February 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XI

Introduction

Welcome back once again dear musical masochists. Well… here we are – finally – almost at the end of the very long linear tunnel. The ordeal is nearly over! Along the way, I hope our factual passage through time has been an enlightening and entertaining experience. Chronologically (bar the first 2 months of 2020), the long ‘Story of Modern Music’ has caught up‑to‑date. By the end of this article the facts and events covering more than three‑and‑a‑half centuries will have been laid bar for all to see. It isn’t, however, the culmination of this series of articles, as there will be a fair bit of dilly‑dallying to do to give justice to the material and to complete a coherent narrative.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 10 parts (and over 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part XI 2010-2019

As the ‘teenies’ are fresh in our collective memories, one has to think hard about what might be regarded as standout ‘classic albums’ that will stand the test of time. Simply the act of interrogating recent history and coming up with nada is a concern. Yes there were some big selling albums from popular commercial artists but they don’t really stand up to scrutiny when compared with watershed releases of the past. Perhaps we haven’t yet had sufficient time to reflect but one would have thought that something important would stick out from the random melange.

It is hard to believe that it was the early 1990s when game changing albums like Nirvana’s ‘Never Mind’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’, both landed in 1991 and Rage Against The Machine’s eponymous debut struck home in 1992. Since that time? With hindsight, perhaps controversially, not a great deal. Readers will no doubt have their favourite albums from the noughties and teenies but there were no multi‑platinum multi‑million sellers outside the pop mainstream that came out of the blue. and certainly no ground‑breaking important epics such as ‘Tubular Bells’, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Rumours’ or ‘Thriller’, to mention just four more classic albums that went on to sell in colossal quantities and helped to define the zeitgeist. It isn’t just about numbers and money, it’s about the value of artistic creativity. Where were the musical milestones to have significant global social and cultural impact? To-date, this levelling (lowering?) of the playing field seems to have resulted from benign prosperity and social disengagement. It seems as though, whereas the youthful tortured angst of previous decades has been quelled, to be replaced with pseudo entitled vacuous celebrity‑induced cupidity and malaise. Discuss…

One sad observation of the 2010s is the number of legendary musical artists who passed on during the decade. Many had featured in previous articles for other reasons and had their last entries in this one. Their valuable legacy has helped to shape the musical landscape that we enjoy and their influential music will endure well into the future, even though they are no longer with us. At the time of writing, we can only speculate about who might have been born in the teenies that will become future legends. Watch this space.

Historical Context 2010-2019

After the economic meltdown that started in the latter part of the 2000s, the ‘teenies’ were characterised by enduring global economic recession, which adversely affected most countries. Depression exposed the ugly and inhumane economic inequality that was exacerbated by extreme avarice, arrogance and hubris further polarising the wealth gap between richest and poorest. A resurgence of east/west Cold War political tensions was intensified by the errant behaviour of maverick states such as communist North Korea and Islamic Iran, as well as a bitter trade war between America and China. Misplaced ideological posturing drove extremist terrorism, which disregarded national borders and reached unprecedented levels through devastating atrocities in many countries. Escalating regional conflict in the Middle East continued to affect international relations, trade and mobility. Unparalleled economic and humanitarian migration reached new levels and became a major refugee problem for developed‑world countries. Technologically, an insatiable appetite for Internet use led to an equally huge increase in the uptake of social media and online commerce. Driverless and electric vehicles became the focus of major tech corporations. Global concerns increased over action required to reduce CO2 emissions and extreme weather events. The equalities of LGBTQ+ communities gained widespread international recognition and forced irreversible social and cultural change in many societies.

Year

Global Events

2010

Many anti‑government protests rose up across the Middle East, widely known as the Arab Spring.

 

A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean Sea, killing somewhere between 100,000 and 316,000 people.

 

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig run by BP exploded, causing an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. It is, to date, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the oil industry with over 210 million gallons discharged into the Gulf.

 

The world’s tallest building to‑date, the Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai, standing at 829.8m (2,722ft).

 

Controversial non-profit political organisation Wikileaks, under the control of editor‑in‑chief Julian Assange, began releasing substantial amounts of American classified information from whistle‑blowers into the public domain, thereby compromising national and international security.

 

The culturally popular American post-apocalyptic AMC television series, ‘The Walking Dead’, based on the zombie comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard was first broadcast.

2011

The leader of the Islamic terrorist group al‑Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed by American Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

 

The Syrian Civil War started following Arab Spring protests against the Syrian government. Conflict escalated after protests calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s removal were brutally suppressed. The ensuing political and military vacuum led to territorial gains by the so‑called Islamic State in the Middle East and particularly in Syria.

 

Japan was devastated by a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people. The Great East Japan Earthquake was the 4th strongest on historical record. The tsunami caused a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The estimated economic cost was in the region of $235bn USD.

 

NASA’s aging Space Shuttle fleet was retired from service after 30 years, 5 operational vehicles, 135 missions and 2 fatal accidents costing 14 lives.

 

The world’s human population exceeded 7 billion for the first time, highlighting serious concerns about the sustainability of uncontrolled population growth.

2012

The largest ever Atlantic storm, Category 3 Hurricane Sandy, devastated the north eastern United States, killing over 230 people and causing nearly $70bn of damage.

 

The existence of the elusive so‑called ‘god particle’, the Higgs Boson sub‑atomic unit was finally confirmed by experiments conducted at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

 

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 60th Anniversary of her accession to the British throne.

2013

Two Islamic terrorists from Chechnya detonated 2 bombs during the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts, USA, killing 3 and injuring 264.

 

The largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in history reached epidemic proportions in Western Africa and lasted until 2016, resulting in a conservative estimate of more than 11,000 deaths.

2014

The so‑called Islamic State (ISIS) took military control of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

 

The new World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, was completed in New York, becoming the tallest building in the U.S. at 1,776 feet (541m), 13 years after the original World Trade Center twin towers were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

2016

The United Kingdom held a one‑off national referendum to determine whether to remain part of or to leave the European Union (EU). The UK had become a member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. The referendum result was a majority desire to leave the EU. The UK was the first country to leave the union since the EEC was formed in 1957. The process of leaving, often referred to as ‘Brexit’, was completed in 2020.

 

HM Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing Queen Victoria (1819‑1901), who had reigned for 63 years and 7 months.

2017

Businessman and Republican politician Donald Trump became the 45th president of the U.S.A.

 

The UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, initiating the Brexit process that led to the UK leaving the EU after 47 years of membership.

 

American president Donald Trump announced the U.S. government’s intention to withdraw unilaterally from the Paris Climate Agreement.

2018

The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st Century took place, lasting approximately 1 hour and 43 minutes.

 

Canada legalised the sale and use of cannabis, only the 2nd country to do so, Uruguay being the first.

2019

A catastrophic fire broke out in the roof of medieval Roman Catholic Notre Dame de Paris cathedral in France, destroying much of the building’s roof, spire and upper walls.

 

The final stronghold of the so‑called Islamic State in Al-Baghuz Fawqani, Syria, was liberated.

 

Violent protests and civil unrest occurred in Hong Kong, ignited by controversial Chinese legislation that allegedly undermined the region’s autonomy and civil liberties.

 

Activists belonging to Extinction Rebellion, a global movement created to use direct non‑violent civil disobedience to force governments to react positively towards the threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and ecological collapse, caused widespread disruption in major cities worldwide.

Musical Genre Development 2010-2019

Sadly, during the 2010s there were no recent new genres or emergent significant sub‑genres, and little sign of any on the horizon. It is a struggle to identify any hugely influential genre developments during the ‘teenies’. Yes, there were ventures, projects, collaborations, experiments and side lines including, for instance dubstep and grime but, let’s be honest, these aren’t really new; they are simply variations on past themes that were re‑established for wider audiences. However, modern music has shown an incredible tenacity to rejuvenate and reinvent itself, especially when it appears to be entering the doldrums. One can only watch and wait to see what happens from here on in. Let’s start with some of the nuances during the 2010s.

Female pop mega‑artists such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and even Lana Del Rey have become very powerful, successful multi‑millionaires predominantly focusing their considerable resources on commercially lucrative target audiences. These industry pillars have become renowned as much for their business acumen as their musical prowess. New artist, Billie Eilish looks set to continue this trend into the 2020s. The token male artist in this bracket is probably Ed Sheeran.

The indie movement continued to grow from strength to strength into the 2010s broadening the diversity of indie and keeping it fresh by fusing with other styles such as folk, blues, rock, punk, roots, garage and Americana. Notable indie artists of the teenies include (in no particular order); Courtney Barnett, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, The War On Drugs, Band Of Skulls, The National, Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Fleet Foxes, Real Estate, Feist, Tame Impala, Parquet Courts, Kurt Vile, Girls, Courteeners, Daughter, Angel Olsen, Fleet Foxes, Haim, Father John Misty, Ariel Pink, Sheerwater, Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, Villagers, EMA, The Horrors, The Kills, The Low Anthem, Royal Blood, Rival Sons, The Vaccines, Alt‑J, The XX, Wolf Alice, The Dead Weather, The Twilight Sad, Cage The Elephant, London Grammar, Savages, Band Of Skulls, Warpaint, Slaves, Wolf Alice, Bat For Lashes, K.T. Tunstall, Cigarettes After Sex, Blood Red Shoes, Real Estate and Dry the River among a multitude of others.

While clearly a niche subgenre of the fading mainstream Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and related genres and closely related to ambient, downtempo, progressive electronic, darkwave, glitch and chillwave, Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) flourished, building on the shoulders of pioneers such as The Orb, Future Sound of London, Orbital and Aphex Twin. IDM and related artists pushed the boundaries of esoteric syncopated, and stripped down electronica to new, often indulgent extremes. Under the broadest definition, some IDM artists include; Four Tet, Boards of Canada, Caribou, Crystal Castles, Neon Indian, Jon Hopkins, Bonobo, Burial, Flying Lotus, Memory Tapes, Apparat, Toro y Moi, James Blake, Oneohtrix Point Never, Com Truise, Autechre, Mouse On Mars and Squarepusher.

In the late 20th Century, modern jazz had newfound credibility in the fusion years of the 1970s, with artists like John McLaughlin, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Utopia and Weather Report, followed by other virtuoso instrumentalists like Larry Coryell, Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour during the 1980s. Move forward in time to the 21st Century and jazz experienced a stunning rejuvenation, often referred to as nu‑jazz or jazztronica, eschewing old-style constraints and fusing jazz elements with electronic music ranging from the traditional to the experimental. While growing on the popularity in the 2000s of artists like St. Germain, Mr. Scruff, Joss Stone and Jamie Cullum, nu‑jazz really came into its own in the 2010s. Nu‑jazz artists embraced hip‑hop, electronica, dance, reggae, electro‑swing and many other forms to create something vital and engaging, including artists such as Snarky Puppy, The Cinematic Orchestra, Floating Points, GoGo Penguin, Thundercat, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Comet Is Coming, The Correspondents and Mammal Hands.

Musical Facts 2010-2019

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

11

January

2010

American indie rock band Vampire Weekend released their 2nd studio album, ‘Contra’.

8

February

2010

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their 5th studio album, ‘Heligoland’ in the UK.

17

February

2010

Northern Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their debut studio album, ‘Tourist History’.

10

March

2010

Welsh guitarist and member of progressive rock band Man, Micky Jones died of cancer in Swansea at the age of 63.

15

March

2010

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2010’, including ABBA, Genesis, The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff, The Stooges and David Geffen.

28

March

2010

Highly influential American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis died of Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles, California at the age of 88.

13

April

2010

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his 10th solo album, ‘Emotion And Commotion’ in the UK.

18

May

2010

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Brothers’.

25

June

2010

Canadian rock band, Rush, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard.

9

July

2010

English indie rock group Bombay Bicycle Club released their understated acoustic 2nd studio album, ‘Flaws’.

25

October

2010

American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her commercially successful 3rd studio album, ‘Speak Now’.

16

November

2010

After many years of negotiation, The Beatles’ back catalogue was finally made available on Apple’s iTunes music platform.

17

December

2010

American rock singer, songwriter and musician, Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) died from complications resulting from multiple sclerosis in a hospital in Arcata, California at the age of 69.

22

December

2010

The famous zebra crossing at Abbey Road, London, just outside Abbey Road Studios and featured on The Beatles’ classic titular 1969 album cover, was Grade II Listed by English Heritage.

24

January

2011

English pop singer, Adele released her massive commercial 2nd studio album, ‘21’.

30

January

2011

Legendary English composer of classic film and television scores, John Barry died of a heart attack in New York at the age of 77.

6

February

2011

Irish blues/rock guitarist and singer, Gary Moore died from a heart attack in Malaga, Spain at the age of 58.

14

February

2011

English alternative/indie rock singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, P.J. Harvey released her award‑winning 8th studio album, ‘Let England Shake’.

14

March

2011

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2011’, including Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Tom Waits and Leon Russell.

2

June

2011

Canadian country singer Shania Twain received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6270 Hollywood Boulevard.

6

June

2011

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 4th studio album, ‘Suck It and See’.

23

July

2011

English singer and songwriter, Amy Winehouse died from an alcohol overdose in Camden, London at the age of 27.

7

August

2011

American bass player and key member of Johnny Cash’s backing band, the Tennessee Two, Marshall Grant died in Jonesboro, Arkansas at the age of 83.

16

August

2011

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Slave Ambient’.

7

September

2011

On what would have been his 75th birthday, American rock ‘n’ roll singer Buddy Holly received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

5

October

2011

Accomplished Scottish acoustic folk guitarist Bert Jansch died after a long battle with lung cancer in London at the age of 67.

4

December

2011

American blues guitarist, singer and member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, Hubert Sumlin died from heart failure in Wayne, New Jersey at the age of 80.

16

December

2011

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 7th studio album, ‘El Camino’.

20

January

2012

Legendary American multi-genre singer, Etta James died of leukaemia in hospital in Riverside, California at the age of 73.

31

January

2012

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Born To Die’.

9

February

2012

English bass guitarist and former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney received a solo star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

6

February

2012

Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad released their underrated 3rd studio album, ‘No One Can Ever Know’.

11

February

2012

American soul/pop singer, producer and actress, Whitney Houston died from drug misuse and accidental drowning at the Hilton hotel in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 48.

29

February

2012

English singer and member of media pop band The Monkees, Davy Jones died from a heart attack in Florida at the age of 66.

5

April

2012

English innovator, entrepreneur, businessman and founder of iconic Marshall amplifiers, ‘The Father of Loud’, Jim Marshall OBE, died from cancer in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire at the age of 88.

14

April

2012

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2012’, including The Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Small Faces/The Faces, Freddie King and Tom Dowd.

16

April

2012

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 7th studio album, ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’.

10

July

2012

English-American guitarist Slash (a.k.a. Saul Hudson) received a solo star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

August

2012

Northern Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Beacon’.

2

October

2012

Highly acclaimed English session guitarist ‘Big Jim’ Sullivan died of complications from heart disease and diabetes in Billingshurst, West Sussex at the age of 71.

10

January

2013

Swiss founder and manager of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival since 1967, Claude Nobs, died in Lausanne at the age of 76.

18

February

2013

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their outstanding reflective 15th studio album, ‘Push the Sky Away’.

6

March

2013

English blues/rock guitarist and singer, Alvin Lee died of complications following surgery in Estepona, Spain at the age of 68.

18

April

2013

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2013’, including Heart, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush and Donna Summer.

20

May

2013

American keyboard player with, and co-founder of, The Doors, Ray Manzarek died from bile duct cancer in Rosenheim, Germany at the age of 74.

3

June

2013

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 6th studio album ‘…Like Clockwork’.

26

July

2013

Reclusive and influential American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, J.J. Cale died from a heart attack in La Jolla, California at the age of 74.

9

September

2013

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 5th studio album, ‘AM’.

27

October

2013

Legendary American singer, songwriter, guitarist, member of the Velvet Underground and successful solo artist, Lou Reed died of liver disease at his home in New York at the age of 71.

4

November

2013

American singer and cultural icon, Janis Joplin received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard.

3

January

2014

American singer and guitarist, Phil Everly, half of the vocal harmony duo The Everly Brothers, died of lung disease in Burbank, California at the age of 74.

25

February

2014

Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist and composer, Paco de Lucía died from a heart attack while on holiday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico at the age of 66.

18

March

2014

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their 3rd studio album, ‘Lost In The Dream’.

10

April

2014

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2014’, including KISS, Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Linda Rondstadt and Hall & Oates.

17

June

2014

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her 3rd studio album, ‘Ultraviolence’.

16

July

2014

Renowned American blues/rock guitarist, Johnny Winter died from emphysema and pneumonia near Zurich, Switzerland, at the age of 70.

25

October

2014

Scottish bass guitarist with blues/rock super group Cream, Jack Bruce died of liver disease in Suffolk, England at the age of 71.

27

October

2014

American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her commercially successful 5th studio album, ‘1989’.

13

March

2015

Australian guitarist, singer, songwriter, poet and co‑founder of psychedelic rock bands Soft Machine and Gong, Daevid Allen died from cancer in Australia at the age of 77.

30

March

2015

English dance/rock band The Prodigy released their 6th studio album, ‘The Day Is My Enemy’.

14

May

2015

Legendary blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, B.B. King died from a stroke caused by type 2 diabetes in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 89.

21

May

2015

American bass guitarist Louis Johnson of funk band Brothers Johnson died from internal bleeding in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 60.

30

May

2015

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2015’, including Green Day, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and Bill Withers.

27

June

2015

English bass guitarist with progressive band Yes, Chris Squire died from leukaemia in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 67.

11

September

2015

English indie rock band The Libertines released their highly anticipated 3rd studio album, ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’.

10

November

2015

American musician, songwriter, arranger and record producer Allen Toussaint died of a heart attack while on tour in Madrid, Spain at the age of 77.

13

November

2015

Islamic terrorists attacked a concert where American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were performing at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, France. A total of 89 innocent people lost their lives.

4

December

2015

A commemorative statue of The Beatles was unveiled in their home city of Liverpool, 50 years after their last gig there.

28

December

2015

English singer, songwriter, bass guitarist, founder and front man of rock band Motörhead, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 70.

8

January

2016

Iconic English singer, David Bowie released his final studio album, ‘Blackstar’, on his 69th birthday, just 2 days before his untimely death.

10

January

2016

Chameleonic English singer, rock legend, actor and cultural icon, David Bowie died from liver cancer at his apartment in New York City at the age of 69.

18

January

2016

Highly regarded American singer, songwriter and guitarist with country rock band Eagles, Glenn Frey died from complications of rheumatoid arthritis in New York City at age of 67.

4

February

2016

Northern Irish singer Sir Van Morrison OBE was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, London, UK for services to the music industry and tourism.

13

February

2016

Four members of English indie band Viola Beach and their manager were tragically killed in a car accident in Södertälje, Sweden.

8

March

2016

Legendary English record producer, Sir George Martin CBE, known by many as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, died at his home in Wiltshire at the age of 90.

11

March

2016

English keyboard player with progressive rock group Nice and a founding member of super group Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Keith Emerson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Santa Monica California at the age of 71.

6

April

2016

American country singer and guitarist Merle Haggard died on his birthday as a result of complications from pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California at the age of 79.

8

April

2016

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2016’, including Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and NWA.

21

April

2016

American singer, guitarist, producer and actor, Prince died from an accidental drug overdose of the pain killer fentanyl at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota at the age of 57.

21

April

2016

Influential American blues/rock guitarist Lonnie Mack died of natural causes in hospital near his home in Smithville Tennessee at the age of 74.

10

June

2016

British pop/rock singer and songwriter Sir Rod Stewart CBE was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to music and charity.

28

June

2016

American singer Elvis Presley’s main guitarist in the early rock ‘n’ roll years, Scotty Moore died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 84.

15

July

2016

English virtuoso rock guitarist Jeff Beck released his fascinating change-of-direction 11th studio album, ‘Loud Hailer’.

9

September

2016

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their desperately melancholic 16th studio album, ‘Skeleton Tree’.

13

October

2016

Legendary American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Dylan was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm, Sweden. He skipped the official awards ceremony and delivered his acceptance lecture in April 2017.

21

October

2016

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his elegiac final studio album, ‘You Want It Darker’.

7

November

2016

Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and guitarist, Leonard Cohen died after a fall at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.

13

November

2016

Legendary American musician and songwriter, Leon Russell died in his sleep at his home in Mount Juliet, Tennessee at the age of 74.

2

December

2016

English rock band Rolling Stones released their great back-to-basics blues/rock studio album, ‘Blue & Lonesome’ in the UK.

7

December

2016

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of progressive rock bands King Crimson and ELP, as well as a solo artist, Greg Lake died from cancer in London at the age of 69.

24

December

2016

English guitarist with pop/rock band Status Quo, Rick Parfitt died from sepsis caused by a shoulder infection in hospital in Marbella, Spain at the age of 68.

25

December

2016

English singer, songwriter and member of pop band Wham!, George Michael died of heart failure at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire at the age of 53.

31

January

2017

Welsh guitarist and regular on-off member of the progressive jam rock bands Man and Iceberg, as well as a solo artist, Deke Leonard died at the age of 72.

4

February

2017

English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath performed their final live concert of their ‘The End’ tour at the NEC Arena in their home city of Birmingham, UK.

19

February

2017

Influential American virtuoso jazz fusion guitarist, Larry Coryell died of heart failure in New York City at the age of 73.

16

March

2017

English singer and member of pop/rock band The Kinks, Sir Ray Davies CBE received a knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, London, UK for his service to the arts.

18

March

2017

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer, songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry died of a reported cardiac arrest at his home in Wentzville, Missouri at the age of 90.

7

April

2017

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2017’, including ELO, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Yes.

15

April

2017

Influential virtuoso English jazz/rock fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth died from heart disease at his home in Vista, California at the age of 70.

18

May

2017

American singer, songwriter and front man of hard rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, Chris Cornell committed suicide in his hotel room in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 52.

27

May

2017

American musician and co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman died from a heart attack in Richmond Hall, Georgia at the age of 69.

8

August

2017

American country singer and guitarist, Glen Campbell died of Alzheimer’s disease in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 81.

25

August

2017

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their 4th studio album, ‘A Deeper Understanding’.

3

September

2017

American guitarist and bass guitarist, songwriter and co‑founder of rock band Steely Dan, Walter Becker died from oesophageal cancer at his home in Manhattan, New York at the age of 67.

2

October

2017

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Petty died of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers at his home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 66.

18

November

2017

Scottish-born guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock band AC/DC, Malcom Young died following a long battle with dementia in Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales at the age of 64.

10

January

2018

English guitarist and one-time member of the rock band Motörhead, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke died from pneumonia in hospital in London at the age of 67.

9

March

2018

After 66 years, the UK weekly music magazine The New Musical Express (a.k.a. NME) published its final printed copy, signalling the end of an era in British music press.

9

March

2018

British indie rock band Editors released their 6th studio album, ‘Violence’.

20

March

2018

English drummer and former member of The Beatles, Sir Richard Starkey (a.k.a. Ringo Starr) MBE was knighted by HRH Prince William at Buckingham Palace, London, UK.

14

April

2018

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2018’, including Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, Moody Blues, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

8

June

2018

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of Anglo-American rock group Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972, Danny Kirwan died from pneumonia in London at the age of 68.

2

July

2018

Scottish bass guitarist and founding member of 1970s pop group The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir died in Larbert, Scotland, following an illness while on holiday in Mexico at the age of 70.

16

August

2018

Legendary American singer, songwriter and the ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 76.

22

August

2018

American guitarist and bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ed King died following a battle with cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 68.

22

September

2018

English guitarist and singer, best known as half of London duo Chas & Dave and as a session musician, Chas Hodges died from organ failure following treatment for cancer at the age of 74.

29

September

2018

Great American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Otis Rush died from complications resulting from a stroke in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 83.

