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Is Rock and Roll Dead?

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Student Posted: Mon, Apr 1 2013 11:43 PM

By dead, I mean has rock and roll become irrelevant as a force in pop music? 

If you look at the charts, I think the answer has to be yes. Rap and hip-hop are where it is at. But I'm not sure this is a relevant measure.

Maybe it is worth putting another way. Think about jazz. It was the young, vibrant musical genre that defined popular music for the first half of the 20th century. But I would say it is a genre that has clearly died. Not only are there fewer and fewer jazz fans today (as evidenced by the lack of jazz stations out there), but the best selling jazz artists are all people that are either dead or well past their prime. 

Can we say the same thing of rock and roll?

Just a question I've been rolling around in my head today. It makes me sad to think rock is over. But, then again, people have been predicting rock's demise for 40 years. And it continues to renew itself. So I hold out hope. What do you guys say?

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Neodoxy replied on Mon, Apr 1 2013 11:53 PM

I pay so little attention to what you normally hear on the radio that it hurts, but certainly from what I've seen rock is becoming surprisingly more obscure, which is really surprising for me considering that my childhood exposure to music was basically rock and country with me and my dad listening to the radio.

So even though I'm not actually qualified to say anything I'd agree, but I'd like to point out that there still are noticeable developments in the area of alternative rock.

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The vast majority of money spent on music is from the upper working ages.  The trick is that the marketing agencies, commonly referred to as "record companies", have a problem targeting that demographic with anything new.

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Bert replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 3:41 AM

What is "rock and roll"?

From experience, people are pulling away from what's generally pop music (this includes a mainstream conception of rock n roll) and find other outlets.  If you simply go by the charts, then you're looking in the wrong place.  If you want to find music, then the radio is the last place you want to find it.

Websites have posted that Swans' The Seer was the best post-rock album of 2012.  They've been playing since the early 80's and can still play sold out shows (I actually had tickets to see them a 2nd time in NYC with Marissa Nadler, but due circumstances sold the tickets off, and they went fast).  I can gaurantee that a majority (if not all the people) on this site have no clue who Swans are.

Statistics in music doesn't go well, you cannot go off what's marketed - especially for record companies, because they fail to actually see music, they only see numbers.  There's black metal fans all over the globe, but there's not one black metal radio station.  It's ludicrous to make an analysis off of that to state black metal is dying out.

Is rock and roll dead?  If your idea of rock music is that which is marketed by record companies, yes.  If they giveth, they'll taketh away, and will only keep in rotation which brings in the money.  If your definition or rock music is not limited to the radio, then it's constantly thriving.

Find any music site (one that's actually geared towards music and not top 40) and they'll give you their top picks of the year for various genres from various contributors.  Usually, none of it is top 40.

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http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8821559/the-winners-history-rock-roll-part-1-led-zeppelin

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Marko replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 7:47 AM

Yes. Rock and Roll died in 1992.

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Student replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 7:55 AM

Bert,

Well, I agree that radio does not dominate music distribution like it used to. I was going to mention that in my original post, but thought it was too long already. 

However, I also kind of think it is beside the point. What you are saying is that there are still rock bands out there producing music you like that you can access through the web and other means. 

I don't disagree, but that isn't really what I am talking about. Everything you just said could equally apply to jazz. There are still plenty of jazz musicians out there producing jazz people love. 

Does that mean that jazz still holds the same cultural influence it had in 1920 or even 1960??  I don't think so. Worse yet, modern jazz musicians don't even dominate their own genre! When you think of jazz, who do you think of? John Coltrane? Died. 1967. Thelonious Monk? Died. 1982. If you were a "true" jazz fan, I am sure you could name your favorite musicians playing today. But that really wouldn't change the fact that Coltrane and Monk probably also outsell them each year even though they've been dead for decades. 

Jazz is a product produced for a niche market. Maybe the same will be said of rock and roll in 10 years? 

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Student replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 8:24 AM

As an aside, just to give you an idea of where I am comming from.  

