Sunday, 23 May 2010

The 60’s Blog


The British Invasion is a term which describes the sudden success of British bands in America in the mid 60’s. It is also known as “Beatlemania”, because The Beatles started the “invasion” in America and they are considered to be the most popular band at the time.

Important bands of the time were The Beatles, The Animals, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones.

Important albums of the time were The Beatles “The Beatles' Second Album” (1964), “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967, which was very successful; it was the basis of what would eventually become Progressive Rock) as well as “Abbey Road” (1969). Also The Animals “The Animals” (1964), “The Best of The Animals” (1966) and The Rolling Stones “Out of Our Heads” (1965) were very important. Gerry and The pacemakers “How Do You Like It?” (1963) was a successful British record.


Important singles were “House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals, 1964), “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones, 1965) and “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy” (Manfred Mann, 1964). Also The Who’s “My Generation” (1965) and The Kinks “Lola” (1970) were very successful songs.

The London scene, where The Rolling Stones and The Who were from, was more R&B orientated than the Liverpool scene. The whole social content was different. People from London tend to be bohemian, whilst people from Liverpool, working class people, were not. These bands had a more distorted guitar sound combined with a more raw overall sound than Liverpool bands. The Rolling Stones are a very good example of this sound.

The Liverpool scene on the other side originated the “(Mersey-)Beat” scene. The music was more Pop orientated than the London scene. The songs sounded slicker, harmonies were common in use as well as catchy hooks and the emphasis of the 2nd and 4th of a 4/4 rhythm was common. These bands tend to have a cleaner sound than their London counterpart. Precursors of this scene are The Beatles.

Typical instruments were guitars, drum, bass and vocals. The Drum was used to keep the rhythm, guitars were either strummed or picked and bass was normally used to fill the deeper frequencies. The keyboard or Hammond organ played an important role in some bands. The use of exotic instruments like the Sitar was not uncommon at the end of the decade, with the rise of psychedelic and progressive music. At the end of the decade The Beatles were one of the first who used the Studio as a creative tool. They used techniques like reverse playing to alter their sound like on “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

The fashion was not extraordinary like in the following decades. The normal appearance was either a black or grey suit or Jeans and shirt. Also shorter hair was very common. The British groups who were more Pop orientated, like The Beatles and Manfred Mann, wore suits and bands like The Who or the Rolling Stones wore Shirt and Jeans.

The lyrics had a wide range. Popular lyrics were mostly about love and relationships like “I want to hold your hand” by The Beatles. Also typical all day lyrics were common. The other end of lyrics were critical songs like “House of the rising sun” by The Animals or songs like The Rolling Stones “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” and “My Generation” by The Who.

The British invasion had a big impact on the society. Skiffle, American Rock and Roll and R&B were popular before the emerging of British Pop and Rock music. Skiffle, an American folk style mostly popular in the 1920’s was a mixture of Jazz, Blues, Folk and Country. Skiffe music normally disclaims a drummer. It was booming in the 50’s in Britain with its most popular musician Lonnie Donega, but lost popularity, so did American Rock and Roll.

In the early 60’s Liverpool teenagers were still playing this music, but made changes to the line up. They used electric guitars and added a drum kit. This eventually led to the phenomenon known as “Merseybeat” (about 1962). The Beatles were very popular representatives of this music. They also were very successful in the early 60’s in Britain. Bands like Gerry & the Pacemakers, Brian Poole & the Tremeloes and the Hollies started to copy The Beatles.

The Beatles started to have a very successful career and when they left the U.K. 1964 to tour America thousands of people waved goodbye and thousands of people welcomed them. Also 2.6 Million copies of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" had already been sold when they arrived in America.

Another very important factor for the success of British bands in America is the Ed Sullivan Show. This is because the Ed Sullivan Show was hosted every Sunday evening and was a family event. The show had all kinds of entertainers and it was very important for Elvis Presley and black artists (especially Motown) and The Beatles. The Beatles had a contract where they would open and end the Ed Sullivan Show for three weeks. The first show and first appearance of The Beatles was on the 9th of February, with approximately 74 million viewers (nearly 40% of the American population). After this a boom started and British bands “conquered” America.

