Social Changes On Innovations Of Rock Music Media Essay

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The massive popularity and worldwide scope of rock music resulted from a powerful impact on society. Rock and roll in turn influenced daily life, fashion, attitudes and language in a way few other social developments have equalled. As the original generations of rock and roll fans matured, the music became an accepted and deeply interwoven thread in popular culture. Beginning in the early 1970s, rock songs and acts began to be used in a few television commercials; within a decade this practice became widespread. Starting in the 1980s rock music was often featured in film and television program soundtracks.

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Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical sources.

Musically, rock has centred around the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with bass guitar and drums. Typically, rock is song-based music with a 4/4 beat utilizing a verse-chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse and common musical characteristics are difficult to define. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political in emphasis. The dominance of rock by white, male musicians has been seen as one of the key factors shaping the themes explored in rock music. Unlike pop music, rock places an emphasis on musicianship, live performance, and an ideology of authenticity.

By the late 1960s a number of distinct rock music sub-genres had emerged, including hybrids like folk rock, blues-rock, country rock and jazz-rock fusion, many of which contributed to the development of psychedelic rock influenced by the counter-cultural psychedelic scene. New genres that emerged from this scene included progressive rock, which extended the artistic elements; glam rock, which highlighted showmanship and visual style; and the diverse and enduring major sub-genre of heavy metal, which emphasized volume and power. In the second half of the 1970s, punk rock both intensified and reacted against some of these trends to produce a raw, energetic form of music characterized by overt political and social critiques. Punk was an influence into the 1980s on the subsequent development of other sub-genres, including New Wave, post punk and eventually the alternative rock movement. From the 1990s alternative rock began to dominate rock music and break through into the mainstream in the form of grunge, Britpop, and indie rock. Further fusion sub-genres have since emerged, including pop punk, rap rock, and rap metal, as well as conscious attempts to revisit rock’s history, including the garage rock/post punk revival at the beginning of the new millennium.

Rock music has also embodied and served as the vehicle for cultural and social movements, leading to major sub-cultures including mods and rockers in the UK and the “hippie” counterculture that spread out from San Francisco in the US in the 1960s. Similarly, 1970s punk culture spawned the visually distinctive goth and emo subcultures. Inheriting the folk tradition of the protest song, rock music has been associated with political activism as well as changes in social attitudes to race, sex and drug use, and is often seen as an expression of youth revolt against adult consumerism and conformity.

3. Discussion and Analysis

3.1. Benefits Brought by Technological Innovations

Rock music and fashion have been inextricably linked. The tough, leather-clad image of early rockers such as Gene Vincent influenced a generation of young people on both sides of the ocean. A cultural war broke out in the mid-1960s in the UK over the rivalry between the “Mods” (who favored high-fashion, expensive styles) and the “Rockers” (who wore T-shirts and leather); followers of each style had their favored musical acts, who eagerly fed into the conflict by releasing records praising one style and disparaging another (the Mods versus Rockers controversy would form the backdrop for The Who’s rock opera Quadrophenia). In the 1960s, The Beatles brought mop-top haircuts, collarless blazers, and Beatle Boots into fashion.

Rock musicians were early adopters of hippie fashion and introduced such styles as the Nehru jacket; bands such as the Beatles had custom-made clothing that influenced much of 1960s style. As rock music genres became more segmented, what an artist wore became as important as the music itself in defining the artist’s intent and relationship to the audience. The Glam rock of the 1970s brought fashion to new heights of importance in rock music with the “glitter” image of artists like T. Rex and Alice Cooper being widely influential. Some artists who had been active in the late 1960s such as David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop also adopted a glam-influenced look. In the late 1970s, Disco acts helped bring flashy urban styles to the mainstream, while New Wave groups began wearing mock-conservative attire (including suit jackets and skinny ties) in an attempt to be as unlike mainstream rockers (who still favored blue jeans and hippie-influenced clothes) as possible.

In the early 1990s, the popularity of grunge brought in a fashion of its own. Grunge musicians and fans wore torn jeans, old shoes, flannel shirts, backwards baseball hats, and grew their hair against the clean-cut image that was popular at the time as well as heavily commercialized pop music culture. Musicians continue to be fashion icons; pop-culture magazines such as Rolling Stone often include fashion layouts featuring musicians as models.

Love and peace were very common themes in rock music during the 1960s and 1970s. Rock musicians have often attempted to address social issues directly as commentary or as calls to action. During the Vietnam War the first rock protest songs were heard, inspired by the songs of folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, which ranged from abstract evocations of peace Peter, Paul and Mary’s “If I Had a Hammer” to blunt anti-establishment diatribes Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio”. Other musicians, notably John Lennon and Yoko Ono, were vocal in their anti-war sentiment both in their music and in public statements.

