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Rock and roll
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Rock and roll

Rock and Roll, also called Rock, is a form of popular music, usually featuring vocals (often with vocal harmony backing), electric guitarss (and saxophone in the early days) and a strong back beat.

Rock and roll
Stylistic origins: Jump blues
Cultural origins: Late 1940s United States
Typical instruments: Guitar - Bass - Drums
Mainstream popularity: Much, constant and worldwide since the 1950s
Derivative forms: Alternative rock - Heavy metal - Punk rock - Progressive rock
Garage rock - Girl group - Glam rock - Glitter rock - Hard rock - Heartland rock - Instrumental rock - Jam band - Jangle pop - Post-rock - Power pop - Psychedelia - Pub rock (Aussie) - Pub rock (UK) - Rock en espanol - Soft rock - Southern rock - Surf
Blues-rock - Country rock - Folk-rock - Progressive rock - Rockabilly
Regional scenes
Japanese rock - Kiwi rock
Other topics
Backbeat - Rock opera - Rock band - Performers - Rock anthem

Table of contents
1 Precursors and origins
2 Origins of "Rock and Roll"
3 History and Milestones
4 Social Impacts
5 See also
6 External links

Precursors and origins

Rock and Roll emerged as a defined musical style in America in the 1950s, though elements of rock and roll can be seen in rhythm and blues records as far back as the 1920s. Early rock and roll combined elements of blues, boogie woogie, jazz and rhythm and blues, and is also influenced by traditional folk music, gospel music, black and white, and country and western. Going back even further, Rock and Roll can trace a foundational lineage to the old Five Points district of mid-19th century New York City, the scene of the first fusion of heavily rhythmic African shuffles and sand dances with melody driven European genres, particularly the Irish jig.

Origins of "Rock and Roll"

Rocking was a term first used by gospel singers in the American South to mean something akin to spiritual rapture. A double, ironic, meaning came to popular awareness in 1947 in blues artist Roy Brown's song "Good Rocking Tonight" (also covered the next year by Wynonie Harris in an even wilder version), in which "rocking" was ostensibly about dancing but was in fact a thinly-veiled allusion to sex. Such double-entendres were nothing new in blues music (which was mostly limited in exposure to jukeboxes and clubs) but were new to the radio airwaves. After the success of "Good Rocking Tonight" many other rhythm and blues artists used similar titles through the late 1940s including a song called "Rock and Roll" recorded by Wild Bill Moore in 1949. These songs were relegated to "race music" (the music industry code name for rhythm and blues) outlets and were barely known by mainstream white audiences. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed would begin playing this type of music for his white audience, and it is Freed who is credited with coining the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the rollicking R&B music that he brought to the airwaves. The term, with its simultaneous allusions to dancing, sex, and the sound of the music itself, stuck even with those who didn't absorb all the meanings.

History and Milestones

Early North American rock and roll (1953-1963)

According to some, notably music historian Peter Guralnick, the first rock and roll record was "Rocket 88", by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (written by 19-year-old Ike Turner also the session leader) and recorded by Sam Phillips for the Sun Records label, in 1951. Many other records recorded in the same period are also contenders for this title. Others have pointed to the later broad commercial success with white audiences of Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" or "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets as true starting points. Still others point out that performers like Fats Domino were recording blues songs as early as 1949 that are indistinguishable from later rock and roll, and that these blues songs were based on themes, chord changes, and rhythms dating back decades before that. Rhythm and Blues sax player and band leader Louis Jordan actually broke into the country charts in the forties with "Is you is or is you ain't my baby?". In 1947 Jack Guthrie and his group The Oaklahomans had a hit with "The Oakie Boogie", basically a mix of boogie woogie with hillbilly and an electric guitar thrown in (a fairly new invention in 1947). Benny Carter, a co-author of "Cow Cow Boogie" (Capitol Records first gold single) back in 1942, wrote the jazz-swing song "Rock Me to Sleep" with Paul Vandervoort II in 1950.

Whatever the starting point, it is clear that rock and roll appeared at a time when racial tensions in the United States were coming to the surface. African-Americans were protesting segregation of schools and public facilities. The "separate but equal" doctrine was overturned in 1954. It can hardly be a coincidence, then, that a musical form combining elements of white and black music should arise, and that this music should provoke strong reactions, of all types, in all Americans.

Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, rhythm and blues music had been gaining a stronger beat and a wilder style, with artists such as Fats Domino and Johnny Otis speeding up the tempos and increasing the backbeat to great popularity on the juke-joint circuit. Despite the pioneering efforts of Freed and others, black music was still taboo on many white-owned radio outlets. However, savvy artists and producers quickly recognized the popularity and potential of rock and roll and raced to cash in with white versions of this black music. Black performers saw their songs recorded by white performers, an important step in the dissemination of the music, but often at the cost of feeling and authenticity. Most famously, Pat Boone recorded sanitized versions of Little Richard songs (Little Richard retaliated by getting wilder, creating in "Long Tall Sally", a song so intense that Boone couldn't find a way to cover it). Similarly, Ricky Nelson recorded Fats Domino. Later, as those songs became popular, the original artists' recordings received radio play as well (though this seldom resulted in any remuneration to the original artists). The cover versions were not necessarily straightforward imitations. For example, Bill Haley's bowdlerized cover of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" transformed Joe Turner's humorous and racy song into an energetic teen dance number, while Georgia Gibbs replaced Etta James's sarcastic vocal in "Roll With Me, Henry" (covered as "Dance With Me, Henry") with a perkier vocal more appropriate for an audience unfamiliar with the song which James's song was an answer to (Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie").

On March 21, 1952 in Cleveland, Alan Freed produced the first rock and roll concert. The audience and the performers were mixed in race and the evening ended after one song in a near-riot as thousands of fans tried to get into the sold-out venue. Rock and roll was clearly here to stay.

At the same time that R&B was turning into rock and roll, country and western music was undergoing a similar transformation to faster tempos and more aggressive playing. In music-oriented cities such as Memphis, Tennessee country and blues music producers such as Sam Phillips would combine this "hillbilly" music with the driving rhythm of rock and roll and rockabilly was born. In 1954, a young man named Elvis Presley would come into Phillips' studio with a request to record a disc for his mother. Recognizing talent in the shy young man, Phillips arranged to have Elvis record some ballads with professional musicians, but that date quickly turned into a jam session as Elvis sang the R&B songs he loved. Elvis' first release for Phillips' Sun Records, That's All Right Mama became the first rockabilly hit and established Elvis as the first true rock and roll star.

DooWop, Girl Groups, and Teen Idols

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British rock and the British Invasion (1958-1969)

American Rock and roll had an impact across the globe, perhaps most intensely in Britain, where record collecting and trend-watching were in full bloom among the youth culture prior to the rock era, and where color barriers were less of an issue. Countless British youths listened to and were influenced by the R&B and rock and roll pioneers and began forming their own bands to play the new music with an intensity and drive seldom found in white American acts outside of Elvis. This set the stage for Britian becoming a new center of rock and roll, leading to British Invasion from 1958 to 1969.

In 1958 three British teenagers formed a rock and roll group, 'Cliff Richard and the Drifters (later renamed Cliff Richard and the Shadows). The group recorded a hit, "Move It", marking not only what is held to be the very first British full on rock 'n' roll single, but also the beginning of a different sound -- British Rock.

Cliff Richard and the Shadows became the most influential band in the UK and set standards for following British (and American) groups. Comprising two guitars, bass guitar and drums, they also changed the way the guitar was featured, introducing the Fender Stratocaster and the concept of a "lead guitarist" (virtuoso Hank Marvin) to the rock scene and featuring an electric bass guitar instead of the usual standup bass. Appealing almost exclusively to and hugely popular with youth in Britain (including the nascent Beatles) as well as across Europe, Cliff Richard and the Shadows also influenced many UK teenagers to begin buying records, a trend which would reach a peak with The Beatles a few years later. The group also paved the way for the Beatles in other ways, touring the US (without much fanfare) and whetting US record companies' appetites for a youth-oriented band to market stateside.

By the early 1960s, bands from England were dominating the rock and roll scene world wide, giving rock and roll a new focus. First re-recording standard American tunes, these bands then infused their original rock and roll compositions with an industrial-class sensibility. Foremost among these was The Beatles, comprised of four youths from Liverpool who became the single most important and influential act in the history of rock and roll. The Beatles brought together a near-perfect mix of image, songwriting, and personality and, after initial success in the UK, were signed in the US and launched a large-scale stateside tour to ecstatic reaction, a phenomenon quickly dubbed Beatlemania.

Although they were not the first British band to come to America, The Beatles spearheaded the Invasion, triumphing in the U.S. on their first visit in 1964 (including historic appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show). In the wake of Beatlemania other British bands headed to the U.S., notably The Rolling Stones, who disdained the Beatles' clean-cut image and presented a darker, more aggressive image, The Animals and The Yardbirds. Throughout the early and mid-'60s Americans seemed to have an insatialble appetite for British rock; one of the groups who made a greater mark in the USA than on the UK was Herman's Hermits. Other British bands, including The Who and The Kinks, would have some success during this period but save their peak of popularity for the second wave of British invasion in the late 1960s.

