November 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part IX

Introduction

Welcome to the end of the 20th Century. Not actually, of course, that was 20 years ago now. I mean, in the ‘Story of Modern Music’, having covered almost 350 years so far, welcomes you to the very end of the century that really transformed mankind’s potential and bestowed opportunities hitherto unforeseen and unthought‑of, including musically.

If you would like to (re)visit any of the first eight chapters of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

I did think of trying to compress the last three decades into a single article and then thought better of it on the grounds that doing so might diminish the impact of the period within the overall picture. So, just for now, the millennial years will have to wait. The result is that the 1990s will have its own dedicated article, although it will be a slightly more diminutive read compared to the previous five decades/articles.

The Story of Modern Music Part IX 1990-1999

It is quite tricky to pinpoint exactly what the ‘90s meant to music devotees. It seemed to depend where you lived, your age and, perhaps, what socio‑economic ‘class’ you belonged to. Whether it was grunge, alternative, Britpop or dance music that floated your boat, there was a new and exciting scene to associate with and belong to. The psychological attachment to a musical style was important to many, especially young people who were looking for some structure to life while the old order of social and political systems seemed to be disintegrating around them. Although not quite as disobedient and defiant as previous musical archetypes, there was still an underlying seething resentment of ‘the man’, which various groups saw as attempting to control their chosen form of exuberant self‑expression. In a sense, they were tapping into the anger of the marginalised.

With previous decades, it was notable that births of familiar artists outnumbered deaths, while the ‘90s saw that trend beginning to reverse. Many future artists that may well achieve sustained fame may have been born in the ‘90s but not yet discovered, while the stars of previous eras are getting, let’s be honest, a bit long in the tooth.

Similarly, it is becoming difficult to distinguish what definitive musical gems will rise from the seeming homogeneity of releases to become revered as ‘classic’ in years to come. Arguably, the 1990s marked the last vestiges of milestone singles and albums. From then on, listening habits began to change fundamentally and that, in turn, changed the way we regard significance, at least through the traditional lens of sales figures.

Historical Context 1990-1999

Some commentators called the 1990s as the ‘best decade’, although that clearly depended on your circumstances and point of view! The dawn of the 1990s experienced widespread international political restructuring, especially in Eastern Europe following the end of the Cold War and the fracturing of the communist Eastern Bloc. The 1990s also saw the growth in environmental consciousness based on dire scientific predictions about global warming and climate change. Ironically, scaremongering about ‘greenhouse gases’ led to an expansion of ‘green’ industries in developed countries. Similarly, many commentators observed signs of societal dysfunctionality, leading to prescient dystopian novels such as ‘Generation X’ by Douglas Coupland (1991), ‘Random Acts Of Senseless Violence’ by Jack Womack (1992), and ‘Prozac Nation’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel (1994). The wealth gap between the haves and have‑nots was striking; a morally unjustifiable trend that would only worsen from the 1990s onwards. The increase in the pace of technological change in post‑industrial countries fuelled the migration towards ‘digitocracies’ and resulted in manufacturing being outsourced to low‑cost developing countries on a massive scale. A period of unprecedented growth in the use of the Internet fuelled unsustainable speculation in the value of high‑tech companies, known broadly as the ‘dot‑com bubble’, a phenomenon that was bound to burst, which it ultimately did. Many companies that had become reliant on IT during the decade were fearful of the impact of Y2K on computer systems that were not prepared for the turn of the millennium.

Year

Global Events

1990

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of soviet communism, East and West Germany were reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

Political internee and equal rights campaigner, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years. His return to freedom effectively marked the end of apartheid in South Africa.

 

The ground breaking American cult TV series Twin Peaks burst onto screens. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and starring Kyle MacLachlan. It is considered a landmark in television drama.

 

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched into low Earth orbit. The telescope was designed to look into deep space.

 

The first Middle East Gulf War started after Iraq invaded and annexed neighbouring Kuwait. A U.S.‑led coalition of 35 countries responded with Operation Desert Storm resulting in a coalition victory.

1991

Communist rule of the soviet USSR ended, resulting in a break up into a number of separate countries. The dismantling of the communist state effectively ended the 45‑year old Cold War between Russia and America.

 

British computer scientist and engineer, Tim Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project, effectively launching the Internet, initially to research institutions and then to the general public.

1992

The infamous Los Angeles riots took place after 4 LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force in the arrest of African-American Rodney King the previous year. The incident had been videotaped and broadcast widely on TV, sparking renewed civil rights activism.

 

Founded in 1918, Central European country Yugoslavia descended into bitter civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a devastating military conflict that lasted until 1995.

1993

Democrat politician Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the U.S.A.

 

Another massive American cult TV series, The X-Files was first broadcast, created by Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

 

The European Union (EU) succeeded the European Economic Community (EEC) when 12 countries signed the Maastricht Treaty, signalling a process of closer political and economic union.

1994

The trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico came into effect.

 

Anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela was elected as president of South Africa. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

 

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) declared a cease fire in Northern Ireland, paving the way for de‑armament and the subsequent peace process.

 

The 38Km (23.5mile) Channel Tunnel rail link beneath the English Channel from Folkestone in England to Calais in France was opened for business.

1995

The phenomenally successful multi‑national online auction and e‑commerce website eBay was launched, founded by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and based in San Jose, California.

 

Former professional American footballer O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the double murder of former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. The criminal trial, held in Los Angeles, was widely broadcast on TV.

1996

Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell by using nuclear transfer in Scotland, UK. Dolly died in 2003 at the age of 6.

 

Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles was formally divorced from Diana, Princess of Wales in London.

1997

The British crown colony of Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China after 156 years of British rule.

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France at the age of 36. Her lover, Egyptian socialite Dodi Fayed, was also killed in the crash, sparking many conspiracy theories.

