January 2024 – A Brief History of the Bass Guitar

Prelude

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

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

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

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

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

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


The fretless acoustic double bass

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

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

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

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

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

Double Bass (courtesy of Roxanne Minnish)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The electric upright bass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric Upright Bass

The first solid‑body fretted electric bass guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutmarc AudioVox Model 736

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass

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

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

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

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

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

1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn

Evolution of the electric bass guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rickenbacker 4001

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

1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

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

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

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

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


The acoustic bass guitar

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

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

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

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

Acoustic Bass Guitar

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

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


Bass guitar amplification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bass guitar effects

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

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

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

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

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

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


Iconic (and other) bass guitars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Famous bass players

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

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

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


Bass in the (near) future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Resources

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

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

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


Some final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Album of the Month’

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

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

Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977)

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

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


Tailpiece

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

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

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

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

© 2024 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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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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October 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part VIII

Introduction

Hello and welcome to the 8th article in this particular magnum opus of modern music history. I hope by now, you know the way this works, so I won’t say much more, other than welcome to the 1980s. If not by the start of the ‘80s, at least by the end of the decade, most readers will likely have some experience of living through the many events documented here, although I cannot assume that to be the case. I hope you have some fond memories of the time – personally, I can’t believe how long ago it was, as it seems like almost yesterday to me.

As always, if you would like to (re)visit any or all of the first seven parts (and well over 375 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Once again, although notably shorter than the last four articles, this month is dedicated to a single decade, if only to ensure that it is given sufficient focus.

The Story of Modern Music Part VIII 1980-1989

While arguably not quite hitting the heady heights of the previous three decades, the 1980s (or simply, ‘the eighties’) still had much to relate both about the human condition and musical variety. The 1980s were notable for many catchy, sing‑along‑able chart choons and the emergence of commercial pop videos, along with accompanying fashion trends. One personal observation is that, perhaps, there were the first real signs of divergence between what was happening culturally and the music being produced. Interdependence between society and its music were still there but, maybe, not quite as strongly intertwined as previously.

Historical Context 1980-1989

The 1980s were sometimes called the ‘greed decade’ or the ‘old school days’. There was a worldwide move away from planned economies and towards laissez‑faire capitalism, allied to a western post-industrial move to supply side economic policies. This shift had a destabilizing effect on international trade that led to many developing countries being faced by crippling debt crises. Following the 1970s’ oil crisis, crude oil was in over supply, resulting in a glut during the 1980s. The start of the 1980s saw widespread economic recession and damaging labour disputes that hit the less well‑off disproportionately hard. Downturn was followed by a period of rapid capitalist growth towards the end of the decade. Increased economic prosperity facilitated the ‘yuppie’ boom, epitomised by hot hatchback/sports cars, wine bars and early ‘brick’ mobile phones, accompanied by an insatiable appetite for designer fashion. Western society’s affluence further polarised the wealth divide between rich and poor. Fervent materialism and a status driven desire for exposure acted as a catalyst for the start of the vapid public fascination with the ‘celebrity’ phenomenon and subsequent emergence of banal reality TV ‘entertainment’. Fundamental industrial restructuring took place in the developed world that migrated many countries away from traditional manufacturing towards economies based on IT, finance, tourism and service sectors. A rapid growth in digital technology and consumerism began that would change how people would live, work and play forever, including the advent of the ‘information superhighway’ that we now call the Internet. During the 1980s, the world’s population grew at the fastest rate yet, causing heightened fears about unsustainable human expansion and its impact on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Year

Global Events

1980

The massively popular maze video game Pac-Man was released by Japanese software company Namco.

 

The bitter war between Middle East neighbours Iran and Iraq began, which would last until 1988.

 

American volcano Mount St. Helens in Washington State erupted violently killing 57 people and causing widespread damage.

 

Former actor and Republican politician Ronald Reagan was elected to become the 40th President of the U.S.A.

1981

American President Ronald Reagan was shot and wounded by attempted assassin John Hinckley Jr. in Washington D.C.

 

An assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II took place in Vatican City, when he was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca.

 

The IBM 5150 Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC was introduced, soon establishing it as an industry standard.

 

American actress Jane Fonda published her hugely successful book, ‘Jane Fonda’s Workout’, which spawned multiple videos and an album.

 

NASA’s Space Shuttle programme began with the first launch of the Earth orbiter Columbia.

 

Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.

 

The retrovirus that causes HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) was identified. The life‑threatening condition spread rapidly, becoming a global public health threat and causing widespread hysteria.

1982

King Henry VIII’s Tudor warship and flagship of the British Navy, the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545 during a battle against the French, was raised from the bed of the Solent off the south coast of England.

 

Britain defeated Argentina to regain control of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, following an unprompted Argentinian invasion and occupation.

1983

American telecommunications company Motorola introduced the first mobile telephones to North America.

 

The final episode of the Korean War‑set comedy drama ‘M*A*S*H’ was broadcast, achieving the record for most watched television episode to‑date.

1984

English policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was shot and killed by an unknown gunman in the Libyan Embassy in London, prompting an 11‑day siege of the embassy resulting in Libyan citizens being expelled and diplomatic relations between the UK and Libya being severed.

 

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, at her residence in New Delhi.

 

American network TV aired the first episodes of crime drama series Miami Vice, produced by Michael Mann for NBC. It was notable for its ground breaking amalgamation of music and visuals. The show ran until 1989.

1985

Politician Mikhail Gorbachev became Russian Premiere and began leading major political and social reform across the USSR.

