January 2024 – A Brief History of the Bass Guitar

Prelude

WELCOME FAIR MUSIC‑MINDED PATRONS to the first CRAVE Guitars’ monthly article of the New Year. While we may be less than a full month into the year Two Thousand and Twenty Four of the Common Era, one hopes it is off to a good start despite global uncertainty (and insanity). Let us hope that those intent on geopolitical conflict come to their senses, unlikely as it may seem, rather than escalate tensions further. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be part of the doomsday generation. Scary.

Bellum omnium contra omnes (the war of all against all)” – Thomas Hobbes (1588‑1679)

Getting back to the musical point, ask pretty much anyone with a slight interest in modern music culture, the question, “Who invented the first bass guitar?” and I’m sure a lot of people would say, “Leo Fender, of course”. Well yes… and no. In the world of vintage guitars, things are rarely quite as straightforward as one may at first think.

With the recent addition of CRAVE Basses to the CRAVE Guitars, Amps and Effects family, this month seems perfectly apt to take a quick look at how the electric bass guitar as we know it came into being and how it has become such an integral component of contemporary music.

Primarily as a guitarist, my dalliances with bass guitars up to now have, I admit, been spawned out of curiosity and exploration, rather than a serious preoccupation. Those dalliances, though, span well over four decades, so the bass encounter isn’t a single, short or recent ‘event’.

We do not start the story, as many might imagine in the 1950s. We’ll come back to that in a little while. Before we get there, though, we should go back quite a few years. Many, many years in fact, starting with the classical orchestral double bass, originating from the 15th Century or thereabouts. Then we’ll explore the modern‑day innovations starting in the 1920s and 1930s before the ‘big bang’ that really exploded in the 1950s and 1960s. Finally we’ll come up‑to‑date, with a look at the instruments, equipment, artists and sounds that have helped to shape the modern musical landscape. Finally, we’ll take a wee peak into the near future of bass instruments.


The fretless acoustic double bass

Before the solid body fretted electric bass guitar, popular music relied almost totally on the acoustic upright double bass for low frequency impact. The instrument’s origins date approximately to the 15th‑16th Century in Venice, Italy. Venetian musician, Silvestro Ganassi developed a ‘bass viola da gamba’ in 1542, widely regarded as the forerunner of today’s double bass. It wasn’t until around 1700, though, that the double bass became part of the opera orchestra. The double bass as we now know it is the largest and lowest‑pitched chordophone in the classical music orchestra.

As a quick recap, defined by the Hornbostel‑Sachs system of musical instrument classification, a chordophone is a musical instrument that makes sound from vibrating one or more taught strings by bowing, plucking or striking the strings. Examples of chordophone types include violins, guitars, and pianos respectively. The word chordophone stems from the Greek words for string (chordē) and sound (phonē).

For more on the historical origins of musical instrument classification (to provide a context for the development of the guitar), see CRAVE Guitars’ March 2018 article.

A Potted History of the Guitar Part I (The ancient world up to the early Renaissance):
March 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part I (craveguitars.co.uk)

The traditional 4‑string double bass is usually played in one of two ways, either by rubbing the strings with a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings with fingers (pizzicato). Some modern double bass players, for instance in rock & roll and rockabilly, also use a distinctive ‘slap’ technique. This percussive sound derived from the ‘Bartók pizzicato’ (‘snap’ pizzicato) named after the Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók.

Double Bass (courtesy of Roxanne Minnish)

Depending on the style of music, the double bass is also known by a number of other names, all of which refer to the same instrument. Some of these alternative monikers include bass, upright bass, string bass, acoustic bass, acoustic string bass, contrabass, contrabass viol, bass viol, bass violin, stand‑up bass, bull fiddle, doghouse bass and bass fiddle.

The traditional double bass is a large acoustic fretless instrument of the violin family that is played upright. The deep, resonant, woody tone of the double bass endows it with a very different sound when compared to the modern solid body fretted electric bass guitar. The tuning of the double bass is different from other members of the orchestral sting instruments, in that it is tuned in fourths (E‑A‑D‑G) rather than a violin’s fifths (G‑D‑A‑E). The double bass, then, is tuned the same as a modern bass guitar, an octave below the bottom four strings of a 6‑string guitar in standard tuning. This particular characteristic aided the bass’s transition from classical to modern day musical styles.

Originally, double basses were more likely to have three strings until four strings became commonplace by the 19th Century, by which time the standard format and construction of the double bass had become established. There are, however, 5 and 6 (or more) string variants and there are also various alternative tunings.

The double bass has been the mainstay of orchestral string sections and chamber music for several centuries in one form or another. It was predictable that, with the emergence and evolution of the major modern popular music genres, such as jazz, blues and country & western that the double bass would become the go‑to bass instrument, at least up until the 1960s when the solid body fretted electric bass guitar became predominant. However, the double bass hasn’t disappeared from contemporary music completely. Plenty of present‑day artists still use or revert back to the double bass for authenticity and/or effect.

The main drawback experienced by many players is that the double bass is a substantial piece of equipment. The full‑size double bass is almost 75 inches (190cm) tall, weighing in at c.20‑25lbs (9‑11½kg), without its hefty case. The scale length is set at around 42” (107cm), much longer than most modern bass guitars. Given these dimensions, the double bass is sizeable, cumbersome, unwieldy and plain heavy, making it far from the easiest of instruments to move around or play. There are smaller double basses including ¾, ½ and ¼ size, mainly aimed at younger players. Even so, the double bass not for the faint hearted, as the smallest ¼ size instrument is still over 61” (156cm) tall.

Another drawback is the double bass’s acoustic construction. Like the acoustic guitar, in the first half of the 20th Century, the acoustic double bass’s lack of volume made it hard to be heard in a jazz‑era big band mix unless there was some form of electrification through either a magnetic pickup or a microphone connected to an amplifier and, even then, acoustic instruments can be prone to feedback in high sound pressure level environments.

Traditional double basses are not only large but, because of their construction, they are also quite expensive, making them a major investment and therefore difficult for novices or younger players to access and learn.

Even so, despite its limitations, during the 20th Century the double bass became widely used in a diverse range of modern music genres, including jazz, blues, swing, rock & roll, rockabilly, country & western, bluegrass, folk, funk, reggae, metal, rock, pop, tango and visual media soundtracks.

Trivia: Believe it or not, there is an even larger bass, first built c.1850 by the French luthier Jean‑Baptiste Vuillaume (1798‑1875) in Paris. The octobass, as it is called, has three strings and is basically a larger version of the double bass tuned a further octave down. The octobass is a truly gargantuan beast, approximately 137” high (348cm).


The electric upright bass

To enable modern players to experience the spirit of the acoustic double bass in a more convenient and amplified form, there is the modern Electric Upright Bass (EUB), which is also played, as its name suggests, upright, like a traditional double bass.

EUBs allow for greater portability while retaining the playing style and general sound of its forebear. As the EUB doesn’t require the substantial acoustic resonating chamber of a double bass, they often feature a ‘skeleton’ body, making it much smaller, lighter and cheaper to produce. The minimal structure may have either a solid body or a small acoustic body.

A magnetic, piezo or condenser bass pickup provides the means to route the signal via a bass amplifier to loudspeakers. Like a double bass, the EUB’s strings can be bowed or plucked, although that is dependent on fingerboard and bridge radius. While evoking its acoustic origins, the structural and electric characteristics of the EUB endow it with a unique sound all of its own.

As the EUB’s construction isn’t bound by convention like its orchestral sibling, the flexible format allows for a range of scale lengths to be employed from around 30” (76cm), through 34” (86cm) like a long scale bass guitar to the full 42” (107cm) of a double bass, making it much more accessible to a range of players. Almost all EUB necks allow for a full two‑octave range and most but not all are fretless. Compared to the double bass or the electric bass guitar, the electric upright bass tends to be a modern, notable but relatively niche instrument. There are EUB models at all price points, making it easier for novices and experienced players alike.

The first production electric upright basses were developed independently in the mid‑1930s by Regal (Electrified Double Bass), Vega (Electric Bass Viol), Rickenbacker (Electro Bass‑Viol) and Audiovox (bull fiddle – see below). Gibson introduced their special order Electric Bass Guitar in 1938, which was still an upright fretless instrument with a hollow body and a magnetic pickup.

Manufacturers of electric upright basses include Framus, Ampeg, Warwick, Ibanez, Yamaha, Palatino, NS Design (Ned Steinberger), and Harley Benton.

Electric Upright Bass

The first solid‑body fretted electric bass guitar

As hinted at above, while Leo Fender was the major innovator associated with the solid‑body fretted electric bass guitar, he wasn’t the first. He was beaten to the starting post by at least some 15 years. Hardly a photo finish!

The first indication of the possible future of a bass guitar was in 1924 when the legendary Gibson designer, Lloyd Loar came up with a prototype electric bass. The Loar concept focused on the body, pickup and strings but with little additional detail. Loar’s radical design was rejected by Gibson management at the time. Loar left Gibson shortly thereafter in 1924, so his visionary ideas for an electric bass guitar went no further.

Nearly a decade later, around 1933, American musician and inventor Paul H. ‘Bud’ Tutmarc (1896‑1972), based in Seattle, Washington, began experimenting with reducing the size of the double bass to a more manageable instrument. Tutmarc originally devised an electrified fretless double bass‑style instrument described as an electric 4‑string upright ‘bull fiddle’, slightly smaller than a cello.

It’s worth a quick diversion to go back in time to take in an original report from the ‘Seattle Post‑Intelligencer’ newspaper, which published the story on 17 February 1935. The headline read, “Pity Him No More – New Type Bull Fiddle Devised.”

The article went on to state that, “People have always pitied the poor bass-fiddler… who has to lug his big bull-fiddle home through the dark streets after the theatre closes. But he doesn’t have to do it anymore. Because Paul Tutmarc, Seattle music teacher and KOMO radio artist, has invented an electric bull-fiddle. One you can carry under your arm. And it doesn’t even need a bow, either. You pluck a string – and out of the electric amplifier comes a rich, deep tone, sustained as if five or six bass violinists were bowing five or six bass‑violins with masterly artistry. The tone is sustained as long as you want it, too, without a bow.” The instrument described in the article was a cello‑like upright fretless instrument with an electromagnetic pickup.

Tutmarc was, however, about to do something far more radical. By 1935-1936, Tutmarc, had changed direction and developed the first solid body fretted electric bass guitar, pretty much recognisable in its modern form. It was this version of Tutmarc’s bass that was intended to be played horizontally, rather than upright, in a similar way to the modern bass guitar. The 1935 sales catalogue for Tutmarc’s company Audiovox featured his ‘Model 736 Bass Fiddle’, a solid‑bodied electric bass guitar with four strings, a fretted neck, with a 30½” (775mm) scale length, an ebony (or purpleheart) fingerboard with 16 frets, a black walnut body, a hidden single Tutmarc‑Stimpson horseshoe pickup below a mirror-steel faceplate, and a single volume control.

Tutmarc AudioVox Model 736

In addition, as an electric bass guitar would be pretty much useless without the means to amplify the sound, Audiovox also sold an accompanying ‘Model 936’ bass amplifier with 18 watts of power and a 12” Jensen Concert speaker.

Around 100 of the Model 736 Audiovox bass guitars were made in the mid‑1930s. However, there are only thought to be three Model 736 Tutmarc bass guitars still in existence today, making them remarkably rare. One belongs to the Experience Music Project (EMP), now known as The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), a non‑profit enterprise founded by Microsoft co‑founder Paul Allen in 2000 and based in Seattle, Washington state, USA. In 2018, a 1936 Audiovox Model 736 bass guitar was reportedly sold by Tutmarc’s grandson on eBay for $23,850.

Sadly, for Tutmarc, the Audiovox 736 was not a commercial success. The price tag was high for the mid‑1930s, in a country still severely affected by The Great Depression (1929‑1939). The 736 bass fiddle originally cost $65 and the matching 936 bass amplifier cost $75, placing it well out of reach for many musicians. The high price and the radical concept didn’t attract enough musicians at the time and it wasn’t long before it was discontinued and was subsequently forlornly forgotten to history. Tutmarc’s company, Audiovox folded in 1950.

It can well be argued that Tutmarc was ahead of his time. Perhaps it is a case of supply looking for a demand that consumers didn’t know they needed. Maybe it was bad timing and/or bad luck. The Model 736 also arrived shortly before the outbreak of World War II when the guitar manufacturing industry was deemed ‘non‑essential’ and resources were diverted to the American war effort. Furthermore, a bass guitar didn’t seem to fit seamlessly into any of the prevailing musical styles at that time.

It is surprising, though, that such a significant innovation in guitar history isn’t more widely known about. Perhaps it is time, nay overdue, for Tutmarc’s milestone achievements to be deservedly recognised.

One company, Luthiery Laboratories, makes modern‑day replicas of the Audiovox 736, keeping the spirit of the original instrument alive.

Audiovox 736 Bass (1/4) ~ Luthiery Laboratories (luthierylabs.com)


The first commercially successful mass produced solid body fretted electric bass guitar

And so it was that the scene was set for someone else to step in and make the bass guitar ‘a thing’. That someone else was Clarence Leonidas Fender (1909‑1991). Unlike poor old Paul H. Tutmarc, you may just have heard of him.

“I wonder if I could make an electric bass” – Leo Fender (1909‑1991)

For more on the history and development of Fender guitars and musical equipment, see CRAVE Guitars’ August 2018 article for the context behind Fender solid body electric guitars.

A Potted History of the Guitar Part VI (1950s and 1960s):
August 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VI (craveguitars.co.uk)

Once the proverbial ball started rolling, the bass guitar had a phenomenal, transformative and relatively rapid impact on modern music that cannot be underestimated or understated. It is also very easy to take the electric bass guitar’s presence on stages, in studios and bedrooms all around the world for granted. Back in 1950, though, no‑one other than a select few in Fullerton, California had any idea of what was to come.

So… what are we actually talking about? The answer, after the lengthy preamble (apologies for keeping you on tenterhooks for so long), is the mighty Fender Precision Bass. Three little words. Game changing, era defining and well‑deserving of all the hyperbole attached to it over the past seven‑plus decades. So much has been written about the Precision that there is little need to dredge up the detail again, so what follows is a brief overview.

Leo Fender was working on a prototype back in 1950, bringing the world’s first commercially successful mass‑produced electric bass guitar to market in 1951. Fender designed the Precision Bass (often shortened these days to P‑Bass) to overcome the many drawbacks of the acoustic double bass alluded to earlier in this article. Even the name, Precision, referred to the fretted neck to enable musicians to play in tune far more precisely than on the double bass’s fretless neck. Conservative double bass players may well have looked at the Precision Bass in the same way that conservative guitarists looked at the Fender Telecaster, which had been introduced a year earlier in 1950. Consternation and indignation were probably natural initial reactions from the ‘old‑school’.

At its most basic, the Fender Precision Bass is a solid body, 4‑string bass guitar equipped with a single pickup and a one‑piece 20‑fret maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard. It all sounds so very straightforward and unremarkable nowadays doesn’t it?

The Precision Bass didn’t, however, appear fully formed. The original design of the Precision borrowed several design features from the Telecaster guitar, other than the double cutaway body. Initial models carried one single coil pickup, a slab body, large scratchplate and a Tele‑like headstock.

After Fender introduced the Stratocaster guitar in 1954, some of its design features were brought over to the Precision including a contoured body and a Strat‑like headstock. The original pickup was replaced with a single split coil hum cancelling staggered design and a sleeker redesigned scratchplate. It is this version of the Precision from 1957 that has stayed in production largely unchanged to the current day. There have been many, many variants with numerous changes in specification over the years, including a fretless version (ironically, given the origin and intention of the Precision’s name). 5‑string versions, 22‑fret necks, active electronics, multiple pickups, etc. followed.

The original pre‑1957 Precision design has been re-issued by Fender at times over the years, often called the Telecaster Bass to differentiate it from the post‑1957 Precision specification.

The popularity of the Fender Precision Bass grew significantly throughout the 1950s especially with rock & roll and country fraternities, as well as with session musicians. During the 1960s the solid body fretted electric bass guitar became dominant in most modern musical genres. During the early days, there wasn’t a great deal of choice in terms of alternatives to the Precision but that was to change later on.

1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass

Fender capitalised on their supremacy by introducing the solid body fretted electric Fender Jazz Bass in 1960 (originally called the ‘Deluxe Model’). The svelte Fender Jazz Bass (often now shortened to J‑Bass) was designed to appeal to a different customer base. Like the offset bodied Fender Jazzmaster guitar, it was aimed squarely at the dyed‑in‑the‑wool jazz community. However, like the Jazzmaster, the Jazz Bass’s appeal spread far wider than jazz musicians. Like the Precision, the Jazz Bass has rightly become an iconic industry standard solid body electric bass guitar.

Throughout the years, both the Precision and Jazz Bass have featured sizeable chrome covers over the pickup and the bridge, despite these items limiting playing techniques such as palm muting the strings. As the covers are purely aesthetic, rather than functional components, it is fair to say that the vast majority of musicians removed these covers permanently.

Without doubt, the Fender Precision Bass and its younger sibling the Jazz Bass are icons of contemporary music and remain hugely popular today. Consumers can purchase genuine P‑Bass and J‑Bass models from the budget Fender‑owned offshore‑produced Squier brand, through Mexican and American‑made Fender models, to the high‑end Fender Custom Shop versions. Throughout the decades, the Precision and Jazz Bass models have oft been imitated and/or blatantly copied by other manufacturers, eager to cash in on Fender’s industry‑dominant status.

Understandably, over the years, the Precision and Jazz Bass have become highly collectable, especially the earliest models. The highest vintage market prices undoubtedly belong to the models from 1951 (Precision) and 1960 (Jazz Bass) to 1965, when Leo Fender sold his company to industry giant CBS. Fender equipment from this period is known as ‘pre‑CBS’.

For more information on the Fender Precision and Jazz Bass, just complete any Internet browser search and, alongside a great deal of drivel, there is a massive volume of fact and opinion available, often described in forensic detail.