 

Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and humanitarian missionary Mother Teresa died of a heart attack in Rome at the age of 87.

 

The Pacific Rim countries were hit by the major Asian Financial Crisis, starting in Thailand and spreading rapidly across east and southeast Asia, resulting in an international financial contagion that threatened a severe worldwide economic meltdown.

1998

The male virility drug Sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra, became available for use in America. It was originally discovered by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as a treatment for heart‑related chest pain.

 

The Internet search engine Google Search was launched. It is the most widely used search engine on the World Wide Web, with over 90% market share in 2019, handling more than 5 billion searches per day.

 

Multinational technology giant, Apple Inc. launched the highly successful iMac computer.

 

The multilateral Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast by the Republic of Ireland and Britain as part of the on-going Northern Ireland peace process.

 

The first module of the International Space Station (ISS) was launched into low Earth orbit. The ISS has served as a multinational microgravity research laboratory.

1999

The Euro became the official single currency for the majority of European Union (EU) countries, known commonly as the Eurozone. The security of the Euro is overseen by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.

 

Politician, Vladimir Putin became President of Russian Federation, succeeding former president, Boris Yeltsin.

Musical Genre Development 1990-1999

The 1990s was a decade of sometimes dysfunctional music set against a background of major political change and social polarisation/alienation.

One phenomenon of the 1990s that isn’t genre‑specific but which built on the perennial success of pop music was the ‘boy band’ and its all‑girl equivalent. Artists included Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, *NSYNC, Take That, Westlife, All Saints, S Club 7, Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. The record company ‘manufactured’ bands didn’t have it all their own way; solo pop music artists were also highly successful during the 1990s, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, and Mandy Moore.

American heavy metal saw a resurgence including bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera achieving massive popularity. Meanwhile, British heavy metal was also prospering with NWOBHM bands such as Def Leppard, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

Hip‑hop became increasingly divisive, inciting gang warfare, gun violence and drug use, fuelling rivalry between east and west coast artists, and resulting in a number of high profile deaths including Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

The English ‘Manchester movement’ (or ‘Madchester’ as it was often called) was strong in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The scene centred on venues like the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, run by post‑punk band New Order and led by local bands such as Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Charlatans, although the latter were actually based in the west midlands. The music isn’t necessarily a genre per se, it was more of a loose social and cultural grouping that also encompassed fashion, art and media. The OTT craziness of the Manchester scene was faithfully represented in the film ’24 Hour Party People’, made in 2002, directed by Michael Winterbottom. Other artists associated with the vital hotpot based around the UK’s North West were The Verve, Inspiral Carpets and James, as well as Scottish band Primal Scream. The Manchester ‘baggy’ zeitgeist would be important in the growth of the drug‑fuelled rave scene later in the decade.

A fusing of genres led to the emergence of trip hop as a discrete genre that grew from its roots in Bristol, UK and was pioneered by artists like Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead, Morcheeba and Sneaker Pimps. Sometimes referred to as ‘downtempo’, it is typified by taking electronica, hip‑hop, house, funk, dub, soul and psychedelia and creating something altogether different and fresh. While its roots were clearly experimental and atmospheric, trip hop was influential in that it led to other popular mainstream forms that became subsumed in the electronic dance craze (see below) of the 1990s and early 2000s, including breakbeat, bigbeat, drum ‘n’ bass, IDM, dubstep and acid jazz. Like the Manchester movement, trip hop was very much a UK‑led genre, which had little mainstream success in the U.S.

Like punk before it, alternative rock and its counterpart, experimental noise rock, is a musical genre that railed against the major record corporations that ran the music business and the mainstream pop and rock products they marketed. Independent producers and record labels that existed outside the studio system were very much part of an active underground movement, particularly in America, and this is where a number of bands came to public attention at the start of the 1990s. Compared to the mainstream, alternative artists found it relatively difficult to garner wide audience appeal, so word of mouth, radio and record releases were the way that the message got out. The alternative moniker is more of an umbrella term relating to artists’ status in the system, rather than having definitive identifiable genre characteristics. Notable alternative artists include Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies. Before they signed to a major label, R.E.M. were seen as alternative and this started a broadening of the definition that included other major artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, Radiohead and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The start of the new millennium saw other alternative rock artists emerge including The Strokes, Interpol and The Rapture, extending and ensuring alternative rock’s destiny into the 21st Century.

Grunge is a specific genre of music that developed in the Pacific North West of the United States and more specifically its epicentre in and around Seattle in Washington State. Like alternative/noise rock, grunge was an underground movement centred on an independent record label, in this case, Sub Pop records based in Seattle. Grunge is influenced by punk, metal and alternative styles resulting in something altogether different from all of them. Grunge is characterised by slow, raw arrangements and a distinctly distorted lo‑fi sound. Compositions often followed a quiet‑loud‑quiet structure. Lyrics tended to be downbeat, melancholic, anti‑consumerist and often depraved with a focus on cultural alienation and social isolation. While all of the following rejected the term ‘grunge’ as defining their music, especially after signing to major labels, the early pioneers of Seattle’s grunge scene included Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains. The core grunge scene had largely fizzled out and diversified by the end of the 20th Century. A revival of the grunge ethic evolved in the 2010s to include artists like Courtney Barnett, Wolf Alice and Yuck.

Britpop was essentially an upbeat and positive British reaction to the dark and depressing American grunge scene. The music and its cultural background (nicknamed ‘Cool Britannia’) lasted approximately from 1993‑1997 before fizzling out. The major bands of the Britpop period included the ‘big four’; Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Suede. Collectively they expanded popularity to include other artists such as Supergrass, Cast, The Lightning Seeds, Sleeper and Elastica. The so‑called ‘Battle of Britpop’ between Oasis and Blur around 1995 was a media‑fuelled highlight catching the public’s imagination at the time. Britpop was important for influencing many quintessentially British bands that came along for the ride including Coldplay, Travis, Feeder, Stereophonics, Elbow, Snow Patrol and Keane. Further influences included Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys in the 2000s.

