Origins of Rock and Roll: The term Rock and Roll is credited by most people to Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey with a popular radio show who took the term from a song called “My baby rocks me with a steady roll.” The term, which is a veiled reference to sex, was actually a common term among the blues underground dating back to gospel music of the 1800s, and was used infrequently in reference to dating rituals. Suffice it to say, the terms “Rock” and “Rock n’ Roll” became generally related to artists of the 50’s and 60’s such as, “Elvis”, “Bill Haley and the comets”, and “Chuck Berry” to name a few. The sound and beat became ubiquitous with the term and created an industry with many parts such as, Record companies, Radio stations, Magazines, Internet sites, and several award industries. These spawned many jobs, but none more mysterious as the “A&R” man, whose job it was to seek out talent, “LOL”, that would make the Record company more profit.
Throughout the years “Rock n’ Roll” began to mutate and diseminate into different styles. And although much of these styles are loosely related and stem from many other types and styles, the general theme stays the same as there is always a “BackBeat.” The following is an ever changing list which will be updated from time to time. Although this site’s focus is “Rock n’ Roll,” it also focuses on what that base genre influenced and had an impact on throughout Rock Music History!
Rock and Roll – Rock and roll like all genres has almost as many definitions as it has fans. Rock and Roll generally refers to rock music recorded around the 1950s including mostly southern artists like Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. Rock generally is used to refer to any popular rock music recorded since the early 60’s.
Rockabilly and Sun Studios – In July of 1954 a 19 year old truck driver for Memphis’ Crown Electric showed up at Sun Studios to record a record. Although he told Sam Phillips that it was for his mother it was actually an attempt to be noticed by the Phillips, who was a local celebrity with a few successes under his belt. The takes were nothing special, just covers of Bing Crosby and Ernie Tubbs songs.
Garage Rock – In the 1960’s the British Invasion created a wave of new musicians in the USA and throughout the world striving to be the next Beatles or Rolling Stones. This large number of bands flooded many local rock music scenes playing to local audiences and eventually recording in small local studios.
Surf Rock – Surf music is a combination of rock and roll and rockabilly music combined with the surfer lifestyle and ethic of the Southern California Coast and fused into a new genre of music. It is a style charged by a hard rock influenced instrumental sounds, particularly the guitar, and rockabilly grooves.
Mod – Mod or Modern music developed in London, England in the late 1950s to mid 1960s. As much a lifestyle as a musical style mods sported short bobbed haircuts and distinctive clothes. Mod’s were inspired by American r&b, soul, Jamaican ska, and bluebeat combined with hard rock influences like the The Who and Small Faces.
British Invasion – American rock and roll had an tremendous impact on the entire world and especially in Britain. British kids were inspired by the r&b and rock movements which began to form the beginnings of the British Invasion in the underground of London in the late 50s. Before long bands from England were dominating the rock and roll scene throughout the world and soon found its way back to America where the influences had originated.
Psychedelic Rock – Psychedelic rock evolved in the 60s as an offshoot of the rock and roll movement combining elements of rock, reggae, and other diverse elements. Involving the use of mind altering drugs like cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin, and especially LSD, psychedelic rock broke with traditional rock and laid the roots for psychedelic metal and experimental rock genres.
The Origins of Heavy metal – Heavy metal or metal as it is currently called started back in the late ‘60’s. Heavy metal found its roots in the blues and psychedelic music genres, and got its inspiration in the misery of daily life in industrialized cities combined with a fascination for mysticism and the occult. The stereotypical metal song combines heavy thudding drums sounds (often with a double bass) with thickly distorted guitar riffs, screaming vocals and 16th notes played over a standard 4/4 beat.
Progressive Rock – Progressive rock is a very general and intertwined genre of music which got its start in the late 60s, and continues to this day. Progressive rock is often lumped together with other similar genres like art rock, symphonic rock, and progressive heavy metal. The artists try to take the roots of rock and apply them to a more classically influenced structure. The music is often very elaborate and generally requires very exceptional musicians with a great deal of talent. It is not unusual for prog rock pieces to be very lengthy in some cases they are over an hour in length.
Hard Rock – Hard rock is a form of rock & roll that finds its roots in the early 1960s garage rock and draws from jazz, blues, rock and roll, and other influences like folk in the case of famed hard rock artist Led Zeppelin who’s main writer and composer Jimmy Page was a famous studio musician and expert guitar player who was interested in Celtic and folk influences. These diverse influences can be clearly heard in one of the most influential albums of this style Led Zeppelin 4. Budgie, AC/DC, The Stooges, MC5, Prong, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple are also classic examples of early hard rock.