16

March

2019

Influential American guitarist, ‘the king of surf guitar’, Dick Dale died of heart failure in hospital in Loma Linda, California at the age of 81.

17

March

2019

Irish guitarist and member of heavy rock bands Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne, Bernie Tormé died of pneumonia in London, England at the age of 66.

29

March

2019

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2019’, including The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies.

29

March

2019

Emerging American indie/pop singer and songwriter Billie Eilish released her phenomenally successful debut album, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’.

30

April

2019

English guitarist and co-founder of jazz/funk band Level 42, Boon Gould died at his home in Dorset at the age of 64.

13

May

2019

American singer and Hollywood actress Doris Day died of pneumonia in Carmel Valley Village, California at the age of 97.

30

May

2019

Cypriot/Canadian jazz/blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Leon Redbone died following complications from dementia in hospice care in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA at the age of 69.

31

May

2019

Pioneering American guitarist, singer and songwriter with psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators Roky Erickson died in Austin Texas at the age of 71.

6

June

2019

Great American singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional guitarist Dr John died of a heart attack in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 77.

20

June

2019

English guitarist and former member of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour auctioned 120 of his guitars in New York, raising nearly £17m to help fight climate change. His famous Black Strat sold for £3.1m.

30

August

2019

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her standout 6th studio album, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ (a.k.a. ‘NFR!’).

6

October

2019

Legendary English drummer and co-founder of the rock bands Cream, Blind Faith and Baker Gurvitz Army, as well as solo artist, Ginger Baker died in hospital after a long illness in Canterbury, Kent at the age of 80.

Tailpiece

So, finally, that’s the major part of the extensive adventure now covered. Along the way, way more than 100 additional facts have been squeezed into the timeline, so somewhere around 1,700 music‑related facts. That doesn’t include the hundreds of ‘Historical Context’ facts that I think brought some of the more obscure musical events to life.

Undoubtedly, over time, more ideas and data will expand the long list of factoids further. Fortunately, these supplemental incidences won’t be lost, as they will appear on CRAVE Guitars’ quotidian ‘Musical Facts Of The Day’, which are posted daily on Twitter and Facebook.

The next article… or two… or three… will be wrapping up the voluminous subject matter in a way that I hope provides adequate closure to the lengthy journey. As there are no more decades to cover, the next episode will take a different look at what has already been covered. Intrigued by what the next slice of exposition might comprise? I hope so. Come back and find out.

In the meantime, I will be continuing my personal quest to bring you ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitar heritage for your entertainment (?!?!). This chore inevitably means the routine business of accumulating and appreciating some hopefully interesting old guitar gear. Hey, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it and, quite frankly, I ain’t complainin’. Much. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “The purpose of art, to stimulate an emotional reaction, regardless of what that reaction is.”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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January 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part X

Introduction

Well, here we are once again. Welcome to 2020 one and all – a new year and a new decade, well, sort of. After the temporary intermission last month for the obligatory 2019 end‑of‑year roundup, we’re back on the trail ‘History of Modern Music…’ Cast your mind back for a moment. In more than one way, 1650 and the end of the Renaissance, where this story began seems a long, long time ago now. It struck me during the brief interlude just what a conceivably Sisyphean labour it has become, and there is still quite a bit of fun and games to be played out. Getting straight back into the proverbial saddle, Part X of the story is now rounding up the stragglers from the 20th Century and riding into the dawn of the new millennium with all its first world promises and disappointments.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 9 parts (and 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Right, now the prelude is over, let’s get into the groove of the shiny new millennium, starting at 2000 and finishing this month at the end of 2009…

The Story of Modern Music Part X 2000-2009

Without the benefit of lengthy hindsight, the question is, how best to describe early 21st Century music? Arguably, the most notable trend of the noughties was the rise in popularity of indie music standing proud and in stark contrast to the seemingly indomitable, yet strangely bland, soulless and non‑descript merchandise of the commercial pop music industry.

Sadly, time and circumstances resulted in many prominent departures during the decade, adding a touch of pathos among the many achievements. While lost to us, at least we still have their music to appreciate.

In the absence of any particularly significant defining characteristics, perhaps it is best to let the facts speak for themselves. Before we get there, though, it is important to set the turbulent global context within which the musical styles of the new age progressed. Although shorter in content than previous decades, the ‘noughties’, and consequently, the ‘teenies’, will still get their own discrete article.

Historical Context 2000-2009

The opening decade of the 2000s has many popular names, one of which is simply, ‘the noughties’. The widely recognised formal name for the first decade of a new century is the less common, ‘the aughts’. Despite the unbridled optimism for the new millennium, the ‘00s heralded a fractious decade during which terrorism and the rise of dangerous radical Islamic ideologies would dominate international relations and drive brutal armed conflict in many territories. An unsustainable rise in living standards and avaricious materialism during the first half of the decade precipitated another inevitable major ‘boom and bust’ event fuelled by rabid financial mismanagement and, ultimately, greed. The result was the most devastating global recession to hit ordinary people since the 1930s in terms of both impact and longevity. Depression drove increasingly profound social, health and wealth divisions between the richest few percent and the vast majority. The digital revolution boomed and the unbridled growth of the Internet facilitated the promise of global democratisation of knowledge and information, while also enabling massive levels of ‘social’ drivel and inanity. There was a continued expansion in environmental lobbying and ‘green’ industries aiming to tackle the impending and still controversial threat of the ‘greenhouse effect’ on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Year

Global Events

2000

An Air France Concorde airliner crashed shortly after take‑off in France, killing 113 people, leading to the suspension of the fleet and effectively ending the era of supersonic passenger flights.

 

The first stage of the world’s largest collaborative biological project, the Human Genome Project was completed, documenting an initial rough draft of the base pairs that make up human DNA.

2001

Republican politician George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the U.S.A. Bush Junior was the son of George H.W. Bush who was the 41st president.

 

Members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked and crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City. A third plane was crashed into the U.S. Department of Defense HQ, the Pentagon in Virginia. A fourth aircraft crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers. The co‑ordinated attacks of 9/11 killed almost 3,000 people.

 

America, supported by its allies, invaded Afghanistan following the unprecedented 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. with the intention of dismantling the threat of Islamic terrorist organisation al‑Qaeda at its source.

2002

The Euro was officially introduced in the Eurozone countries, after which the former currencies of those countries ceased to be legal tender.

 

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother of the UK monarchy and the wife of King George VI, died. Her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in London.

 

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV) outbreak emanated in southern China and the subsequent epidemic caused a global public health crisis.

2003

America and Britain, supported by allies, invaded Iraq to remove the threat of alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to depose the country’s dictator and head of state, Saddam Hussain.

 

The first successful global social networking website, Myspace was founded by Americans Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, based in Beverly Hills, California. Myspace was overtaken in popularity by rival Facebook in 2008 and, while still in existence, usage has declined significantly.

 

American Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re‑entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

2004

The global Internet‑based social media networking web site Facebook was created by American entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, based in Menlo Park, California. Facebook has approximately 2.5billion active users.

 

The European Union (EU) expanded by 10 new member states – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus.

 

A massive 9.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra killed over 200,000 people.

 

The tallest skyscraper in the world, Taipei 101, at a height of 1,670 feet (510m) opened in Taipei, Taiwan. It was overtaken by the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

2005

The video sharing web site, YouTube was launched. The platform was created by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, based in San Bruno, California. YouTube is currently owned by technology giant, Google.

 

Polish head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City, Pope John Paul II died. He was succeeded by German national, Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Category 5 Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., killing over 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage.

2006

Indian Islamic terrorists detonated seven bombs on trains in the city of Mumbai, India, killing more than 200 people.

 

Discovered in 1930, Pluto was demoted from planet status and was re‑designated the largest known dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt. Caltech researcher Mike Brown led the team that led to the declassification.

 

Former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted by an Iraqi Special Tribunal and was executed by hanging for crimes against humanity.

2007

Three-year old English girl Madeleine McCann disappeared from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz in the Algarve region of Portugal. She remains missing despite massive media coverage.

 

Technology giant Apple Inc. launched the game‑changing touch screen mobile telephone, the iPhone.

 

The Global Financial Crisis began, caused by poor regulation resulted in the failure of a number of large financial and banking institutions. The severe worldwide economic downturn, known as the Great Recession, was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic impact of the slump lasted for more than a decade.

2008

In physics, the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator used to detect the presence of sub‑atomic particles was completed by CERN near Geneva in Switzerland. The pioneering science project became fully operational in 2010.

 

Pakistani Islamic terrorists carried out a series of 12 attacks over 4 days in Mumbai, India, killing almost 175 people.

2009

The decentralised digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin was established by pseudonymous Japanese creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

 

Democrat politician Barack Obama became the 44th president of the U.S.A. and was the first African‑American to be elected to the presidency.

Musical Genre Development 2000-2009

The pop music machine sustained commercial success well into the 21st Century. Large record companies continued to focus resources on the lucrative tween and teen audiences with artists such as Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, P!nk, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Also popular were manufactured groups such as Destiny’s Child, Sugababes, Pussycat Dolls, One Direction, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Little Mix. Country music saw another revival with artists like Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood achieving notable success. Soul (nu‑soul) also saw a resurgence of interest, including performers like Joss Stone, Natasha Bedingfield, Corinne Bailey Rae, Estelle, Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy. Hip‑hop broadened out into contemporary R&B and claimed the resurgent urban music territory with artists such as Jay‑Z, Kanye West, Ludacris and 50 Cent building on the popularity of Dr Dre, Eminem and N.W.A.

Indie (rock) music had its origins in the 1970s as a ‘catch‑all’ umbrella term for artists who produced music through independent record labels rather than the large record companies and their subsidiaries. A new breed of bands began to emerge, aided by Internet exposure, coalescing into the indie rock movement on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Emerging rock bands came into their own and reasserted their independence through a rejection of (and by) the structured studio system. One constant characteristic of indie music is the rejuvenated dominance of the electric guitar within a band format. Indie music originated from the punk, alternative and grunge genres of previous decades and represents a very diverse range of musical approaches including dream pop, shoegaze, indie pop, indie dance, garage rock, indietronica, chillwave, hypnagogic pop, lo‑fi, etc. To reflect this diversity, there is a long list of indie artists from varying sub‑genres to give an indication of its broad appeal, including (in no particular order); My Bloody Valentine, Arctic Monkeys, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Eels, Low, The Zutons, Interpol, Charlatans, Slowdive, Ride, Primal Scream, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, Snow Patrol, Keane, Pavement, Spiritualized, Blood Red Shoes, The Cribs, Sleater‑Kinney, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, Editors, Kasabian, Kings Of Leon, LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Paramore, Belle & Sebastian, The Shins, The Kooks, The Killers, The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, Ariel Pink, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, White Lies, Two Door Cinema Club and War On Drugs amongst many others. The sheer volume of artists and material led to the term ‘indie landfill’ used to describe generic and derivative music exploiting indie music credentials.

Musical Facts 2000-2009

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

6

March

2000

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2000’ including Eric Clapton, Earth Wind & Fire, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Billie Holiday and Scotty Moore.

27

March

2000

English punk singer, songwriter and poet, Ian Dury died from cancer in London at the age of 57.

23

May

2000

American hip hop artist Eminem released his classic 3nd studio album, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’.

20

June

2000

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 2nd studio album, ‘De Stijl’.

2

October

2000

English alternative rock band Radiohead changed stylistic direction when they released their 4th studio album, ‘Kid A’.

9

October

2000

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 3rd studio album, ‘Black Market Music’.

5

December

2000

American political rap rock band, Rage Against The Machine released their 4th and, to‑date, final studio album, ‘Renegades’.

8

December

2000

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of rock band The Police, Sting received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

December

2000

English singer and songwriter Kirsty MacColl was killed tragically in a boating incident while on holiday in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico at the age of 41.

20

December

2000

Long-running UK music magazine ‘Melody Maker’ published its final issue. It had run for over 74 years since January 1926. Melody Maker was merged with rival music paper, New Musical Express (NME).

6

March

2001

Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley received a posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

19

March

2001

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2001’ including Aerosmith, Solomon Burke, the Flamingos, Michael Jackson, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Ritchie Valens and James Burton.

20

March

2001

Renowned Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic 15th studio album, ‘Back To The Blues’ in the UK.

2

April

2001

German industrial heavy metal rock band Rammstein released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘Mutter’ (translated as Mother).

3

April

2001

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their debut studio album, ‘B.R.M.C.’.

10

April

2001

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 11th studio album, ‘No More Shall We Part’.

4

June

2001

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Amnesiac’ in the UK.

18

June

2001

English alternative rock band Muse released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Origin of Symmetry’.

30

June

2001

American guitarist, nicknamed the ‘Country Gentleman’, Chet Atkins died from cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 77.

3

July

2001

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 3rd studio album, ‘White Blood Cells’.

18

July

2001

American hard rock band KISS introduced a unique, if somewhat sinister, item of brand merchandise, a burial coffin humorously known as the ‘KISS Kasket’.

27

July

2001

American bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson died of chronic liver and lung disease in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida at the age of 49.

30

July

2001

Emerging American indie rock band The Strokes released their classic debut album, ‘Is This It’.

18

September

2001

American alternative/indie rock band Wilco released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.

23

October

2001

American technology giant Apple Inc. introduced the first iPod solid state portable media player, linked to the iTunes media storage library.

29

November

2001

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 58.

16

December

2001

Scottish guitarist and singer with punk rock band Skids and then Big Country, Stuart Adamson committed suicide in Honolulu, Hawaii at the age of 43.

5

March

2002

MTV broadcast the first episode of their reality TV show ‘The Osbournes’, featuring a portrayal of the Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne’s family life.

18

March

2002

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2002’ including Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Gene Pitney, Ramones, Talking Heads and Chet Atkins.

26

March

2002

British heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their massive live concert album, ‘Rock In Rio’.

12

April

2002

English heavy metal singer with Black Sabbath and TV reality show celebrity, Ozzy Osbourne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6780 Hollywood Boulevard.

14

May

2002

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his commercially successful 6th studio album, ‘18’.

5

June

2002

American bass guitarist Dee Dee Ramone of punk rock band Ramones died from a heroin drug overdose at his home in Hollywood, California at the age of 50.

27

June

2002

English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, John Entwistle, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, died of a cocaine‑related heart attack in a Hard Rock hotel room in Paradise, Nevada at the age of 57.

27

August

2002

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Songs For The Deaf’.

24

September

2002

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his introspective and highly underrated 8th studio album, ‘Sea Change’.

14

October

2002

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful debut studio album, ‘Up The Bracket’.

18

October

2002

English pop/rock band Queen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6356 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

October

2002

Highly renowned American record producer who worked for Atlantic Records, Tom Dowd died of emphysema in Aventura, Florida at the age of 77.

3

November

2002

Scottish singer and guitarist, crowned the ‘King of Skiffle’, Lonnie Donegan died of a heart attack in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire at the age of 71.

22

December

2002

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joe Strummer of punk rock band The Clash died from a congenital heart defect at his home in Somerset, UK at the age of 50.

30

December

2002

The funeral of English guitarist, singer and songwriter with punk rock band The Clash, Joe Strummer took place in London, UK.

3

February

2003

Famous American ‘wall of sound’ record producer, Phil Spector murdered actress Lana Clarkson in his California Alhambra mansion.

10

February

2003

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their underrated 4th studio album, ‘100th Window’ in the UK.

10

March

2003

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2003’ including AC/DC, The Clash, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Police, The Righteous Brothers and Floyd Cramer.

1

April

2003

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their highly regarded 4th studio album, ‘Elephant’.

1

April

2003

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 4th studio album, ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’.

18

April

2003

Legendary American blues/R&B, soul and jazz singer Etta James received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

11

May

2003

English bass guitarist with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding died of liver disease in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland at the age of 57.

15

May

2003

American country music singer and wife of Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash died following heart surgery in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 73.

30

May

2003

Successful English record producer behind many massive chart hits, Mickie Most died from abdominal cancer at his home in London at the age of 64.

9

June

2003

Acclaimed English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 6th studio album, ‘Hail To The Thief’.

13

June

2003

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, David Gilmour was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.

30

July

2003

Legendary American record producer Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records and the man responsible for signing Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, died of respiratory failure in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 80.

25

August

2003

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Take Them On, On Your Own’.

12

September

2003

Less than 4 months after his wife passed away, American country legend Johnny Cash died of complications caused by diabetes in Nashville at the age of 71.

26

September

2003

English singer, songwriter, musician, solo artist and former member of the pop rock band Power Station, Robert Palmer died of a heart attack in a hotel room in Paris, France at the age of 54.

29

September

2003

English alternative rock band Muse released their successful 3nd studio album, ‘Absolution’.

12

December

2003

English singer and songwriter with The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger received a knighthood from HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

9

February

2004

English indie rock band Franz Ferdinand released their successful debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Franz Ferdinand’.

15

March

2004

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2004’ including Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Prince, Bob Seger, Traffic and ZZ Top.

6

May

2004

American virtuoso jazz guitarist and session musician with The Wrecking Crew, Barney Kessel died from a brain tumour at his home in San Diego, California at the age of 80.

10

June

2004

American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer Ray Charles died from complications as a result of acute liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 73.

15

June

2004

Emerging American rock band The Killers released their hugely successful debut studio album, ‘Hot Fuss’.

23

June

2004

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was made ‘Doctor of Music’ at St. Andrews University in Scotland, UK.

24

June

2004

Exactly 5 years after his first sale, English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. Together, the two auctions raised $11 million for the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua, a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

21

July

2004

American music composer, Jerry Goldsmith, famous for his many TV and film scores, died from cancer in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 75.

30

August

2004

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful eponymous 2nd studio album, ‘The Libertines’.

6

September

2004

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic self-titled debut studio album, ‘Kasabian’.

9

September

2004

Successful American guitar and musical equipment entrepreneur and businessman, Ernie Ball died in San Luis Obispo, California at the age of 74.

15

September

2004

American guitarist and songwriter with punk rock band Ramones, Johnny Ramone died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 56.

20

September

2004

Indie/alternative rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their epic 13th double studio album, ‘Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus’.

21

September

2004

American post-punk rock band Green Day released their top-selling 7th studio album, ‘American Idiot’ in the U.S.

27

September

2004

German industrial heavy metal band Rammstein released their 4th studio album, ‘Reise, Reise’ (roughly translated as ‘Arise, Arise’).

25

October

2004

Highly acclaimed English DJ and BBC radio presenter, John Peel died from a heart attack while working on holiday in Cusco, Peru at the age of 65.

1

November

2004

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’ in the UK (22 February 2005 in the US).

3

November

2004

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Eric Clapton received a CBE from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in London for his services to music.

8

December

2004

American guitarist, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, co-founder of heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan was murdered while performing on stage in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 38.

14

December

2004

The funeral of American guitarist with heavy rock bands Pantera and Damageplan, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, took place in Arlington, Texas.

10

February

2005

English singer with The Who, Roger Daltrey was awarded a CBE by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

14

March

2005

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2005’ including Buddy Guy, The O’Jays, The Pretenders, Percy Sledge and U2.

22

March

2005

American alternative rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 4th studio album ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’.

11

June

2005

Two English rock guitarists were rewarded for their contributions to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was awarded an OBE and Brian May of Queen a CBE.

22

August

2005

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 3rd studio album, ‘Howl’.

30

August

2005

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 5th studio album, ‘Plans’.

1

September

2005

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist R.L. Burnside died of heart disease in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 78.

4

September

2005

The major feature film chronicling the life of country legend Johnny Cash, ‘Walk The Line’, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, directed by James Mangold, was released in the USA.

10

September

2005

American guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown died from cancer in Orange, Texas at the age of 81.

5

November

2005

Influential American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Link Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of 76.

23

January

2006

English indie rock sensation, Arctic Monkeys released their debut studio album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.

13

March

2006

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2006’ including Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sex Pistols and Herb Alpert.

7

July

2006

English guitarist, songwriter and founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Cambridge at the age of 60.

25

July

2005

British indie rock band Editors released their debut studio album, ‘The Back Room’ in the UK.

30

July

2006

Popular weekly UK music chart TV programme ‘Top Of The Pops’ (TOTP) was broadcast by the BBC for the final time, after running for 42 years.

28

August

2006

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Empire’.

15

October

2006

After American singer Patti Smith finished her live set at New York City’s famous punk rock music venue CBGB & OMFUG, the club finally closed its doors for good, following a rent dispute and thereby ending an era.

25

December

2006

Legendary American singer and the ‘Godfather of Soul’, James Brown died of pneumonia in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 73.

28

February

2007

American rock band The Doors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

12

March

2007

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2007’ including Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith and Van Halen.

23

April

2007

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their sophomore studio album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’.

25

June

2007

British indie rock band Editors released their sophomore studio album, ‘An End Has a Start’.

5

November

2007

English downtempo artist William Emmanuel Bevan (a.k.a. Burial) released his melancholic genre breaking 2nd studio album, ‘Untrue’.

12

December

2007

Controversial American rock ‘n’ roll and R&B pioneer, Ike Turner died from a cocaine overdose at his home in San Marcos, California at the age of 76.

2

March

2008

Extraordinary blind Canadian blues/rock guitarist Jeff Healey died from lung cancer in Toronto at the age of 41.

10

March

2008

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2008’ including Leonard Cohen, The Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, The Ventures and Little Walter.

1

April

2008

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Attack & Release’.

3

April

2008

American media and technology giant Apple Inc. became the top seller of recorded music in the USA.

19

April

2008

The annual global campaign to promote the importance of independent music stores ‘Record Store Day’ began in California, USA.

28

April

2008

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their 3rd studio album, the originally titled, ‘Third’.

12

May

2008

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 6th studio album, ‘Narrow Stairs’.

26

May

2008

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 6th studio album, ‘Songs In A&E’.

2

June

2008

Legendary American blues and rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Bo Diddley died from heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79.

7

June

2008

The ‘homecoming’ funeral of American blues guitarist and singer Bo Diddley took place in Gainseville Florida.

19

June

2008

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their debut studio album, ‘Wagonwheel Blues’.

10

August

2008

Acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Isaac Hayes died of a stroke at his home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 65.

19

September

2008

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’.

10

October

2008

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 7th studio album, ‘In Rainbows’ in the UK.

24

November

2008

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his highly acclaimed live concert album, ‘Performing This Week… Live At Ronnie Scott’s’.

15

December

2008

Hugely influential English folk acoustic guitarist Davey Graham died of lung cancer at the age of 68.

6

January

2009

American guitarist and songwriter with The Stooges and Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the age of 60.

29

January

2009

Influential British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn died from pneumonia in Kilkenny, Ireland at the age of 60.

23

February

2009

English rave band The Prodigy released their resurgent 5th studio album, ‘Invaders Must Die’.

4

April

2009

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2009’ including Jeff Beck, Metallica, Run‑D.M.C., Bobby Womack, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana.

13

April

2009

Controversial American record producer Phil Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra mansion in California in February 2003.

14

April

2009

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.

29

May

2009

Notorious American record producer, Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his California mansion in 2003.

5

June

2009

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’.

25

June

2009

American superstar singer Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 50.

12

August

2009

Legendary American jazz guitarist, singer, inventor and recording innovator, Les Paul, died from pneumonia in White Plains, New York at the age of 94.

19

August

2009

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 3rd studio album, ‘Humbug’.

12

October

2009

British indie rock band Editors released their 3rd studio album, ‘In This Light And On This Evening’.

Tailpiece

Help! We are running out of decades from which to poach pertinent and poignant particulars (pardon the flowery alliteration). Just one more decade and a few hundred facts to be revealed before the chronological timeline has to remain as‑yet‑unwritten for another epoch. The next instalment looking at the 2010s will, by definition, bring us pretty much up‑to‑date. I hope you feel inclined to re-join me in the next enthralling part of the journey.