Dance music (in this context, Electronic Dance Music – EDM) was a phenomenon that had its roots in the late 1980s but exploded in the early 1990s and lasted well into the 2000s. Dance music comprises largely electronically produced progressive dance music intended for use at nightclubs, festivals and (often illegal) raves by DJs who mixed and re‑mixed heavy beats through loud PA systems to audience rapture. In fact, many record labels and DJs became far more celebrated than the musical artists they played in their DJ sets. The predominant sub‑genres of dance music include house, techno, trance, drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep, although these only represent the tip of the dance sub‑genre iceberg. Dance beats generally comprise programmed synthesizers, samplers and drum machines to produce buoyant, insistent 4/4 dance rhythms. Dance music also became synonymous with recreational drug use such as ecstasy (MDMA) as well as party holiday destinations such as Ibiza and Mykonos islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the famous artists of the dance scene include The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Underworld, Orbital, KLF, The Shamen, The Future Sound of London, 808 State, Groove Armada, Aphex Twin, Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk. Later artists built on the foundation, include Pendulum, SBTRKT and Skream. DJs became pivotal in promoting the dance craze and became famous in their own right, including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Paul Van Dyk and Armin van Buuren. There are many sub‑genres of dance including acid house, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), ambient, breakbeat, downtempo, jungle and UK garage, all ensuring that dance music remains up‑to‑date and relevant in the 21st Century.

Musical Facts 1990-1999

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

23

January

1990

American guitarist and co-founder of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allen Collins died from pneumonia in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 37.

8

February

1990

American country and rock & roll singer and songwriter, Del Shannon committed suicide as a result of depression at his home in California at the age of 55.

18

February

1990

English singer Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance with other members of pop/rock band Queen at the Brit Awards ceremony, held in London.

20

March

1990

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their career-defining classic 7th studio album, ‘Violator’ in the UK.

26

March

1990

Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic studio album, ‘Still Got The Blues’.

3

April

1990

Highly acclaimed Grammy award winning American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan died from cancer at her home in Hidden Hills, California at the age of 66.

10

April

1990

American East Coast rappers Public Enemy released their politically charged 3rd studio album, ‘Fear of a Black Planet’.

16

April

1990

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 6th studio album, ‘The Good Son’.

26

June

1990

Prolific American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their successful and significant 6th studio album, ‘Goo’.

24

July

1990

American heavy metal rock band Pantera released their classic 5th studio album ‘Cowboys From Hell’.

21

August

1990

Legendary American blues guitarist and singer B.B. King received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6771 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

August

1990

American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and four others died tragically in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin at the age of 35.

31

August

1990

The funeral service of American blues/rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan took place at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.

3

September

1990

English heavy metal rock band Judas Priest released their 12th studio album, ‘Painkiller’.

21

September

1990

American thrash metal rock band Megadeth released their superb classic 4th studio album, ‘Rust In Peace’.

6

October

1990

American Heavy metal band Metallica began recording their massive studio album ‘Metallica’ (aka the ‘black album’) in Los Angeles, California.

9

October

1990

American thrash metal band, Slayer, released their mega 5th studio album, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’.

29

October

1990

Legendary award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter John Lee Hooker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

8

January

1991

English guitarist and songwriter, Steve Clark of hard rock band Def Leppard died of alcohol poisoning at his home in London, at the age of 30.

15

February

1991

Successful English pop singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and actor Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

21

March

1991

Legendary American inventor and founder of Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, Leo Fender died from Parkinson’s disease in Fullerton, California at the age of 81.

8

April

1991

English trip-hop pioneers, Massive Attack, released their successful debut studio album, ‘Blue Lines’ in the UK, including the dance anthem, ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.

20

April

1991

English guitarist and front man of rock bands Small Faces and Humble Pie, Steve Marriott died in a house fire at his home in Essex at the age of 44.

23

April

1991

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with New York Dolls, Jonny Thunders died in mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 38.

30

July

1991

American heavy metal rock band Metallica released their massively successful single ‘Enter Sandman’.

12

August

1991

American heavy metal band Metallica released their career-defining 5th studio album, ‘Metallica’, often referred to as ‘the black album’.

27

August

1991

American alternative rock band from Seattle, the home of grunge rock pioneers, Pearl Jam burst onto the scene with the release of their astonishing platinum-selling debut studio album, ‘Ten’.

10

September

1991

American grunge rock pioneers Nirvana released their ‘90s anthem for disaffected youth, the near perfect hit single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

17

September

1991

American hard rock band, Guns n’ Roses, released their 3rd and 4th studio albums ‘Use Your Illusion’ parts I & II on the same day in the U.S.

23

September

1991

Scottish alternative rock band, Primal Scream released their massive 3rd studio album, ‘Screamadelica’.

24

September

1991

American grunge rock pioneers Nirvana released their career-defining classic 2nd studio album ‘Never Mind’ in the U.S. Well over 30 million copies have been sold so far.

24

September

1991

American alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers released their 5th studio album, ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, produced by Rick Rubin.

28

September

1991

American jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis died of complications from a stroke, pneumonia, and respiratory failure in a hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65.

14

November

1991

Legendary American guitarist and singer Jimi Hendrix received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6627 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

November

1991

Massive Irish rock band, U2, released their storming 7th studio album, ‘Achtung Baby’ in the UK.

24

November

1991

English singer with pop/rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury died of pneumonia resulting from AIDS at his home in London at the age of 45.