 

Technology company, Microsoft released the first version of its PC‑based Windows operating system.

 

Acclaimed American screenwriter, director and producer John Hughes released, ‘The Breakfast Club’, followed up a year later by ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘Pretty In Pink’.

 

The shipwreck of the ocean liner RMS Titanic was discovered in the North Atlantic Ocean, 73 years after it sank in 1912 following a collision with an iceberg.

1986

The American Space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

 

The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine, Russia suffered a catastrophic meltdown, causing global pollution and resulting in devastating radioactive environmental damage.

 

The Soviet Union’s Mir project became the first modular manned space station in low Earth orbit. It was used predominantly as a scientific research laboratory. Mir broke up on re‑entry into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2001.

1987

The animated American family comedy, The Simpsons, first appeared on American television as a series of shorts.

 

The film ‘Wall Street’ was released, typifying the zeitgeist of the 1980s and its ‘greed is good’ power of money mentality, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen.

 

The antidepressant medication Fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac, was approved for use in the U.S.A.

1988

A Pan-Am 747 airliner exploded as a result of a Libyan terrorist bomb, which caused the plane to crash into the village of Lockerbie in Scotland, killing a total of 270 people.

1989

Republican politician George H.W. Bush became the 41st President of the U.S.A.

 

The pro‑democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, Beijing was brutally crushed by Communist Chinese authorities, resulting in many deaths and widespread international criticism over the state’s human rights violations.

 

Russian military forces pulled out of Afghanistan 10 years after invading the country.

 

Significant environmental pollution occurred when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker struck a reef in Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska, spilling nearly 11 million gallons (37,000 metric tonnes) of crude oil into the coastal waters.

 

The Berlin Wall in Germany, built in 1961 to divide the city and prevent movement between east and west, was demolished, marking massive political change in Europe, including in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Rumania.

 

British computer scientist and engineer, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, now known as the Internet, while he was employed at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) near Geneva, Switzerland.

Musical Genre Development 1980-1989

After the creative revolutions of the 1950s (rock ‘n’ roll), 1960s (rock and pop) and the 1970s (heavy metal, punk, reggae, disco, rap), the 1980s was largely a decade of reflection, consolidation, cross‑fertilisation and diversification. In short, quite a lot happened but, conversely, there was not a lot that was genuinely new in musical genre subversion. Pop was, erm, as popular as ever with artists such as Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, New Kids on the Block, Wham!, New Edition and Kylie Minogue.

Punk rock’s implosion left a vacuum that needed to be filled and the answer came in post‑punk diversity at the beginning of the 1980s. New wave is associated with the birth of MTV and the music video phase and was seen as a more commercial sub‑genre of post‑punk performed by artists such as Blondie, Talking Heads, Devo, The Cars, The Police, Jam, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Ian Dury, Adam & The Ants, New Model Army, The Fall, Echo & The Bunnymen, and the Pretenders. Also deriving from post‑punk and encompassing a number of different styles was the new romantic sub‑genre heavily influenced by glam rock from the early 1970s, as exemplified by bands like Duran Duran, Culture Club, Visage, Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins and Eurythmics. Synth pop also came and went in the post‑punk period of the early‑mid 1980s with electronica‑driven artists like Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Japan, Human League, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and Ultravox. These highly produced music fads dominated the charts before beginning to decline by the mid‑1980s, followed by a revival of guitar‑driven music, often harking back to previous decades.

World and new age music became popular during the 1980s after being heavily promoted by record companies, even though neither has its roots in the decade. World music (not to be confused with third world music) isn’t really a genre but rather a broad marketing categorisation for a very wide and diverse range of traditional and contemporary music from around the globe including western music that doesn’t fall easily within more clearly defined genres. It also covers music that fuses ethnic influences from other genres to create something different. The umbrella term may also be used to promote niche music that was potentially under threat from music’s big business. Since 1987, World Music Day has become an annual celebration of the global music scene. Two of the leading artists associated with world music are African bands Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Savuka. Western artists such as Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel have embraced world music, fusing it with their own material. New age music is another loose marketing category for music that aims to promote positive mental wellbeing, spirituality and meditation. It is also used to complement physical activities such as yoga and massage. It has also been used to enhance inspiration and to manage stress. New age music is often acoustic or electronic and predominantly ambient (i.e. not having an obvious beat, rhythm or structure), regularly instrumental and minimalist or comprising recorded sound effects from nature. Popular western new age artists include Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Klaus Schulze, Enya, Enigma and Clannad. Both world and new age music have influenced numerous subsequent musical ventures and projects.

Other established genres experienced revivals during the 1980s. For instance, hip hop’s ‘golden era’ spawned a plethora of artists, including LL Cool J, Run–D.M.C., Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. Jazz also made a concerted comeback of sorts starting in the ‘70s and continuing into the ‘80s with jazz/rock fusion artists like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Pat Metheny. Partly driven by MTV and ubiquitous pop videos, the 1980s saw the rise of success of mega­‑pop stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lionel Ritchie, Billy Joel, Prince and Whitney Houston. Heavy metal saw a 1980s resurgence that lasted well into the 1990s including artists like, Pantera, Queensrÿche, Extreme, Marilyn Manson and Danzig, while Iron Maiden led the charge of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) genre along with Def Leppard and Judas Priest. Nu‑metal pioneers began to appear at the very end of the decade including, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Staind and Linkin Park.

Musical Facts 1980-1989

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

3

January

1980

American lo-fi indie/rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, former member of indie rock band The War On Drugs and successful solo artist, Kurt Vile was born in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.