1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn

Evolution of the electric bass guitar

It is probably fair to say that, since 1951 and the introduction of the Fender Precision Bass, other brands were in the position of having to play catch up. In particular, Fender’s biggest competitor, Gibson, was wrong‑footed and they have never been able to compete on a level playing field. In 1953, Gibson released the EB‑1, which was a violin‑shaped solid mahogany body bass with a set neck. The EB‑1 didn’t catch on and was replaced by the semi‑acoustic ES‑335‑shaped EB‑2 in 1958, the SG‑shaped Gibson EB‑0 in 1959 and the EB‑3 (made famous by Jack Bruce of Cream) in 1961. While the semi‑acoustic EB‑2 proved popular, its Epiphone‑branded counterpart, the Epiphone Rivoli proved more successful. All these early Gibson basses used a shorter 30½” scale. In 1959, Gibson also released a hollow body EB‑6 6‑string bass.

Possibly Gibson’s best contender for an iconic bass guitar is the Gibson Thunderbird, originally introduced in 1963. The Thunderbird was based on Gibson’s Firebird guitar, designed by legendary American car designer Raymond Dietrich (1894‑1980). The Thunderbird was the first Gibson solid body bass to use the 34” scale made popular by Fender. Like the Firebird, the Thunderbird was redesigned in a simpler ‘non‑reverse’ form for 1966 and the original ‘reverse’ shape wasn’t reissued until the mid‑1970s. During the 1970s, Gibson also released the Ripper and Grabber basses but neither really captured bass players’ imaginations (or their precious dollars!). Later additions like the Gibson Triumph, Victory and RD basses didn’t fare much better as viable competition for Fender’s stalwarts. Epiphone have Thunderbird and EB basses in their line‑up alongside Epiphone‑specific basses such as the Newport and the Embassy.

Over at Danelectro in Neptune, New Jersey, Nathan Daniel launched the world’s first 6‑string bass, the UB‑2 in 1956 comprising a single cutaway semi‑hollow bass with a 30” scale, 24 frets and dual single coil pickups, earning its nickname the ‘Tic Tac bass’. In 1958, Danelectro replaced the UB‑2 with two new 6‑string bass models. The first was the Long Horn 4623 bass with a radical new lyre‑like design 24 frets, and a short 25” scale. The other was the Short Horn 3612 with stubby double cutaways, 29½”scale and only 15 frets. All Danelectro models substantially undercut the retail prices of both Fender and Gibson’s basses. The 6‑string models seemed to attract guitarists rather than bass players to their designs, providing a novel bridge between guitar and bass camps.

It should be noted at this point that older 6‑string basses are generally tuned an octave below a guitar in standard tuning, to E-E, while the baritone guitars that were appearing at the time were tuned either to B‑B or A‑A. On the other hand, modern 5‑string basses simply add a lower B string while modern 6‑string basses tend to add lower B and higher C strings compared to an equivalent 4‑string bass. Confused?

Meanwhile, back in the 1960s, Fender weren’t resting on their laurels. Following the popularity of the ‘student’ Mustang guitar, Fender introduced the short scale Mustang Bass in 1966. The Mustang Bass spawned two later variants, the Bronco Bass (introduced in 1967) and the Musicmaster Bass (introduced in 1971). Fender also released two esoteric ‘bass’ guitars, the Fender Bass V (introduced in 1965), which was the world’s first 5‑string bass guitar and the 6‑string Bass VI (introduced in 1961). The latter was strongly influenced by the Fender Jaguar guitar design. The Bass VI was Fender’s upmarket response to the Danelectro 6‑string bass introduced 5 years earlier. The Bass VI is unique in having 3 pickups, 6 lighter gauge strings, a short 30” scale, a floating bridge and a mechanical vibrato as used on the Jazzmaster/Jaguar guitars, as well as a removable string mute. To compete with the Gibson EB‑2 and Epiphone Rivoli thinline semi‑acoustic basses, Fender introduced the hollow Coronado Bass in 1966.

In addition, the ‘other’ Californian company, Rickenbacker, run by F.C. Hall at the time, also wasn’t going to be left on the side‑lines in the bass department. Rickenbacker had hired Roger Rossmeisl (1927‑1979) who designed the brand’s key guitars and the 4000 series basses. The Rickenbacker 4000 bass with its distinctive cresting wave body outline and thru‑neck construction was launched in 1957. Subsequent models were named 4001, 4002, 4003, 4004, all being variants of the same basic instrument. There isn’t enough space to go into the specification differences here.

Rickenbacker 4001

A decade after Leo Fender left the company that still carries his name today, Music Man was formed in California and released Leo Fender’s vision for the next evolution of his era defining bass guitars. The Music Man Stingray Bass was released in 1976 with a single large bridge humbucker, distinctive 3+1 headstock, innovative on‑board active electronics and an integral string mute. While Music Man’s guitars never caught on at the time, the Stingray Bass has joined Fender and Rickenbacker as an iconic design for many bass musicians. The Stingray Bass was especially popular for funk slap‑style bass technique for the likes of Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson.

1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

There are a few other notable basses, such as the German Höfner ‘violin bass’, the 500/1, made famous by Paul McCartney of The Beatles. This model, introduced in 1955, with its carved solid spruce top and humbucking pickups, is often nicknamed the ‘Beatle Bass’. Beyond the Beatles connection, though, the 500/1 remains a relatively minor entry in the bass stakes, while the company’s only other notable entry being the Höfner Club and Verythin basses.

Another oddity to mention at this point is the Swedish Hagström H8, unique for being the world’s first mass‑produced 8‑string bass, with four pairs of strings on a short 30” scale. The H8 was only produced briefly from 1967‑1969.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s a plethora of other companies jumped on the bandwagon, eager to make the most of the massive increase in demand as rock, pop and other genres proliferated. Many of the basses produced during this time were flagrant facsimiles of the best‑selling American brand models, often by Japanese companies (now termed ‘lawsuit‑era’ copies). Other companies like Warwick in Germany were making their own headway with their successful original‑design Thumb and Streamer basses.

Today (2024), Fender arguably still rules the roost with basses covering all bases (sic!) from budget to elite models. All other brands stand firmly in Fender’s enviable shadow. While Fender may dominate, there are now plenty of alternative options. There are some incredible bass guitars out there, some of which are listed later in this article for those that want to diverge from the predictable industry standard ‘Fender sound’. There are numerous ways to deviate from the common path, with different brands, string/pickup configurations, electronics, scale lengths, body construction, etc. The quality of budget instruments is vastly superior to anything available in the past and provides a strong basis (again, sic!) for players seeking to learn and develop their skills.


The acoustic bass guitar

While the solid body electric bass guitar finally took the world by storm from the 1950s and 1960s, the acoustic bass guitar has proved to be another modern, notable and niche instrument. The first (largely unsuccessful) attempts at acoustic bass guitars began to appear in the 1950s as a logical extension to its electric counterpart.

Historically, one of the earliest acoustic bass‑like instruments was the Mexican guitarrón, which has its roots in the 16th Century and is widely used in Mexican Mariachi bands. While looking similar to a guitar, these huge instruments were either 6‑string or 12‑string acoustic instruments, tuned in A‑D‑G‑C‑E‑A.

In 1972, Ernie Ball introduced the Earthwood acoustic bass guitar, stating that “…if there were electric bass guitars to go with electric guitars then you ought to have acoustic basses to go with acoustic guitars.” A simple yet ‘blindingly obvious’ observation, given the benefit of hindsight. Ernie Ball took a guitarrón, being the nearest thing to an existing acoustic bass guitar, and created a more practical instrument for guitar‑centric American consumers. The Earthwood was relatively short‑lived but the foundation of the acoustic bass guitar was established. American company Washburn took the concept and created more successful instruments that coincided neatly with MTV’s Unplugged concert series (1989‑1999). Interestingly, despite starting it all, Ernie Ball does not have an acoustic bass guitar available to buy at the time of writing.

Acoustic bass guitar construction is essentially similar to the steel‑strung flat top acoustic folk guitar, with a larger hollow wooden body and a longer scale neck. Most acoustic basses have four strings, tuned in the same way as an electric bass, E‑A‑D‑G, an octave below a standard guitar. The majority of acoustic basses have fretted fingerboards, although some are fretless.

Acoustic Bass Guitar

Like many modern day acoustic guitars, many acoustic bass models have pickups to enable them to be amplified for stage use or DI’d for recording purposes. Some instruments are thinline electric semi‑acoustic basses while others are full‑depth electro‑acoustic basses. These are designed primarily as acoustic basses with an on‑board pickup for additional amplification when needed.

Today, there are any number of acoustic bass guitars on the market for every level of player and every price point from many key manufacturers including, amongst others; Martin, Taylor, Guild, Fender, Takamine, Ovation, Tanglewood, Epiphone, Warwick, Epiphone, Washburn, Godin, ESP, Breedlove, Larivée, Framus, Hohner, Ozark, Dean, D’Angelico, Ibanez, Sigma, Alvarez and Cort.


Bass guitar amplification

In the early days of bass guitars, brands released bass amplifiers to accompany their instruments, often sold as a package (see Tutmarc’s Audiovox above, for example). Other brands like Rickenbacker did the same in the early days. The main difference between guitar amps and bass amps is that the latter are tuned specifically to reproduce bass frequencies accurately. A standard 4‑string bass guitar produces low frequencies in the range 41Hz to 100Hz with overtones extending up to 4‑5kHz (not dissimilar to an acoustic double bass in fact).

In terms of sound pressure levels, bass frequencies need more power to be heard by the human ear/brain at the same volume as higher frequencies, so bass amps tend to have higher power ratings than guitar amps. In the past, speakers for bass also tended to be larger with 12”, 15” or even 18” to shift the amount of air needed at lower frequencies. In contrast, guitar speakers tended to be 10”or 12”. Bass speaker cabinets, especially those with multiple speakers, normally had sealed or ported enclosures to increase volume. For all these reasons bass amplifiers and speaker cabinets tend to be different to their guitar equivalents.

Probably the most famous brand associated specifically for its bass amplification is the American company Ampeg, founded in 1946 and now under the ownership of Japanese giant, Yamaha. Ampeg started out attempting to amplify the acoustic double bass in 1949 by using a microphone/pickup in the instrument’s stand. The ‘Amplified Peg’ as it was called was then shortened to ‘Ampeg’ and the rest, as they say, is history. Their most famous range of amps was the 300W Ampeg SVT from 1969 and their bass combo amps, the B‑15 from 1960, as used by the likes of Motown session bass player James Jamerson.

It was no surprise that Fender, the leader in the world of bass guitars from the 1950s should also produce bass amps/cabs. Perhaps the most famous Fender bass amp was the Bassman from 1952 onwards, first introduced as a combo valve amp with a 15” speaker. The most desirable though, was the Dual Rectifier Bassman valve combo with 4×10” speakers. From 1960. Fender also released a ‘piggy back’ amp head and speaker cabinet design to cope with higher power levels and to provide flexibility. From 2000, Fender released a solid state version of the legendary Bassman amp. The original valve Bassman also became beloved by many guitar players for its tone, for instance by the late blues rock guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan (SRV).

Student bass players also needed a bass amp. So Fender introduced the Musicmaster Bass amplifier in 1970, as a companion to the Fender Musicmaster Bass guitar. The Musicmaster Bass combo amp was a very simple affair with one channel, 12W of power, volume and tone controls and a single 12″ Fender speaker. Like the Bassman, it has latterly been enjoying a bit of a revival as a budget vintage amp for guitarists. The Musicmaster Bass amp was discontinued in 1982 after the introduction of the Fender Studio Bass combo and Japanese Fender Sidekick Bass 30. Nowadays, the extensive Fender Rumble series has proved very popular with bass players.

Legendary British amplifier company Marshall was not going to be left behind. Marshall’s first 100‑watt bass head was the JTM 45/100 / JTM 45 Super 100 model. Another, also dating from the second half of the 1960s, is the JMP #1992 Super Bass 100 (100W) and JMP #1986 Bass (50W). Like the Fender Bassman, the Marshall Super Bass 100W also proved popular with guitarists. Bass players were also known to use the Marshall #1963 Super PA (50W) and Marshall #1968 Super PA (100W) amps.

Another legendary British amplifier company, VOX produced bass versions of its AC‑15 and AC‑30 combo amps. These were followed in 1963 by the VOX T‑60 and Foundation amps, the latter promoted by Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones.

German acoustic amp company AER also produce a range of bass amps, particularly well‑suited to amplifying acoustic and electro‑acoustic bass guitars.

Bass guitarists turn out to be a little less conservative than their guitarist counterparts, especially when it comes to amplification and speaker cabinets. For instance there are plenty of modern‑day bass amps that use efficient solid state D‑class amplification (a type of amplifier that uses digital switching technology to amplify audio signals efficiently), with very high power ratings – 500W and 600W or more being not uncommon. Bass amps often also make wide use of sophisticated on‑board EQ. Speaker cabinet configurations also tend to be more versatile with reflex ports, horns, tweeters and combining multiple speaker types being common.

There are many other valve, solid state or hybrid bass amplifier manufacturers not mentioned above, including Trace Elliot, Ashdown Engineering, Mesa/Boogie, Peavey, Music Man, Hiwatt, Laney, Sound City, H/H, WEM, Hartke and Orange.


Bass guitar effects

Things have changed a great deal over the decades since 1951. In the early days of the solid body electric bass guitar, most players plugged straight into their amps without much in the way of tone augmentation.

By the 1970s and 1980s bass players had a paucity of effects specially designed for their instruments, so they generally adopted guitar effects with just a few bass‑specific pedals to choose from. Since the industry started to migrate to digital technology from the 1980s onwards, the major effect companies began to produce pedals designed primarily for use with bass guitars. Now, in the 2020s, there is plenty of choice with most of the big players in the effect industry now making bass‑specific effect pedals, including Electro‑Harmonix, MXR, BOSS, Ibanez, Fender, Laney and Ampeg.

In addition, from around the start of the new millennium, a number of manufacturers turned their ideas for integrated multi‑effect units into practical musicians’ tools that became popular for both guitar and bass, including BOSS, VOX, Zoom, Tech 21, Behringer and Valeton.

In 1998, Line 6 introduced a ground‑breaking innovation called the POD, which put many guitar effects, amps and cabinet emulations into a single portable unit. While the little red kidney shaped POD was initially directed at guitarists, the rack mounted Line 6 POD Pro models came in both guitar and bass versions. Since then, Line 6 and other manufacturers now combine guitar and bass amp/effect/cabinet emulations into a single unit. These units are constantly improving and are gradually replacing stage backlines with direct input (DI) into PAs/monitors, as well as into studio desks/DAWs. Along with the POD, Line 6, also now part of Yamaha, is still in the same business with their extensive Helix range.

Alternatives to the Line 6 POD and Helix units include the Axe-Fx III from Fractal Audio, which is a pro‑level amplification/effects processor suitable for both guitar and bass. Meanwhile, Kemper Amps took a slightly different route with their Profiler, which has all‑in‑one effects, amplifier and speaker cabinet profiles designed for both guitar and bass.

Just to finish off, there are numerous boutique effect pedal manufacturers that produce stomp boxes, often to very high degrees of quality, including brands such as Way Huge, TC Electronic, EarthQuaker Devices, Darkglass, Aguilar, Origin Effects, Free The Tone, Providence, Source Audio, Walrus Audio, ZVEX, Mooer Audio, Sansamp, Digitech, Eventide, Strymon, JHS, Keeley and Empress Effects.


Iconic (and other) bass guitars

The next sentence is likely to be highly provocative and intentionally so. While there are innumerable bass guitar models out there from 1951 to the current day, there are probably only four bass guitar models that can truly be called iconic (i.e. something that is widely considered to epitomize an era, culture, community or place). The four key instruments – none of which are based on guitar equivalents – that stand head and shoulders above the rest are:

Truly iconic bass guitars:
Fender Precision Bass (1951‑date)
Fender Jazz Bass (1960‑date)
Rickenbacker 4000 series (1957‑date)
Music Man Stingray Bass (1976‑date)

In addition, below are listed just a very few of the other great electric bass guitars manufactured from 1951 onwards. This is far from a comprehensive list and is intended only to be broadly indicative of the type.

Fender bass guitars:
Fender Bass V
Fender Bass VI
Fender Coronado Bass
Fender Mustang Bass
Fender Musicmaster Bass
Fender Performer
Fender Telecaster Bass
Squier Bronco Bass

Gibson bass guitars:
Gibson EB series
Gibson Thunderbird
Gibson Explorer Bass
Gibson Melody Maker Bass
Gibson Grabber/Ripper/G3
Gibson RD series
Gibson Triumph
Gibson Victory
Gibson 20/20 Bass

Epiphone bass guitars (not including Epiphone versions of Gibson basses):
Epiphone Embassy
Epiphone Newport
Epiphone Rivoli
Epiphone Viola

Other American brand bass guitars:
Alembic Series 1/2
Ampeg Dan Armstrong Lucite
Ampeg AEB-1
BC Rich Eagle
BC Rich Mockingbird
BC Rich Warlock
Danelectro Longhorn 4623
Danelectro Shorthorn 3612
G&L JB2
G&L L1000/L2000
Gretsch 6071/6072
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet
Gretsch 5440 Electromatic
Guild B-301/B-302
Guild Starfire
Harmony H22
Harmony H27
Jackson JS
Kramer 450-B/650-B
Kramer DMZ
Lakland Skyline
Music Man Sabre
Music Man Sterling
National Val Pro Model 85
Ovation Magnum
Peavey T-40
Peavey Millennium/Milestone
PRS SE Kestrel/Kingfisher
Schecter Omen
Schecter Stilletto
Silvertone 1440 series
Steinberger Spirit XT
Steinberger Synapse
Supro Pocket
Travis Bean TB2000
Washburn Taurus

European bass guitars:
Burns Sonic
Hagström H8
Höfner Club
Höfner HCT-500/1
Höfner President
Hohner B2
Hohner The Jack
VOX Clubman
VOX Cougar
VOX Phantom 4
VOX Sidewinder
VOX VBW Teardrop Bass
Wal Mk1/Mk2
Warwick Thumb/Streamer/Infinity/Corvette
Warwick Rockbass

Japanese bass guitars:
Other than perhaps the Yamaha BB and TRBX series, and the Ibanez SR and TMB series, Japanese bass guitars do not have the same level of brand/model heritage when compared to those produced by American and European companies. There are, however, many Japanese basses produced by companies such as Ibanez, Tokai, Greco, Jedson, Westone, Teisco, ESP/LTD, Fernandes and Aria.

