By Michele Kadison
The popular definition of “classic” is something that stands up over time. What is traditionally known as “classical music”, encompassing composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, holds the same criteria for any other type of music that continues to engage listeners. Tracks and criteria for each online classic rock radio station vary widely; by definition, Classic Rock is when a given album has generated more than one or two hit songs that are still popular today. Currently, the Classic Rock genre generally encompasses music from the late 1960′s through the early 80′s. As we move through time, these boundaries will certainly expand.
There is no one style that fits the full spectrum of the genre from the first classic rock to today’s online classic rock radio station picks. Each artist and band in this category has a stamp all its own, from the early Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin, and Queen to the Jefferson Airplane. Longevity and playability is the key to Classic Rock. With this in mind, we have many, many examples of what made this period so vital and revolutionary. Just take a look at any list of what are now considered Classic Rock bands to see the diversity in the genre.
Classic Rock: The Early Days
Sprouting up among the innovations of the 1960′s, where commercially successful singles defined the marketplace, Classic Rock emerged out of what dubbed “Album Oriented Rock,” or AOR. DJs recognized that they could successfully play various tracks off an album instead of relying on a top 40 single to draw in their listeners. Thus radio formats changed as artists and bands began to create more synthetic work, sometimes theme-driven and sometimes driven by the sheer power of their image.
Classic Rock Radio Stations: Revolutionizing the Scene
It is hardly arguable that the Beatles revolutionized the music scene of the time, especially with albums like “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which came out in 1967. Here was an unfolding of what would become emblematic of classic rockers: something indefinable, yet totally distinctive. Out came the wild flashy performers such as Kiss and Black Sabbath; anthem rockers like Queen; British rockers like Led Zeppelin and Mott the Hoople; new wave rockers like The Police, the Clash, the Cars, and Elvis Costello; glam rockers like David Bowie and T.Rex; Southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company; and psychedelic rockers with vivid stories to tell like Janis Joplin, the Doors, the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix.
Everyone was different, everyone had something to prove, everyone had something to say. Whether the music was drug-inspired such as with the Doors, the Dead, and the Airplane; anthem driven as introduced by the Who and singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen, or anything else in between, it all felt personal.
Classic Rock has another claim to fame, and that’s the birth of the rock impresario. Because the music was big, the venues had to change, and so the concerts were now held in stadiums that could hold enormous crowds. Two of the first big rock concerts were the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Featured were artists representing the psychedelic aspect of rock, their songs reinforcing the Hippie anthems of peace and love. These concerts helped to unite people of like mind, creating the feeling of a grand tribe against the system.
In more formal settings, Pink Floyd was the first band to introduce light shows and fireworks on stage. Concert halls such as the Fillmore East and West had enormous cachet with music fans on both coasts. Merchandising came hand in hand with the new concert scene, and serious money began to be made outside of just record sales.
Some of the most riveting and revolutionary moments in Classic Rock came as a result of the politics of the time. Neil Young wrote “Ohio” as a funereal anthem to the student killings at Ohio State University in 1970. In 1971 George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan arranged an enormous concert at Madison Square Garden to help the people of Bangladesh, which opened up the gates for many similar money and consciousness-raising events that continue today.
A new sexuality emerged as a result of the classic rockers. The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger upped the ante on his swagger, Jim Morrison of The Doors brought sex up front and center in every millisecond he spent on stage and off, David Bowie made androgyny into a sensual phenomenon, and Janis made it all so raw, with her rasping voice and her blatant freedom. Death became a kind of morbid rock n roll fashion statement, with many artists tragically succumbing to drug overdoses.
The power of the burgeoning sound was undeniable. In 1971 Led Zeppelin recorded “Stairway to Heaven” on their album, “Led Zeppelin IV”, which to date has received more radio station airplay than any other song in history. The Eagles’ 1976 album, “Their Greatest Hits,” became so popular that it is still one of the biggest selling albums of all time, and the Grateful Dead had people quitting their jobs to following them all around the country.
Classic Rock: Historical Highlights
|1966||- The Beatles come out with “Revolver”|
|1967||- The Beatles release the album, ” Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”
- The Monterey Pop Festival in San Francisco starts the big festival trend
|1968||- Concert promoter Bill Graham opens the Fillmore East in New York|
|1969||- Woodstock makes history|
|1970||- The National Guard kills four students at Ohio’s Kent State University.
- Neil Young writes “Ohio,” one of the most forceful political protest songs in rock history
- Elton John makes his US debut and wows them with his performing antics
- Black Sabbath releases its first album
- Janis Joplin dies
|1971||- Led Zeppelin records their huge hit, “Stairway to Heaven”
- Jim Morrison dies
|1972||- David Bowie debuts Ziggy Stardust, the first rock n roll alien|
|1973||- Graham Parsons, the visionary country rock artist, overdoses on heroin|
|1974||- The Ramones debut at CBGBs in New York, home to all rock rebels|
|1975||- Patti Smith releases her album “Horses” with her picture on the cover taken by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe
- Bruce Springsteen debuts his album ” Born to Run”
|1976||- The Eagles’ album “Their Greatest Hits,” is first album in history to be certified platinum|
|1977||- The Sex Pistols sing their version of “God Save the Queen” and scandalize Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee ceremony
- The Bee Gees have a huge success with the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever”
- Queen’s “God save the Queen” makes it to #1 on the charts
|1978||- Brian Eno releases “Music for Airports” and ambient music is born|
|1980||- John Lennon is murdered|
|1981||- MTV is launched|
|1982||- Michael Jackson releases “Thriller”|
Your Online Classic Rock Radio Station: The Current Phenomenon
Most artists that emerged during the Classic Rock period had enormous influence on music to come. Musicians like Patti Smith, Brian Eno, Bowie, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, the Police, Ozzy Osbourne, and so many more have had an undeniable effect on the progression of music through their immense risk taking and creativity. As such, Classic Rock music will always have a place in the fabric of our listening habits, no matter how seemingly far away current musical trends seem to get from these roots. Radio stations continue to play the staples as listeners come back for more, not simply from nostalgia, but for the strong desire to hear great, timeless music. Whether you listen to music online or on local radio stations, the songs in a good online Classic Rock radio station will remain classic for all the right reasons.