In the meantime, warmer days and longer evenings of spring beckon. There are plenty of guitars to be played and much music to be listened to. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “It really doesn’t matter what music you play, as long as you play”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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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…

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June 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part IV

Introduction

Welcome once again all guitar and music aficionados. We are now half way through 2019 and not only are the evenings once again beginning to draw in but also the end of the ‘noughties’ is just a few months away. What a sobering thought. One wonders whether the 2020s will match the exhilarating heights (and lows) of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of last Century. Sometimes, I doubt it and there are too many ‘harbingers of doom’ for optimism and hope to reign too strongly but perhaps it was ever thus – I hope I’m wrong. However, that sort of future speculation is for another place an time, as this month we are looking back to some 70‑80 years’ ago.

We are here in the midst of a series of articles chronicling the story of modern music by way of numerous guitar‑oriented facts and events. If you’ve been following the series so far, you’ll already know that, so I won’t bang on about it any longer.

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

The Story of Modern Music Part IV 1940-1949

There are so many facets to the 1940s that to cover the 1950s as well would make for an overlong article, so for the sake of our mutual sanity, let’s take it one step (and decade) at a time. So… this month, we concentrate solely on the 1940s, a watershed decade during which epochal change was increasing in both pace, scale and scope. Without further ado, assuming you know the routine and format by now, let us dispatch our ‘boots on the ground’ and get on with the show. Onward to the fascinating Forties…

Historical Context 1940-1949

The 1940s was known simply, and rather unimaginatively, as ‘The Forties’. During the first half of the decade the world was dominated by major conflict and brutal warfare. As if the world had not already seen enough, almost as soon as WWII ended, the Cold War began, again raising international political and military tensions between the capitalist west and communist eastern blocs, a struggle that would last for several decades. Ordinary people in many countries suffered on‑going economic austerity, adversity and disadvantage for many years as a consequence of WWII. Socially, concerns over the possibility of widespread post‑war friction sat at odds with hopes for long‑term peace. Technological progress was closely linked to competitive military advances and many major innovations spawned during the 1940s would ultimately benefit future generations.

Year

Global Events

1940

Conservative MP Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and would remain in power to lead Britain to victory in WWII.

 

The mass evacuation of more than 330,000 allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France to England took place during WWII.

 

In WWII, the German Luftwaffe carried out the ‘Blitz’, the massive air bombardment of London, UK.

 

The WWII aerial Battle of Britain took place in the skies over Britain and Europe.

1941

Russia entered WWII when German‑led Axis forces crossed the area covered by the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact, thereby effectively invading the Soviet Union.

 

The classic motion picture film, ‘Citizen Cane’ directed by and starring Orson Welles was released.

 

After 14 years of labour, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota was opened to the public, depicting the massive sculptures of four American presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

 

America joined WWII after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

1942

The classic movie, ‘Casablanca’ was premiered, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

1943

The world’s largest office building and headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, The Pentagon, was completed in Virginia.

1944

Operation Overlord (commonly known as ‘D-Day’) saw 150,000 allied troops successfully storm the beaches of Normandy in France against German defences.

1945

Germany surrendered to the allied forces, effectively ending WWII in Europe.

 

U.S. atomic weapons testing was undertaken at the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico as part of the research & development programme known as the Manhattan Project.

 

Two American atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan leading to unconditional surrender and the formal end of WWII. Over 60 million people were killed during the conflict.

 

The United Nations (UN) organisation was formed, with a mission to maintain international peace and security.

 

Democrat Harry S. Truman became 33rd President of the U.S.A. following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The Nuremburg Trials began; a military tribunal established to prosecute the most prominent political and military leaders of Nazi Germany for war crimes during WWII.

1946

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first programmable electronic computer was unveiled at the University of Pennsylvania.

1946/

1947

The Cold War between Russia with its neighbouring Eastern Bloc states and America with its western allies started and lasted until the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union between 1889 and 1991.

 

The transistor semiconductor was developed by American technology company, Bell Labs in New Jersey.

1947

Italian motor company Ferrari started production of luxury sports cars in Modena.

 

American test pilot Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight in a rocket-propelled Bell X-1 aircraft that he nicknamed ‘Glamorous Glennis’, achieving a recorded top speed of Mach 1.06 (807.2mph) at an altitude of 45,000 ft.

1948

British author George Orwell wrote his prophetic dystopian novel, ‘1984’.

 

The independent state of Israel was established after the British pulled out of Palestine.

 

The British National Health Service (NHS) was founded and would become the model for universal health care in the country. The NHS was part of the wider liberal welfare state system reforms that were implemented the UK.

1949

The Communist People’s Republic of China was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong.

 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed comprising 29 independent member states committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any non‑member countries.

Well that is where the world was at, at the time. Now to refocus our attention onto the matter in hand, musical history.

Musical Genre Development 1940-1949

Music of the 1940s built on the sustained popularity of jazz, bebop and swing/big band music to provide upbeat positivity against the background of WWII, as played by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Electric blues had spread to the west coast of America, particularly California, performed by artists such as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King. Chicago also became a vital locus for electric blues, as played by Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, as did Detroit with the likes of John Lee Hooker, and Indiana with Albert King and Jimmy Reed. Blues remained strong in the southern states, including artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Freddie King. Country and western music also became popular again with ‘singing cowboys’ such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Wartime songs would feature across many musical genres and many entertainers helped to support the allied forces at home and abroad, including Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields and The Andrews Sisters. It was also during the 1940s that the influence of Latin music began to be felt across other genres, popularised by the likes of ‘The Brazilian Bombshell’, Carmen Miranda brought to western cinemagoers by film director Busby Berkeley.

Around 1945, bluegrass began to make its mark. Bluegrass fused many American, European and African roots styles culminating in a unique blend of country, folk, traditional and Appalachian mountain music incorporating blues and jazz influences. The music is usually played on acoustic string instruments including fiddle, five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. Bluegrass was particularly popular for dancing, including dance styles such as buckdancing, flatfooting and clogging. The term ‘bluegrass’ arose not only from a type of grass in the region near Kentucky but also from the name used by pioneers of the genre, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Monroe is often called the ‘Father of Bluegrass’ and his band notably featured Earl Scruggs on banjo and Lester Flatt on guitar. In the early days, bluegrass was categorised along with country & western, hillbilly and folk music before being defined as a discrete genre that remains popular today.

Traditional popular music is generally defined as having broad appeal for a wide audience and has existed throughout time and across the globe. While the ‘pop song’ originated in the 1920s, modern popular music is largely accepted to be Anglo‑American in origin and arose during the 1940s as the big bands declined and before rock & roll music took off in the mid‑1950s. Popular music was notable for structured song writing, often comprising repeated verse and chorus with a middle bridge section. Popular music was often based on musical standards, sung by ‘crooners’. In addition, popular music was also often composed by professional songwriters, which was then performed by a vocalist accompanied by a backing band or orchestra. Success was characterised by record sales and chart position as a measure of achievement. Perhaps the most famous popular music artists of the early popular music era were Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby who achieved enormous commercial success. The familiar term ‘pop music’ actually appears to have its origins in Britain in the mid‑1950s. Popular music is often referred to as, but not synonymous with, ‘pop’ music; however, pop music developed as a major separate genre during the 1960s and has largely remained so to the current day. Another characteristic is that popular music is constantly evolving into many different formats and styles to keep pace with social and cultural changes, including aging western populations. Traditional popular standards were being released well into the 1950s by the likes of Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Dean Martin.

During the late 1940s, there was already indicative evidence of the sounds that would coalesce and become what we now call rock ‘n’ roll during the 1950s, particularly by blues/R&B artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. That fundamental step-change is now for the next article.

Musical Facts 1940-1949

Many legendary artists that we now take for granted as part of today’s musical landscape were not yet born or still mere fledglings yet to make their indelible mark on our collective consciousness. As with last month’s article, a large proportion of the musical facts relate to births of future stars.

Looking down the long list of nearly 200 musical events during the 1940s, it could quickly become repetitive, e.g. American/English blah‑de‑blah was born in blah, blah. However, just a scan of the names and places gives a sense about what these youthful individuals were experiencing as teenagers during the ‘big bang’ of rock ‘n’ roll and the tsunami of the ‘British Invasion’, just a few years later. Just think of the exposure they had to sweeping new music crazes and how the fads might have inspired and stimulated these curious youngsters on to great music careers that they could never have foreseen. Some of these fabulous flames would burn brightly and briefly, while others would endure as wizened veterans still working hard and influencing today’s generations. As time passes, the balance between births, lifetime achievements and, sadly, deaths will shift considerably.

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

1940

American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Seasick Steve was born c.1940 or 1941 (date not disclosed) in Oakland, California.

27

July

1940

Billboard magazine published its first Music Popularity Chart. Topping the chart at No. 1 was Tommy Dorsey with his hit song, ‘I’ll Never Smile Again’.

9

October

1940

Massively influential of English singer, songwriter, guitarist, former member of The Beatles and successful solo artist, John Lennon MBE (1940-1980, 40) was born in Liverpool.

26

November

1940

Hugely influential English folk guitarist, Davey Graham (1940-2008, 68) was born in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.

21

December

1940

Prolific genius, American guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer, the one and only Mr Frank Vincent Zappa (1940-1993, 52) was born in Baltimore, Maryland.

9

January

1941

Legendary perennial American folk/protest singer, songwriter, guitarist, and political activist, Joan Baez was born in Staten Island, New York.

15

January

1941

Influential American rock singer, songwriter and musician, Don Van Vliet (better known as Captain Beefheart) was born in Glendale, California.

24

January

1941

Acclaimed American singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York.

24

January

1941

English folk singer, songwriter and guitarist Michael Chapman was born in Leeds, Yorkshire.

14

February

1941

Prolific English studio session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (1941-2012, 71) was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex. Sullivan appeared on about 750 chart singles including 54 chart toppers.

24

April

1941

Australian virtuoso classical and contemporary guitarist, as well as one-time member of instrumental fusion rock group SKY, John Williams was born in Melbourne.

24

May

1941

Nobel prize-winner for literature, American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota.

18

July

1941

Influential country/blues/rock guitarist and singer songwriter, Lonnie Mack (1941-2016, 74) was born in West Harrison, Indiana.

14

August

1941

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, founder of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Hall of Famer, David Crosby was born in Los Angeles, California.

20

August

1941

The ‘grandfather of space rock’, English guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of psychedelic rock band Hawkwind, Dave Brock was born in Isleworth, Middlesex.

13

October

1941

Living legend, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, formerly half of Simon & Garfunkel and a successful solo artist, Paul Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey.

21

October

1941

Multi-Hall of Famer, American guitarist, songwriter, record producer and member of Stax Records’ house band Booker T. & the MG’s, Steve Cropper was born in Dora, Missouri.

28

October

1941

English guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known for his uniquely distinctive work with The Shadows, Hank Marvin was born in Newcastle upon Tyne.

2

November

1941

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, best known as an original member of instrumental pop/rock band The Shadows, Bruce Welch OBE was born in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

20

November

1941

Great American singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional guitarist Dr John was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

4

January

1942

English jazz/rock fusion guitarist, composer, solo artist and member of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

28

February

1942

English guitarist and founding member of rock band The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones (1942-1969, 27) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

2

March

1942

Legendary American virtuoso jazz guitarist Charlie Christian died from tuberculosis in New York at the age of just 25.

2

March

1942

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with The Velvet Underground and as a successful solo artist, Lou Reed (1942-2013, 71) was born in Brooklyn, New York.

24

April

1942

Oscar-winning American singer, songwriter, actress and film maker Barbra Streisand was born in New York City.

17

May

1942

Hugely influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Taj Mahal (a.k.a. Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr) was born in Harlem, New York.

1

June

1942

Highly influential virtuoso Spanish flamenco guitarist, Paco Peña was born in Cordoba.

18

June

1942

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pop/rock bands The Beatles and Wings, as well as a successful solo artist, Sir Paul McCartney MBE was born in Liverpool.

13

July

1942

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of rock band The Byrds, Roger McGuinn was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1

August

1942

Influential American singer/songwriter and guitarist with Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia (1942-1995, 53) was born in San Francisco, California.

27

November

1942

A true music legend, American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, the one and only James Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970, 27) was born in Seattle, Washington.

31

December

1942

English guitarist, composer, member of rock band The Police and successful solo artist, Andy Summers was born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

10

January

1943

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jim Croce (1943-1973, 30) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

19

January

1943

Legendary American psychedelic blues/rock singer Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas.

25

February

1943

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of The Beatles, George Harrison (1943-2001, 58) was born in Liverpool.

22

March

1943

Influential American jazz/soul/R&B guitarist, singer and songwriter, George Benson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2

April

1943

American jazz guitarist, the ‘Godfather of Fusion’, Larry Coryell (1943-2017, 73) was born in Galveston, Texas.

14

May

1943

Scottish bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of blues rock super group Cream, Jack Bruce (1943-2014, 71) was born in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire.

5

July

1943

Canadian guitarist, songwriter, composer, producer and former member of Americana rock group The Band, Robbie Robertson was born in Toronto, Ontario.

26

July

1943

English singer, songwriter and occasional guitarist, a founding member of rock band the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger was born in Dartford, Kent.

28

July

1943

Renowned American blues guitarist and Hall of Famer, Mike Bloomfield (1943-1981, 37) was born in Chicago, Illinois.

24

August

1943

American guitarist and founder of west coast rock bands Quicksilver Messenger Service and Copperhead, John Cipollina (1943-1989, 45) was born in Berkeley, California.

6

September

1943

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Roger Waters was born in Great Bookham, Surrey.

5

October

1943

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, Steve Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

3

November

1943

Sublimely talented Scottish guitarist and founding member of folk revival band Pentangle, Bert Jansch (1943-2011, 67) was born in Glasgow.

7

November

1943

Highly influential Canadian folk, jazz, rock and pop guitarist, singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell was born in Fort Macleod, Alberta.

28

November

1943

Highly acclaimed American singer, songwriter and composer of numerous film scores, Randy Newman was born in Los Angeles, California.

8

December

1943

Iconic American singer, poet, counter-culture rebel and front man of rock band, The Doors, Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida.

12

December

1943

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer and founding member of rock band The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Florida.

18

December

1943

Legendary English guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of rock band The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards was born in Dartford, Kent.

21

December

1943

Hugely talented English guitarist and songwriter known for his country/rock hybrid picking style, Albert Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire.

31

December

1943

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, John Denver (1943-1997, 53) was born in Roswell, New Mexico.

9

January

1944

English musical innovator and legendary guitarist, best known for his work with hard rock band Led Zeppelin, the highly influential Jimmy Page OBE was born in Heston, Middlesex.

23

February

1944

Great American blues guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Johnny Winter (1944-2014, 70) was born in Beaumont, Texas.

1

March

1944

English singer, actor, founder and long-term front man of rock group The Who, Roger Daltrey was born in London.

23

March

1944

Trailblazing English guitarist and founder of blues/rock band Groundhogs, Tony McPhee was born in Humberston, Lincolnshire.

15

April

1944

Welsh rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Dave Edmunds was born in Cardiff.

28

May

1944

American Motown legend and award-winning ‘Empress of Soul’, the formidable Gladys Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

7

June

1944

American bluegrass and country rock guitarist who was a member of rock band The Byrds and an accomplished session musician, Clarence White was born in Lewiston, Maine.

8

June

1944

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, former member of the Steve Miller Band and a successful solo artist, Boz Scaggs was born in Canton, Ohio.

17

June

1944

Respected, versatile and prolific English session guitarist, singer and producer, Chris Spedding was born in Staveley, Derbyshire.

21

June

1944

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former front man of pop/rock band The Kinks, as well as solo artist, Sir Ray Davies CBE was born in London.

24

June

1944

Outstanding and prolific English instrumental guitar genius, as well as former member of blues/rock band The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck was born in Wallington, Surrey.

8

August

1944

Renowned English guitarist and songwriter, known for his work with Bert Jansch and folk revival group Pentangle, John Renbourn (1944-2015, 70) was born in London.

16

August

1944

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with psychedelic rock band Soft Machine, as well as a successful solo artist, Kevin Ayers (1944-2013, 68) was born in Herne Bay, Kent.

9

October

1944

Legendary English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, John Entwistle (1944-2002, 57) was born in London.

19

October

1944

Jamaican reggae guitarist, singer and songwriter, a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers and a successful solo artist, Peter Tosh was born in Grange Hill, Jamaica.

15

December

1944

Famous American big band leader and musician Glenn Miller was killed when the plane in which he was flying disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel during WWII at the age of 40.

18

December

1944

British guitarist, best known as member of progressive rock band Man, Deke Leonard (1944-2017, 72) was born in Llanelli, South Wales.

19

December

1944

Highly regarded English guitarist, singer, and member of blues/rock group Ten Years After, Alvin Lee (1944-2013, 68) was born in Nottingham.

3

January

1945

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), Stephen Stills was born in Dallas, Texas.

6

February

1945

A true legend as well as a great ambassador for Jamaica and reggae music with The Wailers, Rastafarian singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Marley (1945-1981, 36) was born in Nine Mile, Jamaica.

9

March

1945

English blues/rock guitarist who came to fame as a member of rock band Procol Harum, before embarking on a long and successful solo career, Robin Trower was born in London.

11

March

1945

American guitarist, member of Canned Heat amongst others, and one of the first to popularise the two-handed tapping playing technique, Harvey Mandel was born in Detroit, Michigan.

30

March

1945

Highly renowned English blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and Hall of Famer, Eric Clapton CBE was born in Ripley, Surrey.

13

April

1945

Great American guitarist, singer and songwriter with Little Feat, Lowell George (1945-1979, 34) was born in Hollywood, California.

14

April

1945

Hugely influential English guitarist and co-founder of hard rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow, as well as folk rock duo Blackmore’s Night, Ritchie Blackmore was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

6

May

1945

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist and leader of the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger was born in Detroit, Michigan.

19

May

1945

English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of The Who, Pete Townshend was born in London.

28

May

1945

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and former member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty was born in Berkeley, California.

1

July

1945

American singer, songwriter, actress and founding member of rock band Blondie, Debbie Harry was born in Miami, Florida.

31

August

1945

Northern Irish rhythm & blues singer, songwriter and producer, Sir Van Morrison OBE was born in Belfast.

4

September

1945

Amazing American ‘Redneck Jazz’ guitarist, Danny Gatton (1945-1994, 49) was born in Washington D.C.

10

September

1945

Prolific Puerto Rican guitarist, singer and songwriter, José Feliciano was born in Lares.

11

September

1945

Extraordinary American multi-genre acoustic guitarist and a true master of his instrument, Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia.

26

September

1945

English singer, songwriter and former front man of glam art rock band Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry CBE was born in Washington, County Durham.

3

October

1945

American singer Elvis Presley made his first public performance at the age of 10 when he sang ‘Old Shep’ at the Mississippi/Alabama Dairy Show talent competition. Reports say he came 2nd and won $5, while Elvis later recollected coming 5th and not winning a prize.

31

October

1945

English guitarist, singer, producer and one time member of rock band Argent, Russ Ballard was born in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire.

26

November

1945

English bass guitarist with rock bands John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then Fleetwood Mac, John McVie was born in London.

30

November

1945

Welsh bass guitarist, songwriter and producer, best known as a member of heavy rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow, Roger Glover was born in Brecon, Powys.

24

December

1945

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founder of rock band Motörhead, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (1945-2015, 70) was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

25

December

1945

English bass guitarist and member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding (1945-2003, 57) was born in Folkestone, Kent.

3

January

1946

English bass guitarist, songwriter, former member of hard rock band Led Zeppelin, solo artist as well as a member of Them Crooked Vultures, John Paul Jones was born in Sidcup, Kent.

6

January

1946

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett (1946-2006, 60) was born in Cambridge.

8

January

1946

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known as a key member of rock band The Doors, Robby Krieger was born in Los Angeles, California.

19

January

1946

Larger-than-life American country music legend, successful business woman and actress, Dolly Parton was born in Pitman Center, Tennessee.

20

February

1946

American guitarist and leader of The J. Geils Band, John ‘J’ Geils (1946-2017, 71) was born in New York City.

6

March

1946

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, and former member of Pink Floyd, as well as a successful solo artist, the incomparable David Gilmour was born in Cambridge.

12

March

1946

Oscar-winning American singer and actress, Liza Minelli was born in Los Angeles, California.

1

April

1946

English bass player, singer, songwriter and founder of rock bands the Small Faces and the Faces, Ronnie Lane (1946-1997, 51) was born in Plaistow, Essex.

4

April

1946

English guitarist and member of pop/glam rock band Slade, Dave Hill was born in Holbeton, Devon.

16

May

1946

One of the great experimental English guitarists of our time and member of progressive rock band King Crimson, Robert Fripp was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

26

May

1946

Great English rock guitarist and close companion of David Bowie, Mick Ronson (1946-1993, 46) was born in Kingston upon Hull.

7

June

1946

Welsh guitarist and co-founder of progressive/psychedelic rock band Man, Micky Jones (1946-2010, 63) born in Merthyr Tydfil.

15

June

1946

English guitarist and singer with glam pop/rock group Slade, Noddy Holder MBE was born in Walsall, Staffordshire.

6

August

1946

Extraordinarily talented English virtuoso fusion/rock guitarist Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017, 70) was born in Bradford.

23

August

1946

Influential and eccentric English drummer and member of rock band The Who, Keith Moon, was born in Wembley, Middlesex.

5

September

1946

Flamboyant English singer with rock/pop band Queen, Freddie Mercury (real name Farrokh Bulsara) was born in Stone Town in the Sultanate of Zanzibar (now Tanzania).

14

October

1946

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock band The Moody Blues, Justin Hayward was born in Swindon, Wiltshire.

29

October

1946

Highly acclaimed and influential English guitarist and co-founder of blues/rock band Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green was born in London.

5

November

1946

American country rock guitarist with The Byrds, Gram Parsons (1946-1973, 26) was born in Winter Haven, Florida.

17

November

1946

Great English guitarist, best known as a long-term member of rock band Jethro Tull, Martin Barre was born in Birmingham.

20

November

1946

Legendary American guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, nicknamed ‘Skydog’, Duane Allman (1946-1971, 24) was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

22

November

1946

Jamaican bass guitarist and producer who played with reggae bands Bob Marley & The Wailers and The Upsetters, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett was born in Kingston.

24

December

1946

Dutch progressive rock and jazz fusion guitarist best known for his work with rock band Focus, as well as a long solo career, Jan Akkerman was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

30

December

1946

Influential American singer, poet and activist, part of the vibrant New York punk movement, Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1947

American session guitarist and collaborator, best known for his work with Steely Dan, Elliott Randall was born (exact date not known).

8

January

1947

A true legend, English singer, songwriter, occasional guitarist and actor, the one and only David Bowie (1947-2016, 69) was born in London.

22

January

1947

English punk pioneer, the manager of New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, as well as a solo music artist, Malcolm McLaren was born in London.

30

January

1947

English ‘mod’ guitarist with rock bands Small Faces and Humble Pie, Steve Marriott (1947-1991, 44) was born in London.

3

February

1947

English guitarist, singer and songwriter who, along with his older brother Ray, provided the driving force behind pop/rock band The Kinks, Dave Davies was born in London.

14

February

1947

American multi-genre singer, songwriter and guitarist, Tim Buckley (1947-1975, 28) was born in Washington D.C.

15

March

1947

American musician, composer, songwriter and phenomenal slide guitarist, Ry Cooder was born in Los Angeles, California.

25

March

1947

Flamboyant multi-award-winning English pop singer, songwriter and pianist, Sir Elton John CBE was born in Pinner, Middlesex.

8

April

1947

Great English guitarist, songwriter and producer best known as a long-time member of progressive rock group Yes, Steve Howe was born in London.

1

June

1947

English guitarist with rock band The Rolling Stones and previously the Faces and the Jeff Beck Group, Ronnie Wood was born in Hillingdon, Middlesex.