“Without the Fender bass, there’d be no rock n’ roll or no Motown. The electric guitar had been waiting ’round since 1939 for a nice partner to come along. It became an electric rhythm section, and that changed everything.” – Quincy Jones (1933‑)


Famous bass players

Below are listed seventy of the world’s most famous and influential bass players – alive and departed – including upright double bass and electric solid body bass guitar players. There are, of course, many, many more but this is an indicative list for those interested in exploring some of the music created by these diverse musicians (in alphabetical order):

Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
Walter Becker (Steely Dan)
Andy Bell (Oasis)
Bill Black (Elvis Presley)
Jack Bruce (Cream)
Cliff Burton (Metallica)
Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)
John Cale (Velvet Underground)
Stanley Clarke (Return To Forever, solo)
Adam Clayton (U2)
Bootsy Collins (James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic)
Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave)
Billy Cox (Jimi Hendrix)
John Deacon (Queen)
Kim Deal (Pixies, Breeders)
Willie Dixon
Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie)
Bernard Edwards (Chic)
John Entwistle (The Who)
Flea (a.k.a. Michael Peter Balzary – Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Bruce Foxton (The Jam)
Simon Gallup (The Cure)
Roger Glover (Deep Purple)
Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
Larry Graham (Sly & The Family Stone)
Marshall Grant (Johnny Cash)
Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)
Dusty Hill (ZZ Top)
Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order, The Light)
Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple)
Jah Wobble (a.k.a. John Joseph Wardle)
James Jamerson (session musician)
Louis Johnson (The Brothers Johnson)
John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
Carol Kaye (session musician)
Lemmy Kilmister (Hawkwind, Motörhead)
Mark King (Level 42)
Alan Lancaster (Status Quo)
Geddy Lee (Rush)
Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead)
Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel)
Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint)
Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols)
Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings, solo)
Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses)
John McVie (Fleetwood Mac)
Marcus Miller (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, George Benson)
Charles Mingus
Krist Novoselic (Nirvana)
Pino Palladino (session musician)
Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report)
Guy Pratt (Madonna, David Gilmour)
Suzi Quatro
Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones)
Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix)
Mike Rutherford (Genesis)
Robbie Shakespeare (Sly & Robbie)
Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth)
Gene Simmons (KISS)
Nikki Sixx (a.k.a. Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr. – Mötley Crüe)
Chris Squire (Yes)
Sting (a.k.a. Gordon Sumner – The Police)
Danny Thompson (John Martyn)
Thundercat (a.k.a. Stephen Lee Bruner)
Robert Trujillo (Metallica)
Sid Vicious (a.k.a. Simon John Ritchie – Sex Pistols)
Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club)
Tal Wilkenfeld (Jeff Beck, Prince)
Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings)

“The gunk takes the funk” – James Jamerson (1936‑1983)


Bass in the (near) future

It is difficult for, and unfair of, me as a guitarist, to predict any sort of unified future for the bass guitar but I’ll give it a shot.

The traditional conservative brigade will still stick to tried and tested instruments and equipment. Musicians looking for something a bit different will probably want to experiment with the format, for instance number of strings, scale lengths, pickups and electronics. If anything there will be more radical and custom bass guitar designs from up‑market and boutique luthiers that diverge from the traditional archetype set by Fender over 70 years ago. Many additions to the form extend the flexibility of the core instrument, so it may be a case of further evolution, rather than revolution.

Bass amplification will continue to diverge from its simple valve origins and continue to embrace the digital realm, probably dispensing with backline amps/cabs altogether with signals being DI’d into desks/PA/monitors.

While bass players haven’t been particularly well served in the past for bass‑specific effect pedals, I anticipate that bass effects will achieve greater representation, including some out‑there effects not currently available to guitar players.

Bass guitar players have struggled to compete, with synthesisers dominating the world of modern electronica, dance and popular music. At least, for now (thankfully), the bass guitar remains essential to most guitar‑based music in a sort of symbiotic, co‑dependent relationship. As long as guitars keep going, so will bass, and vice versa. Bass players, being ever inventive individuals, will adapt and cultivate new ways to keep the instrument relevant, current and in the limelight for decades to come.

Technique‑wise, there will continue to be the traditional approaches towards walking bass lines, typically using the fundamental root/fifth styles that has been the general mainstay of modern music for decades. In contrast, there will be many more amazing virtuoso bass players who see the versatility and potential of the instrument in its own right.

So, other than tangible incremental progress around the margins, there is probably not a whole lot that will change profoundly in the near future. I may be wrong with that last sentence. In many ways, I hope so!

Interestingly, while the upright double bass continues to appear in modern music from time to time, the solid body fretted electric bass hasn’t really made any headway into the clique of conservative classical orchestral music, which still relies heavily on the traditional, some may say archaic, acoustic upright double bass.


Resources

Periodicals dedicated to bass guitar may be the best place to keep up‑to‑date with the technology and equipment associated with the instrument. Publications include Bass Musician Magazine, Bass Player Guitar Magazine, Bass Guitar Magazine, Bass Magazine, Bass Musician and Bass Gear Magazine.

Online resources include Music Radar, TalkBass.com, Basschat and No Treble. There are also many books on bass guitars and bass playing techniques, including the inevitable, ‘Bass Guitar For Dummies’.

As far as purchasing bass guitars, there are the large Internet sites, brick & mortar retailers and the usual online sites, Reverb.com and eBay. For vintage and rare bass guitars, there are outlets purely for basses including (in the UK) Andy Baxter Bass, The Bass Gallery, The Bass Centre, Vintage Bass Room and ClassicandcoolGuitars.


Some final thoughts

I certainly learnt a lot from researching and writing this article. At first sight, there may seem to be quite a bit of relevant information on the Internet. It is only when one starts to dig deeper and attempt to put something together that makes some form of sense that things rapidly become unclear. All of a sudden, much of the available information seems incomplete, contradictory, vague and/or outright erroneous. In the end, it comes down to evidence and corroboration but sorting the wheat from the chaff isn’t always easy. It seems that online information about vintage guitars is far more reliable than that about vintage basses. There are far too many poorly informed people who invent facts and present opinion as truth.

Despite my best attempts to piece things together, I may have fallen foul of the same issues raised above. However, I have tried very hard not to fill in gaps with assumptions and/or fiction. While I endeavour to be thorough and rigorous, my approach isn’t academic and I don’t have the time, funds or energy to provide the last word in scholarly fact. The contents herein should therefore probably not be relied upon too heavily. This article should, for that reason alone, be regarded as my best intention to balance fact with entertainment.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama – c.480‑400BCE)

This is just the sort of article that would benefit greatly from images to illustrate and break up the narrative. Sadly as a (broke) not‑for‑profit entity, I cannot afford the costly copyright/royalties charged for the use of relevant images, so I have had to rely on very limited free/public domain resources or my own photographs. I apologise for the thousands of words used to describe what images could do in none. Once again, no AI was used in the research and writing of this tome – only my own hard work.

NB. Apologies to anyone disappointed by the wait for a cheap, clichéd joke at the expense of ‘the bass player’! T’ain’t gonna happen here. Love ‘the bass player’.


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Album of the Month’

Given that this month’s article focuses on the fascinating history of the bass guitar, it seems only fitting to select an album that demonstrates the virtuoso bass playing of one of the greatest bass guitarists of all time, Jaco Pastorius (1951‑1987) and his famous modified fretless Fender Jazz Bass.

Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977) – The seventh and most commercially successful studio album by the American jazz fusion band. ‘Heavy Weather’ was the first album with Pastorius on full‑time bass duties. The smooth jazz funk production of the album, which was released at the peak of the punk rock movement in the US and UK, stood in stark contrast to the otherwise brutal sounds of the late 1970s. Given that it sold in huge numbers (and still does) is testament to the composition and musicianship on display. Initial sales were about 500,000 and total sales to‑date are over 1.06 million. Other Weather Report albums may be ‘better’ according to purists but this is the one I heard first and it has stuck with me over the years.

Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977)

To me, this album hit me right between the eyes about what virtuoso bass playing can be like. There are many, many other artists and albums that could arguably take the acclaim, for instance Stanley Clarke’s successful solo album, ‘School Days’ (1976), but on this occasion, the late, great Jaco (& co.) takes the accolade, such as it is.

“I’m the greatest bass player in the world” – Jaco Pastorius (1951‑1987)


Tailpiece

Well, there you go. I think that most of us love a bit of decent low bass in our music. I hope y’all got something out of this fleeting exploration into the defining instruments, artists and music of the lower registers. I think the narrative works well as a complement to the launch of CRAVE Basses at the end of 2023, but that’s just my (obviously biased) opinion.

I hope you feel inclined to come back next month to see what’s currently fermenting in the CRAVE guitars’ secret brewery.

Truth, peace, love, and guitar music be with you always. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Mundanity is the devourer of lost dreams”

© 2024 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

Like it? Why not share it?

September 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part VII

Introduction

Welcome to the 1970s. Well kinda. Yep, here we are yet again, with the 7th article in the current series of musical discovery, focusing on the delightful ‘Seventies’. As is often the case with monumental projects, the amount of work involved has been colossal and the amount of information has been considerable. The scale alone has meant that compressing it all into logical and manageable chunks has proved somewhat of a challenge. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it has been the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that have proved to be the most eventful and remarkable. This month’s article focuses on the unpredictable 1970s as it follows on from the previous two tumultuous decades.

If you would like to (re)visit the first four parts (and over 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

In terms of this article as part of the overall series, the 1970s has, by far, more content than any other single decade. While it is inherently fascinating, it makes for quite a hefty read (over 300 facts this month)… so be prepared and apologies.

The Story of Modern Music Part VII 1970-1979

The so-called ‘golden era’ of music (1950s-1970s inclusive) was characterised by major seismic musical movements. The 1950s saw rock ‘n’ roll burst onto the scene, the 1960s saw the fan hysteria of the ‘British Invasion’ followed by heady idealism of hippie flower power full of peace & love, while the 1970s heralded a very different form of youth rebelliousness, veritably bristling with vigorous nihilistic punk attitude.

Gone was the positivity and optimism to be replaced with disaffection distrust and deeply seated urban angst. Instead of striving for some sort of wistful, unobtainable utopia, the desperate pursuit for a grimy dystopian anarchy became almost an end in itself. The zeitgeist of warts‑and‑all realism was striking back.

The 1970s would ultimately descend into gritty and chaotic demands for change without a clear idea of what outcome the disillusioned generation was rebelling for or against. In many respects, it didn’t matter as the alienated youth voice was seen as irrelevant to detached and remote institutions who weren’t listening and, worse, seemed not to care.

As social provocateur Malcolm McLaren proclaimed, “What matters is this: Being fearless of failure arms you to break the rules. In doing so, you may change the culture and just possibly, for a moment, change life itself.” He went on to comment, “I always said punk was an attitude. It was never about having a Mohican haircut or wearing a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction, and the creative potential within that.”

Civilisation wasn’t really breaking down of course and not everything was tainted by dismal doom and gloom. However, western societies were being tested and forced to adapt to a darker, more uncertain, complex and ambiguous new world.

Historical Context 1970-1979

The self-indulgent 1970s was described as the ‘Me Decade’ (coined by writer Tom Wolfe), with a move away from the model of social collectivism (communities) to individualism (self). To many, the ‘70s may well be remembered as a caricature of kitsch, a gaudy facsimile of 1960s’ sybaritic, exuberant excess. While not devoid of conflict and warfare, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, the world was slowly becoming accustomed to a period of extended and stable peace around the globe. Even the tension of the Cold War became a continuous mutual standoff. Progressive political, cultural and social change that began in the 1960s continued, including the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement, enabling greater social mobility for many. The ever‑more liberal ‘permissive society’ was well under way representing a crucial stage in that generation’s struggle for greater individual freedom and equality. Technology was developing at a rapid pace, providing much greater work, leisure and recreational opportunities for people in their everyday lives. However, a number of disruptive economic and political events began to destabilise a long period of post‑war economic expansion. Widespread social discontent and a rejection of a stagnant status quo resulted in widespread riots, protests, labour strikes, direct action and hints of anarchy, culminating in the UK with the infamous ‘winter of discontent’.

Year

Global Events

1970

Manned moon mission Apollo 13 narrowly avoided tragedy after an emergency in space, ultimately returning all 3 astronauts safely to Earth.

 

After being signed in 1968, 43 nations ratified The Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, intended to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and promote co‑operation on the peaceful use of nuclear power.

1971

The phenomenally successful coffee empire, the Starbucks Corporation, was founded in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

 

The massive Aswan High Dam across the River Nile in Egypt was opened. The project had required moving the ancient Egyptian temples of Ramses at Abu Simbel (in 1964) above the rising waters of Lake Nasser.

1972

The first commercial video game, Pong was released by Atari.

 

The classic gangster movie, ‘The Godfather’, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando was released.

 

Britain imposed direct rule over Northern Ireland following the so‑called ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre.

 

A Palestinian terrorist group killed 11 Israeli Olympic team members and a German police officer at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany.

 

Apollo 17 became the last moon landing (to‑date) where humans have walked on the surface of the Moon.

1973

The United Kingdom joined the expanding European Economic Community (EEC).

 

The seminal and controversial ‘horror’ movie about faith, ‘The Exorcist’ was released, directed by Willian Friedkin and starring Linda Blair.

 

A global oil crisis was triggered by OPEC, the confederation of Arab oil producing nations, which imposed an embargo on oil exports to countries supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War, also known as the Arab-Israeli War.

 

The famous Spanish artist and co‑founder of the Cubist movement, Pablo Picasso died at the age of 91.

1974

American President Richard Nixon resigned from office following the Watergate scandal, to be succeeded by Gerald Ford as the 38th U.S. president.

 

The popular 3-D combination puzzle Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture, Ernő Rubik.

 

The ubiquitous Bar Code was introduced. It was notable because it was the first standardised method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form.

1975

America finally pulled out of the Vietnam War after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the formal reunification of north and south Vietnam.

 

An historic joint American/Russian Apollo and Soyuz space mission took place in Earth orbit. It was the first time that spacecraft from different nations docked in space.

 

Widely recognised as the first modern summer blockbuster film, ‘Jaws’ was released, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel by Peter Benchley published in 1974.

 

American technology innovators, Bill Gates and Paul Allen co‑founded the Microsoft Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

1976

American technology entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne co‑founded Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) in California.

 

The infamous ‘Son of Sam’ serial murders began in New York City, sparking the largest manhunt in the city’s history. The notorious killer, David Berkowitz, was finally arrested in 1977.

 

Chinese communist leader, Chairman Mao Zedong died, effectively ending the decade‑long Chinese Cultural Revolution.

1977

South African activist and anti-apartheid campaigner Stephen Biko died while in police custody after violating an order to restrict his movements.

 

The cinema phenomenon and start of a major film and merchandise franchise, Star Wars Episode 4 was released, directed by George Lucas.

1978

English woman Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby, was born after conception by in‑vitro fertilisation (IVF).

 

The classic video game created by Tomohiro Nishikado, Space Invaders was released.

 

The Camp David Accords signifying a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and Egypt was signed in Maryland in the U.S.A, leading to the Egypt‑Israel Peace Treaty of 1979.

1979

Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first female Prime Minister. She was Prime Minister for nearly 12 years.

 

Russia invaded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, starting the Soviet‑Afghan war that would last until 1989.

 

Revolutionary Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed Iran to be an Islamic Republic in the Middle East, starting decades of international isolation.

 

The epic Vietnam war film, ‘Apocalypse Now’, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando was released.

 

In Africa, the notorious Ugandan president and dictator Idi Amin was forced to leave the country into exile.

 

The nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, America suffered a catastrophic meltdown.

Musical Genre Development 1970-1979

If the 1960s was memorable for its own musical revolutions, the 1970s was about to unleash its own rebellious step changes. The music of the 1970s can be categorised by bursts of creativity, using existing musical styles to come up with something relevant, new, raw and vital with something important to say. Perhaps more than any other decade, the 1970s produced greater musical diversity than any other before or since. Pop music continued to be commercially successful into the 1970s including artists like David Cassidy, The Osmonds, Abba, The Bay City Rollers and the Jackson 5.

Progressive rock, often abbreviated to ‘prog’, is a broad musical genre that grew largely from psychedelic rock and the British Canterbury Scene to achieve significant appeal in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Progressive rock can be characterised by long instrumental compositions influenced by fusing classical, jazz, rock and folk styles often complemented by elegiac, poetic lyrics. Prog music was usually only released by bands on LP albums rather than singles. Studio technology and instrumental proficiency were central to the artistic soundscapes used. Like most classical music, it was intended to be listened to, rather than danced to. To some critics, prog rock was seen as avant‑garde, pompous, overblown and boring, being not readily accessible to casual listeners. For some prog musicians, it was important to elevate music from largely populist to the status of art and included experimental arrangements to create debate and stimulate interpretation. This attitude was regarded by some as pretentious and elitist, pushing the genre into somewhat of a dead end niche. Prog rock reached its peak around 1973 and had largely been rejected by the rise of punk rock in the mid‑1970s. Early artists associated with prog rock include Procol Harum, Colosseum, Soft Machine, Barclay James Harvest, Caravan and Curved Air, paving the way for the progressive giants of the genre, including Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP), as well as Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield.

The underpinnings of heavy metal began in the late 1960s as hard rock explored new musical territories. Often cited as the pioneers of the genre were Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, all forming in 1968. Arguably, though, the first two, while clearly influencing metal, lean more towards hard rock and its successors. Even though many of the characteristics of metal had been used before, Black Sabbath are widely regarded as the true forefathers of today’s heavy metal. The sound of heavy metal took hard rock and laid on layers of thick, heavy distorted riffs using power chords, high volume levels, searing guitar solos, pounding drums and thundering bass. Vocals were often strong and bold and had a dark or satanic emphasis. During the formative 1970s, there were a few bands that adopted the metal tropes, including Judas Priest. By the end of the 1970s, a new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) was spearheaded by bands such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon and UFO. Although more rock than metal, Motörhead played their part in promoting heavy rock to audiences. The sub‑culture surrounding heavy metal grew alongside the music with fans branded as ‘headbangers’ with a dress code not unlike the rockers of the previous decade but taken further. By 1984 and the release of the mockumentary film ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, metal had reached a point of self‑parody. During the 1980s and beyond, metal gave birth to sub‑genres including hair metal (Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe), thrash metal (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth), groove metal (Pantera, Blackstone Cherry and White Zombie), industrial (Rammstein and Marilyn Manson), alternative metal (Alter Bridge, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot, Deftones, Tool and Queensryche) and nu‑metal (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, Korn and Disturbed), amongst many others such as glam metal, progressive metal, black metal, doom metal, death metal, power metal, metalcore, Christian metal, etc. Possibly more than any other style of music, heavy metal has proliferated sub‑genres.