Famous rock musicians have adopted causes ranging from the environment (Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and the Anti-Apartheid Movement (Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”), to violence in Northern Ireland (U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”) and worldwide economic policy (The Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor”). Another notable protest song is Patti Smith’s recording “People Have the Power.” On occasion this involvement would go beyond simple songwriting and take the form of sometimes-spectacular concerts or televised events, often raising money for charity and awareness of global issues.

Rock and roll as social activism reached a milestone in the Live Aid concerts, held July 13, 1985, which were an outgrowth of the 1984 charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and became the largest musical concert in history with performers on two main stages, one in London, England and the other in Philadelphia, USA (plus some other acts performing in other countries) and televised worldwide. The concert lasted 16 hours and featured nearly everybody who was in the forefront of rock and pop in 1985. The charity event raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa. Live Aid became a model for many other fund-raising and consciousness-raising efforts, including the Farm Aid concerts for family farmers in North America, and televised performances benefiting victims of the September 11 attacks. Live Aid itself was reprised in 2005 with the Live 8 concert, to raise awareness of global economic policy. Environmental issues have also been a common theme, one example being Live Earth.

Songwriters like Pete Townshend have explored these spiritual aspects within their work. The common usage of the term “rock god” acknowledges the religious quality of the adulation some rock stars receive. John Lennon became infamous for a statement he made in 1966 that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”. (Christensen, L. et al2001) However, he later said that this statement was misunderstood and not meant to be anti-Christian.

Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, King Diamond, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Marilyn Manson, Slayer and numerous others have also been accused of being satanists, immoral or otherwise having an “evil” influence on their listeners. Anti-religious sentiments also appear in punk and hardcore. There’s the example of the song “”Filler” by Minor Threat, the name and famous logo of the band Bad Religion and criticism of Christianity and all religions is an important theme in Anarcho-punk/Crust punk.

Christian rock, alternative rock, metal, punk, and hardcore, are specific, identifiable genres of rock music with strong Christian overtones and influence.[citation needed] Many groups and individuals who are not considered to be Christian rock artists have religious beliefs themselves. For example The Edge of U2 is a Methodist and Brandon Flowers of The Killers is a Latter Day Saint. (Galloway, S. & Bell, D 2006)

However, a few conservative Christians single out the music genres of hip hop and rock as well as blues and jazz as containing jungle beats, or jungle music, and claim that it is a beat or musical style that is inherently evil, immoral, and/or sensual. Thus, according to them, any song in the rap, hip hop and rock genres is inherently evil because of the song’s musical beat, regardless of the song’s lyrics or message. Some extend this analysis even to Christian rock songs.

Christian conservative author David Noebel is one of the most notable proponents of the existence of jungle beats. In his writings and speeches, Noebel held that the use of such beats in music was a communist plot to subvert the morality of the youth of the United States. Pope Benedict XVI famously stated his belief that ” ‘Rock… is the expression of the elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a sometimes cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship.”

The worldwide popularity of rock music meant that it became a major influence on culture, fashion and social attitudes. Different sub-genres of rock were adopted by, and became central to, the identity of a large number of sub-cultures. In the 1950s and 1960s, respectively, British youths adopted the Teddy Boy and Rockers subcultures, which revolved around US rock and roll. The counter-culture of the 1960s was closely associated with psychedelic rock. The mid-1970s punk subculture began in the US, but it was given a distinctive look by British designer Vivian Westwood, a look which spread worldwide. Out of the punk scene, the Goth and Emo subcultures grew, both of which presented distinctive visual styles.

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When an international rock culture developed, it was able to supplant cinema as the major sources of fashion influence. Paradoxically, followers of rock music have often mistrusted the world of fashion, which has been seen as elevating image above substance. Rock fashions have been seen as combining elements of different cultures and periods, as well as expressing divergent views on sexuality and gender, and rock music in general has been noted and criticised for facilitating greater sexual freedom. Rock has also been associated with various forms of drug use, including the stimulants taken by some mods in the early to mid-1960s, through the LSD linked with psychedelic rock in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and sometimes to cannabis, cocaine and heroin, all of which have been eulogised in song.

Rock has been credited with changing attitudes to race by opening up African-American culture to white audiences; but at the same time, rock has been accused of appropriating and exploiting that culture. While rock music has absorbed many influences and introduced Western audiences to different musical traditions, the global spread of rock music has been interpreted as a form of cultural imperialism. Rock music inherited the folk tradition of protest song, making political statements on subjects such as war, religion, poverty, civil rights, justice and the environment. Political activism reached a mainstream peak with the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” single (1984) and Live Aid concert for Ethiopia in 1985, which, while successfully raising awareness of world poverty and funds for aid, have also been criticised (along with similar events), for providing a stage for self-aggrandisement and increased profits for the rock stars involved.