I wrote this thread after listening to Hey Hey, My My (into the black) like 5 times in a row.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O1v_7T6p8U

Rust Never Sleeps is a deep album. And written at a time when Neil Young's career (and the future of rock and roll) was a bit uncertain too. 

It just made me wonder if this is 1979 all over again for Rock (with many more great years ahead and a new generation of fans waiting to be exposed) or is this more like 1965 was for jazz (with a shrinking fan base and shrinking output from new artists in our future). 

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Rock and roll lasted as long as it did because the sound changed every few years. I mean, does anyone sound like Bill Haley and the Comets anymore?

My gut response on hearing that Neil Young song is "generic, yawn". I feel like I have heard it a million times before I even heard it once.

Multiply that by several years running, and you know why r & r is done.

BTW a song about rock and roll is a sure sign of nothing left in the tank of the song writer. Great songs are all about powerful emotions, be they happy or sad or what have you, not about whether rock and roll is here to stay or not.  

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First, why in the world would you say that rock music is a subgenre of pop music?  that about made me throw up.  Michael Jackson and Madonna are not rock and roll. 

Rock and roll died in the early 70's.  No, hair metal is not rock and roll.   Numetal is not rock and roll.  Disco is not rock and roll.

you must have been in a coma for the last 40 years...

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you must have been in a coma for the last 40 years...

Or unborn.

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Technically speaking, "rock and roll" was the kind of music that came out of the Chuck Berry/Buddy Holly era, which in turn emerged out of Jazz and other variations of "black music." (RACIST!!!!)

That kind of music however, died out as early as the mid-to-late 60s. Right around there was when the British started invading, giving their own take on "rock and roll" which turned into "rock music" (yes, the two are seperate). Around that time came the hippie pestilence, and the psychadelic era. All of that seemed to decline around the mid-to-late seventies, and was further rendered dead by the hipster invasion of the 90s. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the explanation for the terrible, terrible music calling itself "rock" today.

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Prime replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 10:20 AM

Rock music died for me when Guns and Roses split, although I loved most styles in the 90s. I haven't listened to much at all since probably the year 2000. I blame Limp Bizkit.

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Marko replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 10:22 AM

Technically speaking, "rock and roll" was the kind of music that came out of the Chuck Berry/Buddy Holly era, which in turn emerged out of Jazz and other variations of "black music." (RACIST!!!!)

That kind of music however, died out as early as the mid-to-late 60s. Right around there was when the British started invading, giving their own take on "rock and roll" which turned into "rock music" (yes, the two are seperate).

Nonsense.

That's what you get from learning about Rock and Roll from reading Wikipedia articles rather than getting to know it by listening through it.

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+1 for Marko and -infinite for the 15 year old who doesn't really listen to music.  No one has even mentioned BLUES.  BLUES is the foundation for rock not jazz.  Blues was around before jazz too (seeing as it was slave music).

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Might I ask what gave the impression that I "don't really listen to music" other than stereotypes about my generation?

EDIT

And of course, I was stereotyping about music today - so let me just clear that up before someone calls me out on that one.

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Bert replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 11:24 AM

Student, I actually really enjoy that Young song and I've been wanting to cover it for a while now.

Anyway, as far as marketing and top 40 goes, rock music is there, but as always it will always be under the radar compared to what they can sell.  Another example, Jack White had referred to the band The Gun Club as an essential band in rock history and should be taught to people interested in music, but as one can guess not many people know who The Gun Club are.

It's like in the early 80's when some jackass (Gary Bushell) says punk is dead, well yes and no.  It was dead to market for the record companies.  Why?  Everyone who was into the music started their own labels and distributing their own material.  Then the "media" says "hair metal is dead" because the major companies decided to start marketing grunge, but hair metal didn't "die" it's just they didn't market it to the public anymore.

To put in a more relative example, we can all sit here and read stuff from Austrians and talk about the correct methods of economics, but the mainstream view is Keynesian.  One simply does not look at this view and say "Well, Austrian econ is dead," because simply it's just not what they want to market anyway.