Glam rock is a relatively short‑lived offshoot of rock music that developed in the early 1970s, particularly in the UK. Glam rock’s heyday was roughly between 1970 and 1975. The music was tightly interwoven with flamboyant and colourful fashions, being performed by musicians who wore outrageous costumes, stark makeup and pronounced hairstyles. The impact of the symbolism was to blur the traditional gender stereotyping that was prevalent before 1970. The visuals often extended to custom instruments used by some artists. Although it may not appear obvious, glam rock influenced subsequent genres such as punk rock, new romantics, Goth rock and new wave that followed. Significant artists included Marc Bolan and T.Rex, David Bowie, Queen, Sweet, Slade, Elton John, Mud, Roxy Music and Gary Glitter. Although its impact was lower profile in the USA, artists such as Alice Cooper, New York Dolls and Iggy Pop adapted glam imagery for their own purposes.

Reggae emanated from Jamaica in the late 1960s and significantly became popular internationally during the 1970s. Reggae evolved from ska and a transitional form between ska and reggae called rocksteady. Reggae is distinctive in that it has a 4/4 rhythm with the drum marking the 3rd beat of the bar with a guitar or keyboard staccato ‘skank’ on the 2nd and 4th (off) beats of the bar. Reggae is also often associated with strong and heavy rhythmic bass lines, sometimes complemented by horn arrangements. Reggae is often but not exclusively connected to Rastafarianism which also features strongly in many reggae songs, as does the use of marijuana. Roots reggae refers to its African roots and the black diaspora. Jamaican record producers also played a strong part in moulding the sound of reggae and developed a complete sub‑genre known as ‘versions’ or dub reggae that used production techniques to remove vocals and remix instrumental elements of drum, bass and guitar. Dub reggae was often played on loud PA sound systems. Key producers include Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby, Mad Professor and Scientist. Reggae has been successfully exported worldwide, although the UK remains a key consumer market. One of the major artists who not only popularised commercial reggae globally but also acted as an ambassador for Jamaica was Bob Marley who, with his band, The Wailers became an international icon. Other major artists also include Peter Tosh, Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear, Augustus Pablo, Horace Andy, I‑Roy, U‑Roy, The Abyssinians, Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, The Upsetters, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash, Third World, Gregory Isaacs and many others. British reggae artists include Aswad, Steel Pulse, Linton Kwesi Johnson and UB40. After Bob Marley’s death, the genre diversified into other forms, such as dancehall and ragga.

The origins of rap and hip hop music derived from vocal a cappella rapping and African American urban street music originating in New York house and block parties in the Bronx during the early 1970s. The largely vernacular spoken rhyming lyrics were backed by rhythmic percussive soul, funk and disco beats of the period. The sub‑culture expanded by the late 1970s to include MCing, DJ scratching, sampling and beatboxing frequently using drum machines. Also associated with rapping were break dancing, urban graffiti art and aggressive gangland/gun culture. The broader cultural definition has become widely known as hip hop, which is the current common categorisation. Early practitioners included Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, the Sugarhill Gang and Afrika Bambaataa. The genre spread widely during the ‘golden age of hip hop’ from the 1980s up to the early 1990s spawning many sub‑genres, often associated with the region or country. For instance, there was intense rivalry between U.S. West Coast and East Coast hip hop during the 1990s, coining the term ‘gangsta rap’. Hip hop became massively influential in many other mainstream musical genres who adapted the rhyming lyrical style and sparse percussive beats. Despite a decline in the mid‑2000s, hip hop is now a global phenomenon with numerous offshoots and diverse styles. While its origins are African American, a few white artists have been successful including the Beastie Boys and Eminem. There are way too many hip hop artists to mention all of them. However, they include Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Ice‑T, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, N.W.A., The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, OutKast, Jay‑Z and Kanye West among many others.

Like other musical forms, funk and disco adapted from previous genres, becoming mainstream during the 1970s. Funk emerged from African American communities and mixed soul, jazz and R&B. Funk is recognisable by have an addictively danceable groove. Funk focused on a strong first beat of the bar and was driven by strong insistent bass and drum rhythms. Funk artists included James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, Parliament/Funkadelic, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind & Fire and Kool & The Gang. Later, artists like Rick James and Prince would adopt funk as a key ingredient in their dance‑fused arrangements. Funk tends to be more musically complex than its sister genre, disco. Disco originated in America and rapidly spread to the UK. It is associated with urban nightclubs and DJs mixing dance records through loud sound systems to audiences in clubs and discothèques. Discos also used complex light and strobes to emphasise the beat. Disco is a heavily produced bass and drum‑driven 4/4 rhythm, often using electronic instruments to add syncopation. Disco’s core rationale was music to dance to, so disco dancing became very popular. Culturally, disco is also associated with fashion, drug use and promiscuity. Disco artists included Gloria Gaynor, The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, The Village People, Sylvester and Chic. Disco was hugely influential on later dance genres such as house, techno, drum ‘n’ bass and rave. Like many other broad genres, funk and disco have diversified into many other related sub‑genres over the years.

Widespread social dissatisfaction and a rejection of established musical forms on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid‑1970s led to the emergence of punk rock. Loud, brash, nihilistic and stripped‑back arrangements performed mainly on guitar, bass and drums were used to support often angry and alienated anti‑establishment lyrics. The result was short, sharp bursts of controversial and provocative music. The emergence of punk in America is associated with artists such as Television, Patti Smith and Ramones, building on the work of proto‑punk bands like Velvet Underground, New York Dolls and Iggy & The Stooges. Meanwhile a parallel evolution in the UK was epitomised by bands such as Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Buzzcocks, Sham 69 and The Ruts. As with many other music‑related sub‑cultures, punk led to distinctive fashions (Vivienne Westwood), art (Jamie Reid) and agressive attitudes. The anarchic punk movement spread rapidly and by 1977 was pervasive in many westernised countries. As popularity increased and punk sensibilities were adopted by the commercial mainstream, the essential ethos of punk imploded and was overtaken by the music business machinery that, ironically, was punk’s original anathema. The demise of chaotic punk rock principles led to post‑punk sub‑genres that expanded its appeal beyond the original audience, including artists like Joy Division, Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Ian Dury, The Cure and The Sisters Of Mercy. Punk in its purest form could not and did not last long. However, it was very influential in subsequent styles such as new wave, new romantic, emo and Goth sub‑genres. Live music venues were very important for audiences to experience the visceral nature of punk rock first hand, including CBGBs in New York and the Marquee in London. Punk saw a revival in the 1990s with bands like Green Day, Blink‑182 and The Offspring but it was far more commercial and lacking the authenticity of the original.

Musical Facts 1970-1979

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

26

January

1970

American folk rock duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel released their 5th and final classic studio album, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’.

3

February

1970

Multi-talented American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, solo artist and member of rock super group The Winery Dogs, Richie Kotzen was born in Reading, Pennsylvania.

13

February

1970

English heavy metal legends Black Sabbath released their classic, game-changing self-titled debut album, ‘Black Sabbath’ in the UK (NB. appropriately on Friday 13th).

14

February

1970

English rock band The Who performed a concert at Leeds University. The show was recorded and released as the band’s first official live album, ‘Live At Leeds’.

5

March

1970

American guitarist, former member of rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers and solo artist, John Frusciante was born in New York City.

9

March

1970

After changing their name from Earth, English heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath performed their debut live concert at the Roundhouse in London.

22

March

1970

Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex released their last studio album before transforming into glam rockers T.Rex, ‘A Beard of Stars’.

10

April

1970

English singer, songwriter and bass guitarist, Paul McCartney issued a press statement that he was leaving The Beatles, signalling the band’s break up.

21

April

1970

American Chicago blues guitarist Earl Hooker died of complications from tuberculosis in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 40.

1

May

1970

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and former member of indie rock band Suede, Bernard Butler was born in London.

3

May

1970

English rock band The Who released their classic live album, ‘Live At Leeds in the UK.

8

May

1970

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles released what would be the group’s 12th and final studio album, ‘Let It Be’, after the band split up.

3

June

1970

British heavy rock band Deep Purple released their classic breakout studio album, ‘Deep Purple in Rock’ in the UK.

5

June

1970

English heavy rock band Deep Purple released their breakthrough hit single ‘Black Night’ in the UK.

6

June

1970

American rhythm guitarist and co-founder of Nu-Metal rock band Korn, James Shaffer (a.k.a. Munky) was born in Bakersfield, California.

8

July

1970

Innovative and massively talented American alternative rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Beck was born in Los Angeles, California.

18

July

1970

London hosted the third Free Concert held in Hyde Park featuring Pink Floyd, Roy Harper, Kevin Ayers, and the Edgar Broughton Band.

14

August

1970

English psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind released their debut studio album, the eponymous, ‘Hawkwind’.

23

August

1970

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed performed his final live concert appearance with The Velvet Underground (bar reunions) at Max’s Kansas City rock club in Manhattan, New York City.

26

August

1970

The famous Isle of Wight Festival began at Afton Down, attracting between 600,000 and 700,000 attendees, the largest open air music festival of its kind. Tickets for the weekend cost £3.

28

August

1970

Well over half a million people attended the 3rd day of the UK’s famous Isle of Wight Festival to see artists including Taste, Chicago, Family and Procol Harum.

29

August

1970

The 4th day of the massive Isle of Wight Festival continued starring Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Ten Years After, ELP, The Doors, The Who and Sly & The Family Stone.

30

August

1970

The 5th and final day of the gigantic Isle of Wight Festival took place starring Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen and Richie Havens.

4

September

1970

English rock group The Rolling Stones released their classic live album, ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ in the UK.

6

September

1970

Legendary American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix played his final live concert at the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany.

11

September

1970

American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix gave his final interview for the UK weekly music magazine New Musical Express (NME).

12

September

1970

London hosted the fourth Free Concert held in Hyde Park (the 2nd that year) featuring Canned Heat, Eric Burdon and War, John Sebastian, Michael Chapman, Stoneground and others.

18

September

1970

Legendary American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jimi Hendrix died tragically of asphyxia in his London flat at the age of 27.

18

September

1970

Pioneering English heavy metal rock band, Black Sabbath released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Paranoid’ in the UK.

19

September

1970

The very first Glastonbury Pop, Folk & Blues Festival took place at Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK, attended by approximately 1,700 people.

19

September

1970

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his classic 3rd studio album, ‘After The Gold Rush’.

1

October

1970

American guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s funeral service took place at Dunlap Baptist Church in his hometown of Seattle before he was buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, also in Seattle.

2

October

1970

English glam rock band Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic breakout hit single ‘Ride A White Swan’ in the UK.

2

October

1970

English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd released their 4th studio album, ‘Atom Heart Mother’ in the UK.

4

October

1970

Respected American rock, soul and blues singer Janis Joplin was found dead following an accidental heroin overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 27.

5

October

1970

English heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin III’ in the UK.

10

October

1970

English heavy metal rock band, Black Sabbath had their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Paranoid’ reach No. 1 in the UK album chart.

23

October

1970

The Jimi Hendrix Experience released the song ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ shortly after the guitarist’s untimely death. It reached number 1 in the UK singles chart.

23

October

1970

English progressive rock band Genesis released their breakout studio album, ‘Trespass’ in the UK.

1

November

1970

Legendary American psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead released their classic 5th studio album, ‘American Beauty’.

4

November

1970

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his classic 3rd studio album, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ in the UK.

6

November

1970

Emerging American rock band Aerosmith made their debut live appearance in the gymnasium at what was Nipmuc Regional High School (now Miscoe Hill Middle School) in Mendon, Massachusetts.

9

November

1970

American blues/rock guitarist, singer and member of the Tedeschi Trucks Band along with hubby, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

15

November

1970

American alternative rock band, The Velvet Underground released their 4th and possibly most commercial studio album, ‘Loaded’.

27

November

1970

Former member of English rock band The Beatles, George Harrison released his hugely successful solo triple studio album, ‘All Things Must Pass’ in the UK.

11

December

1970

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released the first post-Tyrannosaurus Rex studio album, ‘T.Rex’ in the UK.

11

December

1970

English singer and songwriter John Lennon released his post-Beatles solo album, ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ in the UK.

12

December

1970

American rock band, The Doors played their final live concert with singer Jim Morrison at the Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana.

16

January

1971

American blues rock band, ZZ Top, released their debut studio album, ‘ZZ Top’s First Album’ in the UK.

17

March

1971

Renowned Canadian singer, songwriter and poet, Leonard Cohen released his classic 3rd studio album, ‘Songs of Love and Hate’ in the UK.

19

March

1971

English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Aqualung’ in the UK.

16

April

1971

English blues rock band The Rolling Stones released their huge hit single, ‘Brown Sugar’, taken from the album, ‘Sticky Fingers’.

23

April

1971

The Rolling Stones released what was probably their career peak 9th studio album, ‘Sticky Fingers’.

29

April

1971

American rock band, The Doors released their massive 6th studio album, ‘L.A. Woman’, including the classic single, ‘Riders On The Storm’, recorded shortly before singer, Jim Morrison’s death.

22

June

1971

The second Glastonbury Festival took place in Pilton, Somerset, UK, attended by c.12,000 fans. Artists included Hawkwind, Traffic, David Bowie, Joan Baez, Fairport Convention, Quintessence and Melanie.

2

July

1971

English glam rock group T.Rex, led by the late Marc Bolan, released their classic hit single ‘Get It On’.

3

July

1971

American singer, poet and member of rock band The Doors, Jim Morrison died from reported heart failure at an apartment in Paris, France at the age of 27.

6

July

1971

American jazz trumpeter and singer, Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in a New York hospital at the age of 69.

31

July

1971

American guitarist known for his work with heavy rock bands Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, as well as a solo artist, John Lowery (a.k.a. John 5) was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

25

August

1971

English rock band, The Who, released their 5th studio album, ‘Who’s Next’ in the UK.

9

September

1971

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former Beatle, John Lennon released his career-defining solo studio album, ‘Imagine’ in the UK.

15

September

1971

English heavy rock band, Deep Purple released their flaming hot 5th studio album, ‘Fireball’ in the UK.

21

September

1971

UK broadcaster, the BBC aired their highly regarded long-running contemporary music TV programme, ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ for the first time.

8

October

1971

English psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind, released their 2nd studio album ‘In Search Of Space’ in the UK.

29

October

1971

American guitarist and co-founder of rock band The Allman Brothers Band, Duane Allman died tragically in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia at the age of 24.

30

October

1971

English former member of The Beatles, John Lennon had his classic solo studio album, ‘Imagine’ reach number 1 in the UK album chart.

1

November

1971

The classic hit single ‘Jeepster’ was released, performed by English glam rock pioneer Marc Bolan and T.Rex, reaching No. 2 in the UK singles chart.

1

November

1971

British guitarist, singer and songwriter John Martyn released his classic 3rd solo album ‘Bless The Weather’ in the UK.

5

November

1971

Supremely versatile English lead guitarist with alternative rock band Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood was born in Oxford.

8

November

1971

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin released their classic multi-million-selling 4th studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ in the UK, which included the track, ‘Stairway To Heaven’.

12

November

1971

English progressive rock band Genesis released their ambitious 3rd studio album, ‘Nursery Cryme’ in the UK.

13

November

1971

English progressive rock band Pink Floyd released their outstanding 6th studio album, ‘Meddle’ in the UK.

4

December

1971

The Montreux Casino in Switzerland, built in 1881, burnt down during a Frank Zappa gig, inspiring Deep Purple’s classic rock song, ‘Smoke On The Water’.

17

December

1971

Legendary English rock singer, songwriter and actor, David Bowie released his classic 4th studio album, ‘Hunky Dory’ in the UK.

27

December

1971

Remarkable English guitarist with The Aristocrats and noted guitar teacher, Guthrie Govan was born in Chelmsford, Essex.

21

January

1972

English glam rockers Marc Bolan with T.Rex released the classic hit single ‘Telegram Sam’ in the UK.

10

February

1972

English glam rock singer David Bowie made his debut live appearance as his legendary alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust at the Toby Jug pub in London.

17

February

1972

American singer, songwriter, guitarist, front man and co‑founder of pop punk rock band Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Oakland, California.

25

February

1972

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake, released his sublime 3rd and final studio album, ‘Pink Moon’.

25

February

1972

Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Neil Young, released his classic 4th studio album, ‘Harvest’.

3

March

1972

English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Thick As A Brick’ in the UK.

25

March

1972

English heavy rock band Deep Purple released their classic 6th studio album, ‘Machine Head’ in the UK, which included the track, ‘Smoke On The Water’.

29

April

1972

English hard rock band Wishbone Ash released their career-defining classic 3rd studio album, ‘Argus’.

5

May

1972

English glam rockers, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic hit single ‘Metal Guru’ in the UK.

12

May

1972

English rock band, The Rolling Stones released their massive 10th studio double album, ‘Exile On Main Street’.

6

June

1972

English glam rock singer and songwriter, David Bowie released his classic 5th studio album, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’.

3

July

1972

American country blues guitarist, Mississippi Fred McDowell died from cancer in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 66.

23

July

1972

British glam rock band, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic studio album ‘The Slider’ in the UK.

8

September

1972

British glam rock star Marc Bolan and his band T.Rex released the classic hit single ‘Children Of The Revolution’.

11

October

1972

Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana with his band released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Caravanserai’.

17

October

1972

American rapper and hip-hop artist, Eminem was born as Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a.k.a. ‘Slim Shady’ in St. Joseph, Missouri.

10

December

1972

British singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of alternative rock band Placebo, Brian Molko was born in Brussels, Belgium.

5

January

1973

American rock band, Aerosmith, released their eponymous debut studio album, ‘Aerosmith’.

5

January

1973

American singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen released his debut studio album, ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’.

30

January

1973

After changing their name to KISS, the American rock band made their debut live performance in Queens, New York.

1

February

1973

British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn released his classic 4th solo studio album, the sublime and career-defining, ‘Solid Air’.

7

February

1973

American proto punk rock band Iggy The Stooges released their hugely influential 3rd studio album, ‘Raw Power’.

8

February

1973

Max Yasgur, who owned the New York dairy farm on which the legendary Woodstock Festival was held in August 1969, died from a heart attack in Florida at the age of 53.

23

February

1973

English pop/rock band Slade released their classic hit single, ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ in the UK.

