in Thrash have inspired many other metal styles throughout the world, and Thrash is probably the archetypal heavy metal sound. The most important of these bands are Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer who also influenced later American thrash metal bands such as Pantera and Machine Head.

Glam metal

Later began the rise of glam metal with popular acts such as Poison, Quiet Riot, Stryper, Motley Crue and Twisted Sister all spearheading the first wave. Glam also had a more mainstream side of it with Bon Jovi and their hugely successful Slippery When Wet.

Hard Rock

Hard rock also made a mainstream resurgence with two important collaborations to kick start stalling careers. Aerosmith's collaboration with Run DMC for "Walk This Way" got the public reinterested in Aerosmith leading to their multi-platinum late 1980s album Pump. Eddie Van Halen's collaboration with Michael Jackson on "Beat It" helped propel Van Halen's album, 1984 to huge sales. Motley Crue was another band with its roots in hard rock with prominent drums and heavy guitar riffs despite a glam-metal attire. Eventually, the band peaked with their Grammy-nominated album Dr. Feelgood in 1989. Another hard rock band, Guns N' Roses surfaced with their debut album Appetite for Destruction and reached legendary success until the mid-1990s.


Alternative Rock

Alternative Rock bands began having success in the 1990s by building off the success of grunge and 1980s band, Jane's Addiction to reach mainstream popularity. The Red Hot Chili Peppers became an important band in the rise of alternative rock with their album Blood Sugar Sex Magik bringing worldwide attention to alternative rock. Combining funk rock with more conventional rock, the Chili Peppers were able to achieve mainstream success climaxing with the release of Californication. After the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik and the rise of grunge, bands such as Nine Inch Nails and The Smashing Pumpkins developed large fan bases. In 1994, a more commercial side of alternative rock showed with the release of Weezer's self titled debut which included radio friendly anthemic songs such as "Buddy Holly".


A sub-genre of alternative rock, grunge bands picked up popularity for the early 1990s. Early grunge bands, particularly Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Soundgarden, took much of their sound from early heavy metal and much of their approach from punk, though they eschewed punk's ambitions towards political and social commentary to proceed in a more purely nihilistic direction. Grunge remained a mostly local phenomenon until the breakthrough of Nirvana in 1991 with their album Nevermind. Nirvana was an instant sensation worldwide propelled by their massive hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

Nirvana whetted the public's appetite for more direct, less polished rock music, and one place it was found was in the debut album from a hard-rocking West Coast band with ties to the grunge movement, a band named Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam took a somewhat more traditional rock approach than other grunge bands but shared their passion and rawness. Pearl Jam were a major commercial success from their debut, but, beginning with their second album, refused to buy in to the traditional corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms of MTV and Ticketmaster (with whom they famously engaged in legal skirmishes over ticket service fees).

Nu metal

The mid to late 1990s were dominated by the blend of styles called nu metal. Disturbed, Korn, Linkin Park, and Limp Bizkit are some of the more popular acts of the time period though Linkin Parks nu metal albums were released in the early 2000s.

Pop punk

Green Day released their first album in 1989 but it wasn't until they released Dookie in 1994 that they really achieved world wide success. Their success made way for bands like The Offspring and Blink-182 throughout the decade.


Hard Rock and Alternative Rock

Many popular hard rock acts of the 1990s have remained popular, specifically Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, and Pearl Jam. Two supergroups, Audioslave and Velvet Revolver, have appeared in this decade combining alternative rock with hard rock to gain popularity. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have continued to run strongly with the their double album, Stadium Arcadium going platinum. Newcomers from the indie rock scene, The Bravery and Modest Mouse have also gained a following as have The Strokes. One band that has become a mainstayer in the alternative rock scene is The Killers. Their first two albums have both sold successfully, with Hot Fuss going three times platinum and Sam's Town going platinum.

Blues Rock

Two guitarists, John Mayer and Jack White, have brought blues rock back to prominences. Jack White's two bands, The White Stripes and The Raconteurs have both released successful albums. John Mayer began as an acoustic rock artist, but his most recent album Continuum has shifted him to a full fledged blues guitarist with Rolling Stone magazine even nicknaming him "Slowhand Jr.", a reference to Eric Clapton.[2]

Pop Punk

Pop punk has seen a return with one of the most influential albums released yet in the 2000s, American Idiot by Green Day. Another similar and very popular release was The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. Others who have done well include Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, who have also been considered a part of the emo movement. The fellow genre, Pop rock has also seen a rise in popularity with the likes of The All-American Rejects, Simple Plan, and Good Charlotte.


Thrash Metal bands from previous decades, namely Megadeth, Anthrax, Metallica, and Slayer, have continued to have strong followings. A new crossover genre, metalcore has gained popularity with bands like Killswitch Engage, God Forbid, Lamb Of God, As I Lay Dying, Atreyu, and Avenged Sevenfold becoming very popular in the last few years.


  1. ^ a b "RIAAtop100". Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  2. ^ Fricke, David (February 22, 2007). "The New Guitar Gods" Rolling Stone. (1020): 39-47

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