5

June

1947

American guitarist, singer, co-founder of funk band Sly And The Family Stone, and now a Christian pastor, Freddie Stone was born in Vallejo, California.

9

June

1947

English guitarist and long-time member of rock band Uriah Heep, Mick Box was born in Walthamstow, East London.

12

July

1947

Influential English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson was born in Canvey Island, Essex.

19

July

1947

Award-winning English guitarist, astrophysicist, animal rights activist and co-founder of rock/pop band Queen, Dr. Brian May CBE was born in Hampton, Middlesex.

20

July

1947

Highly acclaimed Mexican/American guitarist, songwriter and main man for Latin/jazz/fusion/rock group Santana, Carlos Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco.

3

September

1947

Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist and founder of rock group Thin Lizzy, Eric Bell was born in Dublin.

30

September

1947

Massively influential English glam rock pioneer Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and then T.Rex (1947-1977, 29) was born in London.

1

October

1947

English bass guitarist, singer and founding member of rock band Wishbone Ash, Martin Turner was born in Torquay, Devon.

8

November

1947

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pop/rock bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and Wizzard, Roy Wood was born in Birmingham.

10

November

1947

English bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for his work with progressive rock bands King Crimson and ELP, as well as a successful solo artist, Greg Lake (1947-2016, 69) was born in Poole, Dorset.

10

November

1947

American guitarist best known for working with the original Alice Cooper band, Glen Buxton (1947-1997, 49) was born in Akron, Ohio.

12

November

1947

American guitarist with rock band Blue Öyster Cult since its formation in 1967, Buck Dharma (a.k.a. David Roeser) was born in Long Island, New York.

20

November

1947

Great American guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist and member of country rock band Eagles, Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, Kansas.

8

December

1947

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman (1947-2017, 69) was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

21

December

1947

Highly influential Spanish virtuoso Flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucíá (1947-2014, 66) was born in Cadiz.

12

January

1948

English jazz fusion guitarist supreme and long-term member of progressive rock band Soft Machine, John Etheridge was born in London.

15

January

1948

American singer and frontman of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, the great Ronnie Van Zant was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

2

February

1948

American guitarist, songwriter, producer and ex-member of funk band Earth Wind & Fire, Al McKay was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

4

February

1948

Theatrical American rock singer, songwriter, actor and presenter, Alice Cooper was born in Detroit, Michigan.

19

February

1948

English rock guitarist with Black Sabbath and the ‘Godfather of Heavy Metal’, Tony Iommi was born in Birmingham.

2

March

1948

Legendary Irish blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Rory Gallagher (1948-1995, 47) was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal.

2

March

1948

American jazz fusion guitarist, composer and prolific multi‑genre session musician, the great Larry Carlton was born in Torrance, California.

4

March

1948

Renowned English bass guitarist and co-founder of progressive rock band Yes, Chris Squire (1948-2015, 67) was born in London.

6

April

1948

Talented English multi-genre guitarist and composer, Gordon Giltrap was born in Brenchley, Kent.

30

April

1948

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer and co-founder of rock band MC5, Wayne Kramer was born in Detroit, Michigan.

15

May

1948

Pioneering experimental English composer, producer, musician and founding member of glam rock band Roxy Music, Brian Eno was born in Melton, Suffolk.

18

June

1948

Columbia Records began mass producing the 33RPM long‑playing (LP) record. The original concept of the vinyl ‘album’ has endured and has undergone a retro revival in the digital age.

19

June

1948

Highly respected English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake (1948-1974, 26) was born in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

20

June

1948

Scottish bass guitarist and founding member of 1970s pop group, The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir (1948-2018, 70) was born in Edinburgh.

22

June

1948

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, solo artist and founding member of progressive rock band Utopia, Todd Rundgren was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

17

July

1948

American guitarist and songwriter with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Ron Asheton (1948-2009, 60) was born in Washington D.C.

2

August

1948

Welsh singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of rock band Amen Corner, Andy Fairweather Low was born in Ystrad Mynach.

24

August

1948

French electronic composer, instrumentalist and producer, Jean-Michel Jarre was born in Lyon.

31

August

1948

German rhythm guitarist, songwriter and founder of hard rock band Scorpions, Rudolf Schenker was born in Hildesheim.

11

September

1948

Hugely influential and innovative British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn (1948-2009, 60) was born in London.

8

October

1948

Pioneering American punk rock guitarist and songwriter with the Ramones, Johnny Ramone (1948-2004, 56) was born in New York.

12

October

1948

English guitarist and long-term member of rock band Status Quo, Rick Parfitt (1948-2016, 68) was born in Woking, Surrey. ‏

6

November

1948

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor and founding member of country rock band Eagles, Glenn Frey (1948-2016, 67) was born in Detroit, Michigan.

3

December

1948

English singer, songwriter, TV personality and member of heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, nicknamed ‘The Prince of Darkness’, Ozzy Osbourne was born in Birmingham.

13

December

1948

American guitarist, best known for his work with Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and Spirit, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter was born in Washington D.C.

13

December

1948

Controversial American singer, songwriter and guitarist, known for his ultra-conservative political views, the ‘Motor City Madman’, Ted Nugent was born in Redford, Michigan.

18

December

1948

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer best known for his work with experimental rock band Be-Bop Deluxe, Bill Nelson was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

22

December

1948

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with rock band Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen was born in Elmhurst, Illinois.

17

January

1949

English guitarist and former member of blues/rock bands John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and The Rolling Stones, Mick Taylor was born in Welwyn Garden City.

19

January

1949

English pop/rock singer and songwriter and member of rock bands Vinegar Joe and the Power Station, Robert Palmer was born in Batley, Yorkshire.

7

February

1949

English bass guitarist and founding member of pop/rock band Status Quo, Alan Lancaster was born in London.

31

March

1949

Record company, RCA Victor released their first 45RPM 7″ single, ‘Texarkana Baby’ by Eddy Arnold… on green vinyl.

3

April

1949

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist and former member of folk rock band Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson was born in London.

4

May

1949

Scottish guitarist, best known for his work with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the 1970s, Zal Cleminson was born in Glasgow.

17

May

1949

English guitarist, singer, composer and founder of progressive rock band Camel, Andrew Latimer was born in Guildford, Surrey.

19

May

1949

American bass guitarist and long-term member of southern blues/rock band ZZ Top, Dusty Hill was born in Dallas, Texas.

29

May

1949

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock/pop band Status Quo, Francis Rossi OBE was born in London.

17

July

1949

Great English bass guitarist with heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, Terence ‘Geezer’ Butler was born in Aston, Birmingham.

12

August

1949

British guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer and co-founder of rock band Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler OBE was born in Glasgow.

20

August

1949

Irish bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of rock group Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, (1949-1986, 36) was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England.

25

August

1949

Israeli/American bass guitarist, singer, actor, businessman and co-founder of rock band KISS, Gene Simmons, nicknamed ‘The Demon’ was born in Tirat Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

28

August

1949

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and ex-member of punk rock pioneers, The Stranglers from 1974-1990, Hugh Cornwell was born in London.

5

September

1949

English guitarist with rock bands Colosseum, Humble Pie and a successful solo artist, Clem Clempson was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

14

September

1949

American guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steve Gaines (1949-1977, 28) was born in Seneca, Missouri.

14

September

1949

American guitarist and bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ed King (1949-2018, 68) was born in Glendale, California.

23

September

1949

American living legend that is ‘The Boss’, Mr. Bruce Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey.

3

October

1949

American guitarist, singer and songwriter primarily with rock band Fleetwood Mac and now solo, Lindsey Buckingham was born in Palo Alto, California.

8

November

1949

American blues, rock, Americana roots and with a hint of country guitarist, singer, songwriter and activist, Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California.

6

December

1949

American blues/folk guitarist and singer, Lead Belly (Huddie William Ledbetter) died of motor neurone disease in New York at the age of 61.

7

December

1949

Prolific and hugely influential American singer, songwriter, composer and actor, Tom Waits was born in Pomona, California.

13

December

1949

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with alternative post-punk rock band Television, Tom Verlaine was born in Denville, New Jersey.

16

December

1949

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with blues/rock band ZZ Top and solo artist, Billy F. Gibbons was born in Houston, Texas.

23

December

1949

American guitarist and singer with a long solo career and known for his work with British progressive rock band King Crimson and a host of others including Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Talking Heads, Adrian Belew was born in Covington, Kentucky.

Tailpiece

Well, that’s it for another month – that is a veritable roll call of rock ‘n’ roll, all packed into just 10 years. The thing that struck me most about this article is the overwhelming focus on America and Britain as the drivers for musical change in the 20th Century. Today, we readily accept a much more diverse, global infusion of styles and influences. One can pontificate that it had to start somewhere and these two countries largely made it happen bilaterally; maybe not exclusively but certainly predominantly. Unsurprisingly, perhaps given the period, it is also male dominated.

Just how quickly we proceed from here depends entirely on the volume of the content. At this rate, we could be at this for a while yet. I didn’t realise when I started, what a colossal exercise it was going to be. However, I have found it fascinating to focus on musical evolution through this lens and I hope that you have found something of interest along the way. Maybe the Forties were not a great deal of interest to you, they were certainly before my time. We will get around to other periods that may motivate your attention span in a different way, I promise… eventually.

We are now well past the chronological midway point but we haven’t yet reached half way in terms of content. The massive upsurge of musical events that took place over the latter part of the 20th Century has still to unfold fully, raising the anticipation of plenty more to come… and, boy, is there plenty more! The ambitious effort to bring an interrelated bunch of musical factoids to life within the context of the broader human condition continues unabated. I hope you will join me on the rest of the journey, hopefully reconvening here‑ish next month. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Material things feed the vanity of the ego, while music nourishes the spirit and sustains the soul.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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May 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part III

Introduction

Well, my, my, my… Here we are back again with spring just about to morph into balmy summer. I can’t believe that we are nearly half way through the last year of the 2010s already.

This means that we are now well into this year’s major music project with article number three of, well, who knows how many at the moment. Such a venture needs breaking down into digestible chunks or it would be colossal as just one bite at the proverbial cherry. The source data is immense, yet still only manages to brush the surface of a monumental subject matter. As always, if there are errors or omissions that I should consider including retrospectively, let me know via e‑mail or the web site’s contact form.

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

The Story of Modern Music Part III 1920-1939

This month, we start at the beginning of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and finish at the end of the ‘Dirty Thirties’ (the latter being a moniker apparently associated with the Dustbowl era rather than something inherently naughty – apologies for that!).

The world had never seen decades like these and hasn’t since. As such, they exhibit polar opposites in human endeavour. These twenty years stand a testimonial to the rapid progress of civilisation while also as a condemnation of the self‑destructive stupidity of the human condition. Hindsight, as ‘they’ say is a wonderful thing, so perhaps we should learn something profound from an examination of our collective past and build a better future for mankind. However, I digress…

This brings us to the format of this article, which follows the same tripartite structure for each 10‑year span as last month. Each decade is given a broad historical context outlining the sorts of global events – good and bad – that occurred, followed by examples of how music genres emerged and changed over the period and, finally, the whole point of this series, some music facts associated with the same years. As a whole, it hopefully provides an interesting insight into what went on. Here we go…

One noticeable trait that comes through strongly this month is the number of births occurring in the 1920s and 1930s of people who would go on to be significant musical icons in the 1950s and thereafter. This means that this month’s ‘facts’ are setting the foundation for future articles, while later ones will see a shift to the other, and rather more mortal, end of their illustrious lifetimes.

Historical Context 1920-1929

The 1920s was a paradigm shift in global affairs. The ‘Roaring Twenties’ and were characterised by post‑WWI optimism, individualism, industrial and economic growth, as well as social, artistic, and cultural dynamism. However, underlying the positivity was an omnipresent political paranoia, fuelled by conspiracy and corruption that stood a portent of the looming storm clouds that were gathering. The rise of radical political doctrines including communism and fascism would ultimately lead to further international conflict. Women were experiencing greater emancipation as a result of the suffragette movement, paving the way for later equalities movements.

Year

Global Events

1920

The United States introduced national legislation to ban the production, transport and sale of alcohol, widely known as the prohibition.

1921

The Irish Revolution led to the partitioning of Ireland into Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom and the South, which is now the Republic of Ireland.

1922

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was created and existed until c.1991 when the political confederation collapsed.

Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician Joseph Stalin became leader, and later dictator, of the USSR.

Danish physicist and philosopher Niels Bohr won the Nobel Prize for his work on atomic structure and quantum theory.

Fascist leader Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister in Italy and proceeded to seize power as dictator espousing an ideology of ‘revolutionary nationalism’.

1923

Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened by British archaeologist Howard Carter.

The first Le Mans 24 Hours Grand Prix of Endurance motor race took place in France. It remains the world’s oldest endurance sports car racing event.

1924

The first international Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France.

1925

Author Franz Kafka wrote the novel, ‘The Trial’, the same year that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote ‘The Great Gatsby’.

The first successful black & white television transmission was made by Scottish engineer John Logie Baird in the UK, with the first public demonstration the following year.

1926

The first General Strike took place in Britain after the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called for widespread industrial action to support miners who were locked out by owners demanding longer hours for less pay.

The famous U.S. Route 66 highway from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California was opened, with a total length of 2,448 miles (3,940 km).

1927

Aviator Charles Lindburgh made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in his plane The Spirit of St. Louis.

The sprawling epic dystopian science fiction silent film, ‘Metropolis’, directed by Fritz Lang was released.

Russian/American singer and actor Al Jolson starred in the first commercial feature length ‘talkie’ film, ‘The Jazz Singer’.

1928

Scottish biologist, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the anti‑biotic penicillin, which would go on to revolutionise modern medicine.

American animator Walt Disney introduced Mickey Mouse to the public in the short film, ‘Steamboat Willie’.

Republican politician Herbert Hoover became the 31st president of the United States of America.

1929

Notorious gangster Al Capone allegedly carried out the brutal Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 7 members of the North Side Gang in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois.

American astronomer Edwin Hubble demonstrated that the universe is expanding.

The Vatican City became an independent and sovereign state located within Rome, Italy.

The U.S. Stock Market collapsed, known widely as the Wall Street Crash, precipitating the worldwide Great Depression that lasted until the late 1930s.

Musical Genre Development 1920-1929

Blues and jazz continued to be popular during the 1920s, the latter sparking the ‘jazzmania’ craze. These twin pillars of modern musical culture also began to spawn new genre styles and to influence a diverse range of musical expression. Record, radio and film companies started to search out new artists and music to bring to a wider audience. It was in 1925 that the electrical recording and the 78rpm vinyl record became standard, the same year that television began, thereby opening up a whole new market for musicians.

In the 1920s, two separate musical forms emerged from Louisiana in the deep south of the United States, cajun and zydeco. The Cajuns were French colonists, called Acadians, from North Eastern America (Canada and Nova Scotia) who migrated to Louisiana in the late 18th Century, bringing with them Cajun musical traditions. The creole were people descended from the inhabitants of French colonial Louisiana and who developed their own distinct musical style called zydeco. Although often regarded as similar, the two forms developed in parallel and have different cultural origins and styles. Cajun music is often played on accordion and fiddle, while zydeco is usually played on accordion and washboard. Both forms became popular outside insular local communities from the late 1920s when early recordings became available. Stylistic origins derived from blues, jazz, spirituals, traditional folk and country music, as well as regional influences from Europe, Africa, indigenous Americans and the Caribbean. Both cajun and zydeco are often used as dance music, including two‑steps and waltzes. Cajun and zydeco, in turn, influenced other forms of American roots music.

From the 1880s, musical theatre such as vaudeville and burlesque were common and very popular. From around 1920, commercial theatrical Broadway musicals originated in New York and London, becoming widespread and attracting big audiences before ‘talkie’ cinema movies began to adopt musical storytelling as a reflection of popular culture. Successful composers of the time included George & Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Prior to the 1920s most music distribution was by way of sheet music, piano rolls or live performance. It was during the 1920s that recording and distribution of popular music really took off, giving audiences much greater access to a wide range of music. However, the gramophone had strong competition from the proliferation of wireless radio and commercial radio stations during the 1920s, as well as motion pictures. In 1927, the first commercial feature length film to incorporate synchronised music, singing and speech, ‘The Jazz Singer’, starring Al Jolson was released. Broadway musicals reached their zenith in the 1940s with hits such as Oklahoma (1943). The convergence and crossover between Broadway and cinema musicals became a major launch pad for musical dissemination into the 1950s and beyond, including the development of soundtrack compositions for film and, later, television.

Country music was another genre that emerged from the Appalachian Mountain region of southern and eastern America during the 1920s, particularly in Tennessee but also Oklahoma and Texas. The roots of country music came largely from traditional genres such as folk, blues, hillbilly and western music, and was heavily influenced by Irish, English and wider European immigrants to the American east and south. Early popular country music, including cowboy songs, were often regarded as the music of the American rural working classes. Popular establishments for hillbilly music were the rowdy honky‑tonk bars of the period. Country music comprised of song ballads and dances normally constructed from simple arrangements, lyrics that told a story, and vocal harmonies. In addition country music accompaniment was usually provided by an array of acoustic string instruments such as banjos, guitars and fiddles as well as harmonicas and Jews harps. Early pioneers of country music included Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, followed by other famous artists such as Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Country music is a massive commercial industry, now largely centred on Nashville, Tennessee. Country music is a diverse musical form of expression and continues to evolve, having seen several resurgences of popularity since its early heyday.

Musical Facts 1920-1929

Bert Weedon

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

10

May

1920

English guitarist and a guide for millions of fledgling guitarists the world over, Bert Weedon OBE (1920-2012, 91) was born in London.

29

August

1920

Legendary American jazz/bebop saxophonist and composer, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker Jr. was born in Kansas City, Kansas.

7

June

1921

Virtuoso American jazz guitarist, Tal Farlow (1921-1998, 77) was born in Greensboro, North Carolina.

4

August

1921

Influential and highly renowned American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis (1921-2010, 88) was born in Farmersville, Texas.

7

August

1921

French virtuoso gypsy flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata (1921-2014, 93) was born in Sète.

3

April

1922

American singer and Hollywood actress Doris Day was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

22

April

1922

Hugely influential American jazz double bass player and bandleader Charles Mingus was born in Nogales, Arizona.

10

June

1922

Famous American actress, singer and dancer Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

5

January

1923

Legendary American producer and founder of Sun Records, Sam Phillips was born in Florence, Alabama. Phillips signed artists including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.

6

March

1923

Legendary and hugely influential American jazz guitarist, Wes Montgomery (1923-1968, 45) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana.

25

April

1923

Legendary guitarist and one of the ‘Three ‘Kings’ of blues guitar, the one and only Albert King (1923-1992, 69) was born in Indianola, Mississippi.

29

July

1923

One of the world’s great innovators in modern music, nicknamed ‘The Father Of Loud’, Dr Jim Marshall OBE (1923-2012, 88), founder of Marshall Amplification PLC, was born in London.

17

October

1923

Great American jazz guitarist Barney Kessel (1923-2004, 80) was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

27

March

1924

Highly acclaimed Grammy award winning American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark, New Jersey.

18

April

1924

American blues rock guitarist, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown (1924-2005, 81) was born in Vinton, Louisiana.

20

June

1924

Great American country guitarist and producer who established the Nashville sound, nicknamed ‘The Country Gentleman’ and ‘Mr. Guitar’, Chet Atkins (1924-2001, 77) was born in Luttrell, Tennessee.

6

July

1925

American guitarist, singer and Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer Bill Haley (1925-1981, 55) was born in Highland Park, Michigan.

15

August

1925

Virtuoso Canadian jazz pianist and composer Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal, Quebec.

6

September

1925

American electric blues guitarist and Hall of Famer, Jimmy Reed (1925-1976, 50) was born in Dunleith, Mississippi.

16

September

1925

Legendary American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer supreme, one of the ‘Three ‘Kings’ of blues guitar, Mr BB King (1925-2015, 89) was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi.

28

November

1925

The famous country music institution, the Grand Ole Opry was founded in Nashville, Tennessee by George D. Hay to promote country music and showcase its history.

8

December

1925

American singer, musician, dancer, actor, vaudevillian and comedian Sammy Davis Jr. was born in Harlem, New York.

2

January

1926

The first edition of the monthly popular music magazine ‘Melody Maker’ was published in the UK, priced at just 3 pence. It ran for over 74 years until 2000.

3

January

1926

English record producer, composer and conductor, Sir George Martin was born in London. He was well known for his pioneering collaboration with The Beatles.

26

April

1926

Hugely influential American blues guitarist J.B. Hutto (1926‑1983, 57) was born in Blackville, South Carolina.

26

May

1926

Legendary and hugely influential American jazz trumpeter and composer, Miles Davis was born in Alton, Illinois.

17

September

1926

American bass guitarist who played with Elvis Presley in the pioneering rock ‘n’ roll years, Bill Black (1926-1965, 39) was born in Memphis, Tennessee.

18

October

1926

Hugely influential pioneering American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, singer and songwriter, the legendary Chuck Berry (1926‑2016, 90) was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

23

November

1926

Underrated American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, the inimitable R.L. Burnside (1926-2005, 78) was born in Lafayette County, Mississippi.

10

December

1926

Pioneering New Orleans blues guitarist, Guitar Slim (real name, Eddie Jones, 1926-1959, 32) was born in Greenwood, Mississippi.

28

January

1927

English jazz saxophonist and founder of the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club situated in Soho, London in 1959, Ronnie Scott OBE was born in Aldgate, London.

January

1928

American country guitarist and member of Johnny Cash’s band, the Tennessee Three, Luther Perkins (1928-1968, 40) was born in Como, Mississippi.

19

April

1928

Influential English musician and pioneer of the British blues/R&B scene in the 1960s, Alexis Korner was born in Paris, France.

5

May

1928

One of the main men behind the ‘Man In Black’, American bass player with Johnny Cash’s band, the Tennessee Two, Marshall Grant (1928-2011, 83) was born in Bryson City, North Carolina.

6

August

1928

Famous American pop artist, manager of The Velvet Underground, producer, director and album artwork designer, Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

30

December

1928

Massively influential in the development of modern music, American guitarist, singer and songwriter Bo Diddley (1928-2008, 79) was born in McComb, Mississippi.

13

January

1929

American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Joe Pass (1929-1994, 65) was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

10

February

1929

Legendary American film and television music composer and conductor, Jerry Goldsmith was born in Los Angeles, California.

17

April

1929

German composer and big band leader of the James Last Orchestra, James Last was born in Bremen, Germany.

2

May

1929

Highly influential American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, Link Wray (1929-2005, 76) was born in Dunn, North Carolina.

23

June

1929

American country singer, songwriter, actress, author, member of the famous Carter family and wife of Jonny Cash, June Carter Cash, was born in Maces Spring, Virginia.

19

December

1929

American blues and gospel guitarist, singer and songwriter, Blind Lemon Jefferson died from a reported heart attack in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 36.


Historical Context 1930-1939

After a period of relative peace during the 1920s, the ‘Dirty Thirties’ followed. The harshness of the global recession set in, resulting in widespread unemployment, hardship, deprivation and poverty. The catalysts for descent of the globe’s major industrialised countries into a second and even more destructive world war had been seeded and, despite progress in other areas of human civilisation such as science, technology and art, the political die was already cast. Expansionist agendas fuelled Fascism in Europe, which coalesced into the rise of the Third Reich in Germany and its Axis power allies, while communism was also on the rise.

Year

Global Events

1930

The first FIFA soccer World Cup was held in Uruguay; the home team beat Argentina in the final.

1931

The Empire State Building opened in Manhattan, New York, reaching 102 stories and 1,250 feet (381m) tall.

1932

English author Aldous Huxley published his famous futurist novel, ‘Brave New World’.

American aviator Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

1933

Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected 32nd President of the United States of America.

After 13 years, the nationwide prohibition of manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol in America was ended.

