British rock  

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London's blues clubs featured Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated which attracted the young trad jazz clarinettist Brian Jones to sit in and decide he too wanted a blues band. Separately, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined in for sets along with Korner's drummer Charlie Watts, starting with Berry's "Around and Around". A group developed, taking their name from a Muddy Waters song, and the Rolling Stones formed on 12 July 1962.


The Beatles were an established Liverpool group, and on 5 October 1962 their first single "Love Me Do" came out. Already this new sound stood out. The beat got harder and the music more inventive with the Beatles' songwriting talents pulling them away from the pack. British rock had established its distinctive identity.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

British rock and roll, or British rock, was born out of the influence of rock and roll and rhythm and blues from the United States, but added a new drive and urgency, exporting the music back and widening the audience for black R & B in the U.S. as well as spreading the gospel world wide. Much of what has made rock music unique, in its ability to unite audiences and adapt new influences, came from British bands in the late 50s and rock groups in the early 60s.

Contents

1960s rockers and rock groups

Rock & Roll faded as Cliff, the Shadows and the others followed Elvis into lightweight pop and schmaltzy ballads, but rock groups were stirring at a basement club level. Surf music took the focus from traditional Rock and Roll in the U.S. and the teenage market was focused on the California Sound. With their 1960 hit "Shakin' All Over," Johnny Kidd and the Pirates introduced a harder beat for motorbike rockers and the song was soon being played by amateur groups at dances all round the UK along with R & B from the likes of Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and invariably Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". London's blues clubs featured Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated which attracted the young trad jazz clarinettist Brian Jones to sit in and decide he too wanted a blues band. Separately, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined in for sets along with Korner's drummer Charlie Watts, starting with Berry's "Around and Around". A group developed, taking their name from a Muddy Waters song, and the Rolling Stones formed on 12 July 1962.

In 1962 the growing "Beat group" boom surfaced with the signing of Liverpool groups including Brian Poole and the Tremeloes whose hit with their cover of "Do You Love Me" (now that I can dance?) caught the mood: "I can mashed potato, I can do the twist, tell me baby, do you like it like this?" The Beatles were an established Liverpool group, and on 5 October 1962 their first single "Love Me Do" came out. Already this new sound stood out. The beat got harder and the music more inventive with the Beatles' songwriting talents pulling them away from the pack. British rock had established its distinctive identity. The Rolling Stones got their first rock hit in June 1963 with a high-charged version of Berry's "Come On." Later, The Animals added their blues-rock version of "The House of the Rising Sun". The Who with "My Generation" and The Kinks with "You Really Got Me" kept up the rush while adding a new mod style. Songs then became more lyrical and ingenious while retaining the distinctive driving rhythm, outright blues were issued with a hard beat instead of the bounce of the originals. This new and developing pop sound drew an international interest.

Canterbury

Psychedelic rock

Drug references increased in 1966 with Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", Manfred Mann's version of Bob Dylan's "Mighty Quinn" promised snow and the Smoke's "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps" added an acid touch. Pink Floyd and Soft Machine took things much further. "The Who Sell Out" included their psychedelic single "I Can See For Miles" but the jokey commercialism of the album missed the mood. People were wondering if The Beatles had fallen behind when Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band blasted them to the forefront again.

Progressive rock

Progressive (or prog) rock is a genre that emerged in the early sixties and flourished throughout the seventies until it was effectively killed by punk (see below). The genre is characterised by extended compositions and is comparable to jazz fusion and progressive jazz. Prog evolved as being more serious than its disposable contemporaries, with works featuring many layers and themes that can be disseminated similar to classical music.

Pink Floyd is usually regarded as the most significant prog band and their album Dark Side of the Moon is considered a prog classic, though many aficionados would debate whether they should properly be classed as prog. Other exponents of the genre include King Crimson, The Birds Of Paradise, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, Marillion, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Heavy metal

An early reference to this genre came when psychedelic poster design artists Hapdash and the Coloured Coat produced an album starring themselves, "the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids".

Folk rock

Folk rock is a musical genre, combining elements of folk music and rock music.