Glam Rock – Glam rock became popular in the 70s in what was mostly a British movement with a few notable exceptions. Using lavish and effeminate clothes and heavily made up male performers glam acts rejected the progressive rock movement embracing the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Power Pop – Power pop is a mixture of hard rock with pop music to product a style of music which was extremely popular in the early days of rock music. The term was coined by Pete Townshend of The Who in the mid-1960s the first true power pop did not appear till the early 70s. One of the first was the Raspberries who combined influences like the Who, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles to make pop music with a harder edge.
Heavy Metal – Heavy metal music was born around to1964-1970 from bands like the Kinks, the Who, Alice Cooper’s The Spiders, Cream, Golden Earring, Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer, Atomic Rooster, Cactus, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, Free, Uriah Heep, Mountain, Bloodrock, Black Widow, and Black Sabbath between 1966 and 1970, Iron Butterfly Heavy album and Steppenwolf’s song Born to Be Wild which contained the phrase heavy metal thunder share credit for the name heavy metal.
Punk rock – Punk rock got its name from the slang word punk meaning rotten and worthless. It was originally used to describe simple guitar based rock of bands like The Seeds, and later on Detroit bands like The Stooges and MC5. The anti-establishment ethic of punk hit a fevered pitch in 1976 through 1980, started partially as a backlash to the hippie movement of the late 60’s.
Krautrock – Krautrock was a offshoot of the rock movement during the late 60s and 70s involving German acts such as Can, Tangerine Dream, Faust, and Neu. Largely instrumental krautrock combined rock elements with electronic instruments which laid the framework for the later industrial rock and new wave movements.
Southern Rock – Southern rock goes back to the origins of the rock and roll movement to innovators like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard who all came from the South. Drawing heavily from the blues, rock and roll redefined music causing an revolution that would sweep the world continuing up to the present time. The British Invasion and then psychedelic rock movement in San Francisco took rock music out of the south and to places like London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
Indie Rock – Indie rock is a sub genre of rock music which is often used to refer to bands that are on small independent or “rock” record labels or who aren’t on labels at all. In the 1980s, these bands were referred to as “alternative rock”, since they were quite different that the mainstream rock that dominated the radio at that time. It was also interchangeable with the term college rock which was named after the main source of the music at the time was the college radio.
Experimental rock – Experimental rock has long been a catchall phrase used to describe rock music that does not fit into any other genre. Other genres that overlap somewhat are post rock, industrial, emo, and progressive rock. The form typically breaks conventions and rules and redefining what is considered music. Proponents of the form love the freedom to explore endless sonic possibilities and the unpredictability and excitement that the genre presents.
College Rock – In the early eighties hard rock dominated the FM radio stations in the rock format and the genre of alternative music was all but unknown by mainstream listeners. Alternative music was limited to a few scattered college radio stations and small self contained local scenes and groups. In the mid 80s as it became more popular It began to take over college radio throughout the country and slowly made its way into the attention of a large group of college kids and other listeners who tuned into the local radio stations to keep up with the acts.
Gothic Rock – Gothic rock started as a offshoot of the punk movement led by groups like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and Joy Division who created a new more introverted style of punk which focused on personal issues and ideas while paying tribute to the influence of early punk bands like The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Clash, and Generation X.
Gothic Metal – Gothic metal is a crossover genre between traditional gothic music, thrash and doom metal, and heavy metal. Common themes are religion, mythology, horror, pain, hopeless love and death. Traditionally the genre is closely related to the vampirism and nihilism movements but only on the surface. The dress is similar to the traditional gothic movement featuring dark clothes and makeup and religious symbols but as always there are notable exceptions. Goths are not as many believe linked to violence but are actually pacifists by and large.
Speed Metal – Speed metal is a small subset of the heavy metal movement and even rabid hardcore fans can’t always agree on which bands fit in this category. It is very similar to thrash metal but combines more progressive rock elements with lyrical elements of apocalyptic fears and collective oppression. One thing that most agree on is that the genre is defined by blistering guitar speed, progressive rock arrangements, twisted song structures, extremely difficult guitar solos and anti social lyrics.
Thrash Metal – Thrash is characterized by brief uncomplicated sonic assaults charged by the influences of hardcore punk and heavy metal. Formed of lightning fast guitar riffs and antisocial lyrics reminiscent of punk rocks early years Thrash and its direct descendant grindcore are very socially conscious however unlike many punk and heavy metal bands. Songs of a minute or less were not uncommon and screamed vocal styling and compositional techniques would create all the tools necessary for bands in the doom metal genre soon to come.
Psychedelic Metal – Psychedelic metal is a type of heavy metal music which arose in the early 1990s. Post metal bands began to combine psychedelic rock and grunge and other influences and combining it into an underground movement some labeled stoner rock. Bands like Kyuss, Masters of Reality, and Monster Magnet were among the most popular practitioners.