In Germany, Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party became Chancellor and subsequently Führer in 1934, establishing his one‑party dictatorship.

Infamous American bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot and killed after being ambushed by a posse of law enforcement officers in Louisiana.

1934

The worst ever American drought led to severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies, known widely as the Dust Bowl.

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, an American maximum security prison island located in San Francisco Bay, California, also known as ‘The Rock’, opened its cell doors for the country’s most notorious criminals.

1935

British publishing house Penguin Books was founded and introduced the first inexpensive paperback books.

1936

The massive art deco style Hoover Dam, spanning the Colorado River in Nevada became operational, with a height of 726 feet (221m) and a length of 1,244 feet (379m).

British monarch King George V died. His successor, Edward VIII was crowned and soon abdicated, and George VI became King.

The bitter Spanish Civil War started after the Spanish army in support of General Franco rebelled against the Republican presidency. The conflict lasted until 1939, resulting in Franco becoming nationalist dictator of Spain until 1975.

1937

The German passenger airship Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed when attempting to dock with a mooring mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36 people.

Conservative Party MP Neville Chamberlain was elected British Prime Minister.

1938

Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast adapting H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel ‘The War Of The Worlds’ caused mass panic in America.

The first comic book appearance of fictional superhero Superman was published by Action Comics.

1939

The classic ‘golden era’ Hollywood films ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’ were released.

The first comic book appearance of fictional superhero Batman was published by Detective Comics (DC).

The Second World War (WWII) began when Britain and France responded to Germany’s military invasion of Poland.

The first successful flight of a jet-propelled aircraft was undertaken by a Heinkel He178, developed for the German Luftwaffe, in Rostock, Germany.

Musical Genre Development 1930-1939

Music of the 1930s was largely characterised by social events such as the Great Depression and the growth in popularity of radio and Hollywood cinema, which began to replace Broadway musical theatre. Established genres such as jazz continued to evolve to reflect changes in social culture, giving birth to swing and big band music. Jump blues music began to appear in the 1930s, adapting the grand swing and big band music for smaller venues, performed by small bands. The 1930s also saw the introduction of the electric guitar, which began to play a part in evolution of popular music of the decade.

Hawaiian music was popular with mainstream audiences in America during the 1930s, even though it had been a major genre in the mid-Pacific since the late 19th Century. Hawaiian music was important because of its influence on country music, including the introduction of the lap steel guitar, often played horizontally and using a slide. It also helped to shape Polynesian music across the Pacific islands.

Traditional folk music has been an enduring form of musical expression throughout the centuries, in many nations and regions across the globe. Historically, folk music is often regarded as an oral tradition being handed down by word of mouth over many generations. During the 1930s, contemporary folk music, an Anglo‑American acoustic style, experienced a revival, often commenting about social issues including war, work, civil unrest, economic hardship, as well as love songs and non‑topical comedy themes. As the roots of folk music predate many modern musical genres, influences came from all over the world, imported by immigrants to America from Europe and Asia, as well as traditional songs used by African slaves. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, America in particular experienced a booming folk scene. The record industry began to exploit folk songs as an alternative to other popular genres. One of the most significant folk singer/songwriters of the generation was Woody Guthrie, whose work in the 1930s and 1940s was often seen as a protest against rural injustice, and which has influenced many artists since. Other famous artists from the 1940s to the early 1960s included Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in America, Donovan, Ralph McTell and Martin Carthy in the UK, as well as Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Buffy Sainte-Marie in Canada.

Swing music is a close relative of jazz and has its roots as early as the 1920s, becoming a dominant genre during the 1930s and 1940s, predominantly in urban cities such as Chicago, New York and Kansas City. It is notable because music with a strong ‘swing feel’ became popular dance music, especially in lively clubs that could accommodate swing ensembles. Swing was popularised by big band swing orchestras such as that led by Benny Goodman. Other famous swing artists included Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. The ‘swing era’ lasted for about 10 years from 1935 to 1946, when popularity began to fade during and after World War II. Swing was also hugely influential in popular music with artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. Dance crazes of the swing era included the jitterbug and the shag, which would evolve into dances later associated with genres such as R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. Swing and its derivatives have experienced a number of revivals in subsequent years.

Musical Facts 1930-1939

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

15

January

1930

American Chicago blues guitarist working either solo or with other artists, Earl Hooker (1930-1970, 40) was born in Quitman County, Mississippi.

17

June

1930

American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist who played with Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps in the 1950s, Cliff Gallup (1930-1988, 58) was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

3

July

1930

Highly regarded, prolific American session guitarist, Tommy Tedesco (1930-1997, 67) was born in Niagara Falls, New York.

30

August

1930

American entrepreneur, musician and innovator of guitar equipment, Ernie Ball (1930-2004, 74) was born in Santa Monica, California.

29

April

1931

Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist, often referred to as the ‘King of Skiffle’, Lonnie Donegan (1931-2002, 71) was born in Glasgow.

17

September

1931

Record company RCA-Victor first demonstrated the 331/3 rpm Long Playing (LP) record. Astoundingly, the vinyl ‘album’ is still going strong, even now.

5

November

1931

Controversial American R&B/soul guitarist, songwriter, producer and rock ‘n’ roll innovator, Ike Turner (1931-2007, 76) was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

16

November

1931

Influential American blues guitarist, singer and long-term member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, Hubert Sumlin (1931-2011, 80) was born in Greenwood, Mississippi.

27

December

1931

Influential rock ‘n’ roll legend, American guitarist Scotty Moore (1931-2016, 84) who played with Elvis Presley in the early days was born in Gadsden, Tennessee.

26

February

1932

The great American country legend that is Mr Johnny Cash (1932-2003, 71) was born in Kingsland, Arkansas.

9

April

1932

Great American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Carl Perkins (1932-1998, 65) was born in Tiptonville, Tennessee.

1

October

1932

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist and singer, ‘the master of the Telecaster’ and ‘the ice man’, Albert Collins (1932-1993, 61) was born in Leona, Texas.

14

March

1933

Multi-award-winning American musician and record producer Quincy Jones was born in Chicago, Illinois.

29

April

1933

Legendary American outlaw country legend, guitarist, singer and songwriter, Willie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas.

3

May

1933

Legendary American singer, songwriter and producer, often proclaimed as the ‘godfather of soul’, James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina.

15

July

1933

English virtuoso classical guitarist and one of the very best musicians of his generation, Julian Bream was born in London.

3

November

1933

English composer of film and TV scores, including 11 James Bond film soundtracks and numerous theme tunes, John Barry OBE was born in York, Yorkshire.

29

November

1933

Legendary English blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and founder of the Bluesbreakers, John Mayall OBE was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

7

February

1934

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Earl King (1934-2003, 69) was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

28

April

1934

Renowned American delta blues guitarist Charlie Patton died from a heart disorder in Sunflower County, Mississippi at the age of 43.

3

September

1934

Hugely influential American blues guitarist and one of the ‘Three Kings’ of blues guitar, Freddie King (1934-1976, 42) was born in Gilmer, Texas.

21

September

1934

Legendary Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter, Leonard Cohen (1934-2016, 82) was born in Montreal, Quebec.

1

December

1934

American blues and ragtime guitarist Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake died from tuberculosis in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the age of 38.

8

January

1935

American singer, guitarist and cultural icon that would become ‘The King’, Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977, 42) was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.

3

February

1935

Flamboyant American soul, blues and funk guitarist, singer and songwriter, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson (1935-1996, 61) was born in Houston, Texas.

29

April

1935

Influential American Chicago blues guitarist and singer, Otis Rush, (1935-2018, 84) was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

6

June

1935

American virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer Grant Green (1935-1979, 43) was born in St Louis, Missouri.

17

October

1935

English dairy farmer and founder of the world famous Glastonbury Music Festival from 1970 to date, Michael Eavis was born in Pilton Somerset.

22

April

1936

Great American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Glen Campbell (1936-2017, 81) was born in Billstown, Arkansas.

30

July

1936

Legendary and highly influential American Chicago Blues guitarist and singer, George ‘Buddy’ Guy was born in Lettsworth, Louisiana.

7

September

1936

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll star, guitarist, singer and songwriter, Buddy Holly (1936-1959, 22) was born in Lubbock, Texas.

24

October

1936

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, former member of rock band The Rolling Stones and bandleader with The Rhythm Kings, Bill Wyman was born in London.

6

April

1937

Acclaimed American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, Merle Haggard (1937-2016, 79) was born in Oildale, California.

4

May

1937

Influential American surf rock guitarist often referred to as ‘the king of the surf guitar’ Dick Dale (1937-2019, 81) was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

15

May

1937

Renowned American guitarist, singer and actor, Trinidad ‘Trini’ Lopez III was born in Dallas, Texas.

15

June

1937

Influential American country guitarist and singer, Waylon Jennings (1937-2002, 64) was born in Littlefield, Texas.

13

January

1938

Australian guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of psychedelic rock bands Soft Machine and Gong, Daevid Allen (1938-2015, 77) was born in Melbourne, Victoria.

25

January

1938

Grammy award-winning artist and Hall of Famer, legendary American songstress, Etta James was born in Los Angeles, California.

26

April

1938

American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist who became famous for his signature ‘twang’ guitar sound, Duane Eddy was born in Corning, New York.

16

August

1938

Legendary American blues guitarist Robert Johnson died in mysterious circumstances in Greenwood, Mississippi at the age of 27. The bizarre mythology surrounding Johnson’s life and demise continues to deepen with time.

3

October

1938

Legendary American singer and guitarist, Eddie Cochran (1938-1960, 21) was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

5

December

1938

Highly influential American guitarist, singer and songwriter, J.J. Cale (1938-2013, 74) was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

18

December

1938

English bass guitarist with The Animals, record producer and manager of both Slade and Jimi Hendrix, Chas Chandler (1938-1996, 57) was born in Newcastle upon Tyne.

2

April

1939

American singer, Motown soul legend and multi-award winning artist, Marvin Gaye was born in Washington DC.

4

April

1939

Incomparable English double bass guitarist who has collaborated with artists like John Martyn and Richard Thompson to great effect, Danny Thompson was born in Teignmouth, Devon.

28

July

1939

American singer and actress, Judy Garland recorded the perennial all‑time‑favourite song, ‘Over The Rainbow’ from the classic feature film, ‘The Wizard Of Oz’.

21

August

1939

Hall of Famer and prolific American guitarist and collaborator extraordinaire, James Burton was born in Dubberly, Louisiana.

23

September

1939

Influential American blues/rock guitarist Roy Buchanan (1939-1988, 48) was born in Ozark, Arkansas.

26

November

1939

American-born Swiss soul/R&B/pop singer, songwriter and actress Tina Turner was born in (where else?) Nutbush, Tennessee.

26

December

1939

Famous but volatile American ‘Wall of Sound’ record producer Phil Spector was born in New York. He is currently serving a 19-year prison sentence in California for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

Tailpiece

Phew! That was a bit of a 20‑year roller coaster. However, this still hasn’t got us to point at which ‘modern music’ arguably really begins, i.e. from the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll and will ultimately bring us up‑to‑date. However, it is a fascinating insight into not only what the rapidly growing global population got up to but also how this was inextricably linked to how music was also progressing. Social culture and music are symbiotically interdependent – culture shapes and stimulates music and music reflects and influences culture. The 20 years covered in this article are therefore fundamental building blocks of the unstoppable development that will lead us to rock ‘n’ roll and beyond. The next article will, hopefully, bridge the gap from the start of WWII to the ground-breaking events that would take place in the 1950s.

Watch this space and make sure you tune in, same time same place next month. I can’t wait… can you? Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Don’t try to learn from geniuses how to be a genius. They are unique. Think for yourself and you are a genius, even if no-one else notices. That is also integrity.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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April 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part II

Introduction

Hello and welcome back to the second part of what is turning out to be CRAVE Guitars’ magnum opus for this year. You can revisit Part I by clicking on the link below (it will open in new browser tab):

After posting Part I in March 2019, I realised that the intended approach wasn’t going to work as I’d originally intended, especially as the series would progress. The idea for this year was to present each section in two parts, i) a short narrative setting the general historical context through global political, technological and economic events of the time, and ii) the list of music facts covering the same period. That worked well enough for the first article, which briefly covered 250 years (1650 to 1900) as a precursor to ‘modern’ musical times (from 1900 onwards).

Now… after a bit of reflection, this posed a few problems once we get into the 20th and 21st Centuries, as the number of facts and the historical context expanded in quantity and complexity. Not only this, there was a noticeable disconnect between the context and the musical facts that seemed to leave a hole in the story. While not a huge problem, I wasn’t happy with the result. The course of events needed something additional not only to make the story more coherent but also to become more interesting.

So, as it’s ‘early doors’ in the project, I decided to revisit the deferred piece of research that I was going to publish this year. This brainwave enabled me to adapt that other idea and to combine it with the historical context and musical facts. It isn’t quite what I was thinking of but I reckon it will work quite well. This extensive new piece of work involved documenting the development of relevant musical genres that took place over the same time period as the rest. This move, however, will negate the original idea I had for 2019. Oh well, never mind.

Unfortunately for me, this presented another issue which was to undertake the background work needed for it to make sense and this was on top of the other elements I was already working on. If that was the end of the story, that would be enough. However, it also meant that the length of each section would then not only become too long but also too ‘chunky’. The answer to that is to split the sections into decades, each comprising three parts – historical context, musical genre developments and music facts. That’s where we are this month.

As music is an art not a science, the approach is, to some extent, necessarily arbitrary. In an attempt to avoid repetition, each genre is only covered in the first period when it became popular. As you might expect, history, genres, artists and time periods are not always neatly organised, so there is often overlap and a degree of ‘fuzziness’ around the edges. I hope, however, that the structure is relatively easy to follow and makes some kind of sense.

As previously mentioned, this is not a detailed, comprehensive academic exercise. It is purely for entertainment and each snippet of information barely scratches the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you want to know more, I’m afraid you’ll have to go and explore where it takes you for yourself.

Finally, before we get started with this month’s part of musical history, I also have to say that the starting point of the series is from the perspective of the guitar and guitar music. If you are reading this, then you probably already appreciate that anyway, however, it does need to be said. This means that, while other aspects of music are covered, it will have a definite and obvious guitar bias. As the author, that’s my prerogative and I’m not apologising for that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this part of the story because this is where things begin to get enthralling.

The Story of Modern Music Part II  – 1900-1919

Musical Context

This is the new bit of the story added to cement the whole together, so a quick recap is needed.

Popular music of the early 1900s was very different from the predominantly highly structured classical music genres that preceded it. Starting around 1870, the catalyst for the emergent modern styles led to a seemingly miraculous eruption of musical innovation, creativity and experimentation during the 20th Century that was unlike anything that preceded it and probably unlike anything we will see again, at least in our lifetimes. Blues, jazz, gospel and folk were becoming particularly prominent and relevant in the western world.

In order to appreciate where modern music of the 20th Century began, we need to take a brief look at the origins that began to appear in the late 19th Century, even though they were still not necessarily prominent at the turn of the millennium. In these sections it is important to recognise that musical genres did not appear from nothing and neither did they disappear overnight. In addition, many musical genres endured and morphed over decades and many have seen periodical revivals. The categorisation of music into decades for the sake of this article is simply a convenient device to provide a frame of reference within which the ‘facts’ can be readily accommodated. Similarly, genre boundaries and musical styles emanating from particular geographical territories should be seen as fluid and constantly cross‑pollinating, and should not, therefore, be taken as definitive. Where appropriate, relevant notes will be included. Nothing in music, it seems, is simple or straightforward.

1870s

The Blues, or ‘the devil’s music’ is a major musical genre that originated in the Deep South of the United States such as Mississippi, Louisiana and southern Texas from around the 1870s and spread widely across the country changing its style as its popularity increased. Blues really came to prominence at the beginning of the 20th Century. The basis of the blues came predominantly from African American music and traditional African music, as well as European traditional folk music. The genre can be recognised often by repeating chord progressions and commonly a 12‑bar structure. The word ‘blues’ is largely attributed to melancholy, sad or depressed mental states and is often associated with trials and tribulations of post‑slavery black oppression. The development of the blues included work songs, spiritual songs, chants, and ballads. Around 1902, African American musician WC Handy, often called ‘the father of the blues’, heard blues music being played at a railway station and set about promoting the genre through early recordings. Some of the early practitioners of blues include Charlie Patton, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy and Lead Belly, along with many others. Blues music has been highly influential over the last 150 years and its lasting effects can be found widely in jazz as well as later musical genres such as rhythm & blues, rock ‘n’ roll and rock music. Blues has also spawned many sub‑genres including Delta blues, country blues, Piedmont blues, hill country blues, West Coast blues, electric Chicago blues, Texas blues and blues rock.

1890s

While orchestral music remained popular up to the end of the 19th Century, a new breed of music was attracting listeners’ attention. Ragtime emanated from the African American communities of urban cities including St. Louis in Missouri around 1895-1897. Ragtime takes the traditional march musical style that had been made popular by John Philip Sousa and was often played by African American bands. Ragtime incorporated ‘ragged’ syncopated rhythms often reminiscent of polyrhythmic African music. Ragtime became a massively popular form of dance music up to around 1919. Ragtime, along with blues music largely influenced and evolved into Jazz from about 1917. Dance crazes inspired by ragtime became popular with contemporary audiences of the time including the shimmy, the turkey trot, the buzzard lope, the chicken scratch, the monkey glide, and the bunny hug. Predominantly white audiences first encountered the new craze at popular vaudeville shows, with artists soon migrating to the music clubs. Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and James Scott are known as the ‘big three’ ragtime composers of their time.

Right, now things are back on track, let’s get going with the early part of the 20th Century.

The 1900s

The 1900s was a decade that heralded not only intense hope for a new millennium but also further leaps of scientific and technological progress.

 Historical Context 1900-1909

1900

Work on the famous New York subway from City Hall to the Bronx began.

1901

The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

The Commonwealth of Australia was created.

Hubert Cecil Booth made the world’s first commercial vacuum cleaner.

King Gillette and William Nickerson founded the American Safety Razor Company.

After 63 years on the throne, British monarch Queen Victoria died and was succeeded by King Edward VII.

The first 2000‑mile transatlantic radio message from England to Newfoundland was sent by Italian electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi.

1902

The Flatiron Building in Manhattan, New York became the world’s tallest at 20 stories and 205 feet tall.

1903

The first powered flight was made by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright using the first heavier than air powered airplane, the Wright Flyer.

American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford started mass production of motor cars in America.

The first baseball World Series was held.

1905

Albert Einstein published his ‘Special Theory of Relativity’ proposing the relationship between space and time.

1906

A massive 7.9 (estimated) magnitude earthquake struck California, killing 3,000 people and destroying 80% of San Francisco. The Britain suffragette movement began, aiming to give women the vote.

The first Grand Prix motor race took place at Le Mans in France.

1908

Lord Baden‑Powell founded the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movement.

The headquarters of the Singer Manufacturing Company in Manhattan reached 47 stories and 612 feet tall.

The American agency, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was formed.

Ford introduced the massively popular Model T motor car, which sold for $850.

1909

Explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson claim to be the first people to reach the North Pole.

Musical Genre Development 1900-1909

Blues music was beginning to spread from the rural areas of the American Deep South and varieties such as hill blues and country blues reflected the social culture of their regional origins. Church music was also prominent in the American Bible belt, as was Anglo‑American folk music with immigrants influencing home grown styles.

Although classical music began to be overtaken rapidly by more modern forms, opera became particularly popular in the early 20th Century and sustained interest until about 1960.

Jazz music, often termed ‘America’s classical music’, is another major musical genre starting from around 1900. Early forms of jazz musical expression emerged mainly from the American south and particularly around the city of New Orleans in Louisiana, often referred to as Dixieland. Jazz stemmed from existing blues, ragtime and European military band music, all of which were popular in the late 19th Century. Musician Buddy Bolden is widely recognised for fusing blues and ragtime to form the basis of jazz. Partly because of these origins, early jazz music was principally performed by African American musicians. Jazz is characterized by ‘swing’ and ‘blue’ notes, call and response patterns, polyrhythmic arrangements and extensive improvisation. Jazz rapidly diversified with forms such as ‘honky‑tonk’, ‘boogie woogie’ and simple jug band music. The main surge in the popularity of jazz music occurred after WWI and particularly from 1920 onwards, known widely as ‘the Jazz Age’. The growth of the jazz craze soon spread to dance halls and speakeasies as well as ubiquitous marching bands. Music and dancing became a significant part of popular jazz culture, including the cakewalk, the black bottom, the Charleston, the lindy hop and the jitterbug. The introduction of recording technology and wireless radio also gave much broader exposure to the exciting new musical genre. Popular jazz artists included Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Fats Waller, as well as big band orchestras led by the likes of Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. Jazz rapidly diversified including forms such as Kansas City jazz, gypsy jazz, bebop, cool jazz, free jazz and fusion. Jazz and its many different styles remained hugely popular up to the 1940s and its legacy heavily influenced the proliferation of other musical genres from the early 1950s.

Musical Facts 1901-1909

DayMonthYearMusic Fact
4August1901Legendary American jazz trumpet player, singer and composer, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.
21March1902Legendary and influential blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Son House (1902-1988, 86) was born in Lyon, Mississippi.
9June1902Influential delta blues guitarist and singer Skip James (1902-1969, 67) was born in Bentonia, Mississippi.
10October1902American luthier Orville Gibson founded The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. Ltd in Kalamazoo, Michigan, now better known as manufacturer of Gibson guitars.
26June1903American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Big Bill Broonzy (1903-1958, 65) was born in Jefferson County, Arkansas.
1March1904American big-band trombone player, arranger, composer, and bandleader Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa.
21August1904American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer Count Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey.
19November1905American jazz trombone player, composer, conductor and bandleader, the ‘Sentimental Gentleman of Swing’ Tommy Dorsey was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
12January1906American country blues singer and guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell (1906-1972, 66) was born in Rossville, Tennessee.
12November1906American delta blues guitarist and singer Booker T. Washington ‘Bukka’ White (1906 or 1909-1977, 67 or 70) was born between Aberdeen and Houston, Mississippi.
2December1906The inventor of the long playing microgroove record (a.k.a. the LP) for Columbia Records, Peter Carl Goldmark was born in Budapest, Hungary.
29September1907American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor, rodeo performer and businessman, ‘the singing cowboy’ Gene Autry (1907-1998, 91) was born in Tioga, Texas
26January1908Amazing French virtuoso jazz violinist, known as ‘the grandfather of jazz violinists’ Stéphane Grappelli was born in Paris.
30May1909American jazz clarinet player and bandleader, the ‘King of Swing’, Benny Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois.
10August1909One of the most significant figures in guitar music history and business, Clarence Leonidas ‘Leo’ Fender (1909-1991, 81) was born in Anaheim, California.
10October1909American businessman, president of guitar manufacturer Gibson and mentor to luthier Paul Reed Smith, the formidable Theodore ‘Ted’ McCarty (1909-2002, 91) was born in Somerset, Kentucky.

The 1910s

The 1910s was a tumultuous decade and one that would leave the world on a watershed, with positive and negative implications for the ones that would follow.

 Historical Context 1910-1919

1911

Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.

The Chinese Revolution led to the formation of the republic of China.

The first Indianapolis 500 motor race took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.

1912

The so‑called unsinkable ocean liner, the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden transatlantic voyage from Southampton to New York after striking an iceberg, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew.

1913

The first crossword puzzle was published in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World.

1914

The Panama Canal in Central America opened, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The First World War (WWI) started between Germany/Austria and Britain/France/Russia, which lasted until 1918.

1915

A German torpedo sank the British ocean liner Lusitania off the Irish coast, killing nearly 1,200 people.

1916

Albert Einstein published his ‘General Theory of Relativity’ proposing a unified description of gravitation as a geometric property of space and time.

1917

The Russian Bolshevik Revolution took place, led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

America joined WWI on the side of the Allies.