Glam rock

Glam rock (also known as glitter rock), is a style of rock and pop music, which initially surfaced in the post-hippie early 1970s. Those who participated in the genre drew on several past youth cultures, musical styles, movie images and art movements to produce a distinct sound and aesthetic which essentially combined science fiction, nostalgia, camp, theatre, and a hard rock sound.

Punk rock

Punk rock started off as a reaction to the lush, producer-driven sounds of disco, and against the commercialism of most progressive rock. Early punk borrowed heavily from the garage band ethic: played by bands for which expert musicianship was not a requirement, punk was stripped-down, three-chord music that could be played easily and often bore a close resemblance to the American "punk rock" from the late 60's on the "Nuggets" collection issued in 1972 on Electra featuring artists like The Electric Prunes and The Seeds. Many of the new punk rock bands also intended to shock mainstream society, rejecting the "peace and love" image of the prior musical rebellion of the 1960s which had degenerated, punks thought, into mellow disco culture.

Punk rose to public awareness nearly simultaneously in Britain with the Sex Pistols and in America with the Ramones.

The Sex Pistols chose aggressive stage names (including "Johnny Rotten" and "Sid Vicious") and did their best to live up to them, deliberately rejecting anything that symbolized "hippies": long hair, soft music, loose clothing, and liberal politics, and displaying an anarchic, often confrontational, stage presence (well represented on their debut single "Anarchy in the UK"). Their second single release, "God Save The Queen" was a scathing polemic against British traditions and mores. Despite an airplay ban on the BBC the record rose to the top chart position in the UK. The Sex Pistols paved the way for The Clash, whose approach was less nihilistic but more overtly political and idealistic.

The Ramones (whose first album was actually released months before "God Save the Queen") exemplified the American side of punk: equally aggressive but mostly apolitical, more alienated, and not above (often illicit and self-destructive) fun for its own sake. The Ramones reigned as the kings of the New York punk scene, which also included Richard Hell and Television, and centered around rough-and tumble clubs, notably CBGB, a former bluegrass venue in Manhattan taken over by punks after the owner began booking punk bands on off nights. Punk was mostly an East-coast phenomenon in the US until the late 1970s when Los Angeles-based bands such as X and Black Flag broke through to wide recognition.

Punk rock attracted devotees from the art and collegiate world and soon bands sporting a more literate, arty approach, such as the Talking Heads and Devo began to infiltrate the punk scene; in some quarters the description New Wave began to be used to differentiate these less overtly punk bands.

If punk rock was a social and musical phenomenon, it garnered little in the way of record sales (small specialty labels such as Stiff Records had released much of the punk music to date) or American radio airplay, as the radio scene continued to be dominated by mainstream formats such as disco and AOR. Record executives, who had been mostly mystified by the punk movement, recognized the potential of the more accessible New Wave acts and began aggressively signing and marketing any band that could claim a remote connection to Punk or New Wave. Many of these bands, such as The Cars and The Go-Gos were essentially pop bands dressed up in New Wave regalia; others, including The Police and The Pretenders managed to parlay the boost of the New Wave movement into long-lived and artistically lauded careers.

Punk and post-punk bands would continue to appear sporadically, but as a musical scene, punk had largely self-destructed and been subsumed into mainstream new-wave pop by the mid-1980s, but the influence of punk has been substantial. The grunge-rock movement of the late 1980s owes much to punk, and many current mainstream bands claim punk rock as their stylistic heritage. Punk also bred other genres, including hardcore, industrial music, and goth.

Modern music and terminology

Many of the more recent successful forms, subgenres, and artists of rock and pop music have originated or found their greatest success in the UK. Major stars of the 1960s and '70s ranging from Eric Clapton to Peter Gabriel moved on from rock bands to great success as solo performers. In the early 1980s, the sound of synth pop typified much British rock music ranging from chart hits to off the radar works.