26

January

1980

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Prince made his first U.S. television appearance on the show ‘American Bandstand’.

19

February

1980

Scottish singer with Australian hard rock band AC/DC, Bon Scott died from acute alcohol poisoning in a friend’s car in London at the age of 33.

14

March

1980

Renowned American music producer Quincy Jones received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.

14

April

1980

English heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their storming debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Iron Maiden’ in the UK.

22

April

1980

English indie rock icons, The Cure released their 2nd studio album, ‘Seventeen Seconds’ in the UK.

23

April

1980

English heavy metal band Judas Priest released their classic 6th studio album, ‘British Steel’.

2

May

1980

English alternative post-punk rock band Joy Division played their final live gig with singer Ian Curtis, two weeks before he committed suicide.

18

May

1980

English singer, songwriter and driving force behind post‑punk rock band Joy Division, Ian Curtis was found hanged at this home in Macclesfield, Cheshire at the age of 23.

7

July

1980

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin played their final live concert with John Bonham as drummer in Berlin, Germany.

10

July

1980

Jamaican reggae giants, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their final studio album before Marley’s untimely death, ‘Uprising’.

18

July

1980

English post-punk rock band Joy Division released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Closer’.

25

July

1980

Australian heavy rock band, AC/DC, released their career-redefining 7th studio album, ‘Back In Black’.

12

September

1980

English rock singer and songwriter David Bowie released his standout studio album, ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ in the UK.

20

September

1980

English heavy metal singer and ex-member of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne released his debut solo studio album, ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’ in the UK.

23

September

1980

Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley made his final live concert performance in Pennsylvania, USA, during which he collapsed on stage.

25

September

1980

English drummer with rock band Led Zeppelin, John Bonham, died tragically of alcohol-induced asphyxia in Clewer, Berkshire at the age of 32.

3

October

1980

English post-punk rock band The Police released their 3rd studio album, ‘Zenyattà Mondatta’ in the UK.

8

October

1980

American alternative rock band Talking Heads released their exceptional career-best studio album produced by Brian Eno, ‘Remain In Light’.

10

October

1980

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Springsteen released his 5th studio album, ‘The River’.

20

October

1980

Emerging Irish rock band, U2 released their debut studio album, ‘Boy’, to critical acclaim in the UK.

8

November

1980

English rock band Motörhead, released their massive 5th studio album, ‘Ace Of Spades’ in the UK.

8

December

1980

English former member of The Beatles, John Lennon was murdered by gunman Mark Chapman outside the Dakota hotel in New York City at the age of 40.

12

December

1980

English punk rock band, The Clash released their follow up to the epic ‘London Calling’ with their even more ambitious 4th studio triple album, ‘Sandinista!’.

15

December

1980

English guitarist, singer and songwriter with rock band Kasabian, Sergio Pizzorno was born in Newton Abbot, Devon.

16

January

1981

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of indie/alternative rock band The Strokes, Nick Valensi was born in New York City.

2

February

1981

English heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their sophomore studio album, ‘Killers’ in the UK.

9

February

1981

American Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer, Bill Haley, having been diagnosed with a brain tumour, died at his home in Harlingen, Texas at the age of 55.

15

February

1981

American blues/rock guitarist Mike Bloomfield died from an accidental drug overdose and was found in his car in San Francisco, California at the age of 37.

4

April

1981

UK pop group Bucks Fizz won the 26th Eurovision Song Contest with, ‘Making Your Mind Up’.

14

April

1981

Legendary English indie rock band, The Cure released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Faith’ in the UK.

11

May

1981

Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter and guitarist, Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley died from cancer in Miami, Florida at the age of 36.

21

May

1981

Rastafarian reggae legend Bob Marley received a state funeral in his home town of Kingston, Jamaica.

6

June

1981

The very first issue of weekly heavy metal music magazine ‘KERRANG!’ was published, featuring AC/DC on the front cover.

1

August

1981

Revolutionary 24 hour music video channel, MTV (Music Television), broadcast for the very first time in the USA at 12:01am Eastern Time, introduced by creator John Lack with, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll”

8

October

1981

English post-punk rock band Joy Division released their 3rd and final studio album, ‘Still’.

7

November

1981

English singer and former member of heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne released his sophomore solo studio album, ‘Diary of a Madman’.

30

January

1982

Legendary American country blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Sam ‘Lightnin’’ Hopkins died from cancer in Houston, Texas at the age of 69.

14

March

1982

American thrash metal band, Metallica performed their debut live concert at Radio City, Anaheim, California, taglined, ‘Metalus Maximus’.

19

March

1982

American heavy metal guitarist Randy Rhoads, best known as member of Ozzy Osbourne’s band died tragically in a plane crash in Leesburg, Florida at the age of 25.

22

March

1982

English heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their 3rd studio album, ‘The Number Of The Beast’ in the UK.

3

May

1982

English indie rock icons, The Cure released their dark and brooding masterpiece 4th studio album, ‘Pornography’ in the UK.

6

May

1982

American singer and actress, Diana Ross received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.

14

May

1982

English punk rock legends, The Clash released their 5th and penultimate studio album, ‘Combat Rock’ in the UK.

16

June

1982

English guitarist, songwriter and founding member of The Pretenders, James Honeyman-Scott died of drug‑related heart failure in London at the age of 25.

14

July

1982

English heavy metal rock band Judas Priest released their classic 8th studio album, ‘Screaming for Vengeance’.

17

August

1982

Company executives from Philips, Sony and Polygram announced the pressing of the first commercial digital Compact Disc (CD).