To Americans, the British Invasion was when British rock music started. To listeners in the UK and elsewhere, there was no invasion, for they always had these groups, as well as many who never gained worldwide recognition.

Bob Dylan and Folk-Rock (starting 1963)

As the British Invasion led by The Beatles picked up steam, a homegrown American trend was making itself felt, led by Bob Dylan. By 1963 the 22 year old Dylan had assimilated a deep variety of regional American styles and was about to work some alchemy to create an entirely new genre, usually dubbed "folk rock". From `61 to mid `63 Dylan had kept his distance from rock and roll even though his first musical forays back in high school owed more to early rockers like Buddy Holly and Little Richard than to any of the more obscure folk and blues artists he would later embrace. He and others on the new folk circuit tended to view The Beatles as "bubblegum", but admitted to a grudging respect for their originality and energetic style. In `63 Dylan's release of the album The Times They Are A-Changin' was a watershed event, bringing "relevant" and highly poetic lyrics to the edge of rock and roll. The Beatles listened to this album incessantly and moved away from the exclusive love themes of their work to date. In `64 and `65 Dylan threw off all pretense to roots purity and embraced the rock beat and electric instruments, climaxed by the release of the song Like A Rolling Stone which, at over six minutes, changed the landscape of hit radio and ushered in a period of intense experimentation on both sides of the Atlantic. Dylan would continue to surprise fans and critics with tour-de-force albums in many different styles, but, after `64, rarely strayed far from the rock and roll framework. His influence on all rock sub-genres is incalculable, probably equaled only by The Beatles'. Among Dylan's most important disciples was Neil Young, whose lyrical inventiveness, wedded to an often wailing electric guitar attack, would presage Grunge.

1960s Garage Rock

The British Invasion spawned a wave of imitators in the U.S. and across the globe. Many of these bands were cruder than the bands they tried to emulate. Playing mainly to local audiences and recording cheaply, very few of these bands broke through to a higher level of success. This movement, later known as Garage Rock, gained a new audience when record labels started re-issuing compilations of the original singles; the best known of these is a series called Nuggets. Some of the better known band of this genre include The Sonics, Question Mark (?) and the Mysterians, and The Standells.

Surf Music and the California Sound

The rockabilly sound reached the West coast and mutated into a wild, mostly instrumental sound called surf music. This style, exemplified by Dick Dale and The Surfaris, featured faster tempos, innovative percussion, and processed electric guitar sounds which would be highly influential upon future rock guitarists. Other West coast bands, notably the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, would capitalize on the surf craze, slowing the tempos back down and adding harmony vocals to create the "California Sound".

Motown and the power of Soul

Motown and Soul also played a part in the development of rock and roll.

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Psychedelia, Progressive Rock and Woodstock (1968-1974)

As part of the societal ferment in North America and Europe generally, rock and roll changed and diversified in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Dance Music: Disco and Its Relations

As the idealism of the 1960s waned, some music became danceable again. The "Theme from Shaft" by Isaac Hayes, released in 1971, heralded what became known as disco music. Disco music was producer-driven music that was popular in places such as Studio 54 and other discotheques of the period. By 1980, a disco backlash occurred as the fad died down.

Punk and New Wave: Return to Basics (1976-1981)

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. Many of these 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 ane 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 Album-Oriented Rock. 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.

Long Hair Still Rocks: Metal resurgence (1978-1988)

The early 1980s saw a resurgence of highly commercial, slickly-produced hard rock designed to go over in arenas and stadiums. Key acts from the '80s metal resurgence include:

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Grunge and the anti-corporate rock movement (1988-1995)

By the late 1980s rock radio was dominated by aging classic rock artists, slick commercial pop-rock and hair metal; MTV had arrived and brought with it a perception that style was more important than substance. Any remaining traces of rock and roll rebelliousness or the punk ethic seemed to have been subsumed into corporate-sponsored and mass-marketed product. Disaffected by this trend, some young musicians began to reject the polished, glamour-oriented approach and create crude, sometimes angry music. The American pacific northwest region became a hotbed of this movement, dubbed grunge.

Early grunge bands, particularly Mudhoney and Soundgarden, took much of their sound from early heavy metal and much of their approch from punk, though they eschewed punk's ambitions towards political and social commentary to proceed in a more purely nihilistic direction. Grunge remained a mostly local phenomenon until the breakthrough of Nirvana in 1991 with their album Nevermind. A slightly more melodic, more completely produced variation on their predecessors, Nirvana were an instant sensation worldwide and immediately made much of the competing music seem stale and dated by comparison.