In the mid 1980s, British alternative rock became loosely defined around bands such as the Smiths, championed in publications like the NME, while styles like shoegaze developed in the later part of the decade, showing UK rock artists even on the smallest budgets to be more concerned with texture and a layered sound than their US counterparts. This scene's main groups were Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, all from Manchester (popularly known "Madchester"), and the Scottish group Soup Dragons, and their music, called 'indie dance' joined elements of house music (a type of pop electronic music) and psychedelic rock. The 'indie dance' scene had also its main place, the night club Hacienda, placed in Manchester and managed by executives from Factory Records and the members of New Order band.

In the end of the 1980s to early 1990s, the United Kingdom scene was called by the press "the scene that celebrates itself" and followed the 80's indie-rock tradition diffused by Smiths, Cure and The Bunnymen. The groups of this scene: The LA's, Ride (whose one of the singers-guitarists, Andy Bell, is the current bassist of Oasis), Wedding Present, House Of Love, Wonder Stuff, Catherine Wheel, Slowdive and Sundays. Their music were inspired by the 1980s rock and by the 1960s psychedelic rock, especially The Byrds, Velvet Underground, Cream and Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd.

In the mid 1990s a vibrant new scene arose, influenced both by the classic British rock bands of the 1960s and by punk and new wave. This scene was dubbed Britpop by the press, and was seen to be led by bands such as Blur, Oasis and Pulp as well as numerous lesser known ones such as Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals.

In the late 1990s Oasis was seen as the leading British rock band, while in subsequent years the trend has been toward increasingly emotional music influenced both by them or by the Smiths, and by similar influences as Britpop, as typified by the multi-platinum Coldplay and Travis and the lesser known Embrace. This music is often known in the UK as "indie," although much of it appears on major labels such as EMI, and its sound has little in common with modern American indie rock. Very few mid 1990's British rock bands have managed to gain mainstream sucsess in the next century, with Feeder being one of a very few who have, which was due to the top 5 sucsess of their 2001 single "Buck Rogers", and in turn made them an established band within many acts in their genre, after many years of critical accolades in the alternative music press.

Even more recently, due in part to the influence of new American rock bands like the Strokes and White Stripes becoming popular in Britain (often seen as a result of massive hype by the NME) and rise of the British The Libertines, a resurgence of British alternative rock with a consciously retro punk and post-punk style has occurred. In the past two years, the bands Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Maxïmo Park, Bloc Party and the Arctic Monkeys all had success, for example, with the latter notably breaking sales records. Other bands, including Muse and The Darkness, have consciously avoided a punk image and drawn instead from the melodramatic, and popular, British arena rock of the 1970s.

In many cases, despite the suffix of "pop" in some British musical genre names (dreampop, Britpop), many of the bands performing it consisted of musicians who began by playing rock instruments and would usually be called rock bands, rather than "pop groups." Even synth pop, more often than not, did feature guitar and bass, if not real drums, as well as keyboards and synthesizers. ABC, a popular synth pop group in the early 1980s had formerly been a punk-influenced rock band, only to embrace a more glamorous image and technological innovations to become part of what was then known as "new pop". At the same time, even many of the most self-consciously rockist performers, such as Oasis, made use of synthesizers and relied on the textured style of production common in the British music industry since the 1960s and '70s.

In Britain today, the terms of "pop" and "rock" are still more closely associated with each other than in the United States, where due to prejudice and musical history "pop" usually denotes only a solo artist, often female, seen to represent a tradition outside the province of guitar based music or with a very wide popularity. Thus, in the UK an artist such as Pulp might be characterized as pop, to denote their synth based sound and often populist appeal, while in the United States they might be categorized as rock, most likely as "alternative rock", for their "authentic," sometimes dark lyrics, perhaps for being white and male, and certainly for appealing to the type of people seen to listen to critic-sanctioned indie rock bands, rather than "superficial pop" music. The idea of British rock could be seen to include much post-1960s British "pop" as well - with only more recent acts such as the Spice Girls and Robbie Williams, as well as pop primarily influenced by dance club music, and styles that developed in black music traditions, being widely considered separate from rock.

Rock currently makes up a much larger portion of the market in Britain as compared with hip hop and other forms of popular music. The most commercially successful album of 2006 in the UK was by the "indie" rock band Franz Ferdinand. Snow Patrol, Keane, Muse, and Arctic Monkeys also produced successful albums in 2006.

See also




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