20

September

1982

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Springsteen released his 6th studio album, the often‑overlooked haunting and elegiac, ‘Nebraska’.

1

October

1982

Technology giant, Sony released the first ever digital Compact Disc (CD) player, the CDP-101, to the eager public in Japan.

27

October

1982

Legendary American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Prince, released his top-selling 5th studio album, ‘1999’.

5

November

1982

UK TV broadcaster Channel 4 aired its edgy music and lifestyle programme, ‘The Tube’ for the first time. Presenters included Jools Holland and the late Paula Yates. The show ran for 5 series until April 1987.

30

November

1982

American singer, Michael Jackson released his career‑defining mega‑hit 6th studio album, ‘Thriller’. It is estimated that sales have well‑exceeded 50 million copies worldwide.

11

December

1982

English punk rock and mod revival band, The Jam played their final live concert in Brighton, UK before splitting up for good.

29

December

1982

The Jamaican Post Office released a set of postage stamps commemorating the life and music of reggae legend Bob Marley.

18

January

1983

English guitarist, singer and member of indie pop duo The Ting Tings, Katie White was born in Lowton, Greater Mancester.

28

February

1983

Irish mega-rock band U2 released their highly acclaimed chart-topping gold 3rd studio album, ‘War’.

2

March

1983

The digital Compact Disc (CD) was launched in Europe and America by Philips, Sony and Polygram, 7 months after it had debuted in Japan.

23

March

1983

American Texas blues/rock giants ZZ Top released their massive 7th studio album, the classic, ‘Eliminator’.

14

April

1983

English rock singer David Bowie released his 15th and perhaps most commercial studio album, the great Nile Rodgers‑produced, ‘Let’s Dance’.

30

April

1983

Renowned American Chicago blues guitarist, Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) died from a heart attack at his home in Westmont, Illinois at the age of 70.

16

May

1983

Pioneering English heavy metal rock band Iron Maiden released their massively successful 4th studio album, ‘Piece Of Mind’.

23

May

1983

Jamaican reggae legends Bob Marley & The Wailers released their studio album, ‘Confrontation’ posthumously, after Bob Marley’s death in 1981.

12

June

1983

Influential American blues slide guitarist and singer J.B. Hutto died from cancer in Harvey, Illinois at the age of 57.

13

June

1983

Emerging American blues/rock guitarist and singer, Stevie Ray Vaughan with his band Double Trouble released their debut studio album, ‘Texas Flood’.

25

July

1983

Up-and-coming American thrash metal band Metallica released their standout debut studio album, ‘Kill ‘Em All’.

20

October

1983

American country music guitarist Merle Travis died of a heart attack at his home in Tahlequah, Oklahoma at the age of 65.

10

November

1983

English singer, songwriter and one-time member of punk rock band Generation X, Billy Idol released his highly popular 2nd studio album, ‘Rebel Yell’.

15

November

1983

English singer and former member of heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne released his 3rd solo studio album, ‘Bark At The Moon’ in the UK.

2

December

1983

Music television channel MTV aired the full 14-minute pop video to Michael Jackson’s massive hit single, ‘Thriller’ for the first time.

1

January

1984

Widely regarded as the founding father of British Blues, guitarist and broadcaster Alexis Korner died of lung cancer in London at the age of 55.

21

January

1984

American rock band Bon Jovi released their debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Bon Jovi’ in the U.S.

1

April

1984

American soul singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father in Los Angeles, California at the age of 44.

26

April

1984

Eleven years after the famous original Cavern Club in Liverpool, UK was demolished in 1973, it was rebuilt and the new venue opened its doors.

4

May

1984

The classic music rock/mock/documentary film about the experiences of an English rock band, ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, directed by Rob Reiner, was released in the UK.

15

May

1984

American blues rock guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan with his band Double Trouble released their 2nd studio album, ‘Couldn’t Stand the Weather’.

19

May

1984

American southern rock band ZZ Top released their hit single, ‘Legs’ with the B-Side ‘Bad Girl’, both from their career‑defining album, ‘Eliminator’.

21

May

1984

Emerging indie rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their impressive debut album, ‘From Her to Eternity’.

4

June

1984

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Springsteen released his massive 7th studio album, ‘Born In The U.S.A.’.

14

June

1984

American country singer Dolly Parton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.

25

June

1984

Legendary flamboyant American musician Prince released the massive original soundtrack album for the film, ‘Purple Rain’.

30

July

1984

American thrash metal rock band Metallica released their sophomore studio album, ‘Ride The Lightning’.

3

September

1984

English heavy metal rock band Iron Maiden released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Powerslave’ in the UK.

16

September

1984

Talented Georgian/British singer, songwriter and guitarist Katie Melua was born in Kutaisi, Georgia.

24

September

1984

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their 4th studio album, ‘Some Great Reward’ in the UK.

27

September

1984

Canadian pop-punk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Avril Lavigne was born in Ontario.

1

October

1984

Irish rock band U2 released their classic 4th studio album, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ in the UK.

20

November

1984

American pop singer, Michael Jackson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard.

3

December

1984

Assembled super group Band Aid released their massive Christmas charity single, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ in response to the famine in Ethiopia.

15

December

1984

Charity super group, Band Aid entered the UK singles chart at number 1 with their song, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ in aid of Ethiopian famine victims.

22

January

1985

Australian guitarist, famous for working with Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson, Orianthi Panagaris was born in Adelaide, South Australia.

13

May

1985

English rock band Dire Straits released their massive hit 5th studio album, ‘Brothers In Arms’.