Honestly, I could say the same about folk music.  I'll look on sites for "folk albums of the year" and they all SUCK.  Even the older guys can't even put out decent albums.  Then you have indie-folk and alternative-folk.  I came to the realization the other day while listening to Birch Book (generally only known in neofolk circles) that this stuff is way better than what's marketed, yet is completely unknown.

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Some real label queens in here. Hipsters watching VH1.

Rock died the day f*ck you became pity me.

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This is an interesting question I've been thinking about.

I do think there is a definite paradigm shift, what it is is a bit harder to say.  There are quite a few ways to look at the issue like: how the internet and computers for better or worse has effects music,  is the "spirit" of rock actually ever meant to become mainstream - or just show a significant cultural force that rears it's head up to the top 40 every so often.  I think a better question might be is Rock and Roll still vital as a culture / sub culture, I don't think it has been for at least a decade.

 You could also ask if this new wave of pop is really just a product of rock and R&B I guess.  Is or did the market (and most other amature arts) become WAY oversaturated and watered down within the past 10 years  or so?  And why am I continually bombarded with effeminate and pointless "indie rock"? 

This may also point to a fundamental change in how cultural forces form and associate in a new type of era,Personally, it seems like a comfortably narcisstic, bourgoise "last man" type of culture - it becomes very hard, though it still can be done, to find much in movies (though this was a better couple years for film than usual), music, tv, or "sub cultures" that really truly excites - if our "sub culture" is defined by @##!!!! hipsters, that is not a good thing.  This may be representitive of how Europe was in the 1890's.

Perhaps there are signs of cultural exhaustion all around in the US?  EIther way, it is certainly sad that music culture seems to have lost a certain type of thunder to it, and I do believe we are witnessing a paradigm shift.  I think rap is way past it's prime as well.  Techno / dance / dub or big club music seems more in now.

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I think rap is way past it's prime as well.

Rap had a prime?

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Marko replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 6:15 PM

BTW a song about rock and roll is a sure sign of nothing left in the tank of the song writer. Great songs are all about powerful emotions, be they happy or sad or what have you, not about whether rock and roll is here to stay or not.

A celebratory self-referential Rock and Roll anthem is a mainstay of R n' R output. The emotion usually is in-your-face euphoria. Unless you don't think that's powerful enough?

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I myself listen to power and folk metal.

Blind guardian and skyclad?

Better than the crap mainstream metal these days.

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A celebratory self-referential Rock and Roll anthem is a mainstay of R n' R output.

When they are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The emotion usually is in-your-face euphoria. Unless you don't think that's powerful enough?

Ever faced a meth addict? He'll babble in-your-face euphoria powerfully, too. Gorillas can grunt even more powerfully. But they too, have nothing in the tank artistically, at least to me.

But hey, whatever floats your boat. I can guide you to some bars where you can watch people stab each other and howl over the bleeding victim. You'll love it. Powerful, in your face, euphoria.

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A celebratory self-referential Rock and Roll anthem is a mainstay of R n' R output.

When they are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

"I know...It's only rock and roll, but I like it!"

...marked the downfall of the Rolling Stones.

Even Zep's Rock and Roll is boring and repetitive.

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Marko replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 6:53 PM

"I know...It's only rock and roll, but I like it!"

...marked the downfall of the Rolling Stones.



That song is crap. It's also nowhere near anthemic enough.

Even Zep's Rock and Roll is boring and repetitive.


Which is kinda their thing.

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Even Zep's Rock and Roll is boring and repetitive.


Which is kinda their thing.

What?  Blues itself is repetitive (like the life of a slave), but Since I've Been Loving You - one of the greatest blues rock songs/guitar solos out there...

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Marko replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 7:07 PM

When they are scraping the bottom of the barrel.


Chuck Berry when he was scraping the bottom of the barrel: Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music. Started kinda early.