The British Invasion had a lot of side effects. British artist had the chance to promote, sell and tour in America. Also high record sales and sold out concerts were typical and newspapers and television started to report about British bands. The invasion had another side: with all the success came the hype. When fans were watching a concert they were out of control. Especially young female teenagers, who were crying and in hysteria when they saw the bands perform. This hype increases the awareness of security as well. Bands had to be protected on stage and while they were travelling.

By 1967 a change happened. At this time a global unique Rock and Roll style had developed so that the British Invasion started to decline. Also The Beatles stopped touring because of several reasons. At this time something new was invented: The Monkees. They were a band who tried to be like the Beatles but they were casted and thought to be part of a television show. They eventually started touring and went on to be successful, separated from the television show.


The bands of the British Invasion had different influences, depending on the location where the band came from. The most popular influences on this genre are Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Folk, Country and Rock and Roll.

Rhythm and Blues musicians like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters influenced London musicians. The influence can be seen in bands like The Rolling Stone, The Yardbirds and The Who. For example the mixed rhythm and lead playing of Keith Richards can be traced back to the style of Muddy Waters; the influence can be seen in “I can get no Satisfaction”. Also Eric Clapton (Yardbirds) went on to be a very influential blues musician.

Also the “do it yourself” attitude of Skiffle music had a big influence, especially on the Liverpool area. Bands experienced that they could start to do music with basic skills and on their own with acoustic instruments. This was very important, because the DIY attitude would later be part of the Punk movement.

Chuck Berry for example was a big influence on the Beatles. This is shown in live performances of songs of him and recordings of songs like “Roll over Beethoven”. Chuck Berry and other Rock and Roll musicians influenced this genre insofar that the musicians used the backbeat and the Rock and Roll sound. Also the clean guitar sound of Rock and Roll music was adopted by the Merseybeat bands.

Also a similarity to Motown music can be seen. The use of similar harmonies was common in the Motown genre, which The Beatles later adopted (See “Help” by The Beatles).

The musicians of the British Invasion went on to influence generations. Especially the most popular bands and musicians like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck were very influential.

The Britpop genre is known to be influenced by this genre. This can be seen in the use of clean to just slightly distorted guitars, the use of harmonies and the lyrical content. This is influence is seen in bands like Oasis and Blur. Oasis use also a lot of references to Beatles songs which is seen in songs like “Supersonic” and “Be here now”.


Also the use of the studio as a creative tool is very common today. Electronic music (in home studios and digital based studios) is influenced on the fact that music, recorded or digital generated, can be creatively altered using a studio and its devices.

The Beatles had a massive influence on following musicians of every genre. Beatles songs were often successfully covered like Soundgarden did with “Come together” and Joe Cocker did with “With a little help of my friends”.

Lyrical examples:

“I want to hold your Hand” – The Beatles

“(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” – The Rolling Stones

“House of the rising sun” – The Animals

“My Generation” – The Who


“The History of British Rock”



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4: (The Beatles)
The 50’s Blog

Essential Listening
(S) =Single


“Rock around the Clock” (S) - Bill Haley and His Comets
“That's All Right” (S) – Elvis


“Tutti Frutti” (S) – Little Richard
“Bo Diddley” – Bo Diddley
“Rock Around the Clock” - Bill Haley and His’ Comets


“Roll Over Beethoven” (S) – Chuck Berry
“Long Tall Sally” (S) – Little Richard
“Heartbreak Hotel” (S) – Elvis Presley
“Love Me Tender” (S) –Elvis Presley
“Elvis Presley” - Elvis Presley
“Elvis” - Elvis Presley
“See You Later, Alligator” (S) – Bill Haley and His’ Comets