2

March

1973

British glam rockers, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic hit single ‘20th Century Boy’ in the UK.

16

March

1973

English progressive rock group Pink Floyd released their career pinnacle 8th studio album, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ in the UK.

23

March

1973

English progressive rock band King Crimson released their 5th studio album, ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic’.

28

March

1973

British heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their 5th studio album, ‘Houses Of The Holy’ in the UK.

12

April

1973

English glam rock singer, David Bowie released his milestone classic 6th studio album, ‘Aladdin Sane’ in the UK.

13

April

1973

Jamaican Reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their classic 4th studio album ‘Catch A Fire’ in the UK.

17

May

1973

American singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, actor and founder of rock bands Queens Of The Stone Age and Eagles Of Death Metal, Josh Homme was born in Joshua Tree, California.

25

May

1973

Richard Branson’s Virgin Records label was launched, marked by the release of Mike Oldfield’s seminal studio album, ‘Tubular Bells’.

18

June

1973

American folk rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Ray LaMontagne was born in New Hampshire.

22

June

1973

English glam rock singer David Bowie released his classic hit single, ‘Life On Mars?’, with ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ on the B-side.

3

July

1973

English glam rock star David Bowie announced that his iconic on-stage persona, Ziggy Stardust was to retire (not Bowie himself, as was widely reported in the press).

13

July

1973

English rock/pop band Queen released their great debut studio album in the UK, the eponymous ‘Queen’.

15

July

1973

American bluegrass and country rock guitarist, a member of rock band The Byrds and an accomplished session musician, Clarence White died in a car accident in Palmdale, California at the age of 29.

26

July

1973

American southern blues/rock power trio ZZ Top released their critically acclaimed 3rd studio album, ‘Tres Hombres’.

6

August

1973

Influential American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Memphis Minnie (real name Lizzie Douglas) died from a stroke in a nursing home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 76.

13

August

1973

American southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their storming debut album, ‘(pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)’, featuring their career-defining signature song, ‘Freebird’.

11

September

1973

American rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bruce Springsteen released his sophomore studio album, ‘The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle’.

19

September

1973

American guitarist with country rock band The Byrds, Gram Parsons died of a drug overdose in Joshua Tree, California at the age of 26.

20

September

1973

American folk/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jim Croce died tragically along with 5 others in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana at the age of 30.

1

October

1973

British singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn released his remarkable change of direction 5th studio album, ‘Inside Out’ in the UK.

9

October

1973

Influential American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe died from a stroke in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 58.

12

October

1973

English progressive rock band Genesis released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Selling England By The Pound’.

19

October

1973

Jamaican reggae legends (Bob Marley &) The Wailers released their classic studio album, ‘Burnin’’ in the UK.

19

October

1973

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 7th studio album comprising cover songs, ‘Pin Ups’ in the UK.

26

October

1973

English rock band, The Who, released their classic 6th studio double album; the rock opera and ode to the UK’s mod movement, ‘Quadrophenia’.

11

November

1973

Legendary Irish blues/rock guitarist, Rory Gallagher, released his 4th studio album, ‘Tattoo’ in the UK.

1

December

1973

English heavy metal band Black Sabbath released their 5th studio album, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’.

5

December

1973

English former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings released his 5th and most successful ‘solo’ studio album, ‘Band On The Run’ in the UK.

10

December

1973

The legendary New York alternative, punk and New Wave music venue at 315 Bowery, Manhattan, CBGB & OMFUG, was opened by club owner Hilly Kristal.

31

December

1973

Australian heavy rock band AC/DC made their debut live performance at a local bar in Sydney, Australia.

17

January

1974

Legendary American guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released the studio album recorded with The Band, ‘Planet Waves’.

15

February

1974

British hard rock band, Deep Purple released their classic 8th studio album, ‘Burn’ in the UK.

20

February

1974

American jazz rock band Steely Dan released their critically well-received and commercially successful classic 3rd studio album, ‘Pretzel Logic’.

8

March

1974

English rock band, Queen released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Queen II’ in the UK.

15

April

1974

American southern rock group, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their classic breakout 2nd studio album ‘Second Helping’.

17

April

1974

Swedish guitarist, singer and songwriter with progressive death metal rock band Opeth, Mikael Åkerfeldt was born in Stockholm.

18

April

1974

Accomplished American guitarist, singer and songwriter with rock bands Creed, Alter Bridge and as a solo artist, Mark Tremonti was born in Detroit, Michigan.

24

April

1974

English glam rock legend, David Bowie released his classic 8th studio album, ‘Diamond Dogs’ in the UK.

1

June

1974

Talented Canadian singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, activist and actress Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario.

15

June

1974

English rock super group Bad Company released their self‑titled debut studio album, ‘Bad Company’ in the UK.

1

July

1974

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton released his classic 2nd studio album, ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’.

21

July

1974

Highly acclaimed Irish blues/rock guitarist Rory Gallagher released his hugely successful live album, ‘Irish Tour ‘74’.

29

July

1974

Perennial Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his classic 5th studio album, ‘On The Beach’.

16

August

1974

American punk rock band Ramones played their first live concert at the legendary CBGB & OMFUG music venue in New York City.

6

September

1974

English space rock band, Hawkwind, released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Hall of the Mountain Grill’.

14

September

1974

English guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton released his cover of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sherriff’ as a single, which reached number 1 in the U.S.

6

October

1974

English progressive rock band King Crimson released their 7th studio album, ‘Red’.

12

October

1974

American punk rock band Blondie made their first appearance at the legendary CBGB & OMFUG music venue in New York City.

25

October

1974

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their studio album, ‘Natty Dread’ in the UK, the first Wailers’ album to bear Marley’s name in the title.

29

October

1974

Hugely impressive American blues/rock guitarist, Eric Gales was born in Memphis, Tennessee.

8

November

1974

English rock band Queen moved in a more commercial direction and released their successful 3rd studio album, ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ in the UK.

18

November

1974

English progressive rock band Genesis released their 6th studio double concept album, and their final LP with singer Peter Gabriel, ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’.

25

November

1974

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake died from a drug overdose at his home in Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire at the age of 26.

28

November

1974

English former Beatle, John Lennon made his final live appearance, joining Elton John on stage at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

16

December

1974

After 5 years as a member of The Rolling Stones, English guitarist, Mick Taylor announced that he was leaving the band.

17

January

1975

English former member of The Beatles John Lennon released his classic solo covers album, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ in the UK.

18

January

1975

American jazz, blues and country rock guitarist, Johnny Hiland was born, growing up in Maine.

20

January

1975

Legendary American guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan released his renaissance studio album, ‘Blood On The Tracks’ in the UK.

24

January

1975

Influential and pioneering British singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn released his 6th studio album, ‘Sunday’s Child’.

7

February

1975

American guitarist and member of nu-metal band Limp Bizkit and Black Light Burns, Wes Borland was born in Richmond, Virginia.

17

February

1975

Australian hard rock band, AC/DC released their debut studio album, ‘High Voltage’.

24

February

1975

English heavy rock band, Led Zeppelin released their epic 6th studio double album, ‘Physical Graffiti’.

7

March

1975

English singer, songwriter and true rock legend, David Bowie released his change of direction classic 9th studio album, the soul-oriented ‘Young Americans’ in the UK.

11

March

1975

English pop/art/rock band 10cc released their hugely successful 3rd studio album, ‘The Original Soundtrack’ in the UK.

16

March

1975

American blues legend, Aaron Thibeaux ‘T-Bone’ Walker died from pneumonia following a stroke in Los Angeles, California at the age of 64.

17

March

1975

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, best known as member of hard rock band The Darkness, Justin Hawkins was born in Chertsey, Surrey.

29

March

1975

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his seminal and commercially successful 2nd solo album, ‘Blow By Blow’ in the UK.

2

April

1975

English super group Bad Company released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Straight Shooter’.

8

April

1975

American hard rock band Aerosmith released one of their most successful records, their 3rd studio album, ‘Toys In The Attic’, including the hit track, ‘Walk This Way’.

9

May

1975

English space rock perennials, Hawkwind, released their 5th studio album ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’ in the UK.

23

May

1975

English pop/rock band 10cc released their superbly written and produced massive hit single, ‘I’m Not In Love’.

20

June

1975

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his classic 6th studio album, ‘Tonight’s The Night’.

23

June

1975

Hugely talented Scottish multi-genre singer, songwriter and guitarist, KT Tunstall was born in Edinburgh.

29

June

1975

Influential American singer, songwriter and guitarist Tim Buckley died from a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 28.

9

July

1975

Mercurial American singer, songwriter and flamboyant guitarist with The White Stripes, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, as well as solo artist, Jack White was born in Detroit, Michigan.

11

July

1975

British/American rock band Fleetwood Mac released their self-titled 10th studio album, ‘Fleetwood Mac’.

17

July

1975

Jamaican reggae icons, Bob Marley And The Wailers performed the first of 2 live concerts at London’s Lyceum. The concerts were recorded for the classic live album, ‘Live!’

25

July

1975

English singer and songwriter, David Bowie released his hit single, ‘Fame’, co-written with Carlos Alomar and with backing vocals by John Lennon. It was reportedly a jibe at Bowie’s artist management.

16

August

1975

English singer and songwriter Peter Gabriel announced that he was leaving Genesis, the progressive rock band he co‑founded.

25

August

1975

American rock icon Bruce Springsteen released his massively successful 3rd studio album, ‘Born To Run’.

1

September

1975

British singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn released his masterful live concert album, ‘Live At Leeds’.

5

September

1975

English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released their 8th studio album, ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’ in the UK (8 September in the U.S.).

12

September

1975

English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd released their massive classic 7th studio album, ‘Wish You Were Here’.

23

October

1975

English singer and songwriter, Elton John received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard.

6

November

1975

British punk rock band, Sex Pistols made their debut live performance as a support act in the Common Room of Saint Martin’s School Of Art at Charing Cross Road in central London.

10

November

1975

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Neil Young with his band Crazy Horse released the classic 7th studio album, ‘Zuma’.

2

December

1975

English pop/rock band Queen released their 4th studio album, ‘A Night At The Opera’, including the massive hit single ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

5

December

1975

Jamaican reggae legends Bob Marley And The Wailers released their classic live album, ‘Live!’ recorded at London’s Lyceum Theatre on 17 & 18 July 1975.

13

December

1975

American punk rock singer, beat poet and political activist, Patti Smith released her classic anti‑establishment debut studio album, ‘Horses’, produced by John Cale.

13

December

1975

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and co‑founder of pop punk rock band Blink-182, Tom DeLonge was born in Poway, California.

20

December

1975

American guitarist Joe Walsh joined the country rock band Eagles, replacing former band guitarist Bernie Leadon.

5

January

1976

Renowned American guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan released his classic mid-career studio album, ‘Desire’ in the UK.

10

January

1976

American blues legend Howlin’ Wolf died from complications of kidney surgery in Hines, Illinois at the age of 65.

23

January

1976

Legendary English rock singer and songwriter, David Bowie released his classic 10th studio album, ‘Station To Station’.

9

March

1976

Country music legend Johnny Cash received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6320 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

March

1976

The classic sci-fi film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring English singer David Bowie was released in the UK.

19

March

1976

English guitarist with rock band Free, Paul Kossoff died from a drug-related heart attack on a flight from Los Angeles to New York City at the age of 25.

21

March

1976

Guitar pioneer, innovator and entrepreneur, Adolph Rickenbacker died from cancer in Orange County, California at the age of 89.

23

March

1976

English heavy metal band Judas Priest released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’.

26

March

1976

Irish rock group, Thin Lizzy released their breakout classic 6th studio album, ‘Jailbreak’.

28

March

1976

American guitarist with rock group The Killers, Dave Keuning was born in Pella, Iowa.

31

March

1976

Legendary English heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their 7th studio album, ‘Presence’.

3

April

1976

British pop group Brotherhood Of Man won the 21st Eurovision Song Contest with, ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’.

23

April

1976

American punk rock band, Ramones released their eponymous debut studio album, ‘Ramones’.

30

April

1976

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their commercially successful studio album, ‘Rastaman Vibration’.

3

May

1976

American hard rock band, Aerosmith, released their 4th studio album, ‘Rocks’.

4

July

1976

British punk rock band The Clash made their live concert debut supporting the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan pub (known to locals as ‘The Mucky Duck’) in Sheffield, England.

27

July

1976

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former member of The Beatles, John Lennon, finally had his application for permanent American residency approved by the U.S. Government.

31

July

1976

American hard rock band, Blue Öyster Cult released their signature tune and huge commercial hit, the classic single, ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’.

29

August

1976

Exemplary American blues guitarist and singer, Jimmy Reed died from respiratory failure in Oakland, California at the age of 50.

13

September

1976

American southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released their great live double album ‘One More From The Road’ in the US.

7

October

1976

Following an appeal hearing, English former member of The Beatles, John Lennon had his permanent residency of the USA confirmed.

8

October

1976

American jazz fusion pioneer and bass guitarist Stanley Clarke released his ground breaking studio album ‘School Days’.

22

October

1976

Influential American poet, singer, songwriter, artist and activist Patti Smith released her 2nd studio album, ‘Radio Ethiopia’.

24

October

1976

Legendary Irish guitarist, Rory Gallagher, released his classic 6th studio album, ‘Calling Card’.

25

November

1976

Canadian/American rock group, The Band, played their final concert in San Francisco, California, ‘The Last Waltz’, documented by filmmaker Martin Scorsese.

26

November

1976

English punk rock pioneers, Sex Pistols released their controversial debut single, ‘Anarchy In The UK’ on EMI Records.

2

December

1976

The photoshoot for the iconic album cover to Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ (released in 1977) took place at Battersea Power Station in London, complete with giant inflatable pig.

3

December

1976

Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley was wounded when gunmen shot him, his wife and manager at his home in Kingston. The incident was widely thought to be a politically motivated act.

5

December

1976

French electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre released his milestone 3rd studio album Oxygène in France.

8

December

1976

American country rock band Eagles released their top‑selling and career-defining classic 5th studio album, ‘Hotel California’.

12

December

1976

English guitarist with hard rock bands The Darkness and Stone Gods, Dan Hawkins was born in Chertsey, Surrey.

28

December

1976

American blues guitar legend, Freddie King died of complications from ulcers and acute pancreatitis in Texas at the age of 42.

14

January

1977

English rock singer David Bowie released his 11th studio album and the first part of his highly acclaimed ‘Berlin Trilogy’, ‘Low’ in the UK.

23

January

1977

Highly acclaimed English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd, released their 10th studio album, ‘Animals’, in the UK.

4

February

1977

Anglo-American rock band, Fleetwood Mac released their massive career-topping 11th studio album, ‘Rumours’ in the US.

26

February

1977

American delta blues guitarist and singer Booker T. Washington ‘Bukka’ White died from cancer in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 67 or 70 (age disputed).

2

March

1977

English singer, songwriter, co-founder and front man of band Coldplay, Chris Martin was born in Exeter, Devon.

10

March

1977

English punk rock band Sex Pistols controversially ‘signed’ a short-lived recording contract with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace in London.

21

March

1977

Australian hard blues/rock band, AC/DC, released their 4th studio album, ‘Let There Be Rock’.

8

April

1977

English punk rock band, The Clash released their classic eponymous debut studio album, ‘The Clash’. Often considered to be one of the finest British punk albums.

8

May

1977

Great American blues rock guitar maestro, Joe Bonamassa was born in New Hartford, New York.

27

May

1977

In the same year as Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, British punk pioneers Sex Pistols released their controversial 2nd single, ‘God Save The Queen’ in the UK.

31

May

1977

The BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority banned the Sex Pistols’ controversial single, ‘God Save The Queen’ from being played on UK radio for being “in gross bad taste”.

3

June

1977

Jamaican reggae icons Bob Marley & The Wailers released their career-defining massively successful 9th studio album, ‘Exodus’.

12

June

1977

Talented American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Kenny Wayne Shepherd was born in Shreveport Louisiana.

15

June

1977

English punk rock band Sex Pistols infamously performed ‘Anarchy In The UK’ aboard a party boat on the River Thames outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

20

June

1977

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his 8th studio album, ‘American Stars ‘n Bars’.

30

June

1977

Marvel Comics published the first comic book with characters loosely based on members of the American rock band KISS.

2

July

1977

British punk rock pioneers Sex Pistols released their controversial 3rd single, ‘Pretty Vacant’ in the UK.

16

August

1977

American rock ‘n’ roll legend, Elvis Presley died from a drug-related heart attack in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 42.

18

August

1977

The funeral of American singing legend, Elvis Presley took place at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

11

September

1977

Welsh guitarist and co-founder of rock band Coldplay, Jonny Buckland was born in London.

16

September

1977

Flamboyant English glam rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and later T.Rex died tragically in a car accident in London at the age of 29.

16

September

1977

American alternative rock band, Talking Heads, released their remarkable debut studio album, ‘Talking Heads: 77’.

23

September

1977

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released the single ‘Heroes’, which would become one of his greatest signature songs.

24

September

1977

English heavy rock band Motörhead released their debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Motörhead’ in the UK.

30

September

1977

English post-punk and new wave singer, songwriter and actor, Ian Dury released his debut studio album with The Blockheads, ‘New Boots And Panties!!’ in the UK.

30

September

1977

Fiery American blues/rock guitarist and member of Supersonic Blues Machine, Lance Lopez was born in Galveston, Texas.

7

October

1977

English guitarist Steve Hackett left progressive rock band Genesis to pursue a successful solo career.

12

October

1977

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Springsteen released his 4th studio album, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’.

14

October

1977

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 12th studio album, ‘Heroes’, the 2nd part of his famed ‘Berlin Trilogy’.

16

October

1977

Award-winning American blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer John Mayer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

17

October

1977

American southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released their 5th studio album, ‘Street Survivors’, just days before the band’s tragic plane crash.

20

October

1977

Several members of American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, including singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, singer Cassie Gaines were among those tragically killed and injured in a plane crash near Gillsburgh, Mississippi.

21

October

1977

American rock band, Meat Loaf, released their best‑selling debut studio album, ‘Bat Out Of Hell’.

28

October

1977

English punk rock band, Sex Pistols released their controversial debut (and currently only) studio album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols’.

4

November

1977

American punk rock pioneers, Ramones released their definitive 3rd studio album, ‘Rocket To Russia’.

4

November

1977

British guitarist, singer and songwriter John Martyn released his classic 7th solo studio album, ‘One World’ in the UK.