4

June

1985

American guitarist with heavy rock band Black Stone Cherry, Chris Robertson was born in Kentucky.

29

June

1985

English rock singers David Bowie and Mick Jagger recorded their version of the classic Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ soul hit, ‘Dancing In The Street’ in support of the Live Aid charity.

13

July

1985

Two Live Aid fundraising concerts took place in London and Philadelphia to benefit the plight of Ethiopian famine victims.

30

September

1985

American blues/rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan with his band Double Trouble released their 3rd studio album, ‘Soul to Soul’.

9

October

1985

Japanese artist Yoko Ono dedicated the Strawberry Fields memorial in New York City’s Central Park to her late husband, John Lennon on what would have been his 45th birthday.

28

October

1985

American Texas blues/rock trio, ZZ Top released their 9th studio album, ‘Afterburner’, the follow up to their massive 1983 hit, ‘Eliminator’.

30

October

1985

American thrash metal masters Anthrax released their career classic 2nd studio album, ‘Spreading The Disease’.

4

January

1986

Irish bass guitarist with rock band Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott died of complications due to septicaemia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK, at the age of 36.

6

January

1986

English singer, songwriter and guitarist of indie/rock bands Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets, Alex Turner was born in Sheffield.

3

March

1986

American heavy metal band Metallica released their 3rd studio album, the last with Cliff Burton playing bass guitar in the line-up, ‘Master Of Puppets’.

14

March

1986

The classic film inspired by the mythology surrounding blues guitarist Robert Johnson, directed by Walter Hill, ‘Crossroads’ was released in the USA.

17

March

1986

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their 5th studio album, ‘Black Celebration’ in the UK.

19

May

1986

English singer, songwriter and former member of progressive rock band Genesis, Peter Gabriel released his commercially successful 5th solo studio album, ‘So’.

20

July

1986

The feature film ‘Sid And Nancy’ focusing on the tragic lives of Sex Pistols’ bass guitarist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen premiered in London. The film was directed by Alex Cox and starred Gary Oldman.

25

August

1986

American singer and songwriter Paul Simon released his classic 7th solo studio album, ‘Graceland’.

28

August

1986

American pop singer, Tina Turner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

27

September

1986

American bass guitarist and songwriter with thrash metal rock band Metallica, Cliff Burton was tragically killed in a tour coach crash in Dörarp, Sweden at the age of 24.

29

September

1986

English heavy metal band Iron Maiden released their 6th studio album, ‘Somewhere In Time’ in the UK.

7

October

1986

American thrash metal band Slayer released their huge genre classic 3rd studio album, ‘Reign In Blood’.

15

November

1986

American hip-hop group from NYC, Beastie Boys, released their debut studio album, ‘Licensed To Ill’, including their massive hit single, ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)’.

2

December

1986

Supremely talented Australian bass guitarist and singer, Tal Wilkenfeld was born in Sydney.

21

January

1987

American soul legend Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

22

February

1987

American pop artist and manager of experimental rock band Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol died following gall bladder surgery in New York at the age of 58.

9

March

1987

Irish rock band U2 released their 5th studio album, the massive ‘The Joshua Tree’ in the UK.

22

March

1987

American thrash metal masters Anthrax released their career classic 3rd studio album, ‘Among The Living’.

30

March

1987

Diminutive American singer, songwriter and guitarist Prince released his ambitious, epic change of direction 9th studio album, ‘Sign ☮ The Times’.

2

April

1987

Highly acclaimed American jazz drummer Buddy Rich died from respiratory and heart failure following treatment for a brain tumour in Los Angeles, California at the age of 69.

5

May

1987

English indie rock icons The Cure released their lip‑smacking 7th studio double album, ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’ in the UK.

2

June

1987

Virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist Andrés Segovia died from a heart attack in Madrid at the age of 94.

14

July

1987

American rock group The Steve Miller Band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.

21

July

1987

American hard rock band, Guns N’ Roses released their storming debut studio album, ‘Appetite For Destruction’.

3

August

1987

English heavy metal rock band Def Leppard released their best-selling classic 4th studio album, ‘Hysteria’.

25

August

1987

American singer and songwriter Michael Jackson released his 7th solo studio album, ‘Bad’, as a follow up to his massive 1982 LP, ‘Thriller’.

11

September

1987

Jamaican reggae artist Peter Tosh was shot dead along with two others by a gang of three armed robbers at his home in Kingston, Jamaica at the age of 42.

12

September

1987

English alternative rock singer and songwriter Morrissey left his band, The Smiths to pursue a successful solo music career.

21

September

1987

American bass guitarist and member of jazz fusion band Weather Report from 1976-1981, the inimitable Jaco Pastorius died from injuries following an altercation at a club in Wilton Manors, Florida at the age of 35.

28

September

1987

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their 6th studio album, ‘Music For The Masses’ in the UK.

8

October

1987

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Chuck Berry received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1777 North Vine Street.

15

October

1987

American virtuoso instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani released his classic 2nd studio album, ‘Surfing With The Alien’.

1

December

1987

Puerto Rican guitarist and singer, Jose Feliciano received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

December

1987

After 17 years and 445 episodes, British TV broadcaster, the BBC aired the final edition of contemporary music show, ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’.

20

January

1988

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles were inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

11

April

1988

English heavy metal band Iron Maiden released their 7th studio album, ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’.

5

May

1988

Highly successful English singer and songwriter Adele MBE was born in London.

5

July

1988

American thrash metal rock band, Slayer, released their mega hit 4th studio album, ‘South Of Heaven’.