“Rock and Roll Music” (S) – Chuck Berry
“After School Session” - Chuck Berry
“Lucille” (S) – Little Richard
“Here's Little Richard” – Little Richard
“Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On” (S) – Jerry Lee Lewis
“Great Balls of Fire” (S) - Jerry Lee Lewis
“Jailhouse Rock” (S) – Elvis Presley
“The "Chirping" Crickets” – Buddy Holly


“One Dozen Berrys” – Chuck Berry
“Johnny B. Goode” (S) – Chuck Berry
“Hard Headed Woman” (S) – Elvis Presley
“Buddy Holly” - Buddy Holly
“That’ll Be The Day” - Buddy Holly


“Chuck Berry Is on Top” – Chuck Berry


Genre Information

Important Bands and Musicians

Important Labels


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Sunday, 4 April 2010

The 70’s Blog

Progressive Rock


Progressive Rock is basically a British genre; an exception for example is Rush from Canada. The genre has its roots in the late 60’s but was mainly successful in the mid 70’s.

Significant artists were King Crimson, Yes along with Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Pink Floyd.

Important albums of the time were Close to the Edge (Yes, 1972), Brain Salad Surgery (ELP, 1973), The Lamb lies down on Broadway (Genesis, 1974), Thick as a Brick (Jethro Tull, 1972) and Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd, 1973)

Typical for Progressive Rock was to have untraditional song forms. The songs started to get longer than two or three minutes. To make it musically attractive and interesting for the listener and especially for the musician songs got structured and had different sections and movements. As a result, some songs were actually suites like Rush’s album “2112”. Along with the movement structure, came another important feature of Progressive Rock: music theory. A lot of the musicians had classical music education and used their knowledge of music theory to write harmonic, rhythmic and melodic complex songs. One result was, for example, changing keys in a song. It could easily happen that every part of a song is in a different key. Using complex and unusual time signatures like 9/8 (“Apocalypse in 9/8” by Genesis) instead of common ones like 4/4 was also common. Tempo and rhythm changes in a song were also very common. Another feature of the music was the use of complex chords like augmented chords, add9, sus4, sus2, add 13th and so on. Also variations of scales were used. Everything was used to create a “new” sound or to give a piece of music a new character. Even dissonant tones were used like in King Crimsons “The sheltering Sky”. Another feature of Progressive Rock was the adoption of classical themes. A good example for this is the song “A whiter shade of pale” by Procol Harum.

The instrumentation included typical rock instruments like guitar, drum and bass, but there were often traditional instruments, all kind of percussion instruments, organs and very new: the synthesizer. Like every other genre in the 70’s, except Punk, Prog Rock made use of this new kind of instrument. All instruments were used to create new sounds. It had its peak with Carl Palmer. He had a steel drum kit with a built in synthesizer.

Another important factor of this genre is the lyrical content. The lyrical range was from fantasy based stories, Sci-fi and whole themes of just one topic to abstract song. The other end was socio critical songs or albums like Pink Floyds “Animal Farm”. The use of fantasy based lyrics was common, because it was hard to find lyrics, which fit over long and complex songs.

Concept albums were typical for the Progressive Rock movement. A concept album is an album that has a theme which appears throughout the whole album. This theme could be musically or a lyric based theme. One of the first Progressive concept albums was “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull. The idea was that the lyrics were a poem of an eight year old boy, backed up by Jethro Tull’s music. The whole album is actually one song. A 12 page newspaper was part of the Artwork. Another good example is “Tales from topographic oceans” by Yes.


Along with concept albums the artwork was very important. The artwork was mostly futuristic or fantasy based. Also psychedelic influenced artwork was very common. A very important character in the scene is Roger Dean. He created all Yes album covers.

Typical for the fashion were stage costumes. These costumes can be compared to Glam costumes, with fancy colours and a lot of decoration. ELP wore these kind of clothes. Jethro Tull used to wear medieval influenced dresses, which was because of the folk influence. Peter Gabriel is a good example of wearing stage dresses. He actually changed dresses on stage according to the song played. He did this, because the PA was so bad. For example he dressed like a flower in a part of a song.

