SparkNotes Blog

The History of Rock (Part Two)

Luna_22 is going to school you on rock, even if she has to rock and roll all night to get it done. –Sparkitors

Some people say that I have a mild obsession with rock. I disagree. I don’t just listen to it—that would be “mild”—I live it! I have lyrics memorized, guitar riffs perfected (on air guitar), and I’m pretty sure Harry’s scar is really part of AC/DC’s logo.

But enough about me, it’s time for rock and roll! In Part One, I mostly focused on the beginning of rock, but once the 70s came round, new sounds started to emerge: hard rock, punk, and progressive. This rock was in some ways a lot louder and more creative. Here are some of the most influential rock bands, from the 1970s to the present:

1. Black Sabbath (1968–2006): Black Sabbath sounds like it would be a death metal band, but it’s actually hard rock, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple—though it’s also considered to be the beginning of heavy metal. Ozzy Osbourne is their lead singer, and Tony Iommi their epic guitarist. Some of their best songs are “Iron Man,” “Never Say Die,” “N.I.B.,” and “Sweet Leaf.”

2. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer (ELP; 1970present, not continuously): These Brits are the perfect trio: Keith Emerson on the keyboard, Greg Lake (from King Crimson) on vocals and guitar, and Carl Palmer on the drums. They’re progressive rock, with a lot of jazzy variation (“Pictures at an Exhibition”), as well as rock and roll takes on classical music (“Hoedown,” “Promenade”).

3. Queen (1971present): Queen is best known for “Bohemian Rhapsody” (immortalized in Wayne’s World) “We Will Rock You,” “Under Pressure,” and “Bicycle Race.” Queen’s songs combine epic guitar (Brian May and John Deacon), piano (Freddie Mercury, 1946–91), and shared vocals. Queen is one of the biggest stadium rock bands, and has performed around the world. God Save the Queen!

4. AC/DC (1973present): This Aussie band is one of the most influential hard rock groups ever, and has included such epic rockers as Malcolm Young, Angus Young, Bon Scott, and Cliff Williams. Its hits include “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” “Back In Black,” “Highway to Hell,” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” AC/DC is for those who know how to rock.

5. Radiohead (1985present): Radiohead is a British alternative rock group that specializes in beautiful/sad songs. Famous ones include “Creep,” “High and Dry,” “Just,” “Karma Police,” “No Surprises,” and “Everything In Its Right Place.” The band’s members are Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’Brian, Colin Greenwood, and Phil Seway, and its songs are similar in composing to Nirvana’s, but with an electronic gloss that creates a slow and stunning musical style.

6. Nirvana (19871994): Kurt Cobain, RIP (Rock In Peace), formed Nirvana. This 90s band’s genius songs include “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” “Lithium,” and “In Bloom.” Strong guitar and bass (Cobain and Krist Novoselic) + powerful drums (Dave Grohl) + basic awesomeness = Nirvana. Turn up the volume!

7. Green Day (1987present): Green Day is one of the many groups that defined American punk rock. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong rocks an emo/punk look and fronts music that features prominent guitar parts with catchy melodies, resulting in much toe-tapping and head-shaking. Listen to “Basket Case,” “Brain Stew,” “American Idiot,” “21 Guns,” “Holiday,” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to get the idea.

8. Muse (1994present): Electric guitar + Matthew Bellamy’s voice + sound effects + Britishness (yes, it’s a word) = Muse, the best alternative rock band of all time (in my opinion). The guitar parts are crazy, the lyrics are about the apocalypse and resistance, the sound effects are epic, AND they’re British! Need I say more? Their best songs include: “New Born,” “Time is Running Out,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Butterflies and Hurricanes,” “Uprising,” and “Undisclosed Desires.” Bonus: Muse also does classical music/rock music symphonies.

9. The Strokes (1999present): The Strokes are the newest rock band on this list, and an indie rock band at that. Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti play upbeat songs such as “Under Cover of Darkness,” “New York City Cops,” “Last Nite,” “Is This It,” and “Reptilia.” This group is one of the best indie rock bands of the now.

I know I’ve missed a lot of groups, so you can tell me about it in the comments. And for those about to rock, we salute you!

What other groups belong on Luna_22‘s list?

Related post: The History of Rock (Part One)

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