Since its early development rock music has been associated with rebellion against social and political norms, most obviously in early rock and roll’s rejection of an adult-dominated culture, the counter-culture’s rejection of consumerism and conformity and punk’s rejection of all forms of social convention, however, it can also be seen as providing a means of commercial exploitation of such ideas and of diverting youth away from political action.

By the end of the 90s and into the early 2000s pop music consisted mostly of a combination of pop-hip hop and R&B-tinged pop, including a number of boy bands. Notable female divas also cemented their status in American and Worldwide popular music, such as Britney Spears and Beyoncé. The predominant sound in 90s country music was pop with only very limited elements of country. This includes many of the best-selling artists of the 1990s, like Clint Black, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and the first of these crossover stars, Garth Brooks (Hunt 2008). On the other hand a guitar revival took place and raised a new generation of alternative guitar bands often described as post-punk revival or garage rock revival. Prominent bands of this generation are White Stripes, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand. New Weird America or sometimes called Freak Folk is a new movement emphasizing the artistic individuality of genre crossing artists such as Anthony and the Johnsons, Joanna Newsom, The Dodos, Animal Collective and Cat Power.

3.2. Problems Brought by Technological Innovations

The rock and roll lifestyle was popularly associated with sex and drugs. Many of rock and roll’s early stars (as well as their jazz and blues counterparts) were known as hard-drinking, hard-living characters. During the 1960s the lifestyles of many stars became more publicly known, aided by the growth of the underground rock press. Musicians had always attracted attention of “groupies” (girls who followed musicians) who spent time with and often did sexual favors for band members.

Drugs were often a big part of the rock music lifestyle. In the 1960s, psychedelic music arose; some musicians encouraged and intended listeners of psychedelic music to be under the influence of LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs as enhancements to the listening experience. Jerry Garcia of the rock band Grateful Dead said “For some people, taking LSD and going to Grateful Dead show functions like a rite of passage…. we don’t have a product to sell; but we do have a mechanism that works.” (Grodzki Theatre 2007)

The popularity and promotion of recreational drug use by musicians may have influenced use of drugs and the perception of acceptability of drug use among the youth of the period. When the Beatles, once marketed as clean-cut youths, started publicly acknowledging using LSD, many fans followed. Journalist Al Aronowitz wrote “…whatever the Beatles did was acceptable, especially for young people.”

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, much of the rock and roll cachet associated with drug use dissipated as rock music suffered a series of drug-related deaths, including the 27 Club-member deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Although some amount of drug use remained common among rock musicians, a greater respect for the dangers of drug consumption was observed, and many anti-drug songs became part of the rock lexicon, notably “The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young (1972).

Many rock musicians, including Lemmy, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Steven Tyler, Scott Weiland, Sly Stone, Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, Anthony Kiedis, Dave Mustaine, David Bowie, Elton John and others, have acknowledged battling addictions to many substances including cocaine and heroin; many of these have successfully undergone drug rehabilitation programs, but others have died. In the early 1980s, along with the rise of the band Minor Threat, the straight edge lifestyle became popular. The straight edge philosophy of abstinence from recreational drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sex became associated with hardcore punk music through the years, and both remain popular with youth today.

Rock musicians and fans have consistently struggled with the paradox of “selling out” to be considered “authentic”, rock music must keep a certain distance from the commercial world and its constructs; however it is widely believed that certain compromises must be made in order to become successful and to make music available to the public. This dilemma has created friction between musicians and fans, with some bands going to great lengths to avoid the appearance of “selling out” (while still finding ways to make a lucrative living). In some styles of rock, such as punk and heavy metal, a performer who is believed to have “sold out” to commercial interests may be labelled with the pejorative term “poseur”.

4. Conclusion

If a performer first comes to public attention with one style, any further stylistic development may be seen as selling out to long-time fans. On the other hand, managers and producers may progressively take more control of the artist, as happened, for instance, in Elvis Presley’s swift transition in species from “The Hillbilly Cat” to “your teddy bear”. It can be difficult to define the difference between seeking a wider audience and selling out. Ray Charles left behind his classic formulation of rhythm and blues to sing country music, pop songs and soft-drink commercials. In the process, he went from a niche audience to worldwide fame. In the end, it is a moral judgement made by the artist, the management, and the audience.

5. Recommendations

It is advisable for rock musicians and fans to consistently struggle with the paradox of “selling out” to be considered “authentic”, rock music must keep a certain distance from the commercial world and its constructs; however it is widely believed that certain compromises must be made in order to become successful and to make music available to the public. This dilemma has created friction between musicians and fans, with some bands going to great lengths to avoid the appearance of “selling out” (while still finding ways to make a lucrative living). In some styles of rock, such as punk and heavy metal, a performer who is believed to have “sold out” to commercial interests may be labelled with the pejorative term “poseur”.


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