A part of Progressive Rock was that the shows were excessive and big, the bigger the show the better. Emerson Lake and Palmer is the best example for it. They had three trucks loaded with gear and Carl Palmers drum kit weight 2,5 tons. Emerson Lake and Palmer were also well known for having the stage filled with instruments. Along with this big shows, came massive, expensive and impressive light shows and other effects. At this time stage designers were hired to create a fantastic scene. Pink Floyd had a wall between the audience and the band which they would knock down at the end of the show. Very interesting is that the audience was very male orientated. I think women weren’t attracted to the music, because women tend to listen to danceable music or music which is easier to listen to. Men tend to be more interested in the process and the analysis of the things which happen with the music itself. Also men are more likely to accept the high skilled, arrogant attitude of Progressive Rock musicians.

In the middle of the 70’s Prog was very big. The big Prog musicians went over to America, where they were very welcomed. When they went back a change had happened. Punk Rock was getting popular in the middle of the 70’s and the easy, aggressive music with the DIY attitude attracted many listeners. Punk Rock was the total opposite of Prog Rock; it was stripped down, back to the root, “in your face” rock. It was against everything what Prog Rock stands for. Punk went back to have short songs (2-3 minutes), easy, “three” chord guitar riffs and socio critic lyrics. The same happened an about a decade later when Grunge heralds the decline of Glam Metal. A big, arrogant scene redeemed by a genre which was the total opposite.

As a conclusion many Prog Bands fell apart or changed their line up or changed their musical style to more sellable music. For example Peter Gabriel left Genesis and Phil Collins went on from drumming in the band to be the singer. The other change was that the song became shorter and more radio friendly.

The psychedelic movement had a big influence on Progressive Rock. The music was influenced by Psychedelic Rock and Psychedelic artist such as “The Doors” or early “Soft Machine”. Prog Rock adopted the long solos, the use of effects and studio effects like reverse playing etc. Also the root of the complex structure lies, besides classical music, in Psychedelic Rock. The complexity can often be traced back to the roots of Psychedelic Rock: Jazz. This influence can be seen in The Who’s “Rael” or Pink Floyd’s early record “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.

Also psychedelic drugs had an influence on the song writing process. Lyrics got more abstract and the attempt to find new noises was definitely under the influence of drugs such as LSD. Beat Poets, poets like Jack Kerovac or William Burroughs who wrote about road trips and drug experiences, were very influential.


The Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper” can be seen as a blueprint album of Progressive Rock. This album had a lot what was later adopted by Progressive Rock: lyrical themes, diffuse sounds and drug influence (LSD).

Sci-Fi and classical books had an influence on the lyrics. The fantasy based epos “The Lord of the Rings” is often cited as an influence.

Another musical influence was Classical music. The influence of classic can be seen in the adoption of movements and suites. A good example for complex song structures is “Karn Evil, 9 1st impression part 1,2 and 3” by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Also the length of musical pieces was adopted by Progressive Rock. A typical classical piece could last for 80+ minutes. A good example for both adoptions is “2112” by Rush. This piece is 20:33 minutes long and is divided into seven sections. Also the musical complexity of classical music influenced Progressive Rock. On the one hand it was because a lot of progressive musicians had classical music education and on the other hand the use of complex theory helps to create longer tracks and makes the music more interesting. Another influence can be seen in “Pictures at an exhibition” by ELP. ELP rearranged it from the original which was written by Mussorgsky.

Other musical influences are Jazz, which is seen in the complex arrangements of the music. Some bands later went on to become Jazz bands instead of Progressive Rock bands. Besides these influences folk is another one. Jethro Tull, for example, is heavily influenced by Folk, which is seen by Ian Anderson playing the flute and other folk instruments.

Progressive Rock went on to influence bands like Coheed and Cambria, Dream Theater, Marillion, The Mars Volta, Opeth and Porcupine Tree.

One thing later bands adopted from Progressive Rock was the concept album. A very good example is Dream Theaters’ “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory”. This album is about a character that travels through his dreams back in the past to see a murder scene and the circumstances. Another good example is the band Coheed and Cambria. The bands albums are all based around one theme.