Nirvana whetted the public's appetite for more direct, less polished rock music, and one place it was found was in the debut album from a hard-rocking west coast band with ties to the grunge movement, a band named Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam took a somewhat more traditional rock approach than grunge bands but shared their passion and rawness. Pearl Jam were a major commercial success from their debut but, beginning with their second album, refused to buy in to the traditional corporate promotion and marketing mechanisms of MTV and Ticketmaster (with whom they famously engaged in legal skirmishes over ticket service fees).

While grunge itself can be seen as somewhat limited in range, its influence was felt across many geographic and musical boundaries; many artists who were similarly disaffected with commercial rock music suddenly found record companies and audiences willing to listen, and dozens of disparate acts positioned themselves as alternatives to mainstream music; thus alternative rock emerged from the underground.

Alternative rock and the indie movement (1980 - present)

The term alternative music (also often known as alternative rock) was coined in the early 1980s to describe bands which didn't fit into the mainstream genres of the time. Bands dubbed "alternative" could be most any style not typically heard on the radio, however, most alternative bands were unified by their collective debt to punk. Although these groups never generated spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on the generation of musicians who came of age in the 80s.

Alternative music and the rebellious, DIY ethic it espoused became the inspiration for grunge, the popularity of which, paradoxically, took alternative rock into the mainstream. By the mid-90s, the term "alternative music" had lost much of its original meaning as rock radio and record buyers embraced increasingly slick, commercialized, and highly marketed forms of the genre.

Following the lead of Pearl Jam, many acts who, by choice or fate, remained outside the commercial mainstream, became part of the indie rock movement. Indie rock acts placed a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, often releasing albums on their own independent record labels and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, and airplay on indpendent or college radio stations for promotion. Linked by an ethos more than a musical approach, the indie rock movement encompasses a wide range of styles, from hard-eged, grunge influenced bands like Superchunk to punk-folk singers such as Ani DiFranco.

Current (1995-present)

With the death of grunge-rock pioneer Kurt Cobain, rock and roll music searched for a new face, sound, and trend. In 1995, Canadian pop star Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill, a major hit that featured blunt, personally-revealing lyrics. It succeeded in moving the introspection that had become so common in grunge to the mainstream. The success of Jagged Little Pill spawned a wave of popularity in the late 90s of confessional rock releases by artists including Jewel, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Liz Phair. The use of introspective lyrics bled into other styles of rock, including those dubbed Alternative. Eventually, this trend led to the popularity of bands such as Everclear and Third Eye Blind.

The late 1990s brought about a wave of mergers and consolidations among media companies and radio stations such as the Clear Channel Communications conglomerate. Critics contend this has resulted in a homogenization of music available and the creation of artificially-hyped acts. In the early 2000s the entire music industry was shaken by claims of massive theft of music rights using file-sharing tools such as Napster, resulting in lawsuits against private file-sharers by the recording industry group the RIAA.

After existing in the musical underground for decades, Garage Rock finally saw a resurgence of popularity in the early 2000s, with bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, and The Hives all releasing successful singles and albums. This wave is often referred to as Garage rock revival.

In Britain however, the trend was totally different. While America was full of grunge, post-grunge, and hip-hop, Britain launched a 1960's revival, often called Britpop, with bands like Oasis, Blur, The Seahorses, and Radiohead. For a time, the Oasis-Blur rivalry was similar to the Beatles-Rolling Stones rivalry. While bands like Blur tended to follow on from the Small Faces and the Kinks, Oasis mixed the attitude of the Rolling Stones with the melody of the Beatles. Both bands became very successful, and for a time Oasis was given the title "the biggest band in the world" but slowed down after band breakups and slightly less popular support.

In Britain, there is a new trend in copying 1970's rock bands in the form of wild clothing and long guitar solos.

Social Impacts

From its beginnings, rock and roll has been associated with youth, rebellion, and anti-establishmentism. The combination of black influences, suggestive lyrics, and wild response by the younger set made rock and roll shocking and threatening to the older generation. The ability to shock the elders in turn became part of the appeal of the music to young people. Attempts to control the influence of rock often turned comical; after several previous television appearances became controversial, Elvis Presley was famously shown from the waist up (to avoid offending viewers with his suggestive hip swivels) on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956. Hollywood was quick to capitalize on the trend, turning out a series of rock-and-roll themed exploitation films designed to thrill teenagers and horrify adults.