Ever faced a meth addict? He'll babble in-your-face euphoria powerfully, too. Gorillas can grunt even more powerfully. But they too, have nothing in the tank artistically, at least to me.


Mind you you've gonne from It's no good because there is no powerful emotion, to It's no good because it's not artistic. Maybe you didn't express yourself in the best possible way initially.

Also if you come to Rock and Roll on a quest for art that's your perogative, but it was actually built around the notion of fun.

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Aristophanes:
BLUES is the foundation for rock not jazz.


Perhaps you should read into the history of rock.  Many of the earliest rock n' roll musicians credited rhythm and blues and jump blues, which came more out of the ragtime/swing/boogie woogie lineage than the traditional folk blues.  Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five is the band most often mentioned as setting the stage for rock n' roll (and not unjustly), but you could just as easily credit Count Basie or Rosetta Tharpe before them (or Wynonie Harris after them); there's even a decent argument to be made for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

The blues were a part of rock n' roll, but so were a lot of other things.

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Whoa, not a music historian, I just go by what the original 60s bands mentioned over time.  Who'd the people you mentioned actually influence?  There were probably tons of musicians that made music similar to what become rock that were just not popular.  So, Clapton and his ilk say Robert Johnson, guthrie, lead belly, etc.  Beatles credit do-op stuff and R&B from te 30's and 40's (Paul listened to classical et al when he was young on account of his dad).  Also, no one is disputing the influence of Ella Fitzgerald...it is just hard to transition from melody piano and brass sections to guitar.  That is why blues is always credited by the guitar driven rock and roll.  I'm sure fats domino and chuck berry would have mentioned more jazzy backgrounds.  There aren't many rock and rollers who say, "Oh, the Rat Pack instrumental section really made me want to play music, thus i picked up a guitar."

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Marko replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 7:51 PM

For a while rythm and blues and rock and roll were thought of as symonymous. Both Berry and Presely talked about the music they were performing as rythm and blues until the latter designation was come up with.


Whoa, not a music historian, I just go by what the original 60s bands mentioned over time.

That's what you get by starting in the 60s. Those aren't the "original bands". They're already 2nd generation.

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Bert replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 8:28 PM

When it comes to rock and roll and the general conception and bands that people think of, like Led Zepplin and The Beatles, I find them uninteresting.  I'll take The Stooges over them any day, and in my opinion The Stooges have more of an embodiment of "rock and roll" than the more popular bands (exhibit A).

I think a defining difference are those who listen to music and those who are into music, and I feel there's a difference and it seems more apparent when I talk about music with people.  Some people will put the time into finding more and new bands.  While we could speculate based on the top 40 that rock and roll is dead and rap and hip-hop are more marketable, I could also speculate the entire top 40 of rap and hip-hop is also mundane "heard it, seen it, done it" type of music that's being put out.  The same with a lot of dubstep and techno artists.  It's a bit amusing and frustrating that electonica is a big thing now, when there's artists who've been doing it for the past two decades with an extensive discography and are still relatively unknown to the "club" scene.

Then again I might be in a different loop.  Here's my top 6 of 2012.

1. Agalloch - Faustian Echoes
2. Swans - The Seer
3. Cult of Youth - Love Will Prevail
4. Sons of Noel and Adrian - Knots
5. Lust For Youth - Growing Seeds
6. Chelsea Wolfe - Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs

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Student replied on Tue, Apr 2 2013 9:29 PM

I think a better question might be is Rock and Roll still vital as a culture / sub culture, I don't think it has been for at least a decade.

Good point. And I pretty much agree. 

 

Personally, it seems like a comfortably narcisstic, bourgoise "last man" type of culture - it becomes very hard, though it still can be done, to find much in movies (though this was a better couple years for film than usual), music, tv, or "sub cultures" that really truly excites - if our "sub culture" is defined by @##!!!! hipsters, that is not a good thing.  This may be representitive of how Europe was in the 1890's.
 
Perhaps there are signs of cultural exhaustion all around in the US?
 
