When we watch MTV, Fuse, VH1 or any other popular music channel, we rarely realize how different rock was 50 years ago. Rock music has gone through an amazing evolution to end up where it is now in only 50 years!
1950's: Though swing music was still popular, this was the decade that rock and roll emerged. Rock and roll in its earliest stage could be described as blues with electric guitar. Rockabilly emerged in the 1950's which is a mixture of rock and roll, country, blues, and jazz and was a fundamental music genre of the 50's. The major pioneers, those who made rock and roll popular were obviously Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard.
1960's: This was the decade that America and other parts of the world were introduced to the British invasion. The most well know and world renowned band of the British invasion was, of course, the all-mighty Beatles. The reason the Beatles are considered one of the best and most influential rock bands of all time is the fact that they took what Elvis and others created in the 1950's and made it a whole different thing. A new age of rock was born.
Soon after Beatlemania had began, other popular hippy and psychedelic bands such as Pink Floyd, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, the Grateful dead, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and others began to rule the world. These bands were the fuel of the counterculture movement, trendsetters, with their drug induced lyrics and hypnotic melodies. Other genres of rock began to emerge such as progressive rock (experimentation with other instruments other than guitar, bass and drums, popularized by Pink Floyd), folk rock (traditional acoustic rock songs with a blues undertone popularized by Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin) and heavy metal (a thick, heavy, and highly amplified genre of rock popularized by Black Sabbath). The world was just now beginning to witness the power rock really had on society.
1970's: After the Vietnam War ended and people settled down, so did the music. Bands such as Led Zeppelin who were known in the 1960's became even more popular in the 1970's. Led Zeppelin had created the perfect blend of hard rock and blues to form a sound of their own. Other bands and artists such as Yes, David Bowie, the Eagles, and Queen started in the 1970's and were very influential. During the late 1970's, the world witnessed a huge movement in rock and roll . . . punk. The founding fathers of punk were The Ramones who combined anarchism and teenage rage with rock and roll. Other bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash helped popularize and redefine punk rock. This powerful and intense new genre of music influenced many bands in the future.
1980's: The 1980's are probably most famous for hair bands. Heavy metal bands with tight leather pants, soaring guitar solos, and insane hair, such as Guns and Roses, Van Halen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, and Motley Crue can best be remembered for their power ballads and great guitar solos. New wave (a genre that originated from punk, funk, and disco) was made popular by artists such as Divo, The B-52's, Talking Heads, and Blondie. Indie/Alternative rock began to emerge in the late 1980's with artists such as U2, R.E.M., The Cure, The Smiths, and Sonic Youth were very popular with college students. Punk also became more popular with bands such as Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys.
1990's: The Early 90's were the era of grunge and alternative rock. The most popular grunge band of the 90's was Nirvana. Grunge music originated in Seattle, Washington and can be described as dirty guitar, strong guitar riffs with distortion and feedback. They had dark lyrics and expressed teenage angst. Popular grunge and alternative bands are Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Jane's Addiction.
2000-Present: So many of the genres that I spoke of in the past decades still exist today. You still see many teenagers with Led Zeppelin and Beatles shirts walking around. Alternative rock is one of the most popular and broadest genre of rock that exists today. Emo, a rock sub genre that has intensely emotional lyrics with hardcore punk roots, was popularized by bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Senses Fail, Brand New, From First to Last the Used and softer bands such as Dashboard Confessional and Bright Eyes which can also be described as indie.
Though the word "indie" stands for independent and refers to bands that are part of an independent record label, indie has a whole new meaning this day and age. Indie is hard to described, I guess you could say it's a miscellaneous category of sorts, mainly underground and softer version of alternative rock. Popular indie bands include Death Cab for Cutie, The Arcade Fire, The Strokes, The Decemberists, Elliott Smith, and the Postal Service just to name a few.
Heavy metal has also reached a new extreme. Sub-genres such as black metal, death metal, thrash metal which is very loud, aggressive, and fast. Popular hardcore metal bands of today include As I Lay Dying, Norma Jean, Slipknot, Korn and Cannibal Corpse just to name a few.
Alternative rock has reached an all time high with bands such as Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chevelle, Coldplay, and Foo Fighters. Pop rock is possibly the most popular genre of our times. Pop rock is rock mixed with popular lyrics and a more mainstream approach. Pop rock bands include Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects, Ashlee Simpson, Avril Lavigne, and others.
Overall, I could go on and on for days explaining the intricacy of rock music and all their many genres and bands but I think I will stop here. Though rock may be one of our newer major genres it is still one of the most influential genres to ever exist. I mean come on. Everybody enjoys a good Beatles song from time to time!
Just remember when you are listening to your favorite band, remember the roots of rock because almost every single band that exists today has been influenced by bands of the past. Without the founding fathers of rock, your favorite band wouldn't even be in existence. I encourage you to listen to the classics because they arent just "old people" music but some of the best music ever made.