Sunday, January 27, 2013

What is Rock Music? Maybe Classic Rock's new online archive can help by Giff Fletcher

Do you like rock music? I wonder how many people are asked this question every day, and I wonder how many with exactly the same music tastes say yes, and how many say no. I can definitely think of some friends and acquaintances who would feel insulted if described as rock fans.
Wikipedia's definition is as follows: "Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical sources." Hmmm, not sure there are many influences missing from that definition. I suppose straight dance music isn't mentioned, although what if the dance music in question is itself influenced by rhythm and blues, rock and roll or both?
Maybe the answer is to turn to the self-appointed experts, and where better to look than Classic Rock Magazine, whose newClassic Rock Archive claims to feature every article, review and letter published since 1999 (there's actually even one issue from 1998). Surely a review of the artists they feature can help us decide if we are rock fans, or not?
Ok, a quick run through the covers of the 143 issues currently featured in the archive, the impressive result of a major OCR project, is reassuring: Bon Jovi, Guns 'n Roses, Led Zepellin, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Thin Lizzy. Yes, all these can be safely named rock groups, and their members rock musicians. And then there's the solo artists: Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop. Again, pretty safe ground. But Genesis? I can think of many rockers who would deny being in the same country as a Genesis gig. And, funnily enough, no U2 (well not on the covers)? Can you hear all those U2 fans exclaiming "what, but they're the greatest rock band ever!". And no Quo? What do you mean, not one cover in 143 featuring Status Quo, the group with more comebacks than Frank Sinatra (no, he doesn't get a cover, although he is mentioned many times in the 12 years of magazines, believe it or not)!
Now to take a look inside. How varied are the artists and groups that appear in the Classic Rock Archive. Obviously the usual suspects already mentioned are there, so that's a good start, but how far does their definition of 'rock' stretch? Moby? Well I suppose there's guitars involved, but surely if Moby's included we should also be seeing Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook of Housemartins fame? But no, nothing for Norman. Ok, back to more solid, if contentious ground - the Beastie Boys.... and it's a yes, well I suppose they are kind of rap plus rock. Jay Z - yes (since when has his work been considered 'classic'?). Frankie Goes to Hollywood, yes!
In the end, I'm not sure if I'm any wiser than I was before but, just like my choices on artists to search for, I suppose it's subjective. To make your own mind up, you too can have a look through the Classic Rock Archive, an amazing and fascinating library of rock memorabilia and miscellania. And, whilst you're there, if you find any errors, do be sure to point them out as this OCR thingy isn't 100% accurate.
Giff is a huge rock music fan and spends too much time reading about it online. To find out more about this article, why not check out the Classic Rock Archive yourself?

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