15

January

1992

Rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and country music legend, Johnny Cash were both inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

29

January

1992

Influential American blues singer, songwriter, upright bass player and guitarist, Willie Dixon died of heart failure in Burbank, California at the age of 76.

21

February

1992

American heavy metal rock band Pantera released their classic 6th studio album ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’.

31

March

1992

English heavy metal rock band Def Leppard released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Adrenalize’.

20

April

1992

English indie rock icons, The Cure released their upbeat, commercial 10th studio album, ‘Wish’.

21

April

1992

American rap rockers, Beastie Boys, released their 3rd studio album, ‘Check Your Head’.

27

April

1992

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their great 7th album, ‘Henry’s Dream’.

9

May

1992

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen made his live American TV network debut on ‘Saturday Night Live’ with show host Tom Hanks.

21

July

1992

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their cult, cool, classic 8th studio album, ‘Dirty’.

29

September

1992

American alternative rock band Alice In Chains released their sophomore studio album, ‘Dirt’.

6

October

1992

American rock band R.E.M. released their classic top‑selling studio album, ‘Automatic For The People’.

3

November

1992

American rock band Bon Jovi released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Keep The Faith’.

10

November

1992

American rock band Rage Against The Machine released their outstanding and career defining eponymous debut album ‘Rage Against The Machine’.

9

December

1992

Although not officially announced until January 1993, English bass guitarist Bill Wyman left The Rolling Stones.

21

December

1992

Legendary American blues guitarist, Albert King died from a heart attack at his home in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 69, just 2 days after his last concert.

6

January

1993

English bass guitarist Bill Wyman officially announced that he was leaving The Rolling Stones after more than 3 decades with the band.

23

March

1993

English alternative/electronic rock band Depeche Mode released their 8th studio album, ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ in the UK.

20

April

1993

Emerging English alternative rock band Radiohead released their debut album, ‘Pablo Honey’ in the UK.

29

April

1993

English session guitarist, songwriter and producer who played extensively with David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars among others, Mick Ronson died from liver cancer in London at the age of 46.

23

August

1993

English new romantic band Duran Duran received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1770 Vine Street.

21

September

1993

American alternative grunge rock band, Nirvana released their 3rd and final studio album, ‘In Utero’.

19

October

1993

American rock band Pearl Jam released their major 2nd studio album, ‘Vs.’.

9

November

1993

American East Coast rappers Wu-Tang Clan released their incendiary debut studio album, ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’.

19

November

1993

American grunge rock band Nirvana recorded their classic live acoustic concert and album, ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ at Sony Music Studios.

23

November

1993

American rock band, Guns N’ Roses, released their 5th studio album, ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’

24

November

1993

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist, nicknamed The ‘Master of the Telecaster’ and ‘The Ice Man’, Albert Collins died from lung cancer at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 61.

4

December

1993

Non-conformist American guitarist and composer extraordinaire, Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 52.

1

February

1994

American pop punk rock band Green Day released their breakthrough 3rd studio album, ‘Dookie’.

1

March

1994

American grunge band Nirvana played their last ever live concert, interrupted by a power cut, in Munich, Germany.

1

March

1994

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his 3rd studio album, ‘Mellow Gold’.

8

March

1994

American alternative rock band, Nine Inch Nails released their career-peak 2nd studio album, ‘The Downward Spiral’.

5

April

1994

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of grunge rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain died from a self‑inflicted shotgun wound in Seattle, Washington at the age of 27.

19

April

1994

Alternative rock band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their classic, career-defining 8th studio album, ‘Let Love In’.

26

April

1994

American country music legend Johnny Cash embarked on a whole new period of his career with the release of his classic studio album, ‘American Recordings’.

27

April

1994

The famous San Francisco music venue the Fillmore reopened its doors at 1805 Geary Boulevard. It had been closed since 1989 after being damaged in an earthquake.

23

May

1994

Influential American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Joe Pass died from liver cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age 65.

24

May

1994

American rappers, Beastie Boys, released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Ill Communication’ in the U.S.

14

July

1994

English rave band The Prodigy released their breakout 2nd studio album ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’.

22

August

1994

Pioneering English trip-hop band, Portishead released their ground breaking debut studio album, ‘Dummy’.

23

August

1994

Acclaimed American singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley released his first and only studio album, ‘Grace’. A modern classic.

26

September

1994

English trip-hop outfit, Massive Attack, released their great sophomore studio album, ‘Protection’ in the UK.

4

October

1994

Versatile American ‘redneck jazz’ guitarist Danny Gatton died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds at his home in Newburg, Maryland at the age of 49.

1

November

1994

American grunge band Nirvana released their impressive award-winning live album, ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’, 6 months after Kurt Cobain’s death.

5

December

1994

English indie rock group The Stone Roses released their sophomore studio album, ‘Second Coming’.

13

March

1995

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘The Bends’ in the UK.

13

June

1995

Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and producer Alanis Morissette released her classic 3rd studio album, ‘Jagged Little Pill’.

14

June

1995

Renowned Irish blues/rock guitarist Rory Gallagher died of MRSA following liver failure caused by medication and alcohol in London at the age of 47.

9

August

1995

American guitarist Jerry Garcia of psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead died from a heart attack while at a rehabilitation centre in California at the age of 53.

2

September

1995

12 years after it was founded, America’s homage to contemporary music, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum opened on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio and was celebrated with an all-star concert.

26

September

1995

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their great 10th studio album, ‘Washing Machine’.

2

October

1995

Australian artists, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue released the haunting and elegiac duet single ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’.

7

November

1995

American alternative rock band Alice In Chains released their eponymous 3rd studio album, ‘Alice In Chains’.

21

November

1995

American rock legend, Bruce Springsteen released his 11th studio album, ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’.

17

January

1996

Music greats, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground were all inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5

February

1996

Australian alternative rockers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their dark 9th studio album, ‘Murder Ballads’.