14

August

1988

American blues/rock guitarist Roy Buchanan was found hanged (a disputed suicide) in a jail cell after he was arrested for public intoxication in Fairfax, Virginia at the age of 48.

25

August

1988

American heavy metal rock band Metallica released their classic 4th studio album, ‘… And Justice For All’.

19

September

1988

Alternative rock band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their highly acclaimed 5th studio album, ‘Tender Prey’.

30

September

1988

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

10

October

1988

Irish rock band U2 released their classic 6th studio album (and complementary ‘rockumentary’ film), ‘Rattle and Hum’ in the UK.

18

October

1988

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their landmark 6th studio album, ‘Daydream Nation’.

19

October

1988

Legendary American delta blues guitarist and singer, Son House died of cancer of the larynx in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 86.

6

December

1988

American singer, songwriter and musician, Roy Orbison died of a heart attack in Hendersonville, Tennessee at the age of 52.

18

January

1989

Music greats, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Otis Redding and others were inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

2

May

1989

English indie rock group The Stone Roses released their eponymous debut studio album, ‘The Stone Roses’.

2

May

1989

English indie rock icons, The Cure released their near‑perfect career-defining 8th studio album, ‘Disintegration’ in the UK.

29

May

1989

American guitarist, John Cipollina of rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service died of alpha‑1 antitrypsin deficiency in San Francisco at the age of 45.

1

June

1989

Underground American grunge band, Nirvana released their debut studio album, ‘Bleach’ to an unsuspecting public.

6

June

1989

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist and singer, Stevie Ray Vaughan with his band Double Trouble released their 4th and final studio album before SRV’s tragic death, ‘In Step’.

15

July

1989

English progressive rock band Pink Floyd performed a live concert on a floating stage at Venice, Italy, watched by over 200,000 people.

25

July

1989

American rap rock band, Beastie Boys released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Paul’s Boutique’.

12

September

1989

English virtuoso instrumental rock guitarist Jeff Beck released his impressive 6th studio album ‘Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop’ in the UK.

26

November

1989

British pop/rock band, Squeeze performed in concert for the very first broadcast of ‘MTV Unplugged’ in the US.

13

December

1989

One of the best‑selling artists of all time, American country/pop singer and songwriter Taylor Swift was born in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Tailpiece

Well that’s the eighties for you in a (sizeable) nutshell. We are now getting much closer to the end of the story (at least as far as I am able to document it) and the new millennium beckons tantalisingly out of reach. However, before that, we will fill in the gap with the 1990s next month. Will it be a Brave New World or just more of the same? To discover the facts behind the memories, please return here next month for some more manic music history. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Never trust your memories but cherish the good ones regardless”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Story of Modern Music Part V 1950-1959

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

Historical Context 1950-1959

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

Year

Global Events

1950

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

1951

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

1952

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

 

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

1953

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

 

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

 

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

1954

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

 

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

1955

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

1956

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

1957

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

 

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

1958

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

1959

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

 

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

 