Probably true. I didn't think about it that way, but maybe this is all part of one a cultural malaise. I had not thought about parallels to Europe in the 1890's. Of course, I don't know much about the culture of that period. 

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Smiling Dave:

Rap had a prime?

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Radio and TV are mere marketing tools.  There is a class of people that don't take in either, me included.

Anyway, categorizing music like this seems archaic to me now.  It's like categorizing economies as "Roman", "Greek", etc.  Recently I've started to use mathematical signal generators.  Mixing to me is becoming more akin to doing 3D matrix transformations in OpenGL than anything else.  I tend to think of "art" as doing things haphazardly.  You can't reduce every existing thing to equations, but you can create anything with equations.

When I get to learning OpenAL in the next few months I will be making my own pure wave generator.  If only I had started programming 10 years ago.  Lmao.

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Just to not sound like a prophet of gloom:

I think it's still pretty easy to have a good time in most environments and be around exciting things and great people - my overall thrust was there is a paradigm shift and there is a "feel" of cultural exhaustion to the whole ordeal.

As for Europe in the 1890's:

I think its a fairly uncontroversial view, or at least not an eccentric opinion, to take it as a comfortably passive and decadent culture: decadent poets, dandies, bad pop music, Bismark and strong nation states, penny dreadfuls,obnoxious tourists, perfumed invitations, gibson girls, etc

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Bert replied on Wed, Apr 3 2013 7:28 PM

vive, wouldn't you think this shift could be sort of a facade as far as music goes?  In regards to all forms of rock music, I won't deny they can sell, but I've never come across anyone that's into music to only scope out what's generally known, or in other words to pick at the crust without digging into the pie.

When grunge became the thing in the early 90's MTV said "glam metal was dead" (or whatever they said) but it wasn't dead, and grunge wasn't anything really new, it's just to the mass public that doesn't know otherwise that was the truth.  How many know the riff for Nirvana's "Come as You Are" was taken from Killing Joke's "Eighties" and KJ tried to sue Nirvana, with maybe even a much more smaller group realizing the riff itself was taken from The Damned's "Life Goes On" (it's compared here).

Point being I think what may direct any shift is actually below the radar contrasted to those who have exhausted what's left on top.  Once in a while it becomes prevalent enough or resonates with a mass of people, and someone decides to market it on the whole.

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let me clarify Bert:

1) I did point out the difference between Rock as a vital culture vs a mainstream music representitive.  I do come "from underground", after my initial falling in love with rock via the Beatles, Nirvana, Yardbirds, The Sex Pistols, and The Velvet Underground (all of which are still among my favs) I was essentially a product of the underground scene.  I still tend to think most of the best albums and bands of their respective genres are relatively unobscure, and considered "classics" within whatever genre you may choose.

2)  I think most of the great "movements", and to a degree music, of rock also represtend by a vital culture - the obvious uber example is Punk: but also think Industrial, Riot Grrl, Metal, Mowtown, Rap, etc, etc - one of the thoughts I was alluding to, is that doesnt quite exist in the same manner.

And as you stated, every thing I said could be a facade, maybe it's I'm not in my early 20's anymore and can't get excited by these things or involved in them - it's just an impression - but it was vaugely in my mind even in my early 20's.

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Forgot:

Sometimes one of these great bands "cracks" the culture (look at my list of favs ad Dylan and those are probably the "uber examples") and there is something of an immediate recognition of something fresh and amazing that leads a person to dig underground, kind of a "conversion experience".  Once again, I don't see that now

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Bert replied on Wed, Apr 3 2013 9:03 PM

I just thought of this quote from The Black Keys:

Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world… So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit – therefore you should never try to be the biggest rock band in the world. Fuck that! Rock & roll is the music I feel the most passionately about, and I don’t like to see it fucking ruined and spoon-fed down our throats in this watered-down, post-grunge crap, horrendous shit. When people start lumping us into that kind of shit, it’s like, ‘Fuck you,’ honestly.

Maybe it's just a mass lowering of standards.