16

April

1996

American alternative rock group Rage Against The Machine released their sophomore studio album, ‘Evil Empire’.

17

May

1996

American blues, soul and funk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson died of a heart attack after collapsing on stage in Yokohama, Japan at the age of 61.

15

June

1996

Legendary American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald died of complications from diabetes in Beverley Hills, California, at the age of 79.

18

June

1996

American alternative rock artist, Beck, released his classic, top-selling 5th studio album, ‘Odelay’.

17

July

1996

English bass guitarist with R&B band The Animals and Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler died of an aneurism in Newcastle, at the age of 57.

10

September

1996

American alt-rock group R.E.M. released their classic 10th studio album, ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’.

13

September

1996

American rapper Tupac Shakur died of gunshot wounds following a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 25.

19

September

1996

American jazz guitarist George Benson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7055 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

October

1996

English/American guitarist Slash announced that he was leaving rock band Guns N’ Roses after a relationship breakdown with the group’s lead singer Axl Rose.

2

November

1996

Sublime American singer and guitarist, known as ‘the songbird’, Eva Cassidy died from cancer in Bowie, Maryland at the age of 33.

10

January

1997

American soul legend James Brown received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street.

12

February

1997

English singer and songwriter David Bowie received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.

4

March

1997

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their classic 10th studio album, ‘The Boatman’s Call’.

9

March

1997

American rapper Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) was shot and killed in Los Angeles, California at the age of 24.

11

March

1997

English former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London.

7

April

1997

British dance/electronica/big beat duo, The Chemical Brothers, released their massive studio album, ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ in the UK.

14

April

1997

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their classic 9th studio album, ‘Ultra’ in the UK.

29

May

1997

Renowned American singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley died tragically from accidental drowning in Wolf River Harbor, Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 30.

4

June

1997

English bass guitarist and founder of rock band Small Faces, Ronnie Lane died from pneumonia resulting from multiple sclerosis in Trinidad, Colorado at the age of 51.

16

June

1997

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘OK Computer’ in the UK.

30

June

1997

British rave band, Prodigy, released their massive zeitgeist‑defining 3rd studio album, ‘The Fat Of The Land’ in the UK.

22

August

1997

German industrial metal rock band Rammstein released their massive 2nd studio album, ‘Sensucht’ (translated crudely as ‘Desire’).

11

September

1997

American blues legend John Lee Hooker received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

30

September

1997

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their eponymous sophomore album, ‘Portishead’ in the UK.

12

October

1997

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist John Denver died tragically in plane crash in Monterey Bay, California, at the age of 53.

19

October

1997

American guitarist, best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Glen Buxton, died of complications from pneumonia in a hospital in Mason City, Iowa at the age of 49.

10

November

1997

Highly-regarded American session guitarist and one of the most recorded musicians in popular music history, Tommy Tedesco died of lung cancer in Northridge, California at the age of 67.

22

November

1997

Australian singer and front man of the rock band INXS, Michael Hutchence committed suicide in Sydney, Australia at the age of 37.

19

January

1998

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Carl Perkins died from throat cancer in Jackson-Madison County Hospital, Tennessee, at the age of 65.

30

January

1998

English pop singer and songwriter Sir Elton John received his knighthood from Her Majesty The Queen.

19

February

1998

Legendary American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard.

20

April

1998

English trip-hop outfit, Massive Attack, released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Mezzanine’ in the UK.

14

May

1998

American singer and actor, Frank Sinatra died from a heart attack at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.

6

July

1998

Legendary American singer, guitarist and actor, nicknamed the ‘King of the Cowboys’, Roy Rogers died of heart failure in Apple Valley, California at the age of 86.

25

July

1998

American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Tal Farlow died of oesophageal cancer in New York City at the age of 77.

17

August

1998

Mexican-American guitar legend Carlos Santana received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

15

September

1998

American heavy metal rock artist, Marilyn Manson released his massively successful classic 3rd studio album, ‘Mechanical Animals’.

24

September

1998

American icon and rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

1

October

1998

American guitarist, singer and songwriter and founder of rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.

2

October

1998

American country & western ‘singing cowboy’ Gene Autry died of lymphoma at his home in Studio City, California at the age of 91.

6

October

1998

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age (QOTSA) released their self-titled debut album, ‘Queens Of The Stone Age’.

13

October

1998

The Crossroads Centre in Antigua, founded by English blues/rock guitarist and singer Eric Clapton, opened its doors to help clients with drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

3

November

1998

American alternative rock singer, songwriter, musician and producer, Beck, released his 6th studio album, ‘Mutations’, the follow up to the massive ‘Odelay’.

29

November

1998

American jazz pioneer of the 7-string guitar, George Van Eps, died of pneumonia in Newport Beach, California at the age of 85.

25

December

1998

English pop/rock band, The Beatles, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

30

December

1998

American surf rock band The Beach Boys received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.

15

March

1999

Legendary American singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

28

April

1999

American rock band Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Boulevard.

17

May

1999

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his mega-successful 5th studio album, ‘Play’.

15

June

1999

After a long break, American Latin rock band Santana released their highly successful 17th studio album, ‘Supernatural’.

16

June

1999

English rock singer, drummer and member of progressive rock band Genesis, Phil Collins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

24

June

1999

English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. The proceeds were used in support of the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua as a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

11

August

1999

American rock band KISS received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

7

September

1999

American virtuoso guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Steve Vai released his astonishing 5th studio album, ‘The Ultra Zone’.

2

November

1999

American alternative rock band Rage Against The Machine released their 3rd studio album, ‘The Battle Of Los Angeles’ in the UK.

23

November

1999

American alternative rock artist, Beck, released his adventurous 7th studio album, ‘Midnite Vultures’.