1918

The British Royal Air Force was founded.

Women over the age of 30 were given the vote in Britain.

A deadly influenza pandemic infected c.500 million people around the world and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million, equivalent to 3-5% of the global population.

The armistice between the Allies and Germany ended WWI. Approximately 17 million people were killed during the conflict.

1919

The infamous Chicago Black Sox baseball match fixing scandal, when 8 members of the White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the World Series to Cincinnati for money from a gambling syndicate.

The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was created.

After WWI, the League of Nations was established, intended to ensure world peace, lasting until it was abandoned in 1946.

Musical Genre Development 1910-1919

By 1910, blues music was migrating into urban areas and would have a major influence on all forms of music. Jazz particularly New Orleans Jazz maintained its popularity during the 1910s. Religion was of great solace to the oppressed black communities of southern USA and unaccompanied singing of spirituals grew in popularity, eventually morphing into gospel by the 1930s. Social development in America and particularly Europe during the 1910s was heavily impacted by World War I. In the absence of technological music distribution, the ‘new’ music from the previous decade continued to spread and it maintained its influence during the 1910s. As a consequence, no major genre styles appeared before the boom period of the post‑war ‘roaring twenties’. Recordings of Afro‑Caribbean calypso music began to appear in the 1910s, which proved not only popular but also influential.

Musical Facts 1910-1919

DayMonthYearMusic Fact
23January1910Belgian/French virtuoso gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt (1910-1953, 43) was born in Liberchies, Pont‑à‑Celles, Belgium.
28May1910Influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter T-Bone Walker (1910-1975, 64) was born in Linden, Texas.
10June1910Legendary blues American guitarist and singer Howlin’ Wolf (real name, Chester Burnett) (1910-1976, 65) was born in White Station, Mississippi.
8May1911Legendary American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Robert Johnson (1911-1938, 27) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.
5November1911American singer, guitarist and popular Western film actor, known as the ‘King of the Cowboys’ Roy Rogers (1911‑1998, 86) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
15March1912American country blues singer, songwriter and guitar legend, Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins (may be 1911 or 1912‑1982, 69) was born in Centreville, Texas.
14July1912Legendary and influential American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Woody Guthrie (1912‑1967, 55) was born in Okemah, Oklahoma.
4April1913Legendary American Chicago blues guitarist, Muddy Waters a.k.a. McKinley Morganfield, (1913-1983, 70) was born in Issaquena County, Mississippi.
7August1913American pioneer of the 7-string jazz guitar, long before its current popularity in modern rock music, George Van Eps (1913-1998, 85) was born in Plainfield, New Jersey.
22November1913Famous English classical composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk.
20March1915Influential American gospel singer, songwriter and guitarist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973, 58) was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas.
7April1915Legendary American singer Billie Holiday was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, She is widely recognised as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time.
9June1915True American guitar legend and musical innovator, the incomparable Les Paul, a.k.a. Lester William Polsfuss (1915-2009, 84) was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
1July1915Influential American blues singer, songwriter, upright bass player and guitarist, Willie Dixon (1915-1992, 75) was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
29July1916Highly influential American jazz guitarist, Charlie Christian (1916-1942, 25) was born in Bonham, Texas.
12March1917American record producer and co-founder of Chess Records in Chicago, famous for pioneering blues and rock ‘n’ roll artists, Leonard Chess was born in Motal, Poland.
7June1917American singer, actor, comedian, and producer Dean Martin was born in Steubenville, Ohio.
22August1917Massively influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, an all-time great music man, John Lee Hooker (1917-2001, 83) was born in Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
30September1917Legendary American jazz drummer and band leader Buddy Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York.
21October1917American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and singer Dizzie Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina.
17November1917Influential American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, Merle Travis (1917-1983, 65) was born in Rosewood, Kentucky.
27January1918American blues guitarist, the ‘king of the slide guitar’, Elmore James (1918-1963, 45) was born in Richland, Mississippi.
25April1918Renowned American jazz singer, known as the ‘First Lady of Song’ and the ‘Queen of Jazz’, Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia.
19August1918Pioneering American luthier, Orville H. Gibson, founder of Gibson guitars, died in a New York hospital at the age of 62.

Tailpiece

OK, there you have it for this month’s article and we’ve only covered two decades! But, what influential decades they were. Things are just starting to hot up and there is still plenty to look forward to over coming months. Music and world events begin to get even more complicated and quite exciting from here on in. I’m not sure how many months this series will last, so we’ll just have to take things as they come.

In the background, the repatriation project is ongoing at an intentionally slow pace with about 3‑4 guitars a month attracting some much deserved tender loving care and attention. Also, the ‘most wanted’ vintage gear hunt is still underway but with no desperate urgency, as there is plenty else to be getting on with. Also, the postponed and much‑needed cellar renovation (i.e. future guitar accommodation) may begin to get underway by mid‑year. So, lots of fun and games to be had if at all possible. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Intelligence is not about what you know or how much you know but about having the curiosity to ask ‘why?’”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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October 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VIII

Welcome to what is, for now at least, the final part in this series of articles on the history of the world’s most popular musical instrument.

If you wish to recap on any or all of the previous seven posts before starting with this one, the whole ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

Having pretty much reached the present day, all that remains is to summarise where we are now and to take a somewhat flippant and imaginative look ahead. The ‘current day’ is a tricky subject, as ‘now’ is at best ephemeral. The future, on the other hand, can only ever be guesswork, even if it can be informed by the past. Perhaps the best way to predict the future is to help to create it, so that means that what happens to the next chapter of the guitar is in our hands. Can we be trusted to behave as responsible guardians of the guitar’s destiny? As Mahatma Gandhi (1869‑1948) said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”. This suggests that what will happen is not predetermined and individually or collectively, we can take action to shape the future.

There are not many images again supporting this article so, apologies to those who like pictures to speak a thousand words. Anyway, without further ado, on with the last part of the chronicle…

The guitar has come a very long way in the last 3,500 years or a road slightly less travelled in the preceding 350 years depending on whose version of the facts you want to believe. The story has finally reached that pivotal moment that lies between the past, which is, on the whole, pretty well documented and the future, which of course isn’t. There is much to be played for and the stakes are certainly high.

It is hopefully of little surprise that the future of the acoustic and electric guitar, as well as all its derivatives and distant relations, is probably well‑assured, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether it survives in the (very) long term or not, the world’s favourite musical instrument is undeniably going to be a hard act to follow, let alone surpass.

As with many industrial and technological revolutions, predictions have proved variable in terms of accuracy. As time passes, change tends to accelerate in both pace and scope. While progress may be inexorable, there is an unseen ‘force’ that tends to counteract unbridled advances and which acts as a bit of a restraint. That set of reins is the very human tendency to hold onto what is familiar while resisting change until it is either inescapable or desirable. This natural ‘drag’ effect has laid waste to many grand ideas and great inventions. Numerous well‑marketed ‘next big things’ have fallen at the hurdle of persuading the general public to take up something new or unfamiliar, especially if one’s respected peers haven’t bitten the bullet of early adoption either. Mankind’s flawed history is littered with countless failed marvels. This phenomenon isn’t, I hasten to add, just a trait of idiosyncratic musicians; it appears to be a fundamental characteristic of the human condition.

Anyway, as usual, I digress. It is time to get back to the point which is basically that whatever you read from here on has absolutely no basis whatsoever in fact and is highly likely to be extremely wrong! My consolation is that few people will regard it as portent or look back to judge its accuracy in a century’s time. There is nothing genuinely prescient here in the vein of Da Vinci or Nostradamus. Apologies if you were hoping for more in the way of a profound visionary insight. Unfortunately, my stock of that ran out last week.

General indicators of change

It is fair to suggest that popular music is often representative of, and in turn is dependent on, broader social, cultural and political movements, and guitars follow in their footsteps. Whether we like it or not, music is integral to our everyday lives, so it is not surprising that it is also inherently powerfully evocative. As a result, it can dramatically affect the way we identify with past events.

One of the key factors that drove guitar evolution has been the trends in popular music, so perhaps musical trends may provide a much generalised hint at parallel guitar developments. Let’s start by considering the (very simplistic) genre movements and the types of instrument used over the last century.  Starting with the post‑classical era, there was jazz (Gibson archtops) and blues (National & Dobro resonators) in the 1930s and 1940s, country and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s (Gretsch & Gibson hollowbodies), pop and rock in the 1960s (Fenders and Rickenbackers), progressive and heavy metal (Gibson solid bodies) and then punk (pawn shop guitars) and hair metal (pointy super Strats) in the 1970s. Then we get to the guitar doldrums of electronica, new age and rap in the 1980s, followed by revitalised guitar music of alternative, grunge in the 1990s, and indie (retro guitars) nu‑metal (PRS) and dance in the 2000s, etc. I struggle to think of a musical genre that so far defines the 2010s or perhaps many distinctive guitars to go with them. So there is some kind of link going on here. Google has attempted to map the progression of musical genres from 1950 to the current day (take from it what you will).

The type of guitars de jour used by famous musicians, including artist associations, during these epochs often reflected the style of contemporary music they played and these have largely been well covered in previous parts of the story. Just think of Chet Atkins with his Gretsch 6120, Buddy Holly with his Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster, The Beatles with their Rickenbacker 300s, or Jimmy Page with his Gibson Les Paul Standard and EDS-1275 double neck. The various interconnections are manifold and too many to mention here, and many have been captured in photographs to become iconic in the annals of rock history.

Cinema and television music regularly use key songs to catapult us back in space and time without the need for narrative exposition to describe what’s happening. Just think about classic movies such as American Graffiti, Stand By Me, Almost Famous, Saturday Night Fever, The Breakfast Club or 8 Mile among many, many others. Those random examples don’t include the numerous biopics (e.g. Sid & Nancy, Walk The Line, The Doors) and musicals (e.g. West Side Story, Grease) or original scores (e.g. Paris Texas) that use familiar, memorable and/or popular music to transport us to another ‘reality’. Then there are the one‑offs like the mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. TV programmes also picked up the strategy for domestic viewing since the 1960s and often featured manufactured artists such as The Monkees or The Archies. The lists of relevant examples are endless. Music is used to draw the viewer into the director’s vision of a certain bygone era. Many of the sound tracks of our lives rely heavily on evocative (guitar) music to manipulate us emotionally and, more importantly, intentionally.

The way that environmental factors affect local communities may spark a genre direction that is then promulgated more widely. For example, one could point to the rise of electric blues in Chicago, soul in Detroit, Mersey beat in Liverpool, punk in New York and London, rap in Los Angeles/Philadelphia, or grunge in Seattle, etc. What we cannot predict is what or where any future musical revolutions (if any) may emerge, from where, and what step‑change responses guitar builders may then make.

As with many other aspects of our 21st Century lives, the nature of music, how it is made, distributed and accessed suggests that anything genuinely ‘new’ will find it much harder to stand out from the mainstream. What is already there will continue in some form and anything new will simply be added to it, often at the margins of existing genres, hence the proliferation of sub‑genres, e.g. thrash or nu-metal in rock; house and techno in dance; raga and dancehall in reggae; dubstep and grime in urban music, etc. One only has to compare and contrast the mind boggling varieties of heavy metal music and then consider how they continuously diverge, converge and cross‑fertilise in order to keep it fresh and vibrant.

While some technological change may be more predictable, social change and the music that characterises it is certainly more unpredictable. When one looks at something as specific and tangible as the guitar, it becomes increasingly risky to anticipate with any certainty what change may occur over an extended period of time, say the next century or so.

One view is that we are powerless and don’t need to think about it, as what will be, will be. Another is that we wait passively and be subject to what transpires with little or no influence over it. A third way may be not to accept the status quo and take positive action to stimulate change, which can happen in oddly random ways. Being of an opinionated sort, I tend to fall into the latter camp. Apologies, that probably actually doesn’t help much!

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the guitar’s supremacy is likely to lie in the digital revolution that really started to make an impression in the 1970s and 1980s. Part of the reason for the guitar’s seemingly unassailable success has been that it is a hugely expressive and flexible instrument, which actually makes its nuances extremely difficult to replicate in a world constructed entirely of binary 0s and 1s. We shall see whether digital advances can fully overcome the difficulties in recreating the subtleties provided by a very analogue instrument in the hands of discriminating (and generally quite conservative) musicians.

The evidence so far suggests that digital is making ever increasing inroads into the analogue guitar’s dominance and the discernible gap between analogue and digital output is decreasing all the time. How long will it be before even the most ardent luddites finally admit that they can’t really tell the difference (despite what they may say outwardly)? However, it isn’t just the sound of guitars that appeals to guitarists; it is also the feel and the look of them that matters, as well as how they allow musicians to communicate with each other in unspoken ways.

New generations of guitarists, however, may be looking for something very different from their predecessors.  What form will ‘the shape of things to come’ take? Will it be all hyper‑modernistic and crammed with tech and flashing lights and built from materials we cannot yet imagine, or will it be the same old bits of tree wood crafted into the familiar shapes of Telecasters, Stratocasters, Precisions, Les Pauls, ES‑335s and SGs that we covet today? Only time will tell how things pan out and it will be for future authors to use the convenient assistance of hindsight to determine and document what path the history of the guitar takes from here on.

Looking and learning from the past, one might simply extrapolate forward. Future guitarists may well be like their ancestors and pragmatically seek to mix the best of the past with the best of what’s to come, regardless of whether it is analogue or digital. My personal prediction is a typically ambiguous ‘sit on the fence’ one, in that guitars will probably become increasingly hybrid if they are to keep ahead of other comparable instruments. Let’s face it, there are not really any threats` to the guitar’s dominant popularity at the time of writing and it has always been a continuously evolving instrument, so it would be of little surprise if this were to continue. While the 1980’s temporary trend for synth and electronica attempted to eradicate guitar music in the minds of popular listeners, the guitar has proved very resilient and difficult to displace.

Since the 1970s, the guitar has been used to trigger digital electronics. However, while both signal tracking and polyphony still present problems, these barriers are gradually being overcome. There have been several attempts to introduce effective guitar synths over the years but they have really been analogue or digital filters activated by either an ordinary guitar pickup or by discrete signals from a hexaphonic pickup. Hex pickups, which output a separate signal for each string, were often added to an existing guitar and used to transform it into a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller while still able to be used as an ordinary guitar. MIDI was a standard specification published in August 1983 by Japanese electronics giant Roland and American synthesizer company Sequential Circuits, and is commonly used to control electronic audio equipment. While attempting to revolutionise guitar music, Roland’s excursions into guitar synths since the 1980s have still relied on a standard guitar as its starting point.

Other Japanese companies specialising in electronics have also experimented with MIDI control of external synthesis engines, for instance guitars from Casio (DG20) and Yamaha (EZ-EG). It seems incredible to think that these early electronic instruments are now being considered as ‘vintage’. Today, there are now plenty of guitars on the market with MIDI capability built in. Technology has moved on and the fundamental concepts of a digital source are now ripe for being reinvestigation and improvement.

Other pioneering companies such as Line 6, now owned by another Japanese giant Yamaha, introduced their ground breaking digital modelling preamp (the Pod) and digital modelling guitar (the Variax) to indicate the direction in which development might go. Line 6’s philosophy inspired and influenced subsequent successful products such as the Kemper Profiler and the Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX. Computer control of complex parameters, presets, firmware and downloads are commonplace for amps and effects in the 2010s and we can certainly expect this trend not only to become de facto but also to become a requirement in the near future, so a laptop at live gigs is already almost a necessity to keep your rig running smoothly – not a comfort zone for many analogue technophobe musos.

Guitar making cannot stand still and neither should it. Even the companies with a century or more of history, such as Gibson, Gretsch and Martin, have to keep moving forward or risk being overtaken. However, the tightrope of appealing to customers who appreciate the heritage is also key to the future success of long‑established manufacturers. Newer, smaller companies, though, are not constrained by the time capsule factor.

It is probably safe to say that the future is likely to be a practical symbiosis of both the familiar to satisfy the conservative traditionalists and the whizzy new gizmos to appeal to the technologically savvy experimentalists and neophytes… just as it always has been if fact. Even Gibson has been toying with the addition of digital features into its guitars, including the Les Paul HD.6X Pro and the Firebird X models. Intriguingly, Fender and other major brands have yet to declare their hands. It will be the fine balance between the opposing forces that will enable lasting incremental change, via ‘chimera’ guitars, rather than a number of fundamental radical shifts. That eventuality could prove a bit boring though, don’t you think? However, sadly, it also seems to mirror the way that modern popular music is going as well?

Leaps of unadulterated conjecture:

This next section is pure fantasy and should not be relied on as authentic in any way. It came from an idea that it can sometimes be fun to imagine what things might be like in some near or distant future. One hopes, though, that what follows doesn’t come to represent some form of self‑fulfilling prophecy.

It may be that the guitar itself could become superseded by something completely different from what musicians (rather than video game players) use today. Could it be possible that something along the lines of the PlayStation ‘Guitar Hero’ controller may someday make inroads into real instruments to create real music? I would anticipate that the majority of guitarists would sincerely hope not.

There are already some very modernistic looking instruments out there, such as the HTG Hyper Touch and the Misa Kitara (note the use of the Greek name kitara from Part I of this long story). Are these all‑electronic ‘guitars’ the sorts of instruments that will replace our beloved classic designs and become de rigeur in the near future? Alternatively, perhaps the electric guitar could somehow morph into some form of fully digital instrument via the route of hybridisation. As a logical conclusion, is the ‘Digital Guitar’ with analogue playability a holy grail and, if so, for whom? Here are some current digital guitar innovations from the 2010s…

So… suspend your disbelief for a few minutes and take a tentative look ahead to the scary world of AIs, AAs, AVs and AM (spoiler alert – these acronyms may seem familiar but in this context, they don’t mean what you think they mean today). You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Read on…

10 years’ hence (c.2028):

Analogue vs digital – Digital technologies will be used increasingly to enhance the analogue signal chain rather than usurp it completely. We have already seen many examples of this appearing in effects and amps, so there isn’t really any clever insight in mentioning it. Digital control of analogue signals is already becoming commonplace especially in delay and modulation effects where digital manipulation gives much more precise control over what happens in the analogue domain.

It remains unpopular to sample the original signal through an analogue to digital converter (ADC), mess around with it and then put it back through a digital to analogue converter (DAC) to turn it back into a signal for further processing. Many purists say that the act of conversion using today’s chips taints the original signal. It will be a while longer before we make that bold step of a fully digital signal chain from fingers to ears but it is getting ever closer. It will happen but possibly not by 2028, mainly because of the difficulty in engineering effective fully digital instruments and loudspeakers.

Research will continue to develop a truly digital guitar ‘pickup’ that could compare to current electromagnetic pickups and provide the first step to more complex processing in the future. Digital modelling using DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chips will continue to improve and will become almost indistinguishable from analogue electronics in effects, amps and digital audio workstations (DAWs). There will be a hardcore fan base that remains wedded to the old school stuff for many, many years to come. The guitar itself is highly unlikely to become fully digital in the next 10 years, if only because there are far too many dogmatic people invested in preserving the status quo. Auto‑Tune for the guitar anyone?

Guitar Making – In the near future, it is highly unlikely that wood will be superseded by any other material as the primary input for the majority of guitars. Wood has proved over millennia to be a very flexible, durable renewable material. Let’s face it, it can also look wonderful. One major advantage of wood is that it contributes towards the organic tone and touch of an individual musical instrument. Many alternative materials have been used in the construction of guitars since at least the 1920s, including plastics, metals, carbon fibre and a wide variety of composites. To‑date, though, wood has prevailed in terms of structural integrity allied to inherent musicality. What will change, though, is the shift away from the use of endangered exotic hardwood species such as rosewood, ebony and even mahogany to more sustainable species. For instance Pau Ferro (Libidibia Ferrea, a.k.a Bolivian rosewood) is rapidly replacing the CITES‑restricted rosewood (varieties of the genus Dalbergia) as a popular fingerboard material. Quite how fussy musicians will accept unfamiliar wood substitutes, will be determined in due course. What is clear is that guitarists really have no choice but to go with the ecologically acceptable flow in the long‑term.

Like their classical musical counterparts, the guitar itself (whether acoustic or electric) will remain very much a natural instrument for a good few years yet. The guitar will still be supremely popular and will be making great music all over the world. Guitars will be made by a broad range of entities from one man band local custom luthiers up to multinational mass manufacturers. Competition, particularly from China, will be a threat to many established western companies until their economic bubble bursts, which it eventually will at some point.

Recorded music – The vast majority of recorded guitar music will be produced on digital equipment with a few retro studios still using analogue equipment including valve preamps and tape machines. The relative accessibility of convenient digital recording equipment will continue to provide openings for all sorts of artists from the home musician to the professional mega bands using famous dedicated studio facilities such as the famous Abbey Road Studio in London. Recorded music will be increasingly distributed and accessed online, although legacy formats will maintain a solid niche popularity.

Live music – Live music will continue to grow in popularity to become the cornerstone for many successful artists, provided that they do not price themselves out of live appearances and that over‑zealous regulations don’t stop large live events from taking place. PA and monitoring systems will continue to improve significantly and sound pressure levels at venues will be severely restricted, removing some of the visceral excitement of the live music experience.

30 years’ hence (c.2048):

Analogue vs digital – Digital will be the primary domain in which music will be made, recorded, distributed and accessed. The guitar will remain analogue, although it is likely that the entire chain from the pickup onwards will be predominantly digital. However, as with current classical instruments and music, there will still be an important place for traditional analogue guitars. Amps and effects are likely to be almost totally digital. Successors to the analogue electromagnetic pickup and the loudspeaker will be introduced to a point that digital sound will be common if not universal. ‘Old fashioned’ guitars will remain very popular and will experience regular revivals and rejuvenations, even if the overall battle will be won by the digital technologies of the 2040s. New digital connectors will proliferate, as the currently ubiquitous USB port will long since have been superseded, and the jack pug/socket will be purely of vintage interest.

Guitar making – Most of the large manufacturers will be producing some sort of digital instrument as the norm, even if the vital interaction between fingers and strings will remain as it is now. All guitar tone woods will be derived from sustainable sources by strict regulation and use of rare species tightly controlled (outside the unavoidable black market). The use of alternative materials will be in full swing, reducing the reliance on today’s natural materials. New guitars will be built to be recyclable. Automated manufacturing will be the norm and the demand for traditionally made guitars will be catered for by numerous specialist guitar builders. Pure wooden analogue guitars will be vintage only and regarded with the same respect as classical instruments are now. Guitar development will be relegated to refinements around the margins, rather than core revolutions. Hybrid instruments will be fighting a rear‑guard action, with digital beginning to win the final battle. Competition to the guitar will continue but will not succeed… yet.

Recorded music – Digital will almost totally dominate recorded music production, distribution and access. Diehard analogue fans will be regarded as geeks and nerds. Vinyl albums will, however still persevere… just.

Live music – Like recorded music, live music will be, apart from the musicians themselves, almost universally digital. ‘Loud’ live music will be a thing of the distant past. Music venues will begin to disappear as discrete locations, with personalised performance content delivered direct to the individual.

50 years’ hence (c.2068):

Analogue vs digital – Analogue guitar music will be like classical music is today, a popular, niche and a largely historic pastime. All other aspects will be digital.

Guitar making – Standardisation and construction will be largely prescribed. Hybridisation will just about have peaked and on its way out. The majority of guitar production will move towards making AIs (Artificial Instruments). The focus will be on the technical facets of music making, rather than subjective, emotive ones. Guitars as we know them now will be of heritage interest.

Recorded music – Music will be manufactured in the digital domain with just a few maverick analogue‑obsessed musicians beavering away in the minority. The vast majority of contemporary recorded music will be created electronically, with few outmoded musical instruments as we know them now being used. Many artists will be AAs (Artificial Artists), rather than by artistically inclined human beings – the latter will concentrate on performing historic pieces from the golden heyday of guitar music.