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Marko replied on Sat, Apr 13 2013 10:05 PM

That kind of music however, died out as early as the mid-to-late 60s. Right around there was when the British started invading, giving their own take on "rock and roll" which turned into "rock music" (yes, the two are seperate). Around that time came the hippie pestilence, and the psychadelic era. All of that seemed to decline around the mid-to-late seventies, and was further rendered dead by the hipster invasion of the 90s. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the explanation for the terrible, terrible music calling itself "rock" today.



I'd like to elaborate my biggest issue in this text was with the notion Rock and Rock n' Roll are distinct, which I find silly.

Just the explanation above is more than a little bit silly. So you have British invasion bands who are playing Rock n' Roll, but somewhere along the line, they stop to do so, and begin to play Rock music. So up to a certain year the Animals, or the Kinks are a Rock n' Roll act but then they outgrow it and establish a new Rock music genre.

But actually if you look at it closely throughout their existence these bands always have far more in common with Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry than they ever do with prog rock or indie rock bands. So to maintain this notion there is such a thing as Rock music founded by the Beach Boys and the British invasion bands of which Holly and Berry are outside of it, but which includes some Emo acts is ridicilous just on the face of it. Actually Rock if understood in this (silly) picture of all Rock minus early Rock n' Roll is no more narrower genre than Rock as synonymous with all Rock (Rock n' Roll) including, naturally its early Rock n' Roll foundation. Actually this silly insistence on banishing the fathers of Rock n' Roll from Rock n' Roll (= Rock) is completely arbitrary, and doesn't help narrow the term down any, since any term which can subsume the huge difference between prog or elaborate metal to punk and indie, naturally has place for early rock n' roll as well, and right down smack down in the middle of it at that.

This false distinction and unjustified banishment of early Rock n' Roll's grea's from the music they launched stems not from people who played it, or even really understood it, but from critics who only ever wrote about it. Critics were always in love with borderline Rock n' Roll genres, which expanded Rock music, but which never defined it. Most writers take themselves too seriously and therefore were inclined (particularly) to inane deviationists genres of Rock n' Roll. They loved prog, and folk, and indie, and pyschedelic. But they hated and resented the true plumb-line Rock n' Roll acts and therefore felt distant to Berry and Presley to whom the deviationist acts they listened to did not owe as much.

In fact you have from the 1950s right through the end of the Rock n' Roll era a fun-loving, self-consciously juvenile Rock n' Roll acts which trace their lineage in a perfectly straight line to Berry's fist raising rockers and the Beatles' exaggarated self-consciously pathetic ballads. Acts which never thought of Rock as anything other than a shorthand for Rock n' Rolll. Early Rock n' Roll, British Rock n' Roll, huge part of "proto-Punk" and Glam Rock, and 1980s Pop Metal. These were true plumbline Rock n' Roll movements with Folk Rock, Heartland, Punk, Southern, Indie on the one and "Classic" Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic, and latter no-shagging-orcs-and-elves Metal forming its left-wing, and right-wing deviations respectfully.

It's extremely difficult to conclude acts like The Rolling Stones, Slade, Garry Glitter, The New York Dolls, MC5, Ramones, Hanoi Rocks, Pretty Boy Floyd, Tesla, Def Leppard, Guns n' Roses, W.A.S.P. were part of the same genre ("Rock music") as Pink Floyd or John Mellancamp, but at the same time most definetely not of the same genre than Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard. It's not difficult, it's ridicilous. The only ones who attempt to do this are people embarrased about Rock's fun-loving-to-the-point-of-being-slightly-idiotic core.

In fact you will note than in the terms defined by Student Rock indeed died in 1992. That is the year when Rock stopped being a mayor force in music. It is also the end which marked the abrupt end of the last iteration of plumbline Rock n' Roll in the form of Sunset Strip Glam (and associated acts). As long as there was a plumbline movement to motor along the whole breath of Rock music had power, that is including its deviationist forms. But as soon as the core was killed, the deviationists were not able to sustain the momentum on their own, and the phenomena died as a mayor force in contemporary music.

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