Themed songs and movements are also influential on bands like Dream Theater. A direct line of influence can be seen in songs like “2112” by Rush and “In the Presence of Enemies - Part I & In the Presence of Enemies - Part II” by Dream Theater. Both songs are very long and both songs are structured. The only thing is that the song In the Presence of Enemies” is split in two parts, because of tactical reasons.

The Artwork has an influence as well. It is not futuristic anymore; it still is fantastic or abstract. A good example for this is the album “De-Loused in the Comatorium” by The Mars Volta. The Artwork is done by Storm Thorgerson. He also did the Artwork for Pink Floyds “Dark Side of the Moon” and Dream Theaters “Falling into Infinity”.

The length and complexity is adopted by The Mars Volta in the song “Tetragrammaton”. This song lasts for nearly 17 minutes. Two other songs on the same album last longer than 11 minutes. This is also typical for Dream Theater. “Octavorium” is 24 minutes long and “Sacrificed Sons” is over 10 minutes long. This influence can be traced back to songs like “2112” by Rush or “Close to the edge” by Yes.

It is worth mentioning that Folk influence can be seen in musician/composer Arjen Anthony Lucassen. He adopted long and complex song forms, themes, fantasy based artwork, folk instruments, complex songs and the idea of concept albums in his band Ayreon.

Lyrical examples:

“Thick as a brick” – Jethro Tull

“Supper’s Ready” – Genesis

“Dogs” – Pink Floyd


BBC Prog Rock Britannia



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Sunday, 7 February 2010

The 80’s Blog

Glam Metal


Glam Metal describes a music genre which was successful throughout the 80’s and which developed mostly in America. Most of the bands came from the west coast, Los Angeles in particular. Some Bands were from the east coast like Twisted Sister from New York. The most popular European bands are Def Leppard from Sheffield in England and Europe from Sweden.

Important for the scene is the Sunset Strip. There are important clubs like the Rainbow Bar and Grill, Troubadour and the Whisky a Go Go. These were places where most of the important bands played in their early days.

Significant artists of the time were Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P, Whitesnake, Poison, Skid Row, Europe, Skid Row and Def Leppard.

Significant Records of the time were Too fast for love (Mötley Crüe, 1981), Pyromania (Def Leppard, 1983) as well as Stay Hungry (Twisted Sister, 1984) and Open up and say ... Ah (Poison, 1988).

The sound of Glam Metal was very polished. Polished distortion was common as well as high pitched male vocals. Often harmonies were added to the catchy riffs and sing along hooks. A good example for a catchy hook is Def Leppard’s “Pour some sugar on me”. The job of a guitarist wasn’t very technically complicated except for the lead guitarist, because at the time shred solos and virtuous licks were very common. The most common guitar effects were distortion or chorus. Typical for the drum were straight 4 rock beats and big rock fills.

The typical rock instrumentation was common, including a singer, a bass guitarist, a drummer and at least one guitarist, but mainly two. In the middle of the 80’s a change happened: the keyboard was introduced in the Glam Metal genre, which led to the “Power Ballad”. It has a slowed down tempo, the piano or keyboard is added to the instrumentation and the lyrical content is about love or sentimental content which shows that heavy metal musicians can be soft and sensitive, too. Good examples for a Power Ballad are “Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe or “Is This Love” by Whitesnake.

The lyrical content of the genre is basically about sex, alcohol and drugs and party, having a good time. The song “Kickstart my Heart” by Mötley Crüe as well as “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row are good examples for the lifestyle. An exception is Stryper, because they brought Christian lyrics in the Glam Metal scene.

