Ever since Alan Freed coined the phrase "rock and roll" back in the 1950's, rock music has been entertaining, innovative and rebellious. Rock music is the music that made your parents yell at you to turn it off. In the 50's, it was Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock"... in the 60's, it was The Beatles' "Revolution"... in the 70's, it was Alice Cooper's "School's Out", and so on throughout it's rich history.
Rebellion and sometimes anger about what's going on in the world was always embedded in the roots of rock music, but so has having a good time and doing what you want. Kids have grown their hair long, wear crazy clothes and even disobey their parents to emulate their rock idols over the decades. More recently, you can add get tattoos and piercings to the list. Why does rock and roll illicit such a response from the younger generation? Is it because the songs relay messages they can identify with and relate to? A huge part of the reason, indeed but there is more to it than that.
Rock music has always been written in the moment and usually about what's going on in the world at the time. Take a song like "My Generation" by the Who... they're just talking about people their age and what they're feeling, but audiences can really relate strongly to messages like that. Some messages are negative and some are positive in rock music, and sometimes the lines get blurred beyond recognition. Some positive messages, such as Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" have come under fire for promoting suicide, despite the fact that it's clearly an anti-suicide song if you really listen to the lyrics. The pattern of the history of rock is easy to map through the decades if you know where to look.
First, you get a new sound that becomes the innovator and blazes new trails, such as Chuck Berry and Bill Haley. This is followed by artists who want to emulate the new style and put their own spin on it, as well as the imitators who are just in it to get famous or make a quick buck. Over a few years, the style gets watered down as more and more people twist it their own way until finally, it becomes ordinary and people begin to look for something new. Then an innovator comes along, such as Kurt Cobain and blows a hole in everything that's on the radio and it starts all over again.
Rock is such a broad term anymore with all of the subgenres out there, it's important to remember all the branches that sprang from it... metal, alternative, thrash, punk, rockabilly, bluesy rock and many, many more all come from the same roots laid down in the early days of rock by Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and all those who came after.
In the 50's, everything sounded like Perry Como and Brenda Lee till rock and roll exploded on the scene. In the 60's, the Beatles came along and led everybody into the acid trip era of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Doors. In the 70's, a more polished sound brought us great bands like Boston, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Journey, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, KISS and Peter Frampton.
The 80's gave birth to the electronic age, with new wave and MTV dominating the charts with bands like Eurythmics, Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby and the B-52's, but the rockers weren't having any of that. They were listening to Van Halen, Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera and Judas Priest. Of course, the 80's also spawned the offshoot genre of "hair metal" with bands like Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue, Warrant and Twisted Sister.
In the 90's, Nirvana exploded onto the scene and ushered in a new genre called "Grunge" which was inspired by, of all people, Neil Young. Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains carried the banner of change down mainstreet and waved it in the establishment's face with it's raw sound and angst filled lyrics. Even the onslaught of boy bands and Britney Spears couldn't keep rock down in the 90's with great bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Collective Soul, Days Of The New and Live writing such amazing music.
In the 2000's, great new metal, numetal and emo acts such as Disturbed, Godsmack, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Crossfade, Three Days Grace, Seether, System Of A Down, Theory Of A Deadman, AFI, My Chemical Romance, Fallout Boy and many more took rock towards the future with powerful lyrics and earthshattering grooves. Will the future bring more of the same or will new genres like dubstep and screamo come along and sweep everything away as it has in the past?
The future of rock music will depend on the times, as the art will always reflect life. I see better times ahead with a new US President on the horizon and hopefully a more peaceful world will bring a positive spin on the way young people see themselves and the world around them... darker times will inevitably bring darker music, while happier times and a more secure world will bring a much brighter take on the way rock songs will sound. I'd like to believe that the world is turning to a newer, happier heading and that music will follow where society leads. However, rock is about rebellion so there will always be something to write about, even in a perfect world. Rock is about not being satisfied and having something to say, otherwise it wouldn't be as passionate and have as much conviction as it does. No matter what happens, I've learned over the years that there will always be some good rock and some not so good rock to pick through and find something you like.