Live music – There will no longer be a need to travel to a discrete venue where music is performed in person to a collective audience. ‘Live’ music will be created in computers, customised to an individual’s tastes and accessed in the home, in a domain known as an AV (Artificial Venue) giving the sight, sound and feel of a venue.

100+ years’ hence (c.2120):

Analogue vs digital – Analogue guitar music will be an historic vocation and largely a lifestyle pastime. All other aspects of ‘modern’ music will be entirely digital. Some authentic old‑style music will be recreated on historic instruments for research purposes, rather than as entertainment.

Guitar making – Even the last few old‑school luthiers will be migrating to alternative materials, automation and digital electronics. Hybrid instruments will be seen as a thing of the past. AIs will be commonplace and there won’t be a need for human musicians to learn the art or skills needed to make any type of contemporary music.

Recorded music – Popular music will be artificially created without the need for accomplished musicians. Music will be constantly morphing on a second‑by‑second basis, known as AM (Artificial Music).

Live music – Performance capture will be produced electronically and experienced direct by the listener’s visual and audio receptors, bypassing the unreliable eyes and ears altogether. Finally, the digital signal path from computerised source to the recipient’s brain will be complete and will require no human intervention whatsoever.

Alternative Reality

Or… in some alternative, perhaps more desirable dimension, the unwritten future could well be pretty much as it is today, with new generations doing just what we do now, rocking to good old electric guitar music. To many guitarists, the tactile and synergetic relationship between musician and his/her guitar in full flow with other musicians is unbreakable and simply cannot be usurped by some dystopian digital future scape.

One trusts that there will always be a place for creative artisans and a desire or the musically minded to enjoy the fruits of their vision for the guitar of the future. It is encouraging that many well‑known guitar makers are actually stepping back in time in order to move forward. This isn’t the paradox that it may first seem. Savvy guitar builders are investigating in great depth what made great guitars great in the first place and identifying what musicians actually want from their instruments today. Much of this current R&D is leading to a number of findings that indicate that what was important 100 and 200 years ago (and probably longer) is still important today but with modern consistency and reliability.

Perhaps the past masters did get it largely right in the first place and that is why their products, new or vintage, are still desirable artefacts today. While traditional manufacturers like C.F. Martin use modern production methods for some parts of the building process, they are also still using tools and equipment employed by successive cohorts of luthiers, as well as relying on many of the basic techniques and skills refined and passed down from one generation to the next. Most of the top flight guitar builders also work very hard to ensure long-term supplies of precious tone woods to make into future guitars. This focus on the best‑of‑the‑best perhaps suggests that guitars may well remain, for the large part, relatively familiar in 10, 30, 50 and 100 years from now but with improvements to the detail. Perhaps it takes that bold flight of fancy to realise that we already have what we and future generations of musicians actually need. Owning inspiring guitars inspires guitar playing and results in inspiring guitar music.

There really is no point in speculating any further ahead. The likelihood is that, even with advances in medical technology, most if not all of us reading this in 2018 will not be around to see anything beyond c.2020. The guitar is dead, long live the guitar. The passage of father time will inform just how accurate these flights of fantasy (or descents into nightmare) really are. Clearly, the further one looks into the future, the less precise any predictions become. Welcome to tomorrow’s very scary ‘brave new world’.

I, for one, am certainly not laying any bets. I’d like to think that there is something about our very personal instruments that will endure for many decades, if not centuries. If we lose that quintessential ‘something special’ about making guitars that make guitarists that make music, it will all have been for nothing. Watch this space.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. The long‑running and on‑going story of the guitar has finally reached a logical stopping off point, at least for now… However, it not the end of the story by any means. Somewhat disappointingly, the denouement to ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’ series seems to be a bit more of a whimper than some almighty bang. After so much history and so much personal investment in researching it, it seems a bit of a let‑down to leave the guitar’s evolution ‘hanging’ without some sort of definitive resolution to the script and with the various loose ends neatly tied up. Nevertheless, remember that this is not a fictional piece and let us not forget that this is definitely not the epilogue.

‘They’ say that a picture speaks a thousand words. So, to sum up the 3,500‑year, 8‑part journey in a single image that tells the story of the guitar from its origins to the possible near future, here is a fitting 27‑picture montage that possibly speaks approximately 50,000 words. Basically, I could have saved 9 months of my life and just posted this one composite picture. That, I guess, is one of the benefits of hindsight. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the expedition with me and that, like me, you have learned a little something about the guitar along the way. You wanted a potted history of the guitar? Well, how about…

From this point in time onwards is the start of the future and, whatever happens next. It will be fascinating to experience the on‑going next instalment of the long story and to observe with trepidation and excitement what is to unfold. Let us try to make it a bright and positive outcome for everyone who loves The Guitar and Great Guitar Music. Thank you for reading. Enjoy the future, whatever it holds for us guitar aficionados.

End of Part VIII and the end of this series

Now… I need a break from the relentless rigmarole of the research and write routine, which has, for the best part of a year (or more), been on top of everything else. As mentioned previously, at some point, I might adapt the eight separate ‘Guitar History’ parts into a more coherent and accessible feature set on the CRAVE Guitars’ web site.

Very shortly, I will try and start to prepare for 2019’s (hopefully slightly less) epic partner piece to this year’s gargantuan opener. For the rest of this year, it is back to opinionated hum‑drum ‘normality’ with stand‑alone observations of a more topical and transient nature.

One thing I have noticed is that I haven’t been playing enough guitar in recent months, hardly any at all in fact, which is deplorable. So perhaps now that this particular endeavour is over for now, it’s time to practice what I preach, pick up a lovely vintage guitar and plink away for a bit of cathartic enjoyment. At least, in doing so within the context of the past, I now have an enhanced appreciation of the history that led to it coming into my hands and why it is so important to conserve the heritage for that future. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Let’s be honest, the future is all we really have and it is the only thing we can do anything about”

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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July 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part V

Hello again and welcome back to the latest, fifth, part in the long history of the guitar, abridged and serialised for your entertainment. After the lengthy but hopefully coherent, tome of last month, I promise this one is a bit shorter and focused back on whole guitars, for easier consumption.

If you wish to recap on previous articles before starting with this part, the previous articles making up the ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

The previous article (Part IV) in the series covering the guitar’s evolution looked at some essential 20th Century technological innovations without which, the electric guitar and modern music would not have evolved within the context of our current civilisation.

The artificial increase in volume provided by the pickup, amplifier and loudspeaker was important to enable the guitar to be elevated from just an accompanying instrument to a lead/solo instrument. This significant expansion in functionality proved massively popular across most non-classical musical genres and would change popular music forever. Crucially, the electric guitar provided a springboard for the musical revolution that occurred from the 1950s, fuelled first by jazz and blues and then by country and the rock ‘n’ roll ‘explosion’. At the same time, post‑war economic growth and social liberalisation in most western societies provided a fertile environment within which the electric guitar and the music it influenced could flourish. Part V explores how those key innovations were first introduced to the guitar world and then became an integral part of what would eventually become today’s musical landscape.

There were considerable challenges in turning prototypes into successful working commercial products. One of the barriers was the capability to manufacture the various elements to consistent quality in large numbers at low enough cost to match supply with demand. Another potential inhibitor was to persuade exiting dealerships and traditional musicians to adopt the new technology. One strategy was to attract big name artists to not only endorse but also to be seen using them in live performance. All of these factors were important in helping to build and then sustain long‑tem interest.

Scientific and technological progress in the first half of the 20th Century, it seems, was inevitable and unstoppable. Guitar builders were taking massive leaps of faith and the risks were great. If the new‑fangled popular music turned out to be a temporary fad or the features offered didn’t catch the consumer’s imagination then all the investment in time, effort and money would be wasted. Manufacturers had to get their products ‘just so’ in a timely fashion, so there was pressure to adapt, get the balance right and to do so within a relatively short space of time.

In hindsight, the answers to these challenges seem relatively straightforward, although it may not have seemed so at the time. As mentioned briefly in the previous part of the story there were essentially two ways to migrate from an acoustic instrument to an amplified electric one…

The first method was, perhaps, an obvious incremental approach achieved by simply adding one of the new‑fangled pickups to an existing hollow‑body acoustic instrument. The modified acoustic guitar could then simply be connected to a portable valve amplifier and speaker. This would be an attractive approach for many well‑established jazz/dance band musicians. However, the potential of this solution – at least initially – was limited by fact that that all that was happening was simply electrifying acoustic guitars. Not surprisingly, it worked for companies already producing credible archtop acoustic guitars, including, for example, Gibson.

The second method was to take a more radical approach and invent an entirely new type of instrument designed from scratch. This was technically far more difficult at the time and carried no guarantee of success. However, a bespoke approach was seen as less of a compromise and more a means of going straight to a visionary objective in one step, as well as doing so quickly without being constrained by anything that had gone before. The forward‑looking pioneers in this field believed that a purpose‑built electric guitar would appeal to a completely different audience and were prepared to take the massive risk of alienating the current generation of risk‑averse musicians in order to grow a fresh following for the new generation of guitars from a low base.

Arguably, both ways were important and both were needed in order to refine the inventions and for the best of both worlds to converge. Without these pioneering efforts, we would not have the diverse range of electric guitars (and other instruments) we have today. The following sections take a brief look at what happened to each of these seemingly opposing strategies and how successful they really were.

Generally speaking, the development of acoustic guitars had taken different courses on the eastern and western sides of the United States, so perhaps it was not surprising that the developments leading to the electric guitar also followed a rough east/west geographical split. In addition, the routes taken to get to the nirvana of the electric guitar were fundamentally different. While there were many inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs working on similar projects, this part of the story focuses on two key enterprises based in Michigan and California during the 1930s. The pace of innovation that occurred in the wake of WWII, through the late 1940s and into the 1950s will be the focus of the next part of the series.

Amplified Archtop Guitars

On the eastern(‑ish, actually the mid-west) side of America, Gibson being Gibson, felt that they were in control of their own destiny. They were intent on doing things their way and in their own time. Although Gibson was no stranger to innovation, perhaps predictably, they chose the ‘safe’ option, which was to add an electromagnetic pickup to their successful range of existing archtop guitars and then take it from there. This was seen as a simple, effective and relatively painless way of making the transition for an existing largely conservative and loyal user base to the new platform. Professional musicians, perhaps conscious of retaining their reputation and credibility could keep the look, feel and timbre of their existing instruments and just plug them into an amplifier to make them louder. While the approach was successful, as we now appreciate, the seemingly straightforward act of electrifying an acoustic instrument isn’t always ideal. Many initially sceptical professional musicians were, however, persuaded to embrace incremental change. They could retain their trusty, mostly expensive, high quality acoustic archtop guitars and also keep their expectant audiences happy.

While their upstart competitors on the west coast may have beaten Gibson to the starting gate technologically (see below), the Hawaiian lap steel market was finite and Gibson was intent on occupying what they saw as their rightful territory in the centre ground. Gibson founder, Orville Gibson had passed away in 1918, long before Gibson electric guitars became a reality. One wonders what Orville would have thought and, perhaps more intriguingly, done if faced with the same set of circumstances.

While acoustic engineer Lloyd Loar was employed at Gibson, he had experimented with electrostatic pickups in the early 1920s, although not very successfully. It would, however, take Gibson another 10 years to make their breakthrough. It fell to Gibson employee, Walter L. Fuller, who had joined the company in 1933 who was responsible for finalising the design of Gibson’s first pickups used on their electric metal‑bodied E150 lap steel guitars, introduced in 1935. The electric E150 was, like the early Rickenbacher Electro lap steel guitars, constructed from sold aluminium. To help entice early adopters, the E150 was offered with a matching E150 amp.

A year later, in May 1936, Gibson introduced their first ‘Electric Spanish’ (ES) model, the hollow body archtop ES‑150. While some may dispute the circumstances, the Gibson ES‑150 is historically significant in that it is generally regarded as the first commercially successful production electric guitar. The Gibson ES‑150 employed the same pickup as used in the previous year’s E150 lap steel. Two large 5” bar magnets were hidden under the top of the guitar, as can be seen by the triangle of mounting bolts, while the hexagonal pickup with its distinctive ‘blade’ polepiece was visible, mounted near the neck. The output jack socket was positioned unobtrusively on the side of the guitar’s lower bass bout. Otherwise, the ES‑150 was a relatively unremarkable example of familiar archtop jazz guitar design of the 1930s. Interestingly, the ES‑150 wasn’t a replacement for another Gibson model; it was a new introduction, supplementing existing instruments.

Like the E150, the ES-150 was sold with an accompanying EH‑150 amplifier and cable. The ‘150’ of its name derived from the guitar’s introductory price of $150.

Importantly for Gibson, the ES‑150 was endorsed by acclaimed jazz guitarist Charlie Christian (1916-1942), which helped to popularise amplified archtop guitars not only for rhythm work but also for lead/solo playing. The distinctive black and white hexagonal pickup used in the ES-150 is still known today as the ‘Charlie Christian’ pickup and is held in high regard by aficionados, despite being very low‑powered in its original form. After 1938, Gibson redesigned the pickup so that it was more powerful – it had a notch in the polepiece below where the wound ‘B’ string would go, in order to balance the output across all 6 strings. A third variation of the pickup appeared on Gibson ES-250s from 1939, perhaps indicating that development of the pickup was ‘work‑in‑progress’.

By the end of the 1930s, Gibson’s Walter Fuller was experimenting with Alnico (aluminium, nickel and cobalt) alloy magnets in pickups. Various guitars of the early 1940s featured early versions of what would become one of Gibson’s most famous pickups, the P90. These developmental designs, used on Gibson ES-250 and ES-300 guitars, were a far cry from the familiar P90 pickups that would follow. Another early version of the P90, called the P-13, appeared on Mastertone Electric Spanish Guitars from 1940, a budget brand owned by Gibson.

Between 1943 and 1945, a substantial proportion of Gibson’s manufacturing capacity was re‑focused on supporting the American war effort. Supply of materials and tooling caused a temporary hiatus in America’s pickup, guitar and amplifier development, not only for Gibson but also for all manufacturers in the industry.

It wasn’t until 1946 that Gibson introduced the fully‑fledged single coil P.U.90, now known simply as the P90, on their ES-150 and ES-300 archtops. The P90 has become one of the company’s most famous and highly respected pickups, and a design that has endured almost unchanged over many decades. The P90 pickup was important to Gibson as it really established Gibson’s dominance in pickup design prior to the introduction of humbucking pickups. The successful P90 became a standard and effectively replaced Gibson’s earlier pickup designs. Although Gibson’s humbucking pickups were intended to replace the P90 in the 1950s, the P90 remains in production today as Gibson’s predominant single coil pickup, testament to the quality of its original design.

Once the concept of electric archtop guitars had been broadly embraced by enough mainstream guitarists, Gibson extended the use of pickups to other guitars. In 1949, Gibson released the ES-175. Like the ES‑150 before it, the model was named after its introductory price of $175. This model was important in the historical timeline because it was designed from the start to be an electric guitar, rather than an acoustic guitar with a pickup. It was also considered a cheaper guitar than Gibson’s upmarket archtops like the acoustic L5 and Super 400. Unlike its predecessors, the ES-175’s all‑hollow body was constructed from laminated boards rather than solid wood and it was the first Gibson to feature a pointed Florentine cutaway. Initially, the ES-175 came with one and then two P90 single coil pickups. By 1957, Gibson switched to their new humbucking pickups to the E‑175.

Following on from the ground breaking ES-150 and the ES-175, Gibson revisited an earlier classic creation by introducing the luxuriously appointed L5CES in 1951. The new model was based on the preceding L5 originally designed by Lloyd Loar in the 1920s. The L5CES was aimed squarely at the high end and was designed to provide the best of both worlds for discerning professional musicians. The ‘C’ stood for the single ‘cutaway’ body comprising spruce top and maple back and sides. The model was produced initially with a smoothly rounded Venetian cutaway and a pair of P90 single coil pickups, followed later by a sharply pointed Florentine cutaway and humbucking pickups. The ‘ES’ continued the ‘Electric Spanish’ nomenclature of other models. By using 2 pickups, the L5CES was intended to be used both acoustically and electrically. A notable user of the electric L5 was Scotty Moore who worked with emerging rock ‘n’ roll singer, Elvis Presley in the 1950s. There were a number of variations on the theme, including the thinline, short scale Byrdland and in the 1970s, Gibson even introduced a solid body version of the L5, called the L5S.

In 1955, Gibson introduced their first production humbucking pickup, designed by Seth Lover. Early versions of the Gibson P.U.490 humbucker have become known as PAF (Patent Applied For) pickups, while ones produced after their patent was awarded in 1959 are known as ‘Patent No.’ pickups. Succeeding versions of the Gibson humbucker right up to the current day have built on the foundations of these early, now legendary, pickups. As they had done in the 1930s, Gibson launched their new pickup first on lap steel guitars in 1956 before phasing them in to replace P90s on the aforementioned ES‑175.

It wasn’t long before PAF humbuckers were used on many Gibson guitars. Unsurprisingly, they also began to appear in the company’s (relatively) new solid body gold top Les Paul Model and black Les Paul Custom guitars from 1957 as well as on the all‑new semi‑acoustic ES‑335 from 1958. However, that’s getting ahead of this particular part of the story. Fortunately for Gibson, their humbucking pickups proved highly successful across all types of electric guitar and have long since become an industry standard, with many 3rd party pickup suppliers creating their own versions. Even the original Charlie Christian pickups are now being replicated for enthusiasts of the unique sound they produced.

There have, perhaps obviously, been plenty of other electric archtop guitars over the intervening years from a wide range of manufacturers across the globe. While this part of the story recognises this diversity, it cannot do justice to the proliferation of instruments on the market today. Needless to say, many of today’s designs have been inspired by the few milestone instruments mentioned here. Arguably, progress would have taken place anyway, even without these key instruments. However, the guitars covered above are particularly notable in historical terms not necessarily because they were the first or the best but because of the part they have played in the overall heritage.

Again in hindsight, the addition of one or more pickups to an existing acoustic guitar may seem to be an obvious option. However, at the time, it was a significant development by a company that was known for combining innovation with traditionalism. It was a strategic decision by Gibson that achieved that clever balancing act, innovating while preserving their reputation and sustaining their user base during a time of major industry and social change.

When the time came to introduce their own range of solid body guitars in the early 1950s, Gibson already had plenty of experience under their belt to make informed decisions about what would and what wouldn’t work. It is not surprising that other manufacturers followed suit and the electric archtop guitars became mainstream until the 1950s.

The electric archtop guitar proved extremely popular with traditional guitarists looking to continue using archtop jazz guitars while also enjoying the benefits of greater volume provided by amplification. After a commercial nadir in the late 20th Century, archtop electric designs have also proved exceedingly dependable and many models remain popular to the current day, and will probably now endure well into the instrument’s future.

 

The Early Solid Body Electric Guitar

Possibly the main individual associated with the rather awkward birth of the electric solid body guitar was Adolph Rickenbacher (1886‑1976). Shortly after he was born in Basel, Switzerland, Richenbacher emigrated to America in 1891 with relatives following the death of his parents. After settling initially in Wisconsin, Adolph moved to California in 1918. In 1925, he set up the Rickenbacher Manufacturing Company, a tool and die business manufacturing metal and plastic products in Los Angeles.

To begin with, Rickenbacher spelled his family surname with an ‘h’, rather than the ‘k’ we are familiar with today. Rickenbacher later changed his surname, partly to ‘Anglicise’ it and partly to capitalise on the fame of his cousin and WWI flying ace, Eddie Rickenbacker.

Alongside Rickenbacher, the other key person was none other than George Beauchamp, the Texan Vaudeville entertainer and inventor who had already played such a major part in the development of resonator acoustic guitars with the National String Instrument Corporation in the 1920s. In addition to pioneering resonator guitars (see Part III), Beauchamp had been experimenting with pickups and amplified instruments since the mid‑1920s but with little success (see Part IV).

Perhaps ironically, during the late 1920s, Rickenbacher’s company was manufacturing metal resonator guitar bodies for National, so perhaps it is not surprising that Beauchamp and Rickenbacher’s paths should cross. Rickenbacher was even a shareholder in National. According to some commentators, it was Beauchamp’s involvement with Rickenbacher that possibly precipitated the former’s ultimate departure from the newly merged National Dobro Corporation in around 1934.

Beauchamp’s quest for greater guitar volume had led him to explore the idea of using an electromagnetic pickup to create a signal and an amplifier to produce volume. Like many before him, Beauchamp was driven to prove the concept in a practical way and he was largely successful. Beauchamp had started designing pickups and ideas for an electric guitar while still at National and in collaboration with another National employee, Paul Barth. Beauchamp and Barth’s first successful pickup design comprised a pair of U‑shaped magnets arranged in a ‘horseshoe’ shape that housed the pickup’s wire coil and surrounded the guitar’s strings.

In October 1931, Rickenbacher, Beauchamp, Barth and a number of others became business partners and founded the Ro‑Pat‑In Corporation (short for Electro‑Patent‑Instruments), based in Los Angeles. Ro‑Pat‑In’s stated goal was to produce fully electric musical instruments. Their prototype Hawaiian electric guitar from c.1931 exhibited many of the features of the eventual production model, although it was mainly constructed from wood. This was not an acoustic guitar in any shape or form, so it had to function as an electric instrument from the outset.

Ro‑Pat‑In became the first company to design and manufacture a production solid bodied electric guitar in 1932, way before Gibson. Finally, albeit in embryonic form, the fully electric guitar had finally arrived. These early guitars were, perhaps unkindly, nicknamed ‘frying pans’ because of their distinctive shape, comprising small circular bodies, long necks and all-metal construction. The guitar comprised a circular cast aluminium body and neck and incorporated the all‑important ‘horseshoe’ pickup and a volume control.

Wisely, Ro-Pat-In changed its unwieldy name to Electro String Instrument Corporation in 1933. Confusingly, early instruments appeared with the ‘Electro’ (and even ‘Elektro’) name. Even more confusingly, the company used the Rickenbacher spelling inconsistently until it finally became Rickenbacker from around 1950.

Following the name change, the ‘frying pan’ became the Rickenbacher Electro A-22. The profile of the instrument was heightened by steel guitarist Jack Miller who played a ‘Frying Pan’ with Orville Knapp (1904-1936) and his orchestra from 1934. Although he was little‑known at the time, Miller may possibly be able to lay claim to being one of the first artists to popularise the electric guitar.

As previously covered in Part IV of the story, Beauchamp’s 1934 patent application for an ‘electrical stringed musical instrument’ incorporating an electromagnetic pickup was finally awarded in April 1937. The intervening 3‑year period allowed enterprising competitors to take advantage of the new technology and create their own versions. Rickenbacher made a conscious decision not to defend their patent in the courts, thereby effectively opening up the market to competition.

Aluminium often caused tuning problems under demanding stage conditions, so Rickenbacher also experimented with other materials, including plastic and wood. From 1935, Electro released the influential Model B Hawaiian lap steel guitar. The Model B was notable for being made from cast Bakelite, a form of synthetic plastic invented in 1907 by Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland (1863-1944) in New York. Model B guitars were originally produced with a single volume control and five decorative chrome panels before models from the late 1930s featured volume and tone controls with white enamelled panels.

Richenbacher and Beauchamp recognised that the market for lap steel guitars was relatively small and there were other opportunities to be exploited. From 1932, Rickenbacker also went on to design more traditional ‘Electro Spanish’ guitars with conventionally‑shaped acoustic wood bodies, f‑holes, a slotted headstock and neck to body join at the 14th fret. By 1935, guitarist and early endorsee Ken Roberts was honoured with a ‘signature’ model that had a neck to body join at the 17th fret, featured a vibrato tailpeice and was the first electric Spanish‑style guitar to have a 25½” scale neck.

