Twilight of the Rock Era?/ Essay

This art by Howard Teman frames a multitude of rock n roll’s most famous and enduring musicians.

While listening to Rolling Stones’ mono recordings of classic rock and blues numbers I began again to wonder if the rock era was ending. I have pondered this a lot. My first exposure to this music was back in a classroom. A teacher was absent. The substitute taught us about The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Then my eldest brother had begun to amass a record collection.

From The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys to Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, I would get to hear the rockers who impacted the culture from the 1960s thru the 1980s. These would prove to be years of developing my listening skills. I would also develop my taste for all things rock and roll.

Back in the 1970s there were rock radio stations and record stores. Cable television was just beginning and there was no music television outside of programs like American Bandstand, Soul Train, Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and America’s Top Ten.

My main influence was mix tapes of The Doors and the one hit wonders of the day. Singles were sold for a buck on 45 r.p.m. records at local shops. Bands like The Bay City Rollers, Pilot, Paper Lace, and many, many others supplied pop hits of the day.

Are things all that different today? Singles can be had online nowadays for a similar price. Pop hits still make up the majority of what kids hear today. The big difference I think is the waning of rock dominance. Commercially the days of big rock bands was the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. An extraordinary run of success including Jam bands and Heavy metal too!

I have heard journalists, artists, and fans alike ask if the rock era is over. If it is over I feel very strongly that its run had quite an impact on today’s culture.

I also think perhaps that rock has returned to a less commercial state. Not necessarily a bad thing. If you are a fan of rock you will search for it. In record stores there are thousands of rock records. All of the now recognized milestone albums are present. For better or worse there is a rock hall that enshrines artists who have had the largest cultural influence of all. When the times have truly passed this will remain as a testament to what rock created.

In my opinion, the best bands all seem to last 10 to 20 years with an output of anywhere from 8 to 16 albums. And a long trail of concert performances in venues of varying size all over the world. In fact some bands have managed to stay around longer. They are few. Age will eventually end most of these artists. There is no science to suggest why some bands end after their peak and why a few others endure for decades.

The question really becomes who will take their place? The rock era now sees the end of touring for Kiss, Elton John, and Black Sabbath. Other acts are sure to follow. Legacy bands like Grateful Dead, Queen, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Who and AC/DC are still creating tours. The music of these artists are licensed for commercial use in TV and Movies.

Metallica are producing records and tours with great success after 30 plus years. Iron Maiden are arguably the biggest heavy rock act still creating music and touring after 44 years and 16 albums….the world’s greatest rock n roll band, The Rolling Stones, are the oldest touring/recording act for over 50 years!

The Who famously exclaimed ‘Rock is dead they say…Long Live Rock!’ Every band that forms with the aspiration to be the next big thing has a long hard road ahead to be sure. But with newer acts on the visible horizon who is to really say that an era is ending. The classic rock era may be in twilight but whatever we call the next chapter it will probably rock us all.

Today there are rock music festivals held every year in the USA, Germany, UK, Ireland, Canada, and Sweden.

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