Indie rock can be (loosely) defined as a melodic or punk genre guitar-based of rock music, and a means of producing that music, that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early 1980s as an alternative to the mainstream music of the time. The indie genre, it could be claimed, was mainly inspired by the Sex Pistols and the punk rock movement in the UK, which led to a more DIY approach to music and inspired young people to form bands. For example, on 4 June 1976 in the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester - in a smaller room above the main hall, the Sex Pistols played a gig that is widely believed to have been the catalyst to the punk rock movement, New Wave, and the subsequent indie movement.
Many of the musicians who attended the either of these two famous gigs by the Sex Pistols (as they returned to play another date) went on to form some of the important and critically acclaimed bands of the era. People who are believed to have attended these gigs include The Smith's front man Morrissey, Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, members of Joy Division/New Order (Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook), members of the Buzzcocks (Howard Devoto, Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle), and The Fall's Mark E Smith.
In the United Kingdom, independent DIY record labels were started, like Factory Records and Rough Trade. These labels released music by artists (on a much smaller promotional budget) who perhaps the major labels weren't too interested to begin with - until they realised that there was actually a big market for the style of music. However, 'indie labels' gave a band more credibility ('indie cred') than if they went with an unfashionable large and money-led label.
Some definitive British indie bands of the late 1970s and 1980s were The Smiths, The Specials, The Stone Roses, The Cure, Happy Mondays, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Orange Juice, My Bloody Valentine, Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose 'classic' music during this time directly influenced 1990s alternative genres such as shoegazing and also Britpop - which eventually went on to blur the line between independent and major labels.In the mid-1990s, led by Oasis and Blur, a list of Britpop indie bands dominated the singles and album charts in the UK. More conventional 'pop acts' were often beaten in sales by more guitar based indie acts. The Britpop genre included artists such as Pulp, Supergrass, The Verve, and Radiohead. This trend has continued into the present day, with bands such as Artic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Libertines, Klaxons etc, are still able to chart in the upper reaches of sales charts.
However, many so-called indie bands are on major labels (or are on indie labels that are owned by major labels). Nowadays, 'indie music' is a term used as genre term like 'Hip Hop' or 'Dance' and the genre is still covered by major magazines, music journalists and music websites such as the NME, Rolling Stone, Q Magazine, Pitchfolk, and Drowned In Sound. But while the term has perhaps lost it's initial independent meaning, the name remains as a constant reminder of the DIY methods and spirit that was carried out by bands and labels during the 1980s.
Electric Banana is an indie music news and reviews website.
Andrew Parker is the editor of online indie music website Electric Banana.