17

December

1999

American smooth jazz, funk and soul saxophonist, Grover Washington Jr. died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 56.

26

December

1999

Highly acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Curtis Mayfield, died from complications of diabetes in a hospital in Roswell, Georgia at the age of 57.

Tailpiece

The 1990s was certainly a strange decade both musically and culturally, notably as a segue to the 21st Century. While it seems very recent, it is actually receding into long‑term memory, thereby affecting our perceptions of what it meant to us at the time. Still to come, the new millennium is temptingly beckoning and it will prove as frustrating as it was liberating.

Now… we have a minor problemo. I was hoping to conclude this series of articles conveniently in December at the very end of the current decade. However, there are still one, two or maybe even three articles still to write before we are done. December 2019’s article will therefore, ceteris paribus, interrupt the sequence in that it will cover a summary of 2019 through the eyes of CRAVE Guitars, meaning that the ‘History of Modern Music’ will resume early in 2020, all being well. This series has been a gargantuan task thus far, so perhaps a short break in proceedings won’t do any harm. Heaven knows what will follow after it has been concluded though. Looking into the crystal ball of the future is largely futile, so I’ll have to start thinking hard about the ‘next big thing’ very soon. However, that can wait for next year/decade. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “It is a moral travesty that, if you have got everything, you think you can get away with anything.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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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.

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April 2017 – How Much Music Theory Do You Need To Play Guitar?

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

While CRAVE Guitars’ relocation hullabaloo is taking place in the background, here’s a guitar‑related topic which made me think a bit (again).

Recent articles have thrown up what I think are some interesting questions that have then triggered further thoughts. There have been topics around guitar motivations, personal preferences, diverse musical choices and inspirational guitarists that have produced standout musical experiences. Then there was the recent topic about the science and social psychology of music and why/how it affects us in the way it does. These tomes have explored why we may be drawn towards things we consciously or unconsciously like? This article is a bit different although, in some ways, it is also a logical extension of some of those preceding threads. So… to what extent do guitarists need formal musical training?

This particular topic was triggered by a well-worn bit of clichéd guitar humour, “This is called sheet music. You can show it to a lead guitarist to make them stop playing” (see above). Very funny – ha-ha! However, as is my wont, this got me thinking. The joke is, sadly, poignant and I can personally relate to it. There has been a long-running debate as to whether guitarists must learn music theory and whether it enhances or detracts from their ability to enjoy playing or to be a successful working musician. So in the interests of being provocative, I thought I’d throw my tuppence-worth in. The language of music, in my naïve way of thinking, should be liberating, not inhibiting. If anyone has an effective antidote to the following, I would be keen for a prescription and to take my medicine.

The beauty of learning to play the guitar is that, unlike many other instrumental disciplines, proficiency in theoretical musical concepts is not a prerequisite or a necessity (thankfully!). An analogy may be that one does not need to be a linguistic expert in order to deliver grammatically appropriate prose (but it helps). For instance, in order to have fun on our favourite instrument, do you need to memorise and regurgitate the notes that make up the obscure jazz chord, F#7b10b13 (it does exist, honest) or trot out the notes in Lydian Augmented scale in Bb without working it out? NB. I can’t! (NB. for info, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G, A, Bb). However, I accede to the principle that a basic understanding of where all the notes are and how they generally relate to each other is probably helpful.

A newbie can pick up a modest guitar and, within a relatively short space of time, standard tuning and a few simple chords gain reasonable access to a very diverse range of modern music. Think how many great tunes over the past 50 years have been based around the open A, C, D, E and G major chords. A bit more work gives you B and F, and therefore access to many major and minor barre chords all the way up the neck. Diatonic ‘power chords’ are easy to learn and 7th (both major and minor) variations expand things substantially.

Basic rhythm can be picked up by moving between these chords. Applying these fundamentals to, for example, 12-bar blues based around the I, IV and V chord pattern is a relatively straightforward starter-for-ten. Start with 4/4 tempo and take it from there, perhaps adding a bit of ‘swing’ or ‘boogie’ to make it more interesting. Some guitarists spend their entire lives perfecting their craft around these elementary concepts without ever needing to make life complicated. As the legendary American folk singer/songwriter and guitarist, Woody Guthrie said, Anyone who used more than three chords is just showing off”. One could argue that, if it was good enough for him (and everyone who followed in his footsteps)…

Playing strong rhythm guitar is an essential skill in its own right and some guitarists never need to exhibit flashy pyrotechnical displays of digital dexterity to ply their trade. Don’t underestimate the skills of solid accompaniment to musical structure. Without it, there would be no ‘groove’. Sometimes, less really is more.

Learning scales is a bit more involved but the common pentatonic scale (major and minor) again covers a lot of ground without having to understand all the intervening notes. Add in a few ‘blue’ notes and, all of a sudden, you’re a guitar prodigy with aspirations to be the next Jimi Hendrix! This immediate accessibility can also prove to be a drawback, as many guitarists will then ‘hit the wall’ that prevents them from progressing. This is where the complexity of chords, scales and keys can get both intimidating and exciting, depending on your proclivity for the medium and your learning style. Sadly for me, the bait of genuine understanding is disappointingly just beyond my meagre grasp.

First confession – I really, really struggle with music theory. I have tried very hard, honestly I have. I am not stupid but attempting, as I have done on many occasions since I picked up my first guitar as a teenager, to learn the complex language of music has proved to be an insurmountable barrier. I don’t know why, either, which is irritating – perhaps it’s just the way my sad brain works. It gets to the point that I either glaze over and switch off, or I become so frustrated that it alienates me from the one thing that I enjoy doing, which is actually playing music (albeit badly). Either way, I end up giving up (again) and repeated failures simply reinforce the fallibility. It has now got to the point that I don’t even bother trying.

