Since rock ‘n roll first hit the scene there has been a constant state of evolution in both sound and style. While early artists were fading out of the limelight another generation was making their mark. Artists of the 50’s giving way to the new sound of artists like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
More bands continued to create new soundscapes with artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath creating news sounds and sub-genres in rock music. With the British Invasion and the successes of The Beatles and The Stones, Rock music reached the masses and became household names. While new bands were hitting the scene, bands like the aforementioned were revered as rock music icons and maintained followings.
Later, bands like KISS, Aerosmith, Deep Purple along with Zeppelin and Sabbath created a hard rock genre that found success with the mainstream as audience well. Yet again, AC/DC and Van Halen seemingly started the sounds that would herald the 80’s Sunset Strip scene that became known as Glam Metal or Hair Metal
After almost a decade of dominance, it to was pushed aside for the 90’s Seattle Alternative Rock scene and the advent of Grunge. But something different happened with the artists of that scene. The charts were filled with top-selling albums by bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. Now take a close look at that list. The original lead singer or frontman for each band, with Pearl Jam being the one exception is dead. Bands from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s have continued to tour to large audiences and keep their music alive for longtime fans and even their fan’s children, making new fans and creating a legacy for the bands.
I have no doubt that if there were a GrungeFest tour that featured the bands mentioned above, fully intact, with original singers, that it would be a huge success that would be selling out large venues. Those who were teens in the ’90s would be taking their kids to see these bands perform and a new generation would be appreciating their show. However, that just isn’t the case. I know some will say that Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains are still playing with new members, but everyone knows it’s just not quite the same without Layne Staley and Scott Weiland. I believe this loss of these bands being able to carry the rock tradition from a previous era forward is one of the reasons that so many people are proclaiming that rock music is dead. That huge hole left by a scene that didn’t survive its own volatility has left the 80’s rock bands left as classic artists with no one to follow. While there have been so remarkable rock bands come and go in recent years, there hasn’t been anything as big since the Alternative Rock movement.
After the Grunge/Alt-Rock movement, record companies threw their hands up in despair and in most cases gave up trying to sign artists to groom and create new trends. Instead, they left everything to a D.I.Y. scene to see which bands would rise to the top on their own and then sign them. While this sounds like a good idea in principle, it opened the floodgates for a ton of bands with minimal talent to create music that was cleaned up and recorded on their computer rather than in a controlled studio. With this technology, anyone with a computer, some equipment and enough time can cut and paste something together that sounds like music. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to giving them the talent to play live, where you can’t fix it on the 100th take. So many of these bands are only bands in theory and haven’t or can’t play before a live audience without being an embarrassment.
So the record companies have just sat back and waited for the next big thing to come along. But, it hasn’t happened yet. That’s right. It hasn’t happened yet. First, Hip-Hop took the forefront in music sales. And have dominated music sales for the last few years. Then, for another, so many “Wanna Be” bands have flooded the scene with their endless attempts at trying to gain fans from a distance through social media outlets, ads, etc. that the few bands who really have the talent and deserve to be found, are drowning in this giant pool of beggars and hangers-ons who have watered down the rock scene with generic, unimaginative music.
While a lot has been said about the current waves of retro-bands that are trying to bring back the classic rock sound, let’s remember, in the entire history of rock music, no genre or sound has ever come back completely and taken over the rock charts again. It’s not that some won’t find success imitating what came before, but overall time and music moves forward. While this may be sad news for those wishing to bring back the sounds of Led Zeppelin, The Doors, or the 80’s hair metal scene, it doesn’t have to all be bad.
In fact, whatever comes next for rock music is going to be different and refreshing. It will be the music of a new generation. it will be their sound. And it will develop in the underground. Despite what many fans, critics and naysayers have said, rock music is far from dead. It’s the sleeping giant that will surprise us all when it returns to shake the foundations once again.
Black Hole image provided by:
Event Horizon Telescope [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]