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

Musical Genre Development 1950-1959

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

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

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

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

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

Musical Facts 1950-1959

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

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

5

January

1950

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

12

February

1950

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

13

February

1950

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

19

February

1950

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

20

February

1950

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

24

February

1950

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

22

April

1950

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

13

May

1950

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

13

May

1950

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

3

June

1950

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

18

July

1950

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

2

August

1950

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

30

August

1950

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

10

September

1950

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

14

September

1950

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

2

October

1950

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

5

October

1950

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

20

October

1950

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

22

November

1950

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

22

November

1950

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

9

December

1950

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

31

January

1951

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

1

February

1951

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

4

March

1951

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

6

March

1951

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

17

March

1951

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

20

March

1951

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

27

April

1951

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

7

May

1951

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

7

May

1951

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

21

June

1951

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

30

June

1951

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

2

August

1951

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

19

August

1951

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

21

August

1951

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

7

September

1951

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

18

September

1951

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

2

October

1951

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

3

October

1951

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

26

October

1951

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

1

December

1951

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

4

December

1951

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

16

December

1951

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

26

December

1951

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

11

January

1952

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

20

January

1952

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

7

March

1952

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

7

March

1952

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

17

March

1952

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

2

April

1952

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

4

April

1952

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

14

May

1952

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

15

July

1952

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

19

July

1952

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

21

August

1952

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

19

September

1952

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

1

October

1952

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

8

November

1952

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

14

November

1952

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

1

January

1953

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

6

January

1953

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

10

January

1953

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

20

February

1953

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

19

March

1953

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

28

April

1953

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

5

May

1953

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

15

May

1953

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

16

May

1953

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

29

July

1953

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

1

August

1953

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

27

August

1953

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

27

September

1953

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

18

December

1953

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

27

February

1954

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

16

March

1954

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

12

April

1954

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

10

May

1954

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

12

July

1954

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

19

July

1954

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

22

July

1954

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

28

July

1954

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

12

August

1954

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

17

August

1954

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

25

August

1954

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

3

October

1954

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

1

December

1954

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

18

December

1954

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

7

January

1955

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

10

January

1955

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

24

January

1955

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

26

January

1955

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

5

March

1955

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

31

March

1955

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

13

April

1955

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

31

May

1955

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

26

June

1955

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

1

September

1955

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

3

September

1955

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

12

November

1955

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

15

December

1955

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

4

January

1956

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

10

January

1956

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

27

January

1956

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

28

January

1956

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

31

January

1956

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

3

February

1956

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

12

February

1956

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

13

February

1956

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

18

February

1956

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

12

March

1956

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

23

March

1956

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

4

June

1956

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

26

June

1956

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

15

July

1956

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

27

August

1956

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

29

September

1956

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

4

November

1956

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

6

December

1956

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

6

December

1956

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

23

December

1956

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

16

January

1957

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

27

January

1957

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

27

February

1957

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

17

March

1957

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

28

April

1957

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

10

May

1957

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

27

May

1957

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

2

August

1957

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

12

September

1957

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

22

September

1957

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

24

September

1957

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

10

October

1957

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

21

October

1957

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

1

November

1957

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

8

November

1957

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

8

December

1957

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

20

December

1957

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

20

December

1957

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

21

February

1958

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

24

March

1958

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

27

March

1958

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

31

March

1958

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

19

April

1958

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

25

May

1958

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

7

June

1958

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

8

July

1958

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

9

July

1958

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

25

July

1958

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

7

August

1958

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

14

August

1958

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

16

August

1958

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

29

August

1958

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

19

September

1958

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

22

September

1958

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

22

September

1958

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

20

October

1958

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

28

October

1958

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

7

November

1958

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

11

December

1958

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

17

December

1958

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

1

January

1959

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

17

January

1959

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

3

February

1959

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

7

February

1959

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

7

February

1959

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

10

April

1959

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

21

April

1959

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

4

May

1959

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

5

May

1959

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

22

May

1959

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

1

June

1959

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

14

June

1959

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

11

July

1959

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

17

July

1959

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

29

July

1959

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

19

August

1959

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

16

October

1959

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

Tailpiece

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

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

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

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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May 2017 – 50 Albums of the Last Half-Century(-ish)

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

A little while ago, someone looked at the development of heavy metal from the 1970s to the 2000s and exemplified it by listing one album per year. Of course, this was just one perspective but, more generally, I thought it might be interesting to do something similar across all modern music genres.

This is only my catalogue of 50 years (actually 52 years but who’s counting?) of modern musical history. It is, of course, value-laden and massively subjective, with many great artists and albums excluded by the ruthless application of selection criteria, which included:

  • Must be an original album, not an EP or single
  • Only 1 album from each year (no reissues – original release date applies)
  • Only 1 album by any artist (band or solo)
  • The album must include some guitar work (i.e. no pure electronica)
  • Albums may come from any modern music genre
  • No compilations, ‘best of’ or various artist collections
  • They must be appreciated and owned by the author (i.e. not just made up or copied from elsewhere)

The resulting compendium is not representative of popularity, perceived wisdom, other people’s opinion or commercial success. It is simply my choices for a timeline covering over half a century of great music.

Why pick these 52 years? My age makes it difficult to go back further than the mid‑1960s for a start, so there aren’t any selections from the ‘birth’ of rock ‘n’ roll in about 1954 to the ‘dawn of rock’ in about 1965 – to be honest, I don’t own and am not particularly familiar with pre-’65 albums. I’ve brought it right up to date with 2016 being the last full year at the time of writing. However, anything beyond about 2010 is probably too recent to really place any kind of enduring significance to the entries – historical retrospective can be beneficial that respect. Arguably, the longer the intervening time period, the more consolidated, reliable and credible that hindsight becomes within context (discuss…).

Feel free to make up your own timeline over whatever period you like, using your own criteria. This is just my perspective; I can guarantee that anyone reading it will disagree with it and would produce a VERY different route through the roadmap of time. Actually, that’s both the point and the fun of it – if we all ended up with the same journey, we would live in a very dull world.

So… here we go, in chronological order…

The 1960s(-ish):

1965 Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

1966 John Mayall’s Blues Breakers – Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

1967 Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced

1968 The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

1969 King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King

The 1970s:

1970 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

1971 The Doors – L.A. Woman

1972 David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

1973 John Martyn – Solid Air

1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

1975 Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

1976 Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak

1977 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus

1978 AC/DC – Powerage

1979 The Clash – London Calling

The 1980s:

1980 Talking Heads – Remain In Light

1981 The Cramps – Psychedelic Jungle

1982 Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

1983 ZZ Top – Eliminator

1984 Iron Maiden – Powerslave

1985 Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

1986 Metallica – Master Of Puppets

1987 Guns n’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

1988 Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session

1989 The Cure – Disintegration

The 1990s:

1990 Megadeth – Rust In Peace

1991 Nirvana – Nevermind

1992 Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine

1993 Dinosaur Jr – Where you BEEN

1994 Portishead – Dummy

1995 Sonic Youth – Washing Machine

1996 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads

1997 Rammstein – Sehnsucht

1998 Massive Attack – Mezzanine

1999 Suede – Head Music

The 2000s:

2000 The White Stripes – De Stijl

2001 The Strokes – Is This It

2002 Beck – Sea Change

2003 Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts

2004 Kasabian – Kasabian

2005 Editors – The Back Room

2006 Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

2007 Seasick Steve – Dog House Music

2008 The Black Keys – Attack & Release

2009 The Horrors – Primary Colours

The 2010s (so far):

2010 Warpaint – The Fool

2011 The Kills – Blood Pressures

2012 Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

2013 Savages – Silence Yourself

2014 Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

2015 Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

2016 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

So… how many of these do you own and/or like? What course would you take through the last 5 decades? I’m sure that readers will be up in arms about what’s missing.

As with other CRAVE Guitars’ challenges, this exercise wasn’t as easy as when it was first envisaged. Reflecting on the list and making a few observations…

The albums listed are not necessarily my favourites; just ones that carry some meaning within the context of the topic. See my rant of July 2016 for my suggested top 20 most influential albums, some of which also appear in this list. There were many beloved albums (and favourite guitarists – see CRAVE Guitars’ February 2017 article) that didn’t make the final list. There are some great albums by great artists that don’t appear. Some albums on the list may not be the pinnacle of achievement by the artist but they appear because of the way the selection criteria worked.