As the original generations of rock and roll fans matured, rock music became an accepted and deeply-interwoven thread in popular culture. Beginning in the early 1970's, rock songs and acts began to be used regularly in television commercials; starting in the 1980s rock music was often featured in film and television program soundtracks. While mainstream rock music was no longer able to shock or offend, new forms of music, particularly Punk rock and Rap emerged to fill this role; people who as youths delighted in the effect rock and roll had on their parents found themselves railing in a similar fashion against their children's music.

Unclassifiable, non-commercial music forms have always played an important part in the evolution of rock music. An ever-expanding group of British musicians known collectively as the Canterbury Scene, largely because there is no other way to classify them, are an example of a relatively unknown, cultish trend in music that is very influential but flies below the cultural radar of all but the most adventurous music fans. A combination of jazz, psychedelia, Dada, John Cage, and other art and literary references, fused reluctantly into a 60s and 70s rock framework, is characterized by bands such as the early Soft Machine and Gong, who, in retrospect, can be said to have pioneered trends such as World Music and experimental music. Audiences for this type of cross-genre experimentation, both live and in recordings, are larger in Europe than the U.S., although in recent years, the popularization of Punk and Rap have opened traditionally mainstream minds to new forms of expression within the rock idiom.

Rock and Fashion

Rock music and fashion have also been inextricably linked. The tough, leather-clad image of early rockers such as Wayne Cochran in the U.S. and the Rolling Stones in the UK influenced a generation of young people on both sides of the ocean. A cultural war broke out in the late 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). 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 '60s style. As rock music genres became more segmented, what an artist wore became as important as the music itself in defining the intent and relationship to the audience. 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 late 80’s and early 90’s, 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 long. This was a rebellion against the clean cut image that was popular at the time. Today’s most popular rock influenced fashion spawns from a new genre of rock music called Emo. Emo fans and musicians often dye their hair black, adorn studded belts, add pins to pants and bags, and wear vintage clothing often from thrift shops.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll

The rock lifestyle has always been popularly known as being 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 a decadent rock lifestyle became more publically known, aided by the growth of the underground rock press which documented such excesses, often in exploitative fashion. Musicians had always attracted attention from the opposite sex; Groupies, girls who followed, spent time with and often did sexual favors for band members, appeared in the 1960’s. While some groups (notably the Beatles) eschewed such attention in favor of long-term relationships, other groups and artists did little to discourage it, and many tales (both true and exaggerated) of sexual escapades became part of rock music legacy during the heyday of the rock era.

Drugs were often a huge part of a rock musician’s lifestyle too. In the 60’s, psychedelic music was created, in which some musicians encouraged and intended listeners of psychedelic music to be under the influence of LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs. They claimed that being on acid while listening to the music greatly enhanced the listening experience. Jerry Garcia of the rock band Grateful Dead says, “For some people, taking LSD [acid] and going to a [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.”

The popularity of experimentation with drugs by musicians may have influenced their popularity and acceptability among the youth that followed them. When the Beatles, once marketed as clean-cut youths, started publicly acknowledging using marijuana, many fans followed. Journalist Al Aronowitz who was a friend of the Beatles wrote, “...whatever the Beatles did was acceptable, especially for young people. Pretty soon everybody was smoking it, and it seemed to be all right.” The relationship of rock music to the hippie and counterculture movements, which espoused use of marijuana and other drugs, is complex and intertwined, and it is not always clear in which direction influence flowed. What is clear is that by the end of th 1960s drugs and rock music were part of a common youth scene and that both some rock musicians and some rock fans were experimenting with many types of drugs.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s however, much of the rock and roll cachet associated with drug use dissipated as rock music suffered a series of drug-related deaths, including those of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon of the Who and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. 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 Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Steven Tyler and others, have acknowledged battling addictions to many substances including cocaine and heroin; most of these have successfully undergone drug rehabilitation programs.

The lessons of the excesses of the earlier eras were not always learned; the Grunge rock movement of the 1980s was associated with a resurgence in abuse of heroin and other hard drugs. Later, many rap and hip-hop acts would glamorize and promote drug use in songs.

The "Sell Out" dilemma

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 establishment and its constructs; however 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).

Rock and roll has changed the way people listen to and interact with music. It has changed how society views itself, and has provided an outlet for everyone who wants to stir things up a little bit through song.

See also

External links

Oddity: The first gramophone record released in Britain to feature the words Rock and Roll was "Bloodnock's Rock And Roll Call" a goon show record in 1956.

"Rock and Roll" is also the name of a song by Led Zeppelin.