25

November

1977

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton released his classic 5th studio album, ‘Slowhand’.

1

December

1977

American guitarist, producer and founding member of nu-metal rock band Linkin Park, Brad Delson was born in Agoura, California.

25

January

1978

After changing their name from Warsaw to Joy Division, the post-punk rock band made their first live performance in Manchester, UK.

6

February

1978

Influential Dutch/American guitarist, Eddie Van Halen released the eponymous debut studio album that launched the band’s career ‘Van Halen’.

10

February

1978

English heavy metal band Judas Priest released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Stained Class’.

3

March

1978

American punk rock singer, poet, activist and artist, Patti Smith released her classic 3rd studio album, ‘Easter’.

23

March

1978

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their 9th studio album and follow up to the massive ‘Exodus’, ‘Kaya’.

5

April

1978

English new romantic and pop/rock band Duran Duran performed their debut live concert at Birmingham Polytechnic.

15

May

1978

Antipodean heavy rock band, AC/DC released their storming 5th studio album, ‘Powerage’.

19

May

1978

British rock band, Dire Straits released their breakout debut single, ‘Sultans of Swing’ in the UK.

2

June

1978

Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy released their massive live double album, ‘Live And Dangerous’ in the UK.

9

June

1978

Mercurial English guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of rock band Muse, Matt Bellamy was born in Cambridge.

7

July

1978

American indie rock band, Talking Heads, released their 2nd studio album, ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’.

7

September

1978

English drummer with rock band The Who, Keith Moon, died of a drug overdose in London at the age of 31.

12

October

1978

English bass guitarist with the Sex Pistols, John Ritchie (a.k.a. Sid Vicious) was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.

30

October

1978

American punk rock band Blondie released their single ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, their first Top 10 hit in the UK singles chart.

2

November

1978

English post-punk rock band The Police released their astounding debut studio album, ‘Outlandos d’Amour’ in the UK.

11

November

1978

The first commercially available vinyl 7” single picture disc was released by the Elektra label, featuring The Cars, ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’.

23

November

1978

American singer, songwriter, artist and occasional guitarist with rock bands, The Kills and The Dead Weather, Alison Mosshart was born in Vero Beach, Florida.

2

January

1979

The trial of English bass guitarist with Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious, started in New York. He was accused of murdering his American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen in 1978.

31

January

1979

American virtuoso jazz guitarist Grant Green died of a heart attack while on the road in New York City at the age of 43.

2

February

1979

English bass guitarist of Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious (John Ritchie) died from a heroin overdose in New York City at the age of 21.

7

February

1979

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Stephen Stills became the first major rock artist to record tracks using digital studio equipment at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, California.

3

March

1979

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, Frank Zappa released his highly successful and humorous part studio, part live double album, ‘Sheik Yerbouti’.

12

March

1979

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of indie rock bands The Libertines and Babyshambles, Pete Doherty was born in Hexham, Northumberland.

24

March

1979

English rock band, Motörhead hit the mainstream with the release of their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Overkill’.

8

May

1979

English indie rock giants The Cure released their debut studio album, ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ in the UK.

14

May

1979

Great American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and member of blues rock band The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach was born in Akron, Ohio.

18

May

1979

Legendary English rock singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 13th studio album and the third part of his ‘Berlin Trilogy’, ‘Lodger’.

8

June

1979

American guitarist, songwriter, member of rock band The Allman Brothers Band and founder of The Derek Trucks Band, Derek Trucks was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

15

June

1979

English post-punk band Joy Division released their impressive debut studio album, ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

20

June

1979

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, former member of indie rock band Ash and then solo artist, Charlotte Hatherley was born in London.

29

June

1979

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with Little Feat, Lowell George died from a cocaine-related heart attack in Arlington, Virginia at the age of 34.

1

July

1979

Japanese technology company Sony launched the first Walkman portable media player, capable of playing Compact Cassettes while on the move.

27

July

1979

Australian hard rock band AC/DC released their classic 6th studio album, ‘Highway To Hell’.

3

August

1979

American alternative rock band Talking Heads released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Fear Of Music’, produced by Brian Eno.

11

August

1979

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin played their final UK concert with their original line up at Knebworth Festival in Hertfordshire.

12

August

1979

American pop singer and songwriter Michael Jackson released his 5th studio album, ‘Off The Wall’, marking his status as a global superstar.

15

August

1979

English heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their last album with their original group line up, ‘In Through The Out Door’.

24

August

1979

American guitarist Peter Frampton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6819 Hollywood Boulevard.

17

September

1979

American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer Frank Zappa released his studio album, ‘Joe’s Garage Act I’. The first of 3 ‘parts’.

29

September

1979

English post-punk rock trio The Police had their first UK No.1 hit single with, ‘Message In A Bottle’, the band’s 3rd Top 20 hit.

2

October

1979

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their studio album, ‘Survival’ in the UK.

2

October

1979

English post-punk rock band The Police released their massively commercial chart-topping 2nd studio album, ‘Reggatta de Blanc’ in the UK.

7

October

1979

English post-punk rock band Joy Division released their debut single ‘Transmission’ on Factory Records in the UK.

19

October

1979

Anglo-American rock group Fleetwood Mac released their divisive, experimental 12th studio album, ‘Tusk’ amidst reports of the band’s excess.

27

October

1979

English rock band Motörhead released their strong 3rd studio album, ‘Bomber’ in the UK, with the classic line up of Lemmy, Eddie Clarke and Phil Taylor.

19

November

1979

American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer Frank Zappa released his classic studio double album, ‘Joe’s Garage Acts II & III’.

30

November

1979

English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd released their epic 11th studio double concept album, ‘The Wall’. Estimated worldwide sales are around 30 million copies.

14

December

1979

English punk rock band, The Clash released their mighty 3rd studio double album, ‘London Calling’ in the UK.

Tailpiece

That’s more than enough for now! Looking at the list of artists, it is a veritable roll call of modern music. Just contrast the albums that started and ended the decade to see how much irreversible change had occurred in just 10 years. For many, the 1970s was the last decade to witness truly fundamental changes in musical and social paradigms. While not being strictly true, it was always going to be a tough task to sustain the energy and innovation of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s into subsequent decades. However, this didn’t stop existing and emerging artists trying to break the constraints of predictability. So, the 1980s was to prove a different kettle of fish altogether and that is what the story seeks to explore in the next article. Are you with me? Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Nobody should have to play a secondary character in their own life”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

← Return to ‘Musings’ page

Like it? Why not share it?

July 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part V

Introduction

Okeydokey guitar and music fans out there. If you are reading this 5th part of the series of articles, I hope you know the routine by now, so I won’t bore you with any further preamble and we can get on with the latest episode.

If you would like to (re)visit the first four parts (covering 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Before we delve in to the Fifties, I was asked a very good question following the last article, which was…

Question(s): “A young Elvis Presley sang ‘Old Shep’ in a talent contest… he came 2nd. I would dearly like to know who beat the future ‘King’ of rock and roll. Do you happen to know if it was a fellow pop star?”

Answer: Many reports say that the young Elvis came 2nd. However, in a later interview, Presley said that he came 5th. The photograph of the prize giving presentation suggests that Presley may be correct in his recollection as three others are holding prizes while the young Presley, standing on the far right of the photo below wearing glasses, is standing empty-handed. The winners, as far as anyone knows, did not go on to become famous.

 

This also raises the point of illustrating the facts. I actually have some interesting images for each and every fact listed in these articles. While a picture can convey many words, to add that many photos, each publication would become humongous to wade through. I know people like to see pictures, rather than read volumes of sometimes repetitive narrative. On this occasion, it is probably better not to illustrate each fact. Apologies to all the picture loving people out there.

Once again, so much happened in the course of the 1950s that the decade demands a discrete article to itself. Let’s go…

The Story of Modern Music Part V 1950-1959

For many people, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll heralded a whole new era of popular music. So, as we get to the 1950s, this article will cover what was going on in the world that enabled such a musical revolution to take place and the fundamental cultural changes that went along with it. The world would never be the same again. It is worth remembering that, at the time, not everyone was excited about change and many conservative traditionalists fiercely rejected and resisted such a rebellious and irreversible transformation.

Historical Context 1950-1959

For most developed economies, the 1950s was a period of slow recovery from the severe consequences of WWII. However, the world was not without conflict and warfare in many other regions including in Asia, Africa and South America. The Cold War continued to fester, fuelled by intense competition between the democratic United States and communism Soviet Russia. The bitter rivalry included reciprocal nuclear weapons testing, military escalation and the start of the ‘space race’. The McCarthy ‘witch hunts’ of communist subversive and treasonous American citizens fuelled bitter political conspiracy and widespread public paranoia. The threat of mutually assured destruction maintained a fragile stalemate between west and east. By the end of the decade, as employment and income levels began to improve, individual freedoms and opportunities would lead to a paradigm shift in civilised countries including radical social, political, technological and cultural change that would set the dynamic scene for following decades.

Year

Global Events

1950

The Korean War started between the communist North supported by Russia and China, and the capitalist South supported by America – the war lasted until 1953 when the Korean Demilitarized Zone was implemented to separate North and South.

1951

The precursor to the European Union, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was formed when six countries signed the Treaty of Paris.

1952

British monarch, King George VI died and Elizabeth II became Queen of the United Kingdom.

 

Republican politician and army general Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected 34th President of the U.S.A.

1953

New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.

 

One of the first films to depict youthful rebellion and which would become a reflection on American social tensions, ‘The Wild One’ was released, directed by Laslo Benedek and starring Marlon Brando.

 

The scientific paper describing the double-helix structure of DNA was authored by Britain Francis Crick and American James Watson.

1954

The term rock ‘n’ roll was coined by DJ Alan Freed and the associated teen culture became hugely popular, particularly in America and Britain.

 

British athlete Roger Bannister becomes the first man to run the four minute mile.

1955

Renowned German physicist Albert Einstein died in Princeton, New Jersey, America in 1955 at the age of 76.

 

The Warsaw Pact defence treaty between Russia and seven neighbouring Eastern Bloc states was signed during the ‘Cold War’ standoff.

 

The classic film drama of teen alienation, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ was released, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Dean.

 

The phenomenally successful MacDonald’s fast food chain was established in America by Ray Kroc.

 

The Vietnam War between the Communist North and the Capitalist South started, which lasted until 1975.

1956

The Suez Crisis erupted following Egyptian nationalisation of the Suez Canal, creating conflict in the Middle East.

1957

Russia launched the Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite into space, effectively triggering the space race.

 

The European Economic Community (EEC) was established when six countries signed the Treaty of Rome.

1958

The American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was set up in Washington D.C.

1959

Marxist leader Fidel Castro established the long‑standing communist dictatorship in Cuba after overthrowing the Batista regime.

 

The British Motor Corporation launched the revolutionary and hugely successful small family car, the Mini, designed by Sir Alec Issigonis. The original model stayed in production until 2000.

 

Alaska and Hawaii formally become an integral part of the United States of America.

Musical Genre Development 1950-1959

The 1950s was a decade of innovation that saw the massive explosion of musical creativity across many genres, fusing influences and generating many new musical styles. Arguably, it was during the 1950s that modern music ‘grew up’ and any suggestions that the popular music crazes of the time were ephemeral ‘fads’ were finally dispelled. Country music remained popular with artists such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams at the forefront of a revival.

Possibly not a genre in itself but easy listening music became popular in the 1950s and lasted until the 1970s. A form of middle‑of‑the‑road (MOR) music, it found popularity on radio and then extended into various styles of background music, elevator music or ‘muzak’. Easy listening music was often instrumental or vocal interpretations of past popular music standards, rather than anything new in its own right. Some major artists tapped into the appeal, including Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Herp Alpert, The Carpenters and Richard Clayderman.

In the post‑war years, modernistic music, broadly also encompassing experimental and avant‑garde music was being explored by many composers wishing to push boundaries either within existing traditions or by introducing original elements outside prevailing styles. The aim of many composers was to break rules, reject established conventions and challenge audiences in a creative, if frequently alienating, way. Practitioners included Arnold Schoenberg and John Cage.

During the 1950s rhythm and blues music, often shortened to R&B, became popular, being a more upbeat form of blues music. R&B emanated from mainly African‑American music that was widespread during the late 1940s. Record companies promoted R&B toward predominantly urban African American audiences. R&B’s popularity was based on a fusing many influences such as jazz, blues, country and gospel to create strongly rhythmic, beat‑based songs. R&B would, in turn, influence the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll and soul of the late 1950s and 1960s. In response to other influences, R&B changed to include other styles such as doo‑wop. Famous R&B artists of the time included Ray Charles, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, The Platters and the Coasters.

By the mid‑1950s, the cultural clash of blues, jazz and country combined to create a new phenomenon in the United States, rock ‘n’ roll, a phrase popularised by radio disc jockey Alan Freed in 1954. Bill Haley (And His Comets) is often credited as the catalyst although many other artists were instrumental in creating the new youth musical revolution, including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Rockabilly was a very close relation to rock ‘n’ roll at the time popularised by artists such as Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Classic rock ‘n’ roll is essentially based on a backbeat dance rhythm performed on electric guitar, bass, and drums, replacing the piano and saxophone as lead instruments. The cultural importance of rock ‘n’ roll cannot be underestimated and its impact went far beyond just a musical genre, influencing lifestyle, film & TV, art, fashion, attitudes, and language. Although its roots can be traced back to the 1930s, it was in the 1950s that rock ‘n’ roll began to pervade modern society, coming as it did at a time of immense post‑war technological, economic, social and political change. On the back of radio coverage, the 45rpm single record would provide a massive boost to sales of rock ‘n’ roll songs to America’s urban counterculture youth. Rock ‘n’ roll began to decline by the early 1960s as other forms of popular music began to dilute its impact.

Musical Facts 1950-1959

During the Fifties, many more household names that we take for granted today came into the world. Modern music began the transition from the traditional forms to more contemporary genres. As younger artists born in the 1930s and 1940s began to create the ‘new’ music, the shift in the balance of ‘facts’ from births, through achievements, to deaths are just beginning to become apparent.

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

5

January

1950

American guitarist, producer, photographer and co‑founder of punk/new wave/pop band Blondie, Chris Stein was born in Brooklyn, New York.

12

February

1950

English guitarist, former member of progressive rock band Genesis and now a successful solo artist, Steve Hackett was born in London.

13

February

1950

English solo singer, songwriter and ex-member of progressive rock band Genesis, Peter Gabriel was born in Chobham, Surrey.

19

February

1950

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of rock group Wishbone Ash, Andy Powell was born in London.

20

February

1950

American bassist, guitarist, songwriter and co‑founder of jazz rock band Steely Dan, Walter Becker (1950-2017, 67) was born in New York City.

24

February

1950

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and perennial rocker George Thorogood was born in Wilmington, Delaware.

22

April

1950

English born American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Peter Frampton was born 1950 in Bromley, Kent.

13

May

1950

Legendary American soul singer, songwriter, keyboard player and producer, Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan.

13

May

1950

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of Anglo‑American rock group Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972, Danny Kirwan (1950-2018, 68) was born in London.

3

June

1950

Pioneering American singer, songwriter, bass guitarist and actor, Suzi Quatro was born in Detroit, Michigan.

18

July

1950

English business entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin empire including Virgin Records and Virgin record stores, Richard Branson was born in London

2

August

1950

English guitarist and singer, best known for his work with rock band Wishbone Ash, Ted Turner was born in Sheldon, Birmingham.

30

August

1950

English guitarist with, amongst others, Whitesnake and Snafu, Micky Moody was born in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire.

10

September

1950

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of rock band Aerosmith, Joe Perry was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

14

September

1950

Great English guitarist and co-founder off blues/rock band Free, Paul Kossoff (1950-1976, 25) was born in London.

2

October

1950

English guitarist, bass guitarist and founding member of progressive rock bands Genesis and Mike + The Mechanics, Mike Rutherford was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

5

October

1950

Great English guitarist and one-time member of rock band Motörhead, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (1950-2018, 67) was born in London.

20

October

1950

Legendary American singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and bandleader of The Heartbreakers, Tom Petty (1950-2017, 66) was born in Gainesville, Florida.

22

November

1950

American guitarist, actor and member of Bruce Springsteen’s E. Street Band, Steven Van Zandt was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

22

November

1950

American bass guitarist and co-founder of post-punk alternative rock bands Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, Tina Weymouth was born in Coronado, California.

9

December

1950

Award-winning British singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joan Armatrading was born in Basseterre, Saint Kitts in the Caribbean.

31

January

1951

English guitarist, producer and former member of art rock bands Roxy Music, 801 and Quiet Sun, Phil Manzanera was born in London.

1

February

1951

Great American blues guitarist and skilled slide guitarist, Sonny Landreth was born in Canton, Mississippi.

4

March

1951

Highly accomplished English pop, rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Chris Rea was born in Middlesbrough.

6

March

1951

Terrific American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Walter Trout was born in Ocean City, New Jersey.

17

March

1951

American guitarist, best known as co-lead guitarist with rock bands Thin Lizzy and more recently, Black Star Riders, Scott Gorham was born in Glendale California.

20

March

1951

American blues/rock guitarist, singer, bandmate and older brother of the late Stevie Ray, Jimmie Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas.

27

April

1951

American guitarist, songwriter, co-founder and former member of hard rock group, KISS, nicknamed ‘Spaceman’, Ace Frehley was born in The Bronx, New York City.

7

May

1951

Formidable Puerto Rican/American rock guitarist, who frequently played with David Bowie and James Brown, Carlos Alomar was born in Ponce.

7

May

1951

Prolific English guitarist and former member of heavy rock band Whitesnake, Bernie Marsden was born in Buckingham, Buckinghamshire.

21

June

1951

American rock guitarist, often seen as sideman to ‘The Boss’, as well as a solo artist, Nils Lofgren was born in Chicago, Illinois.

30

June

1951

Amazing American jazz fusion bass guitarist, composer and founding member of Return to Forever, Stanley Clarke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

2

August

1951

English guitarist and member of psychedelic progressive rock band Gong and founder of electronic dance band System 7, Steve Hillage was born in London.

19

August

1951

Retired English bass guitarist for the rock/pop band Queen, John Deacon was born in Leicester.

21

August

1951

English bass guitarist, solo artist, one time member of hard rock band Deep Purple and currently with super group Black Country Communion, Glenn Hughes was born in Cannock, Staffordshire.

7

September

1951

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of post‑punk rock/pop group The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde was born in Akron, Ohio.

