Rock Through The Ages

Everyone has heard it, whether from your parents, grandparents, or elitist friends; “Music today just isn’t the same as it use to be.” But they forget that yesterday’s music, wasn’t the same as last week’s. Figuratively speaking of course. So, where did that sound come from? Where do their tastes originate? Let’s take a look:


The fifties was the beginning of the Rock era when the first electric guitar was introduced to the market. The use of the instrument began what many labels at the time hoped would be just a fad. After a few years of pop and R&B artists gaining continued success on pop charts with their use of the ‘harsh’ and controversial machine, major labels began seeking out new artist who specialized in the genre. Elvis Presley was signed to RCA and artists such as Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis became the major firsts (no pun intended) in a new movement of music.

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone,
Little Joe was blowin’ on the slide trombone

Not lyrics, or instrumentation, that you find in today’s rock music.


In the 60’s, rock music hits its sophomore era dominating the pop charts. Artists like the Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones sang rocky love songs, like the sort that we are used to hearing on pop radio today. The Byrds and The Beatles changed up the game by bringing in topics such as politics and religion. Towards the end of the decade the sounds got heavier and the lyrics darker, preparing us for the heavy metal of the 70’s.

I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes 
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes 


The 70’s changed the name of rock and roll. A clear distinction is made between Top 40 hits and rock orientated tracks. Subgenres are more clearly defined branching off into hard rock, heavy metal, and progressive rock. We see the bands that started in the 60’s flourish throughout the 70’s and take different directions. Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and Foreigner all still fall under the major category of rock. It’s in this decade that we really see bands branch off, take risks in the industry, and create something new. It is clear, no matter which direction you follow, that the rock music of the 70’s, is no longer the rock music of the 50’s.


Subgenres of subgenres is the theme of the 80’s, but the most prevalent are what has come to be known as ‘The Hair Bands’. The rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s are still going strong, but how do you bring in something new and make it mainstream again? Add long hair and make up! We’ve got Twisted Sister, Poison, Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, and my personal favorite, Guns N’ Roses. The music style hasn’t changed much, still including charged up guitars and heavy drum lines with a chorus to shout out in an arena.

She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories


If the 80’s was the era of subgenre’s, then 90’s was the decade full of attempts to revisit the roots. Fed up with the pop influence of 80’s hair bands, artists like Nirvana and Green Day emerge forming, well, more subgenres. They do away with the done up costumes and leather pants, replacing it instead with flannels and shouting. The lyrics yell rebellion – but the sound, hasn’t ventured too far.

2000’s and now 

Green Day, Good Charlotte, Slipknot and Korn all turned the millenia before we saw an absence of mainstream rock for awhile. Emo and indie bands flooded the underground scene and for awhile all we see in the media is past band revivals, and few alternative artists like The Killers and Coldplay.

But is Rock dead? Or has it just dispersed so much that it is no longer it’s own distinct genre? Country artists like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean borrow from 60’s influences CCR and Bob Segar. Pop artists like One Direction are pulling modified riffs from The Rolling Stones and The Who. 5SoS not only has the same feel as the 90’s grunge bands, but has actually worked alongside them while creating their own songs.  The topics have remained the same: love, politics, heartbreak and rebellion. Electric guitars and heavy drums are used across the board. That which use to solely define rock music, has infiltrated every genre.

So the next time a self-titled music snob complains about ‘today’s music’, kindly remind them of the bands that came before their favorites. Show them the similarities of the music you’re listening to, to the music that they refer to as ‘real music’. And let your old-school grandfather know that if Elvis Presley were on the radio today, he would be a bubblegum pop star alongside Bieber, not the King of Rock N’ Roll.

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Jamie Jean
25 and a whiskey fanatic. Sassy, rude, and grouchy because Harry Styles lives 5 minutes away and I’ve never seen him! I have an opinion on everything and not everyone agree’s, but I hope you find humor in my over the top obsession with music and the people who create it. LA is where it’s at, so if there is a show worth seeing, you can be sure to find me there!

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