The widely-regarded, guitar-dependent and ‘important classics’ on the timeline tend to come from the 1960s and ‘70s. These albums have stood the test of time and still have relevance today. Some represent ground-breaking events and their appearance on the timeline will be of no great surprise. Why no Rolling Stones or The Beatles on this list? Well, I’m not a Beatles fan and the Stones came close for a number of years including 2016 but got pipped at the post elsewhere. No Pink Floyd? Surprisingly not. No watershed albums like, for instance, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ or Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’? Not on this occasion. No manufactured boy/girl bands from the formulaic TV ‘talent’ production line (or their heinous celebrity-driven ilk)? Heck no! Real music only, please.

While the available choice of albums seemed to increase significantly from the mid‑1990s, the quality of output seemed to become more homogenous with the increase in quantity, meaning that it was harder to pick outstanding entries and, by the time the new millennium arrived, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick out the exemplary future classics from amongst the multiplicity of also-ran material. This doesn’t mean that quality deteriorated, simply that the market became increasingly saturated and tour de forces became more difficult to define. Time will tell as to which ones (if any) will have the longevity to stand out as true masterpieces.

Some years were spoilt for choice and it was a VERY hard task to select just one entry from a wealth of great albums, while other years were very sparse and it was a case of selecting from the ‘best of the rest’. For some years, there was an obvious shoo-in, while for others years it was actually quite difficult to pick a ‘winner’ from an amorphous morass of uninspiring averageness.

Within modern western popular music, it is probably not a surprise that the majority of artists in the timeline are British or American, with a smattering from elsewhere (Canada, Jamaica, Germany and Australia). Perhaps increased globalisation and geographical dispersion may introduce new influences, especially from those areas with different musical cultures, e.g. the middle east, far east, Africa and South America. Perhaps these influences, generally categorised as ‘world music’, will become more mainstream, especially as the Internet provides greater access to hitherto niche markets.

In terms of diversity, certainly the older music was male/white dominated. While a few more females populate the latter years, there is still a general shortage of female musicians in the industry. Ethnicity is predominantly white, which was a bit of a surprise and it certainly wasn’t a conscious choice. Music is one of those industries where artists from diverse backgrounds have been able to succeed and influence successive generations. As in other forms of 21st century life, ensuring equality of opportunity for everyone and the music industry depends on the best talent, rather than to segregate on the basis of specific upbringings.

Many genres were evenly distributed. However, a number of genres were under‑represented including rap/hip-hop, reggae, dance/funk/disco, etc. Surprisingly, indie music seems to have taken more of a centre stage in the noughties and tweenies, at least in this exercise. How these albums age over time will be interesting. Bands tended to feature, rather than solo artists, which was notable.

There is some pretty impressive album artwork over the half-century. It is amazing how effective musical packaging design has been. We are, sadly, long past the heyday of album art integrated with popular cultural references. I can’t see that changing with current and future media delivery systems. Why should credible artists and designers stake their reputation on, say, the latest download fad?

The rigorous application of the selection criteria was particularly challenging and may well account for some of the more obvious anomalies. A different approach might have led to a more balanced (and perhaps more predictable) result.

A slight grammatical oddity; there are 3 albums on the list whose titles are clearly prima facie questions and none of them end in a ‘?’ (1967, 1993 and 2001). Weird or what?

A number of albums on the list were debut or sophomore albums, perhaps indicating that for many artists, the pool of inventive material is more furtive early on in the limelight and, for some, success actually seems to dilute the fire of creativity, resulting in shortened professional careers. There are relatively few who have the longevity of a lifelong career. Sadly, a large proportion of the artists are no longer with us and their potential is lost forever. We miss their imagination.

When thinking about future direction within the context of the past, the outlook appears healthy and increasingly disparate, despite the broadcast media’s obsession with exploitative ‘talent’ drivel. The days when a single type of music would dominate the ‘air waves’ (remember them?) looks increasingly unlikely, simply because of the volume of new music and the ways in which it is made available to the listening public.

What will be ‘the next big thing’ and will there be any (counter-)culturally significant new genre developments like metal, new wave, punk, rave, grunge, etc.? Major mainstream step changes are possibly unlikely; the musical landscape is now so varied that anything fundamentally new is likely to be genre-specific, for example dancehall and dubstep, rather than a mass‑market popular revolution.

The emergence of completely new trends becomes less likely over time, as it can also be argued that most original ideas have pretty much been used up by now. There can only be a finite number of combinations of existing musical patterns to fuel experimentation and ultimate acceptance. The number of plagiarism litigations suggests that the future will increasingly have to recycle and re-use existing ideas, rather than create new ones. Existing genre conventions, once they have become well‑established, also tend to constrain further creativity within that particular genre. Perhaps we will see more genre cross-overs in an attempt to find that spark of innovation and inspiration.

So there you have it. It has been another interesting little challenge that has also raised a few more peripheral questions. While it doesn’t really add anything to humanity’s collective knowledge, it passes time and the task makes one think (again).

Finally, seeing as CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars is all about the venerable instrument, think of all the great guitars and the guitarists that wielded them that feature on not only all the albums listed above but also all the ones that have been missed out.

This is the final monthly article before the ‘big move’ and, hopefully, things beginning to get back on track. Proverbially, I’ll see you on the other side. Until next time…

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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