18

September

1951

American punk rock pioneer, bass guitarist and member of the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone (1951-2002, 50) was born in Fort Lee, Virginia.

2

October

1951

English singer, songwriter, bass guitarist, actor, ex‑member of rock band The Police and successful solo artist, Gordon Sumner CBE, a.k.a. Sting, was born in Wallsend, Northumberland.

3

October

1951

Award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Keb’ Mo’ was born in Los Angeles, California.

26

October

1951

Flamboyant American bass guitarist and singer with funk/soul artists James Brown and Funkadelic/Parliament, the illustrious Bootsy Collins was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1

December

1951

Influential virtuoso American jazz bass guitarist who worked with Weather Report, Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell, as well as a solo artist, the incomparable Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987, 35) was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

4

December

1951

American guitarist and founding member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

16

December

1951

Influential American jazz, blues and rock guitarist Robben Ford was born in Woodlake, California.

26

December

1951

Talented American jazz/rock guitarist who has collaborated with many great musicians over the course of his career, John Scofield was born in Dayton, Ohio.

11

January

1952

American contemporary jazz session and solo guitarist, Lee Ritenour was born in Los Angeles, California.

20

January

1952

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, artist and long‑term member of iconic rock band KISS, nicknamed ‘The Starchild’, Paul Stanley was born in New York City.

7

March

1952

The influential and popular weekly music magazine, The New Musical Express (NME), was launched in the UK.

7

March

1952

American guitarist (as well as bassist and drummer), singer, songwriter and member of funk band The Isley Brothers, Ernie Isley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

17

March

1952

Irish guitarist and member of heavy rock bands Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne, Bernie Tormé (1952-2019, 66) was born in Dublin.

2

April

1952

American bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson (1952-2001, 49) was born in Newport, Rhode Island.

4

April

1952

Legendary Northern Irish blues and rock guitarist extraordinaire, Gary Moore (1952-2011, 58) was born in Belfast.

14

May

1952

Scottish/American singer, songwriter, guitarist founder of alternative rock band Talking Heads and solo artist, David Byrne, was born in Dumbarton, Scotland.

15

July

1952

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of proto punk rock band New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders (John Genzale, 1952-1991, 38) was born in Queens, New York.

19

July

1952

American guitarist and member of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allen Collins (1952-1990, 37) was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

21

August

1952

Hugely influential English guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor and co-founder of punk rock bands The Clash and The Mescaleros, the great Joe Strummer (1952-2002, 50) was born in Ankara, Turkey.

19

September

1952

Legendary American guitarist, songwriter, producer and co‑founder of funk/disco/dance band Chic, Nile Rodgers was born in New York.

1

October

1952

Great American rock guitarist and sideman extraordinaire, Earl Slick was born in Brooklyn, New York.

8

November

1952

The UK’s first ever popular music singles chart was introduced by The New Musical Express (NME) magazine. At Number 1 was Al Martino with ‘Here In My Heart’.

14

November

1952

Versatile and prolific American guitarist and songwriter, Johnny A (a.k.a. John Antonopoulos) was born in Malden, Massachusetts.

1

January

1953

American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, Hank Williams died of drug and alcohol-related heart failure in Oak Hill, West Virginia at the age of 29.

6

January

1953

Scottish-born guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock band AC/DC, Malcolm Young (1953-2017, 64) was born in Glasgow.

10

January

1953

American jazz guitarist who has played with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham and Miles Davis, as well a successful solo artist, Mike Stern was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

20

February

1953

American guitarist and co-founder of psychobilly rock band, The Cramps, Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) was born in San Bernardino, California.

19

March

1953

American bass player who has played with many great musicians and has a successful solo career, Billy Sheehan was born in Buffalo, New York.

28

April

1953

American bassist, guitarist, and vocalist of alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon was born in Rochester, New York.

5

May

1953

Highly respected English folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Martin Simpson was born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.

15

May

1953

English multi-instrumentalist, composer and talented guitarist, the man behind ‘Tubular Bells’ in 1973, Mike Oldfield was born in Reading, Berkshire.

16

May

1953

Mercurial Belgian-born French gypsy jazz guitarist and composer, Django Reinhardt died from a brain haemorrhage in Fontainebleau, France at the age of 43.

29

July

1953

Influential Canadian singer, songwriter and bass guitarist with rock band Rush, Geddy Lee was born in North York, Ontario.

1

August

1953

Award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and band leader, Robert Cray was born in Columbus, Georgia.

27

August

1953

Hugely influential Canadian guitarist and co-founder of rock group Rush, Alex Lifeson was born in Toronto, Ontario.

27

September

1953

Great Jamaican reggae riddim ‘n’ dub bass guitarist and producer, Robbie Shakespeare, best known as half of Sly & Robbie was born in Kingston.

18

December

1953

American guitarist and singer, well known for his work with The Cars up to 1988, Elliott Easton was born in Brooklyn, New York.

27

February

1954

American guitarist and member of rock groups Santana, Journey and Bad English, Neal Schon was born in Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

16

March

1954

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and core member of the rock band Heart, Nancy Wilson was born in San Francisco, California.

12

April

1954

Canadian guitarist and singer who has collaborated with many artists over the years and is bandleader of the Pat Travers Band, Pat Travers was born in Toronto, Ontario.

10

May

1954

American rock ‘n’ roll pioneers, Bill Haley And His Comets originally released ‘(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock’. The world wasn’t ready yet and it didn’t hit the charts until 1955.

12

July

1954

19‑year old American singer, Elvis Presley left his job and signed his first recording contract with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

19

July

1954

American record label, Sun Records released the debut single by aspiring American rock ‘n’ roll singer, Elvis Presley, ‘That’s All Right’.

22

July

1954

Virtuoso American jazz fusion/Latin rock guitarist Al Di Meola was born in Jersey City, New Jersey.

28

July

1954

Multi-talented American guitarist and member of hard rock band Deep Purple since 1994, Steve Morse was born in Hamilton, Ohio.

12

August

1954

Influential American virtuoso progressive jazz fusion guitarist, Pat Metheny was born in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

17

August

1954

Award-winning American virtuoso instrumental rock guitarist Eric Johnson was born in Austin, Texas.

25

August

1954

English punk, pop and alternative rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Declan MacManus (a.k.a. Elvis Costello) was born in London.

3

October

1954

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954‑1990, 35) was born in Dallas, Texas.

1

December

1954

Australian-born British guitarist, singer and songwriter with punk rock band The Slits, Viv Albertine was born in Sydney.

18

December

1954

German guitarist, known for his work with Scorpions and the innovator behind the Sky Guitar, Uli Jon Roth was born in Düsseldorf.

7

January

1955

The classic hit song, ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was re‑released by Bill Haley & His Comets, entering the UK singles chart. Rock ‘n’ roll had truly arrived.

10

January

1955

German guitarist, best known as a member of rock bands Scorpions and UFO, as well as a successful solo career with his own band, Michael Schenker was born in Sarstedt.

24

January

1955

English pianist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, TV presenter and former member of Squeeze, Jools Holland was born in London.

26

January

1955

Dutch/American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Eddie Van Halen was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

5

March

1955

American singer Elvis Presley made his American television debut on the KWKH TV show ‘Louisiana Hayride’ broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana.

31

March

1955

Australian guitarist and co-founder of hard rock band AC/DC, Angus Young was born in Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

13

April

1955

American bass guitarist with funk masters Brothers Johnson, Louis Johnson (1955-2015, 60) was born in Los Angeles, California.

31

May

1955

Australian virtuoso session musician and solo guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel was born in Muswellbrook, New South Wales.

26

June

1955

English guitarist and co-founder of punk rock band The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite, Mick Jones was born in London.

1

September

1955

English bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known for his work with punk rock band, The Jam from 1972 to 1982, Bruce Foxton was born in Woking, Surrey.

3

September

1955

English guitarist and ex-member of punk rock band Sex Pistols, Steve Jones was born in London.

12

November

1955

Hugely influential Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, former member of Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, as well as a phenomenal solo artist, the incomparable Neil Young was born in Toronto, Ontario.

15

December

1955

English bass guitarist best known as a member of punk rock icons The Clash and more recently collaborating with Damon Albarn in The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Paul Simonon was born in Croydon.

4

January

1956

English singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and founding member of post-punk rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Bernard Sumner was born in Salford.

10

January

1956

The ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, Elvis Presley made his first recordings for RCA/Victor, including the classic hit single, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

27

January

1956

Legendary American singer, Elvis Presley released his classic breakout single for RCA, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

28

January

1956

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley made his first national television appearance in America on the CBS TV programme, the ‘Dorsey Brothers Stage Show’.

31

January

1956

English singer and member of punk rock bands Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), was born in London.

3

February

1956

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, artist and co-founder of alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo was born in Long Island, New York.

12

February

1956

Scottish guitarist and one-time member of rock bands Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, Brian Robertson was born in Clarkston.

13

February

1956

English bass guitarist, best known as member of post‑punk rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook was born in Salford.

18

February

1956

Renowned American master luthier, innovator, entrepreneur, guitar maker extraordinaire and founder of PRS Guitars since 1985, Paul Reed Smith was born in Stevensville, Maryland.

12

March

1956

English bass guitarist and founder of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Steve Harris was born in Leytonstone, Essex.

23

March

1956

American singer Elvis Presley released his eponymous debut album, ‘Elvis Presley’, a milestone that heralded the unstoppable explosion of the rock ‘n’ roll era.

4

June

1956

American guitarist, songwriter and producer, known for playing with David Bowie, Tin Machine and indie rock band The Cure, Reeves Gabrels was born in New York City.

26

June

1956

American singer, songwriter, rock (‘n’ roll) guitarist and actor, Chris Isaak was born in Stockton, California.

15

July

1956

Influential American virtuoso instrumental rock guitarist, Joe ‘Satch’ Satriani was born in Westbury, New York.

27

August

1956

English bass guitarist, songwriter and original member of punk rock band Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock was born in London.

29

September

1956

The rock ‘n’ roll era had clearly arrived when Bill Haley & His Comets had 5 songs in the UK Singles Chart Top 30 including the all-time classic hit, ‘Rock Around The Clock’.

4

November

1956

English guitarist and co-founding member of rock band The Pretenders, James Honeyman-Scott (1956-1982, 25) was born in Hereford, Herefordshire.

6

December

1956

Hugely talented American heavy rock guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot, Randy Rhoads (1956-1982, 25) was born in Santa Monica, California.

6

December

1956

American guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of rock band R.E.M., Peter Buck was born in Berkeley, California.

23

December

1956

English guitarist, songwriter and long-term member of heavy metal rock band Iron Maiden, Dave Murray was born in London.

16

January

1957

The legendary Liverpool live music venue, The Cavern Club opened its doors for business. The Beatles appeared there an impressive total of 292 times.

27

January

1957

English guitarist with heavy rock bands Gillan and latterly Iron Maiden, Janick Gers was born in Hartlepool.

27

February

1957

English guitarist, songwriter and member of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Adrian Smith was born in London.

17

March

1957

American singer, Elvis Presley bought the famous 23‑room Graceland mansion at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee for $102,500.

28

April

1957

English guitarist, composer, producer and member of Bristol‑based trip‑hop group Portishead, Adrian Utley was born in Northampton.

10

May

1957

English bass guitarist with the Sex Pistols, John Simon Ritchie, a.k.a. Sid Vicious (1957-1979, 21) was born in London.

27

May

1957

American rock ‘n’ roll band The Crickets, featuring the late Buddy Holly, released their debut hit single, ‘That’ll Be The Day’ in the US.

2

August

1957

American record producer Butch Vig was born. Vig has worked with many famous rock bands including Nirvana, Sonic Youth and The Smashing Pumpkins.

12

September

1957

Acclaimed German film composer and producer, Hans Zimmer was born in Frankfurt.

22

September

1957

Australian alternative/indie rock singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and band leader of The Bad Seeds, Nick Cave was born in Warracknabeal, Victoria.

24

September

1957

American rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley released his massively popular hit single ‘Jailhouse Rock’ in the U.S.

10

October

1957

American country music legend Johnny Cash released his debut studio album on Sun Records, ‘Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar!’

21

October

1957

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, session musician and a founding member of rock band Toto, Steve Lukather was born in San Fernando Valley, California.

1

November

1957

Award-winning American country singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor, Lyle Lovett was born in Klein, Texas.

8

November

1957

English guitarist and artist best known as a member of the original line up of indie/alternative rock band The Cure, Porl (now Pearl) Thompson was born in Surrey.

8

December

1957

English guitarist and long-time member of heavy rock band Def Leppard – one half of ‘The Terror Twins’ – Phil Collen was born in London.

20

December

1957

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley was served with his U.S. Army draft notice while at his home at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

20

December

1957

English guitarist, protest singer, songwriter, charity founder and political activist, Billy Bragg was born in Barking, Essex.

21

February

1958

The very first ‘modernist’ Flying V guitar, designed by the legendary Ted McCarty, was shipped from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

24

March

1958

American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. Army in Memphis, Tennessee.

27

March

1958

CBS Records announced the invention of the stereophonic record, ensuring that they were backwards compatible with the mono record players of the time.

31

March

1958

American rock ‘n’ roll legend, Chuck Berry released his all‑time classic hit single, ‘Johnny B. Goode’. 2 min. 30 sec. of pure magic.

19

April

1958

London’s (in)famous music venue, The Marquee Club first opened its doors at 165 Oxford Street, its original site before moving to 90 Wardour Street in 1964.

25

May

1958

The ‘modfather’ of post-punk rock, member of The Jam, The Style Council and solo artist, Paul Weller was born in Woking, Surrey.

7

June

1958

Legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist, Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016, 57) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

8

July

1958

The Recording Industry Association of America awarded the first official ‘Gold’ album to the soundtrack of the hit film, ‘Oklahoma’.

9

July

1958

After leaving Sam Phillips at Sun Records, country music legend Johnny Cash signed a lucrative contract with Columbia Records, a successful association that lasted for three decades.

25

July

1958

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with alternative rock band Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore was born in Coral Gables, Florida.

7

August

1958

English singer and on-off-on member of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

14

August

1958

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Big Bill Broonzy died from cancer in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 55 or 65, depending on who you believe.

16

August

1958

American singer, songwriter, actress and entrepreneur, Madonna Louise Ciccone, or as we know her, Madonna, was born in Bay City, Michigan.

29

August

1958

American singer, songwriter and member of the Jackson Five, as well as successful solo artist, nicknamed the ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana.

19

September

1958

English/American rock guitarist, ex-member of The Runaways and successful solo artist, Lita Ford was born in London.

22

September

1958

American singer and US Army conscript Private Elvis Presley sailed on the USS Randall to Friedberg, Germany to serve in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Division.

22

September

1958

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, founding member of the Runaways and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Joan Jett was born in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

20

October

1958

English bass guitarist, singer and co-founder of jazz/funk/pop band Level 42, Mark King was born in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

28

October

1958

Scottish guitarist, composer and co-founder of indie/alternative rock band The Jesus And Mary Chain, William Reid was born in East Kilbride.

7

November

1958

American rockabilly/rock ‘n’ roll icon, Eddie Cochran had his first hit with the classic song, ‘Summertime Blues’. It reached number 18 in the UK singles chart.

11

December

1958

American bass guitarist, songwriter, producer and co‑founder of heavy rock band Mötley Crüe, Nikki Sixx (real name Frank Feranna, Jr.) was born in San Jose, California.

17

December

1958

American bass guitarist, singer, composer and founding member of alternative rock band R.E.M., Mike Mills was born in Orange County, California.

1

January

1959

American country music legend Johnny Cash performed his first live concert for inmates at the infamous San Quentin State Prison in California.

17

January

1959

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actress and co‑founder of pop/rock band The Bangles, Susanna Hoffs was born in Los Angeles, California.

3

February

1959

American singer Buddy Holly and 3 others (including stars Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper) died tragically in a plane crash in Iowa. Holly was just 22 years old. ‘The Day the Music Died’.

7

February

1959

American blues guitarist, Eddie ‘Guitar Slim’ Jones died of pneumonia in New York City at the age of 32.

7

February

1959

The funeral of American rock & roll singer, songwriter and guitarist Buddy Holly took place in Lubbock, Texas.

10

April

1959

American rockabilly/swing guitarist, songwriter and bandleader of Stray Cats and the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Brian Setzer was born in Massapequa, New York.

21

April

1959

English, guitarist, singer, songwriter, co-founder and main inspiration behind indie rock icons The Cure, Robert Smith was born in Blackpool, Lancashire.

4

May

1959

The first Annual Grammy Awards was held in two venues simultaneously, in Beverly Hills, California and in New York City. Winners included Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Henry Mancini.

5

May

1959

American guitarist and songwriter, best known as guitarist for Billy Idol since the early 1980s, Steve Stevens was born in Brooklyn, New York.

22

May

1959

Controversial English singer, songwriter and former front man of indie rock band The Smiths, Steven Morrissey, was born in Davyhulme, Lancashire.

1

June

1959

The BBC broadcast the first celebrity music panel TV show ‘Juke Box Jury’ in the UK. Guests judged new record releases as a ‘hit’ or ‘miss’. It was hosted by presenter David Jacobs and ran until December 1967.

14

June

1959

American jazz fusion bass guitarist, famed for his work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York.

11

July

1959

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and long‑term member of rock band Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

17

July

1959

Legendary American jazz singer Billie Holiday died of pulmonary oedema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver in New York at the age of 44.

29

July

1959

English guitarist, best known for playing with hard rock band Whitesnake, John Sykes was born in Reading, Berkshire.

19

August

1959

American country blues and ragtime guitarist and singer, Blind Willie McTell died from a stroke in Milledgeville, Georgia, at the age of 61.

16

October

1959

English guitarist and member of new wave/pop band Spandau Ballet, Gary Kemp was born in London.

Tailpiece

So… by the end of the 1950s, KABOOM! – Rock ‘n’ Roll had well and truly arrived and there was no going back. The significant influence of rock ‘n’ roll had set in motion further evolutionary strands that would continue to expand horizons in all sorts of different directions during a period of unprecedented creativity. New musical genres demanded technological developments in recording, distribution and consumption of music.

Things are only going to get even more interesting as we go forward. I hope you will return and see what happened in the 1960s and beyond. No cliff‑hanger required, just a touch of gentle encouragement to return here next month. In the meantime, I have plenty more vintage guitars that need some tender loving care, followed by some serious playing workouts. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Exercise your right to be you or regret the denial of yourself.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

← Return to ‘Musings’ page

Like it? Why not share it?