The Lifestyle of Glam Metal is very exorbitant. It was all about parties, having a good time, drinking lots of alcohol, abuse drugs, having sex and fun. It was a very excessive scene. The shows became bigger and bigger, the outfits became more extreme etc.
“When I was a kid, everything that was expected of you was like, you go to school, you graduate, you get a job and you have some kids and you die. That’s not very much fun. You know what sounds a little better to me? I wanna rock and roll all night and party everyday” – Sebastian Bach

The excess claimed his tribute. At the end of the 80’s a lot of Bands split up and a lot of musicians were heavily drug addicted. The scene became a shadow of itself. The decline of the scene is seen in the movie “Decline Of The Western Civilization - Part 2 - The Metal Years” which featured the deterrent example of Chris Holmes.

This scene could be seen as the mirror of the society of the time, or in other words it was a reaction against the poor years of the democratic leadership in America and the cultural changes it brought with it. It wasn’t anything ground shaking new, it was about having a good time after a bad time.

It had a big impact on middle class societies. They felt offended by the lyrics of Metal bands which lead to the foundation of the PMRC (conservative, political group with Tipper Gore), because the general meaning was that Metal was too brutal and too sexist. Dee Snider, Frank Zappa and John Denver spoke in front of the PMRC to protect their music. “I was clean, I was sober and I speak English fluently.” – Dee Snider, they didn’t expect that. The result of the hearing is still seen today: the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrical Content” sticker.

Glam Metal was very popular for its fashion. A lot of Makeup was used as well as a lot of hairspray, which gave the genre the sobriquet “Hair Metal” in the early 90’s. Typical clothes were spandex or leather trousers, ripped shirts and kind of costumes. The style to dress reflects in the stage performance. Live shows have always been very extreme. There were a lot of pyrotechnics combined with costumes.

MTV was very important for Glam Metal, like it was for every Genre in the Eighties.. It changed a lot in the music business, because Music was seen on TV and not just heard on radio. Bands could develop creativity through videos. Also Glam Metal videos were on main time, which is a big difference to today.

Grunge had an influence on Glam Metal as well. Whilst Glam Metal was standing for an excessive lifestyle, including a lot of alcohol and parties, and extreme live shows, Grunge was the total opposite of it. This new kind of music and lifestyle suddenly attracted a lot of people, so that the main audience preferred to listen to Grunge than to Glam Metal.

Glam Metal was influenced by Artists like Kiss, Alice Cooper, T-Rex, or David Bowie. Kiss had extremely huge stage shows which were later adopted by Glam Metal as well as the spectacular live shows of Alice Cooper. Also these musicians had an influence in terms of outfit. They were popular for their use of Make Up and use of stage dresses. W.A.S.P. extreme and shocking live shows could definitely been influenced by Alice Cooper.

The Punk genre, particular the Sex Pistols, had also a musical influence on Glam Metal.Glam Metal uses typical Punk power chords, but slowed down. “Bang your head” by Quiet Riot is a good example for this.

Earlier Hard Rock bands influenced Glam Metal in terms of sound. Bands like AC/DC or Aerosmith. The heavy sound can be heard on tracks like “Kickstart my heart” by Mötley Crüe or “Blind in Texas” by W.A.S.P. 3

Glam Metal influenced bands like The Darkness, Buckcherry, Backyard Babies, Hardcore Superstar, and Red Star Rebels.

An influence can be seen by Hardcore Superstar. They have adopted several features of Glam Metal. They make use of catchy riffs and hooks, the drum part is straight forward without any difficult patterns or rhythms. Also the clothing is quite similar to today’s Mötley Crüe. They wear leather and studs which was typical for Glam Metal, too.

A good example is Hardcore Superstars “Wild Boys”:

Another good example are the Backyard Babies. They don’t use the high pitched vocal but they make use of the straight forward rock drums and the catchy riff guitar. They also make use of added harmonies and catchy riffs.

In “Minus Celsius” a definite influence of Mötley Crüe can be seen. This is because of the straight forward drum, the harmonies in the chorus and the way of guitar playing.

Lyrical examples:

Stryper – “To Hell with the Devil”:

Mötley Crüe –“Kickstart my Heart”:

Quiet Riot – “Bang your Head”:

Cinderella – “Nobody’s Fool”:


VH1's Heavy: The Story of Metal



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