The poor man’s equivalent of notation is ‘guitar tab’, which attempts to provide a half‑way house for those that fear to tread the path and ‘5-bar gate’ of genuine manuscript. This should help, you’d think. However, it has now got to the point that attempting to wade through guitar tab isn’t worth the effort if I can’t nail it quickly. As I get older, my attention span reduces, compounded with the feeling that there is something better to do than struggle. Reading magazines doesn’t help, as the descriptive narrative uses all-or-nothing jargon that often loses me before I start. The Internet is often unreliable and contradictory to the point of increasing confusion, rather than diminishing it. Videos don’t help, as one can’t stop and ask questions, seek clarification or go off at tangents to explore interesting dead ends.

Second confession – I also lack natural musical talent. I don’t have the intrinsic feel and ear for music that many people seem to have without even trying. Many guitarists have incredible instinctive ability that they don’t seem to have to work hard to learn the mechanics. Some incredible guitarists have both the talent and theoretical ability and that, to me, is just not fair. I have genuine admiration for such talented, knowledgeable people and I can respect the hard work they must have put in to achieve it. So… why doesn’t it work for me?

Ultimately that old adage of ‘life is too short’ prevails and I get back to playing within my limitations. I am not afraid of hard work, as long as it serves some sort of positive outcome and in some way adds value to the investment in time and energy. When something becomes a chore with no guarantee that it will make me a better guitar player, then it becomes an obstacle in its own right. I know I’m missing out but the concepts cannot seem to penetrate my intellect and ignite an epiphany. I wish I could read music and memorize the theory but I think I must accept that I just can’t. Admitting defeat is an anathema to me, so I just can’t win. This is where egotistical narcissism and delusional hubris meets crippling self-doubt and pervasive inadequacy. Ouch!

I hasten to add that this is not a position borne out of snobbishness, defiance or indolence. I would dearly like to be able to demonstrate consummate musical skills. However, it just isn’t worth inflicting a masochistic doctrine disproportionate to the perceived derived gratification.

Third confession – I am self-taught and that imposes many petty constraints, perhaps the most obvious being that it has allowed me to pick and choose what one learns (including the inevitable bad habits) and what one doesn’t. I haven’t been formally educated in the guitar, whether it be by some form of passive learning (which generally falls into the ‘can’t be arsed’ category), or interactively with either peers or a seasoned guitar teacher. While I know that I must surely benefit from the latter, I have an ingrained irrational prejudice with this as well. Even if a teacher knows a lot more than I do, particularly regarding theory, I have the feeling that they are just another frustrated guitar wannabee that never made it and the most they could ever teach me would be to be as unsuccessful as they are (i.e. those who can’t… teach). I acknowledge this is a blatant fallacy but it is a practical issue for me, especially if I’m giving up good time and money to invest in my personal learning. There are numerous excellent tutors out there who could probably inspire me but they are geographically and economically beyond my reach. Perhaps when I ‘retire’, it may provide an opportunity to take lessons and improve my knowledge and experience. However, I must accept that it is too little too late to become the guitar god that I deceived myself into believing I could become in my early teens.

I used to play in bands and playing with others is stretching and challenging, both positively and negatively. Being naturally inclined to misanthropy, finding that person or group of people that have the mutually beneficial ‘fit’ is typically difficult. The depressing result is that I currently play in splendid isolation, which is far from ideal, but at least it avoids the inevitable social compromises of ‘playing well with others’. Again, I recognise that my behaviour is self-indulgent, self-limiting and unproductive. Maybe I should set myself a target to play in a band again, just to prove to myself that I can still do it. Then what?

The outcome is that I am caught in that horrible trap where, despite my best efforts, I am neither technically proficient nor naturally talented. It is frustrating that I have known the basics for decades but cannot seem to progress sufficiently to acquire genuine expertise in my chosen instrument. However, I enjoy playing even though, like most guitarists, I regularly get stuck in a rut. Where do I go from here and how do I improve significantly? Ideally, I would like someone to help inspire even a moment of greatness from my admittedly rather mundane approach towards guitar music, I would be keen to explore what may be possible. I realise that this requires some form of direct call-to-action on my part to make it happen; it won’t magically fall into my lap. If I don’t do something, I guess I’ll end up noodling my life away without ever feeling fulfilled, without realising any latent potential, and therefore impeding any possible mastery of the instrument. Unrequited aspiration strikes again.

Another issue for me is my mercurial musical tastes. I pity any guitar tutor who tries to adapt to my predilection at any one time. Like my musical listening tastes, one minute I want to experiment with blues and the next moment, it’s metal, then funk, then reggae, then rock, then jazz, folk, prog, rock ‘n’ roll, fusion, psychedelic, indie, ambient, pop, country, etc. It’s a bit ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. You get the idea. I do draw the line at learning classical guitar though – there are just too many prescribed ‘rules’ involved (another fallacy and one that I just can’t be bothered to controvert!).

One of the other things that guitar is great at is the ease with which it can adopt alternative tunings (try and do that with a piano!). As you might guess, I struggle with chords and scales in ‘standard’ 6-string EADGBE tuning. My poor little brain shudders at the likelihood of having to internalise chord inversions and scale modes for multiple tunings. Never mind adding in physical differences associated with, for instance, 7 (or more) strings, baritones, tenors, harps, banjos, ukuleles, etc. As A.A. Milne wrote about Winnie-the-Pooh, “I am a bear of very little brain…”.

Thankfully, we guitarists also aren’t constrained by 12 fixed notes like many other instruments. Frets help precision most of the time, especially with chords. In addition, we can also bend notes and add vibrato (again, try that with a piano!). This can be taken even further by using a bottleneck or slide. While there are few fretless guitars (Vigier being the most obvious proponent), we’ve had fretless basses since well before the advent of the electric bass guitar. Many of these characteristics make the guitar one of the most expressive and flexible of musical instruments in existence.