January 2017 – Why music affects us in the way it does

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

Welcome to a brand new(-sh) and shiny(-ish) 2017. One hopes that humanity comes to its senses and delivers progress towards a better, fairer, more peaceful world in the year to come. Given indications so far, I doubt it but we shall see. I hope that I’m wrong.

What will be different for CRAVE Guitars in 2017? Other than the complete change of lifestyle to a more modest form of living and the absence of any funds to take forward the vintage guitar business, it will be a year of contemplation and formation of thoughts about the future. I have to remain optimistic that CRAVE Guitars will metamorphose (again) and will flourish in some splendid new form.

Anyway… back to the present and this month’s topic, in the absence of new gear. One of the things that has fascinated me over many years is why people choose, like, and are affected by, the music they listen to. My iTunes library runs into several tens of thousands of songs, predominantly but not exclusively from the last 5 decades, so the topic is pertinent. This article tries to understand why you might like one song while I might hate it and vice versa, or why we both might like or dislike the same one. While reading, please bear in mind that my roots are completely in modern music, which comprises a massively diverse smorgasbord of contemporary music from the 1960s onwards, right up to the latest releases. While I can appreciate (some) classical or traditional music, it doesn’t impact my life in the way that ‘modern popular’ music does.

The cultural revolution (no, not the Chinese uprising of 1966-1976) that began in the early 20th century led up to the seemingly sudden introduction of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1950s. However, ‘modern’ rock and pop music didn’t appear fully formed overnight and its roots in blues and jazz go much further back. What the explosion in supply and demand that has occurred over the last 6 decades has done is to open up range of musical types in such a way that defining current genres and sub-genres has become increasingly difficult. In addition, technology (for instance to facilitate composition, recording, production and distribution) provides us with convenient access to types of music that hitherto might have been difficult to reach, let alone appreciate.

When I was young, my parents listened predominantly to classical and traditional music. However, this background does not appear to have influenced my personal preferences. So what did shape my listening habits while growing up in a rapidly changing world? The ‘nature versus nurture’ dichotomy doesn’t appear to be a determinant of taste and passing years don’t appear to have modified my listening behaviour significantly. Certainly my musical choices have not been passed to the next generation either, which is more than capable of making up its own mind, helped no doubt by convenient availability of music like never before. Perhaps I am unusual, which may be why I posed the rhetorical question in the first place.

You may think that this may be a ‘heavy’ topic for the start of the year (no pics either for copyright reasons! Sorry). However, I am going to try and get inside your head a little bit, so bear with me. The focus is not only on the things we tend to like collectively but also why some of the differences in musical preference between individuals can be so profound. Exploring the foundations of musical preference a bit further provided few satisfying answers and a lot of frustrating dead ends along the way. Although he may have been biased, Beethoven said it more succinctly than I can, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”.

To try and get to the bottom of this particular theme and gain some greater insight, I decided to delve a bit deeper into the subject matter. There is an awful lot of pure science behind music, especially the physics and mathematics of music ‘law’. While the scientific aspects are interesting in their own right, it was the psychological impact of music that provoked my curiosity. Let’s begin by breaking it down a bit…

One arm of musical science is called musicology. The word stems from the Greek meaning the ‘study of music’, so this seemed like a sensible starting point. Musicology, as it turns out, is largely formed of three different areas of study:

  1. Historical musicology – which is often referred to as music history (in a similar way to art history) and looks at the way that music has developed over a significant period of time. However, while this may explain the main epochs of music, it does little to explain how we ‘feel’ about the music we listen to in the current era. However, it does tend to outline what musical styles were popular through the ages and the access that ordinary people had (or didn’t have) to experience performance music
  2. Ethnomusicology – this area of music study looks at music within a cultural and/or societal context. While this may explain a bit about musical expression described by the generally common behaviours of large groups, e.g. western or far eastern music, it is very broad and doesn’t really get to the basis of individual musical preference (except within the context of a large society)
  3. Systematic musicology – is a term that covers many aspects of music including general questions about the importance of music right through to the specifics of music theory, varying in discipline, ranging from qualitative to quantitative studies

There is also a branch of musicology called cognitive musicology, although this looks more at mathematical modelling to explain how the brain processes and interprets music in a similar way to how it might process language, including learning, attention, planning and memory. Empirical studies have shown that there is a correlation between musical training and intellectual growth and a whole branch of neuropsychology has developed around this area. Functional MRI scans have shown that the brain actively responds to musical stimulus – no surprise there. Neuroscience, though, focuses primarily on biological processes, rather than emotional, responses.

Music, like language, is an integral part of our cognitive development, which might explain why musical expression is just as important as linguistic expression to nearly everyone on the planet, and has done for thousands of years. However, examining intellectual development does not explain how we, as individuals, respond to music in such a fundamental way. It also doesn’t explain the unifying force of fandom and mass hysteria, i.e. why we congregate in large groups then react disproportionately and often very rapidly to a particular movement in taste (fads?) – anyone remember Beatlemania?

Our brains generally respond to sound in a similar way. The auditory cortex works in association with the cerebellum and frontal cortex, and is responsible for processing ‘organised sound’, including music and language. While music also affects many other parts of our brains, scientists have pinpointed the areas deep in our brains that are activated by and cause emotional responses to music, primarily the amygdala and nucleus accumbens. The amygdala determines whether our bodies need to take some form of conscious action according to the sounds we hear, while the latter regulates the release of the hormone dopamine as part of the brain’s ‘reward system’ and plays a part in rhythmic timing. Dopamine is important as it makes us feel arousal and pleasure so, perhaps, music is a drug after all. Medically, our wellbeing can benefit from using music to reduce anxiety or stress, as used, for instance, in music therapy. Our reaction to music may be divided into emotions that are ‘perceived’ or ‘felt’, which might explain why, for instance, why some people enjoy listening to sad music.

Conversely, whether consciously or unconsciously, music can also be intrusive and distracting, for instance in public places or call centre queues (e.g. ‘Muzak’), when forced to listen to music we don’t like, or exposed to music inappropriately out of context, it can be linked to production of the stress hormone cortisol within the adrenal gland. One example of cortisol production as a result of an auditory stimulus may be the brain’s reaction to fingernails scraping a blackboard causing a significant antipathetic response.

Our clever brains are constantly trying to predict what comes next (technically, the anticipatory response). Many musicians have exploited this characteristic over centuries to tease us and then maximise the ‘crescendo’ effect. Auditory and visual acuity is strongly linked, which perhaps partly explains why we like to go out and watch live music or are drawn to music videos. Closing our eyes while listening to music can suppress the visual stimulus and concentrate the auditory stimulus.

So… does a better understanding of musicology or neurology help with this particular conundrum? Unfortunately, no it doesn’t. However, it does provide a broader framework within which further questions can be asked. There are clearly links between the physical mechanics and the psyche of music, so some further delving was required. Where to look next?

Music psychology was my next point of call. Music psychology is a different approach that attempts to explain musical behaviour and experience, including how we perceive music (e.g. pitch, rhythm, harmony and melody) and our ability to learn, play and perform music. Why is it, for instance, that some people are content to listen to music (i.e. be affected by it), while others are driven to acquire the skills of musical technique and perform in front of audiences (i.e. to affect others through it)?

While the answer to the question above is beyond the scope of this article, emotion is as vital for those making music as it is to the majority of us who listen to what they create. March Bolan once said, “Emotion has to be foremost. When I feel emotional I’m equipped to express myself”, and Debbie Harry also commented, “I do know the effect that music still has on me – I’m completely vulnerable to it. I’m seduced by it”. Jimi Hendrix went a bit further by saying that,Music is my religion”. To many, musical appreciation is as strong as faith, if not synonymous with it. Suffice to say, music is a powerful medium. Keith Richards expressed music in more survivalist terms, “Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life”. How strongly do you feel about music’s professed omnipotence?

Perhaps a more relevant approach is to look at what psychologists refer to as ‘affective responses to music’. An ‘affect’ in basic psychological terms is how an organism interacts with stimuli including, amongst other things, the experience of feeling or emotion. Music is one such stimulus that leads to patterns of behaviour and regulation of our emotions. When looking a bit more deeply, even this area tends to break down into a number of factors that academics have attempted to measure. For instance, in relation to emotional music, the following formula has been postulated:

Experienced emotion = structural features x performance features x listener features x contextual features

While expressing emotion as an equation cannot hope to capture the nuances, it does indicate that the way we feel about music is actually a complex interrelationship between a number of human actions and situations. Studies have, unsurprisingly, repeatedly shown that music consistently elicits emotional responses in its listeners (duh!), so what is actually going on?

Why does some music make the hair on the back of our necks stand up? Psychologists refer to the ‘chill’ effect as ‘arousal’, which is a non-conscious physiological response to an environmental stimulus, caused by the hormone dopamine (again). How strong this reaction is depends on, as you might have guessed by now, a number of variables.

The psychology of music and the way it helps shape our genre preferences, again, tease us with answers. However, all it does is to identify that there are notable differences between us but not how or why these differences occur in the first place or why the emotional responses can be so varied and profound.

Perhaps delving into the characteristics of personality and self‑expression may provide some insight that has so far eluded my investigations? Some psychologists point to the ‘Big Five Personality Traits’ to explain and measure our ‘personality’. The ‘Big Five’ categories that shape our personality are:

  1. Openness to experience
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Neuroticism
  5. Conscientiousness

The first two are called ‘plasticity’ traits (i.e. they tend to vary according to changes in context), while the latter three are called ‘stability’ traits (i.e. they tend to be relatively unchanging in adulthood). In relation to musical genre preferences, the plasticity traits are the ones that have greatest effect on our choice of musical gratification. In particular, researchers have found a link between openness, self‑assessed intelligence and preference for more complex music such as classical or jazz. I would argue, however, that this misrepresents the picture as there is a significant sociological and circumstantial connection going on here. Openness, however, does have an affinity for emotional response from music, as does agreeableness. Openness is also associated with ‘intense and rebellious’ music (including rock, rap, alternative and heavy metal). Extroverts also tend to prefer upbeat and energetic music (including dance, reggae and electronic music). Neuroticism is linked to the use of music for emotional regulation (including slow and sad or upbeat and happy ‘pop’ music, as well as indie music). Conscientiousness tends to be associated with an affinity for up-tempo, driving, powerful and defiant music.

Breaking things down into just five discrete factors has been criticised as simplistic, with other sub-traits tending to be incorporated within these five personality ‘dimensions’. There are also a number of other variables that co-exist interdependently of the ‘Big Five’. Psychologists have explored how individual musical preferences are affected by, for instance, age, gender, ethnicity, seasonality, familiarity, peer influence, and self‑perception. To me, location and mood are also key factors that motivate what music I listen to at any given time. What this area of study does is link personality, rather than emotions, to genre choices.

As with other studies mentioned above, investigations still focus on what the variances are but not how or why they drive our listening tastes. Clearly, all of these personality, demographic and contextual factors may help to influence genre preference but it is highly unlikely that any of them will ultimately determine it. In my opinion, the various hypotheses tend to generalise, rather than differentiate.

Personality studies get a bit closer to the core of the issue. However, it still doesn’t explain why two individuals with a similar personality and societal circumstances can still have completely opposing tastes or respond to the same piece of music in fundamentally diverse ways. Also, does our taste in music change as we age? When I was young, I assumed that I liked popular music because it was a given as part of the prevailing youth culture at the time. I also assumed that, as I got older, my musical tastes would mature into the ‘grown up’ genres such as classical or jazz. Nope. It didn’t happen and it probably won’t now. Neither do I listen predominantly to the soundtrack of my youth, although one cannot avoid the occasional reminiscence. I listen to a lot of new music as well and crave (sic!) emerging and fresh musical experiences. The same applies to guitar playing – perhaps there is a link there. As John Cage once pointed out, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones”.

In a previous article, I covered personal preference in relation to guitars. In that topic, I likened the emotional response to guitars as similar to the instinctive response that we have to attractiveness of the opposite sex. There is something about that unconscious, instantaneous and very strong, often compulsive, sensual appeal that exists but is very hard to define and articulate. To me, the same applies to music, as well as art, architecture and design. Some music has that ‘love at first sight’ written all over it and has a certain consistency of perceived aesthetic appeal, while others have a ‘grow to appreciate its deeper qualities that aren’t immediately apparent’ characteristic. Quite why some music requires multiple listens to in order to grow appreciation while other music immediately slaps you around the face is not clear. Both have their place; it isn’t a case of one is better than the other, it’s just different.

In addition, why does overfamiliarity sometimes reinforce affection in some situations while breeding contempt in others? Why do we sometimes just get bored by repeated exposure while there is some music we simply cannot tune into, no matter what? Why do we sometimes have extreme (positive and negative) reactions to what is, after all, just a piece of music? Why, also, do we adopt often very dogmatic defence of our personal preferences when challenged by others who feel equally strongly about theirs? I would also like to know why we have ‘guilty pleasures’, those potentially embarrassing tracks we really shouldn’t like but for some reason we do.

So… after all that, none of the above really gets to the root of why music evokes a strong empathetic sense of deep emotion or nostalgia (as opposed to simple familiarity). What does it say, for instance, about my personal preferences? Not a lot, actually – it’s interesting but in relation to the question in hand, it’s also a bit ‘so what?’ Where do we go from here and what more can we do to understand what makes our preferences very much our own? None of the academic disciplines or studies that I’ve looked at seem to get to the fundamentals of individual predilection.

As mentioned at the beginning, my amateur research provided few answers and raised a lot of frustrating questions. I would have expected some sense of surety (and reassurance) about my emotional state of mind. I also expected to discover that millennia of human learning would lead to a more satisfactory (or at least adequate) conclusion.

In summary, I have no easy answer in response to the title of this article. Darn it! Academia may provide a lot of informed opinion and (in my view, some refutable) evidence but it does little to satisfy my ardent curiosity. Perhaps a glib qualitative ‘because I like it’ is sufficient after all, despite its crude ambiguity and subjectivity. I therefore challenge the learned professions to come up with something better. I defy anyone to predict my preferences on the basis of the academic studies covered here. Conversely, however, it is probably relatively easy to predict my personality based on my extensive iTunes library. Perhaps we are looking through the wrong end of the proverbial telescope?

So, in the absence of incontrovertible proof, I tried to identify 20 tunes that constitute the playlist of my emotional existence. At the time of writing, the list comprises (in no particular order and excluding multiple songs from a single artist):

  1. The song that makes me go all warm and fluffy inside: The Cure – ‘Love Song’ (1989)
  2. The song that makes me sob uncontrollably like a girl: Death Cab For Cutie – ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ (2005)
  3. The song that makes me want to scream with hatred: Buggles – ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ (1980)
  4. The protest song that makes me feel like an angry young man (again): Rage Against The Machine – ‘Killing In The Name’ (1992)
  5. The song that makes me grin like an idiot: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘O’Malley’s Bar’ (1996)
  6. The song that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end: Ben E. King – ‘Stand By Me’ (1961)
  7. The song that makes me think profoundly: The Clash – ‘London Calling’ (1979)
  8. The song that makes me want to hope: Johnny Nash – ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ (1972)
  9. The song that makes me head bang like in Wayne’s World: Blur – ‘Song 2’ (1997)
  10. The track to play air lead guitar to: Led Zeppelin – ‘Kashmir’ (1975)
  11. The groove that makes me want to get up and boogie: Chic – ‘Le Freak’ (1978)
  12. The song that I wish I could have written: Louis Armstrong – ‘What A Wonderful World’ (1967)
  13. The song that I’d like to cover live: Rolling Stones – ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)’ (1974)
  14. The best song to get stoned to: Pavement – ‘Range Life’ (1994)
  15. The song that I can chill out to: John Martyn – ‘Small Hours’ (1977)
  16. The song that makes me depressed: Sex Pistols – ‘Pretty Vacant’ (1977)
  17. The song that lifts me out of depression: The Beloved – ‘The Sun Rising’ (1990)
  18. The song that makes me long for a balmy summer’s day: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – ‘Summertime’ (1991)
  19. The chart single from my youth: T. Rex – ‘Metal Guru’ (1972)
  20. The album track from my youth: Pink Floyd – ‘One Of These Days’ (1971)

Like many of CRAVE’s topics, it seemed an easy task on the face of it, however, as usual it turned into anything but. While contemplating the mix, I kept changing my mind depending on how I felt, which just proves how impulsive, volatile and value‑laden the subject matter is. I am not going to divulge why these particular tracks stir my sentiments, suffice to say that they do. I must stress that these aren’t necessarily favourite songs (especially no. 3!), just ones that evoke some sort of emotive response. What would be your 20 lifestyle tunes? What about all those millions of tracks that one hasn’t even discovered yet? I am not a betting person but I would propose quite confidently that it is highly unlikely that many people would share exactly the same list, and thank heaven for that… but why?

In conclusion, and as a final parting shot, I will say that extensive diversity and continual evolution in music are inherently good things. Only through variety and innovation can we closely match the way we feel with the music we listen to. Frank Zappa once stated that, “Music is always a commentary on society”. Indeed, when considered in those terms, culturally, it is problematic to separate the two. While some people are happy caught in that time warp of a certain period or are captivated by a specific genre, others like me are inquisitive and intrigued by what has been as well as what is yet to come. I look forward to ‘the next big thing’. My quest for new musical experiences is prominent and my personal choice is strongly shaped by disposition and attitude at any one point in time.

Existentially, I believe that music is essential for the healthy sustenance of the human condition, while the music you or I like is a very, very personal thing that contributes to our overall wellbeing. Leonard Cohen observed, Music is the emotional life of most people, while Robert Plant asserted similarly, “Music is for every single person that walks the planet”. The compromise between global and individual musical engagement is relevant or we wouldn’t have anything to talk (and argue) about. The similarities and, perhaps more importantly, the differences between us continually drive musical development and invention. After all, that is what motivates us guitarists to come together and create our own interpretation of music after all.

Anyhoo… I’m off to plink my planks (again) as a cathartic exercise while leaving my subconscious to attempt to unravel the mysteries of personal preference (again). Yay for the former, Sigh for the latter.

This month, I’ll finish with a quote by the late, great Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, who said, “If you think you’re too old to rock ‘n’ roll then you are”. Until next time…

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

 ← Return to ‘Musings’ page

Like it? Why not share it?