Alternative Metal – Alternative Metal is an offshoot of Heavy Metal which is characterized by a combination of hip hop, hardcore punk, and heavy metal combined with other genres. Alternative metal’s early bands were Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Living Colour among others and incorporated blues, jazz, funk, and hardcore in varying degrees. Faith No More, Sonic Youth, Fishbone, and Seattle’s pre grunge bands Melvins, Mudhoney, Tad and Mother Love Bone were early pioneers in the genre.
Neoclassical Metal – Neoclassical metal draws on classical music fused with heavy metal to create darker more challenging compositions which redefined the genre of heavy metal being reincorporated in the movement. Incorporating ideas like classical composition, arpeggios, and counterpoint combining them with dark menacing guitars and nontraditional instruments.
Progressive Metal – Progressive metal or prog metal as some call it is a combination of progressive rock and heavy metal which came into popularity during the late 80’s with cutting edge bands like Queensryche and Dream Theatre. Progressive metal has a small but very loyal and devoted group of fans that have allowed it to survive when more mainstream genres have died out.
Death Metal – Death metal was spawned in the US and Canada during the 80s with bands like Death, Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Entombed, Winter, and Cannibal Corpse. Death metal is known for extreme speed and incredibly violent lyrics combining elements of heavy metal, thrash metal, and speed metal. The vocals are little more than inaudible growls usually exposing very dark subjects. Known for very abrupt tempo and count changes and blistering tempos.
Doom Metal – Doom metal is a variation of heavy metal music which is slow and dark and filled with tension. Black Sabbath’s early albums were a great source of inspiration for the genre . Bands like Trouble and Candlemass combined these influences with more modern ones to clearly define the genre in the late 80’s. Originally from Chicago, Trouble formed in 79 but did not become popular until 84.
Grindcore – Grindcore is a combination of thrash metal, speed metal, hardcore punk ,and death metal. The genre is typified by atonal chromatic guitar riffs borrowed from thrash and speed metal and the guttural growling vocals of death metal combined with the hardcore punk attitude. Its name comes from the grinding of simple chromatic guitar riffs and melodies and the attitude of hardcore punk.
New Wave – Record executives had missed the marketing bandwagon with the punk rock movement (due to the fact most punk albums were released independently). Determined not to let that happen again they began signing and promoting post punk bands or New Wave acts as they were beginning to be called very aggressively in the early 80’s. Drawing heavily from glam rock and the industrial music genres the music was defined very broadly including everyone from acts like Devo and Madness to the Police.
Grunge – In the mid 80’s a small movement was brewing in an unlikely place, Seattle, Washington. This movement was not actually lead by Nirvana as many have said when they released “Nevermind” in September of 91 but actually went back to other Seattle bands like Melvins and Mudhoney. It was due in large part to Nirvana and Pearl Jam that the movement came to the forefront of mainstream success, a move which combined with the tragedy of Kurt Cobain’s death conspired to kill the movement.
Post Rock – The term post-rock is really just a general description of bands which don’t fit a standard rock format. The term post rock first appeared in print in 1993 when a writer was describing the first studio album by Bark Psychosis called Hex. The album combines thick textures, acoustic instruments, moody overtones, and other classic staples of the genre.
Alternative rock – Alternative music was a phrase invented in early 80s describing bands which broke from the barrage of pop and hair metal and formed a new direction of more focused and honest rock. It includes many subcategories including but not limited to Grunge, Hard Rock, rock, Experimental Rock, Progressive Rock, College Rock, Gothic Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk Rock, Power Pop, Hardcore Punk, New Wave,
Nu Metal – The latest incarnation of heavy metal is usually associated with bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Amen, the Deftones, and Papa Roach Its creation is often linked to music producer Ross Robinson who is called the guru of nu-metal. The performing style is still a heavily amplified theatre of blood, guts and gore, including costumed artists and pyrotechnic blasts fused with angry detuned guitars.
Industrial rock – The term Industrial music is a very generic term for many subgroups or genres of music like ambient, noise, techno, house, lo-fi, and several others. The most obvious stereotype that comes to mind is a distorted, percussive, lo-fi electronic samples weaved into the fabric of a traditional pop song or dance remixes. The first band who are considered to be a part of this genre are Throbbing Gristle who formed Industrial Records in the 1970’s.
Emo – Emo may be one of the hardest genres to define. Even those who love the music may disagree on what it actually is. The answer most people agree on is that Emo is very similar to Hardcore Punk except with more emotional lyrics often expressing sadness, love and even anger, hence the term emo.