While theory is good at articulating tempo, it isn’t very good at describing timbre and tone let alone touch and feel, which are the Holy Grail for many guitarists. The guitarist’s eternal quest for ‘tone’, i.e. the sound we construct in our heads, as opposed to what we hear when the sound comes out of a speaker at the end of the signal chain, is perhaps a topic for another time.

I hinted at the start of this article that theory can inhibit creativity and innovation as it can tend to constrain ones mental ability to experiment outside the fixed tenets. A lot of ground breaking guitar music over the last half century has been created by people without enough theoretical knowledge about what’s ‘right’, which enabled them to break the rules and come up with something new, which then becomes incorporated into the ever‑expanding ‘norm’ over time. The counter argument is that musicians cannot really escape the confines of ignorance without understanding what rules they might be seeking to break, and then providing them with the appropriate tools with which to break them. The more (or less) you know, the better equipped you are for challenging the boundaries. I remain agnostic on this particular subject, principally because I am not informed enough to comment objectively.

I also hinted at the relationship between theory and ‘success’. Arguably, the best, most prolific and longstanding credible guitarists have a workmanlike mix of theory and talent. As an example, session musicians in particular would struggle without being able to sight‑read sheet music and rapidly adapt their playing style to suit the context. Without having to think about what they are ‘reading’, experienced professional musicians can be liberated to add something of themselves to the mix. This playing beyond the conscious is the basis of Zen guitar, a quasi-religious state of being. Equally, classical guitarists really need to be able to stick closely to what the original composer intended (i.e. no improvisational freedom), so rudimental theory is essential. To many singer/songwriters though, just creating something that ‘sounds right’ is more important than comprehending which notes make it so and why. I tend to fall into the latter category, appreciating some combinations of notes without fitting them into some predetermined harmonic or melodic framework. I know it sounds good but not necessarily why it should do so.

A number of songwriting ‘manuals’ I’ve seen over the years often instruct readers about uniform song structure. While I agree that experience of the past should provide indicators as to what works and what doesn’t, sticking to a formula-driven structural solution to songwriting can produce music that can be anodyne and sterile. I guess that a conformist approach is helpful to begin with but rigid adherence to the rubrics may ultimately result in stagnation. Think what would happen if every song followed the same unbending pattern with little variation. The accepted wisdom is sound, as long as it provides for (and encourages) an antithetical approach as well. Creative rebellion can be a healthy reaction to standardisation and convention. Musically and culturally, it’s called rock ‘n’ roll! When Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ (1953 film) was asked, what are you rebelling against?” he replied sublimely with, ‘whadda you got?”.

The mathematics of music can be fascinating, suggesting that music taps into something quite fundamental about the laws determining how our physical universe works. Musical appreciation may be the result not just of stylistic considerations and the prevailing cultural context but also by things beyond our comprehension. Perhaps this explains why many religious faiths use music to enhance the spiritual connection between the physical plane and the heavens. Since the days of Plato in ancient Greece, the theory of music has been built on fundamental scientific principles. They also understood that the mathematical framework of musical theory provides a basis for human expression through music. Why do humans experience the unique compulsive need to create and perform music at all? That’s another question altogether. “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Plato (c.428-348BCE)

Scientifically, the sound that we hear and our brains interpret is simply the result of vibrating air molecules and frequency is simply the rate at which those air molecules vibrate. The character of the instruments we hear is essentially the type of waveform created by those vibrations.

Getting technical for a moment, human hearing realistically only works in the range 20Hz‑20MHz and often less, especially as we age (losing about 1KHz per decade of our lives). A standard-tuned electric guitar has a fundamental frequency range of only around 80Hz-1200Hz (excluding harmonics – see below) – around 4 octaves. NB. an increase of 1 octave doubles the frequency. In comparison, a bass guitar covers approximately 60Hz-1000Hz and the human voice generally ranges between c.80Hz-260Hz (both genders). Drums range roughly between 60Hz-2KHz and cymbals between 8KHz-16KHz. As a consequence, we humans fit all our music within this limited audio spectrum.

Most musical tempos range between 40 beats per minute (BPM) technically described as Largo, up to 200BPM, called Presto. Blues and rock vary between about 80BPM and 120 BPM (Andante to Allegretto). Dance music varies between 120-160BPM (Allegro to Molto Allegro). There are, of course, many, many exceptions to these very rough indicators. It is amazing what we can create within these boundaries.

Pitch, rhythm and tempo are also essentially based on mathematical principles and resonate (sic!) unconsciously with something visceral and primitive in our physical makeup. Scientists have often referred to mathematics as music for the intellect. Perhaps the key relationship between science, mathematics and music could be a subject for another time (I need to do some more research first!).

In conclusion, and to answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, you don’t need any formal training to start playing guitar and to get plenty of enjoyment from it. A modicum of conceptual knowledge can certainly help to get more from the playing experience and can open up all sorts of musical possibilities. Extensive theoretical understanding is certainly not a bad thing and can provide opportunities that otherwise might be closed to the purely practical musician. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual and what they feel they need to know to get what they want out of playing the world’s most popular instrument. Music, like life, isn’t an all-or-nothing, one-size-fits-all state. To end on a profound (and pretentious) note, knowledge is a continuum and we are all somewhere along the path between ignorance at one extreme and enlightenment at the other. I wouldn’t assume that everyone aspires to the latter, but, speaking personally, I would like to be a bit nearer to it than I am at the moment.

On that note, all things considered, I’m off to plink my planks again, albeit amateurishly and in blissful ignorance. It is my catharsis for the soul and partial therapy for the world’s many ailments. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Music Quote of the Month’: “Twelve little notes. So many combinations. Not enough time.”

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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