Like the ‘frying pans’ before them, both the Model B and the Electro Spanish guitars used the distinctive ‘horseshoe’ pickup. In addition to guitars, Rickenbacher Electro used their expertise to develop other electric instruments including mandolins, violins, cellos and even a harp. To accompany their electric guitars and to make them usable, Rickenbacher Electro also produced guitar amplifiers.

Timing of these guitar developments wasn’t ideal and market conditions were challenging for Rickenbacher. Electro String’s instruments appeared shortly after the Wall Street Crash in October 1929, an event that initiated the Great Depression, a major worldwide downturn that persisted until the late 1930s. Coincidentally, during the 1930s, global political tensions started to increase culminating in the outbreak of WWII. Most of America’s industrial concerns were focused on supporting the war effort for several years and the ensuing recovery was slow. The impact on the uptake of electric guitars during depression‑era America was significant, particularly in rural areas. Despite the difficulties, Electro String Instrument Corporation persevered and had produced over 2,500 ‘frying pans’ by the time the company stopped making them in 1939.

After all his vision, ambition, creativity and drive, George Beauchamp became disillusioned with the direction in which things were moving and he left Rickenbacker in 1940 to follow other pursuits, including his passion for deep sea fishing. Beauchamp died of a heart attack while on a fishing trip near Los Angeles in 1941 at the age of just 42. Beauchamp was largely unrecognised at the time for his many significant contributions to guitar evolution.

Following Beauchamp’s departure, Rickenbacker continued making musical instruments until 1953 when he sold the company to Californian businessman Francis Cary Hall. After the sale, the Rickenbacker company embarked on a whole new era of guitar building and commercial success under Hall’s leadership. Adolph Rickenbacker died in 1976 as a result of cancer in California at the age of 89. The company he founded in 1931 continues to thrive and still bears his name (complete with its ‘k’) today as the Rickenbacker International Corporation (RIC).

End of Part V

This moment seems like another ideal stopping point, albeit covering a fairly short period of intense guitar evolution in the 1930s. Together, Gibson’s and Rickenbacker’s milestone innovations had bridged that all‑important gap between the guitar’s acoustic history and the introduction of commercially produced modern solid body electric guitars in the 1950s. From this watershed point on, nothing in the music world would ever be quite the same again.

It is the emergence of the modern electric guitar, and particularly the now‑familiar solid‑body guitar, as we know it that will be picked up in Part VI. The fascinating battle between industry stalwart Gibson and new‑kid‑on‑the‑block Fender was about to take place. Fender and Gibson started fighting for market supremacy in the 1950s and are still doing so today.

I hope you enjoyed this part of the guitar’s story and trust that you’ll come back for the next exciting instalment – same time, same channel, next month (hopefully!). Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Failure may not be an option but the risk of failure is something that most of us have to work damn hard to avoid at all costs.”

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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May 2018 – A Potted History Of The Guitar Part III

Here we are again with the 3rd in a series of articles telling the long story of the guitar. Part I (→ read here) started over 3,500 years ago, emerging in the Middle East and gradually developing before dispersing across continental Europe and Asia. Eventually, the embryonic guitar found a home in Europe during the early Renaissance where it began to exhibit the characteristics and features that we recognise today. Part II (→ read here) expanded on the humble beginnings and evolved the acoustic instrument into a (generally) standardised form that we are familiar with, as well as focusing on some key 19th Century innovations in acoustic guitar design. This instalment looks at key 20th Century developments that will ultimately lead to the widespread introduction of the electric guitar.

The story from c.1900 is not only reasonably well-documented elsewhere but also fairly involved, so the pace slows compared to previous parts and also becomes richer in content. I would encourage anyone with a serious interest in guitar heritage to explore the hinterwebby thing for further information, along with all the usual caveats about the accuracy and believability of what’s out there.

Modern Era (1900-present)

At the end of the 19th and during the early part of the 20th Century, before the introduction of the electric guitar, musicians sought ever‑louder instruments, leading to various creative adaptations to the basic construction of the acoustic guitar. While the acoustic guitar continued to be popular for classical and traditional folk music, many guitarists were struggling to be heard as the trend for ensemble, ‘big band’ or swing orchestras became popular at the time. The issue with volume in a group context meant that the guitar essentially became consigned to a rhythm, rather than lead role, especially when competing with percussion and horns. In order to adapt to demand, a radically new approach to guitar design was needed. Thus, the fundamental divergence from traditional nylon strung classical and steel-strung acoustic ‘folk’ guitars had begun.

Guitars at the beginning of the 20th Century were, though, still entirely acoustic instruments. However, two key innovations were about to take place in America that would bridge the gap from acoustic to amplified electric guitars, which would began to appear in the 1930s. The first development involved the emergence of the acoustic archtop guitar on the east coast while, on the west coast, the second invention to appear was that of the resonator guitar.

Guitars weren’t the only ubiquitous chordophones at the start of the 20th Century; far from it. The mandolin, banjo, harp and violin also had periods of great popularity and fashion. However, it was during the first quarter of the 1900s that the guitar started its elevation from just another part of a band or orchestra into being the pre‑eminent instrument it is today. Arguably, in addition to the standardisation of classical and steel strung acoustic guitars, it was the introduction of archtop and resonator guitars that contributed towards that success. As is often the case in these matters, the path to success was more complicated than it seems at first and it would be far from a smooth transition with many pitfalls along the way.

Acoustic Archtop Guitars

The acoustic archtop guitar incorporated some of the basic components of the steel string acoustic guitar with a body style that bore some design and construction similarities with classical orchestral stringed instruments. An archtop guitar may be defined as, a stringed musical instrument with a convex curved top, formed either by carving a solid piece of tone wood or by heating a sheet of laminated wood in order to  mould it into the curved shape.

Most flat top acoustic guitars up to the end of the 19th Century used a single integrated bridge/tailpiece mounted to the surface of the top soundboard, meaning that the strings exert not only significant horizontal pull but also lift because of torque. In order to prevent the bridge from lifting and/or twisting, particularly with the greater tension required by metal strings, the thin flat acoustic soundboard required strong internal bracing. Heavily braced tops had the effect of reducing resonant vibrations and inhibiting overall volume. One solution was to make guitars bigger, an approach used by C.F. Martin in the 1930s with the introduction of the company’s sizeable X-braced D-series dreadnoughts, as covered in the previous part of this series of articles. Archtop guitars took an entirely different approach.

Unlike acoustic guitars, most orchestral stringed instruments had a long history of using a carved arched top featuring a separate moveable bridge and fixed tailpiece. The main advantage of using separate structures is that they serve different functions. The non-adjustable tailpiece is used to anchor the strings at that end of the instrument and deals only with the longitudinal stresses caused by string tension. The separate ‘floating’ bridge (meaning that it was not fixed and could be repositioned if needed) supports the strings and is used only to control string height (action) and intonation. The solid carved top of the soundboard was arched upward, as on a violin or cello, in order to counteract the downward pressure that the strings exerted on the bridge, thus providing a stable and resonant structure. The major benefit of this type of design is that it needs less internal bracing which allows the instrument’s soundboard to vibrate more freely, thereby producing a noticeably louder sound.

It was therefore not really surprising that, at some point, enterprising guitar builders would seek to exploit some of the characteristics of other instruments and incorporate the best of these into guitar design. While there may have been numerous examples of experimentation before this time, the enduring convergence of classical stringed instrument construction and acoustic guitar design resulted in the advent of the acoustic archtop guitar from the beginning of the 20th Century.

The Rise of Gibson Guitars

Although not the only innovator in guitar design at the turn of the 19th Century, certainly one of the key pioneers that popularised early archtop guitars was American luthier Orville H. Gibson (1856-1918), who was born in Chateaugay, New York. Gibson started making mandolins in his home workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1894 as ‘O.H. Gibson, Manufacturer, Musical Instruments’.

Gibson himself was, by all accounts, somewhat unconventional, being described as an obsessive, eccentric genius as well as an extreme perfectionist. He apparently held other, more traditional, instrument makers of the time in contempt and he was determined to do things differently and in his own way. Orville Gibson, the person, remains somewhat of an enigma and appears to have suffered from mental illness throughout his life, spending several periods in mental institutions before his death in a psychiatric asylum in New York.

Gibson started out by adapting European violin designs for use in mandolins and then, subsequently, guitars. By 1897, Gibson had made his first hollow archtop guitar with a relatively thick carved solid wood top, back and sides, cello style tailpiece, floating bridge and steel strings. His early designs retained the traditional acoustic guitar sound hole, although oval in shape. He used spruce wood for the top for its resonance and maple for back and sides for strength and density. Unlike traditional flat top acoustic guitars of the time, Gibson’s archtop guitars did not use internal bracing, as he felt this would hamper both volume and tone. When played hard, Gibson’s relatively un‑stressed design was more capable of projecting the loud, bright and ‘percussive’ acoustic volume that guitarists were seeking at the time.

Orville Gibson submitted his only patent application in 1895 for an archtop mandolin design (also applicable to the guitar), which was granted by the U.S. Patent Office in February 1898. The patent covered archtop construction comprising carved, tops and sides cut from solid wood, rather than the acoustic guitar’s braced flat top and bent wood sides. While earlier guitar/mandolin patents by James S. Back in 1893 and A.H. Merrill in 1896 may lay claim to the first archtop designs, it was Gibson that converted his own visionary concepts into a successful business enterprise.

On 11 October 1902, Orville Gibson, along with five local business partners founded the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. in Kalamazoo. The company soon started building archtop guitars using the techniques Gibson had patented for the mandolin. However, Gibson was paid a $2,500 lump sum and monthly income to step back from day-to-day business where his overt, pedantic idiosyncrasies tended to affect production.

While the Gibson F-2 mandolin was a major milestone in the instrument’s history and is now considered a classic landmark design, mandolins generally were beginning to lose favour with musicians. In addition, Gibson had initially followed the trend for tenor banjos in the late 1910s before guitars became the mainstay of the business. Gibson was also known to make complex but not widely used harp guitars, such as the Style U.

Gibson’s Style 0 archtop guitar design proved better suited to the jazz and swing orchestras of the time than the flat top acoustic guitar. As a result, Gibson guitars became very popular in the early part of the 20th Century up to the 1920s, particularly amongst the jazz fraternity. The Style 0 archtop, which retained the oval sound hole beneath the strings, is often referred to as the direct precursor to the archetypal jazz acoustic archtops that followed. The hand‑carved guitars were, however, very resource intensive to build, so supply fell short of demand and there was a growing need for an instrument that was quicker, easier and cheaper to build.

Orville Gibson finally left the company he founded in 1916 to live in upstate New York until his death in 1918 at the age of 62.

In the same year, 1918, composer, musician and engineer, Lloyd Loar (1886-1943) was hired by the Gibson company as acoustic consultant and advisor. After a break to entertain WWI troops in Europe, Loar re-joined Gibson in 1919. Loar went on to design many of the company’s new instruments in an attempt to turn around disappointing sales. While Loar wasn’t a luthier by trade, he led a design and construction revolution at the company during the 1920s, growing the company’s enviable reputation for building fine professional guitars, mandolins and other stringed-fretted instruments.

One of Loar’s first and best‑known guitar designs, released in 1923, was the Gibson L5 ‘Master Model’. The L5 is widely recognised as the first commercially produced ‘jazz’ guitar. In 1923, the L5 featured all the fundamental characteristics that we recognize in a ‘jazz’ guitar; a carved archtop fully hollow body, separate tailpiece and floating bridge, etc. It was also the first commercial archtop guitar to employ f‑holes that are now synonymous with the style of guitar. The L5’s neck incorporated other innovations, including an adjustable truss rod, designed to counteract string tension, and the body used an adjustable bridge to set the height of the strings above the fingerboard. These key improvements enabled guitars to become more streamlined and therefore easier to play. The L5 was a trendsetter and gained a strong following in the jazz community. Early adopters included the popular guitarist Eddie Lang, comedian/singer George Gobel, and jazz virtuoso guitarist Wes Montgomery.

The L5 is now considered to have been pivotal in acoustic archtop guitar design. As if to evidence its standing, the perennial L5 remains in production well into the 21st Century, proving the soundness of Loar’s original concept. Lloyd Loar did not stay long at Gibson, leaving in 1924. During the 1920s and 1930s, Gibson became the leading manufacturer of archtop guitars. The perennial Gibson L5 will resurface again later in the guitar’s story.

Gibson archtop guitars remain in production today, including some faithful reproductions and improvements on the classic designs that began in the 1920s.

The Competition

Gibson wasn’t alone in the market and its competitors included Stromberg, Epiphone, Gretsch and Hofner were also making high quality instruments. In addition, from 1932, American luthier John D’Angelico (1905-1964) started producing very fine archtop guitars from his workshop in New York City. In 1965, his apprentice of 12 years, Jimmy D’Aquisto (1935-1995) took over D’Angelico’s work and continued to produce fine acoustic archtop guitars after his master had passed away. Original examples of these guitars are seen by many to represent the pinnacle of the jazz guitar era.

In order to provide ever‑increasing demand for volume, the size of archtop guitar bodies increased from the 16” L5 up to 18” or even 19” measured across the lower bout. Gibson’s reaction to competition was to produce one of the brand’s most famous archtop guitars, the classic Super 400 in 1935.

Arguably, classic archtop guitar designs provided a strong link between traditional steel strung acoustic guitars, through hybrids (electric archtops) to the emergence of later solid body electric guitars. The introduction of electric archtop guitars in the mid‑1930s enabled the transition from acoustic to electric guitars and is covered later in the story.

With the widespread uptake of electric guitars allied to the massive growth of blues and rock ‘n’ roll music in the 1950s, the pure archtop guitar with its strong jazz association struggled to remain popular. Manufacture and sale of archtop guitars fell dramatically and suffered a nadir in the 1990s. However, in the 21st Century, many guitarists are rediscovering the aesthetic and sonic qualities of classic ‘jazz boxes’. Sales of new archtop guitars have picked up due to a new generation of musicians either seeking an alternative to mainstream instruments or wishing to recreate the sights and sounds of the past with a degree of authenticity.

Many current‑day archtop guitars incorporate pickups to make them more usable in contemporary situations. Modern manufacturing processes including CNC machines used to carve the tops also help to reduce cost and make archtop guitars relatively affordable. Alternatives to solid wood are also abundant today, including the use of formed laminates to create the curved tops.

Acoustic Resonator Guitars

While the concept of archtop guitars was one response to the need for louder instruments a discrete branch of guitar evolution was taking place on the west coast of the U.S.A. In the time before amplified guitars, manufacturers had to respond to the demand for greater acoustic volume during the golden ‘jazz age’ of the ‘roaring twenties’. This particular alternative to the archtop guitar is broadly categorised as the resophonic or resonator guitars. Hereafter they are called simply resonator guitars for brevity.

A resonator guitar in this context is still a hollow acoustic guitar. Resonator guitars differ from previous designs because of the way that mechanical string vibrations are transferred not to the guitar’s sound board but via the guitar’s bridge to one or more spun metal cones incorporated within the guitar’s body. It is these resonating metal cones that produce a louder sound than the traditional wooden sound boards of flat top or archtop acoustic guitars. Musicians also favoured the flexibility of resonator guitars over banjos, which were popular in the early part of the 20th Century.

The unique construction of resonator guitars also produced a very distinctive thin, bright, metallic sound with little sustain, very different from other acoustic guitars. The distinctive resonator sounds were adopted by blues, bluegrass and country guitarists of the time and have produced many of the characteristic sounds of rural American music over many decades, especially when played with a bottleneck slide. It should be noted that, while resonator guitars are widely associated with the blues, and particularly with Mississippi delta blues guitarists, they have been used in a diverse range of musical genres.

General resonator guitar designs tend to fall into two separate types: square-neck Hawaiian lap steel resonators tend to be played horizontally with a slide and round‑neck resonators that can be played either horizontally, lap-steel fashion, or conventionally. The height of the strings above the fingerboard varies considerably depending on whether the guitars are used for slide, hybrid or regular fingerstyle use. In addition to lap‑steel and Spanish‑style guitars, resonators have been used in many diverse instruments including, ukuleles, banjos, basses and mandolins. Resonator guitars remain popular today, principally for their unique sound and the musical styles they inspired. English guitarist, Mark Knopfler’s iconic 1937 National Style 0 resonator was famously featured on the sleeve of their classic studio album, ‘Brothers In Arms’ (1985).

Some famous guitarists are associated with resonator guitars, including Tampa Red, Son House, Bukka White, Bo Carter and Blind Boy Fuller.

The Rise of National and Dobro Guitars

Probably, the most significant contributor to the development of the resonator guitar was a Slovakian immigrant to the U.S., John Dopyera (1893–1988). The Dopyera family moved to California in 1908 and John followed in his father’s footsteps, starting a business in the 1920s making and repairing musical instruments.

The crucial catalyst in resonator progress was provided by a Texan Vaudeville performer and musical experimenter, George Beauchamp (1899-1941). Once Beauchamp (his surname was pronounced ‘Beechum’) had moved to California, he approached John Dopyera in 1925 to design a guitar loud enough for use in a dance orchestra. Beauchamp had seen examples of some sort of external megaphone‑style horn arrangement to project a guitar’s volume. Dopyera’s initial prototype, involving a stand‑mounted amplifying horn proved far too bulky and was considered a failure. Undaunted, Dopyera and Beauchamp’s creative solution was to invent the resonator guitar.

Recognising the potential of the new resonator guitar design, John Dopyera and George Beauchamp founded the National String Instrument Corporation in 1927, based in Los Angeles, California to manufacture resonator guitars and other instruments under the National brand.

National’s first major instrument was a metal‑bodied guitar using three inward‑pointing suspended spun aluminium cones connected by a metal T‑shaped bracket to the bridge. The arrangement was, perhaps unsurprisingly, called a ‘Tricone’. String vibrations were acoustically amplified by the cones, acting like passive loudspeakers, giving the guitar its distinctive resonator sound. Dopyera filed a patent application for the Tricone design in April 1927, granted in December 1929. The ground breaking early National Tricone resonator guitars from the late 1920s are now highly collectable. The first engraved metal bodies were made of copper and zinc alloy (often called ‘German silver’ or ‘white brass’) before changing to traditional brass which was cheaper and more plentiful, then finally to steel.

1939 National Tricone Resonator

John Dopyera was concerned about the manufacturing cost and retail price of the complicated tricone design and proposed a cheaper, simpler single cone alternative. When the new design was presented to National’s board, it was rejected. His new single-cone design comprised an arrangement where the strings passed over a bridge that sat on a small circular wooden mounting disc (called a ‘biscuit’) that was in turn attached to the apex of the inward‑pointing spun metal cone. Although it wasn’t taken up at the time, Beauchamp, through National, went on to patent Dopyera’s single cone ‘biscuit’ resonator design, filed in March 1929 and granted in June 1931.

John Dopyera, having become frustrated by National’s internal politics, left the company in 1928. Crucially, to keep his options open, Dopyera remained a major shareholder in National. Along with his four brothers (Rudy, Emile, Robert and Louis), John Dopyera founded the Dobro Manufacturing Company to compete with National. The Dobro name comprises the ‘Do’ from the family’s surname and ‘bro’ as a contraction of ‘brothers’. The term ‘dobro’ has over the years come to be used as a generic term in common parlance when talking about single resonator guitars. Conveniently, and perhaps intentionally, the word dobro also means ‘good’ in Slovakian, leading directly to the company’s early motto using a play on words, “Dobro means good in any language”.

As National owned the resonator patents to-date, early Dobro resonator guitars had to differ from the single cone design made by National. The new Dobro guitars used a wooden body and a single inverted (outward‑facing) resonator cone with guitar strings passing over a bridge attached to an 8-legged cast aluminium ‘spider’ (resembling a spider’s web) that in turn was attached to points around the edge of the spun metal cone. Unlike the National single cone design, the Dobro cone projects outwards, thereby increasing volume. Dobro filed a patent in February 1932 for Rudi Dopyera’s resonator design, which was granted in February 1933. National objected to Dobro’s resonator design, resulting in several contested law suits between National and Dobro, which lasted for several years.

The advantage for guitarists was that the Dobro was both louder and considerably cheaper than the complex and costly National Tricone design. In addition, Dobro cleverly licensed their designs to brands such as Regal to extend their reach into an eager customer base. National responded to competition from Dobro by introducing their lower cost resonators, the Triolian in 1928 and Duolian in 1930. Also in 1930, National released their nickel-plated, steel‑bodied, round necked Style 0 resonator guitars, which featured Hawaiian scenes sandblasted into the guitar’s finish and are now considered iconic. In an attempt to cover all bases, both companies also produced resonator mandolins.

In 1932, with National in financial difficulty, the Dopyera brothers secured a controlling interest in both National and Dobro companies. The companies subsequently merged in 1934 to form the National Dobro Corporation, thereby ending the feud and eliminating the fierce competition between the two. Beauchamp was fired by the new company for his involvement with newcomers, Rickenbacker, who were developing new ideas for electric guitars. The National Dobro Corporation moved operations to Chicago in 1936 where it manufactured resonator guitars until it ceased production in 1941, shortly after America entered World War II. Aluminium was needed to support America’s war effort, making the raw material for resonator cones scarce and the demand for tooling machinery high.

Post-War Resonator Guitars

The remnants of the pre‑WWII National Dobro Corporation were later reorganised to become Valco in 1942, which eventually reintroduced resonator guitars under the National brand in the early 1960s. American company Mosrite bought the Dobro brand in 1966 before going bankrupt themselves in 1969. A new company, National Reso‑Phonic Guitars was formed in 1989, based in California, to produce resonator guitars based on original pre‑war designs as well as some all-new designs, including electro-acoustic resonator guitars.

Taking a different direction altogether, Emile and Rudy Dopyera formed the Original Musical Instrument Company (OMI), based in California in 1967 to make resonator guitars using the brand name Hound Dog. In 1970, OMI secured the Dobro brand name from the bankrupt Mosrite, which meant the Dopyera family could once again manufacture Dobro guitars using their original name. OMI was subsequently acquired by The Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1993 and they currently produce Dobro branded resonators, including Dobro Hound Dog budget models through their Epiphone operation in China. In an attempt to secure the heritage, Gibson has stated that they will defend their exclusive right to use the Dobro name.

While many variations of resonator guitars have been manufactured by a large number of companies over the years, National and Dobro, along with Dobro-licensed Regal, are the names most associated with pre‑WWII resonator production. The influence and legacy of these brands is significant in historical terms and 21st Century popularity of resonator guitars suggests that they are here to stay with a bright future ahead. Many modern resonators now incorporate either electro‑magnetic or piezo‑electric pickups, enabling them to be amplified, just like other electric guitars, while retaining their distinctive acoustic tone. Given the reason why resonators were invented in the first place – to increase acoustic volume – the concept of electric resonators seems a touch ironic today.

End of Part III

I will stop at this juncture, just before the dawn of the electric guitar. In terms of the overall amount of material, Parts I-III cover about half the story I have to tell.

I must mention that this part of the story proved particularly convoluted and I apologise if it comes across confusingly. It was a major challenge to untangle the web of misinformation and distil a meaningful chronological narrative. I hope that you are able to make some sense of the various interweaving threads. The information for the next part proved even more tortuous and I’m still trying to simplify and condense it for the serial article format. As with previous parts, I am happy to amend any factual errors that may well have crept into the timeline thus far.

Before we get back to the next decisive milestones in the guitar’s long story, Part IV will be both a temporary and necessary diversion from the core subject matter. The next episode focuses on two key innovations upon which the electric guitar is entirely dependent. You will have to wait a while to see what unfolds. There is a great deal of background material to wade through, so it will be a challenge to cut down the full version in order to keep the story moving. However, once that contextual reference material is in place, the modern electric guitar in all its splendour can finally be unleashed, hopefully in Part V and thereafter.

Thank you or looking in. As interesting as the story may be, it’s now time for me to stop typing and get back to more important matters; playing (vintage) guitars. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Dancing, even in silence, is literally the embodiment of music.”

© 2018 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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