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A Brief History of Rock and Pop Music
You might be wondering when exactly rock/pop music started? There is no clear answer to this. Some might say it started with the advent of rock n roll with Bill Haley and the Comets in 1952. Others would say Elvis, although not the first, but certainly the original truly global superstar. However, none of these were truly first. Rock n roll has its roots in the blues which traces back to the 19th century with black immigrants trying to escape their lives of slavery. Fast forward to the beginning of the 20th century and some of the earliest records of the 78 began to appear. Players from that era such as Bobby Jo and Robert Johnson helped form the fabric of early blues.
Robert Johnson recorded only thirty songs during his short life because his jealous husband prevented him from achieving real fame while he was alive. He died shortly before producer John Hammond asked him to appear at the Spirituals To Swing concert in 1938. As a result, his reputation only grew after Hammond released an album of his recordings for Columbia in the early sixties. Later blues exponents such as Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton admitted to borrowing heavily from these early experts.
In the 50s, artists took the basic blues style and used electric guitars, drums and double bass for the first time to create early rock and roll, later known as rockabilly. Stalwarts such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Hollie and Jerry Lee Lewis were the most famous protagonists here. Later, Elvis in the US and to a lesser extent Cliff Richard (later leading the Shadows) in the UK brought rock n roll to a truly worldwide audience. This paved the way for the beat era of the 60s which could be considered the true beginning of pop music as we know it today, certainly as far as bands are concerned.
In the 50s and early 60s, these were mostly lead solo acts with only a backing band. With the advent of the beat era, bands dominated with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys from the US taking the world by storm. Nevertheless, The Beatles later admitted that they were heavily influenced by those earlier rock n roll and blues artists. They mostly played rock n roll and blues covers at their famous concerts in Hamburg. in the early 60s. However, The Beatles were the first band to successfully blend classical musical textures with rock and roll to form perfectly crafted pop songs. While bands like The Rolling Stones continued with a mostly rock n roll theme,
The Beatles expanded their finely crafted style further on the seminal album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ from 1967, using new studio techniques and instruments not previously used. They used a new instrument called ‘Mellotron’. This was basically a keyboard that played tape recordings. real instruments. The most famous sound from this is probably the flute used on the single ‘Strawberry Fields’ recorded at the same time but later dropped from the album. The mellotron, however, was bulky and unreliable and had a rather grainy sound. Despite this, it was considered a forerunner of the electronic sampler, invented nearly 20 years later. Infinitely more flexible than the Mellotron, the sampler helped build the framework for modern pop, dance and R&B music.
The Beatles’ album ‘Sgt.. Pepper’ with its revolutionary recording techniques was preceded a year earlier by their album ‘Revolver’. These LPs helped popularize a new wave in music known as psychedelic or acid rock, named after the mind-bending effects of the drug LSD. Pink Floyd also recorded their debut album ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ in the studio next door at the same time The Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper. It has been reported that Pink Floyd directly influenced The Beatles as a result. This new style included new guitar effects such as Fuzz, flanger anger and delays. They were used with the earliest portable synthesizers such as thein and the mini Moog. invented by Bob Moog.
In America, the Beach Boys responded with the LP “Pet Sounds” in 1966, and later that year released their first major psychedelic hit, “Good Vibrations.” Around this time, the band ‘Jefferson Airplane’ recorded their debut album which was also the first LP to come out of the new San Francisco music scene. This caught the attention of the record industry and they had two of their earliest psychedelic hits ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ in 1967.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Jim Morrison joined members of The Psychedelic Rangers and Rick and the Ravens to form ‘The Doors’. Initially rejected by Columbia, they signed to Electra Records and released their self-titled debut LP in 1967. The album included the 7-minute hit single ‘Light my Fire’, one of the first to break the typical three-minute barrier of pop and rock songs.
In Britain radio broadcasting was very limited as the BBC was the only organization allowed to broadcast on the mainland and they only had two pop music shows The Saturday club and Easy Beat Radio Luxembourg partly filled the gap but it was left to pirate radio, broadcasting from ships at sea with DJ John Peel, which allowed the new style to reach a mass audience, often eclipsing the BBC in popularity. The BBC eventually responded with the advent of Radio 1 in June 1967. With the existing Labor government making pirate radio illegal in Britain a few months later, Duos such as John Peel rather than risk arrest joined Radio 1 which had a much more informal and a more relaxed style as opposed to the staid and conservative approach favored by the BBC until then. This suited psychedelic pop and rock perfectly, and John Peel championed it on his late night shows. playing new genres of music and introducing new and unsigned bands at Peel sessions. He did this for almost four decades until his death in 2004.
In the late 60s, after the breakup of the Beatles, mainstream music was about to change direction again, both in style and fashion.
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