Is rock dead? No, but it’s certainly past its prime. The age of classic rock ran for about four decades, 1960-2000, and has been declining since. Here are five reasons this era was unique and won’t happen again.
- It was a Completely New Style of Music
Although there’s a link to blues, rock was pretty much a new style of music. It was nothing like jazz, the style that came before it. The format of loud electric guitars, drums, bass, and vocals was new, as was the guitar riff as a key songwriting device. Most of the early rockers didn’t really know what they were doing. They made it up as they went along. Rock was a new genre, and led to an explosion of sub-genres which didn’t exist before 1960.
Why it won’t come again. There are only so many notes and patterns available. Has everything been done by now? No, but it’s harder to be original when so much rock music has come before.
2. It Coincided with Unique Social Changes
Classic rock happened at the same time as the major social reforms of the 1960s and 70s. It was a time of freedom and anything seemed possible.
Why it won’t come again. The topic’s too big to discuss here. Let’s just say that period in history was unique and can’t be repeated. Not unless civilisation ends and the whole thing kicks off again from Square One.
3. The Music Business Model Worked
For all its flaws, the old model of the music biz worked. Bands played live until they got a record deal. They put out a record, got on radio or TV, then toured so people would buy their record. It was hard, but if they stuck it out they could make a living from it.
People were willing to pay for music. The fans bought records and went to shows. That’s how musicians got paid.
Why it won’t come again – After the internet, people began to download music for free, or stream it from Spotify. This dried up musicians’ main source of income, which had been record sales. It’s still possible to make a living in the music biz, but it’s a totally different system than during the age of classic rock. As it’s harder to make a living, there’ll be less of the giant rock bands we had in the past.
4. Musicianship and Songwriting were Valued
Classic rock was the age of the rock star and also the rock virtuoso. Being a great musician was respected and something to aspire to for up and comers. Songwriting was also a respected and rewarded craft.
Why it won’t come again – Virtuosos still exist, but rather than touring with rock bands, they’re living with their parents and making guitar videos with a million views on YouTube. I suppose that’s success of a kind, but it’s a comedown from the days when rock gods walked the Earth.
5. The Technology was New
The electric guitar was invented not long before rock began. The art of recording music was also quite young. Technology itself was a major part of how we created, recorded, and listened to music in the twentieth century, especially rock music.
Why it won’t come again – Technology has a dark side and has had some negative effects on classic rock. First, the internet and streaming, as mentioned. Second, the increasing use of automated drums and keyboards, or samples, has led to some music genres with no guitar at all. They sound nothing like classic rock. Third, we also have AI writing songs, which leads to very formulaic music, and puts musicians out of work. So, while technology made rock music possible, it may also play a part in its demise.
So Why Learn Classic Rock Guitar or Bass?
If rock music is past its prime, why learn to play it? Here are three reasons:
- Rock music has indeed become ‘classical’ – that is, an art form no longer evolving, but having been perfected. We are in the stage of celebrating it, as we do for all the great art forms of the past. The age of classic rock was brilliant. The music touched many people and became part of their lives. Playing guitar or bass is a way to connect to it, and it sounds as good as ever.
- Classic rock has a future. Although so much has been done and so much has changed, it’s still possible to create great music. It would be terrific to see the emergence of some new bands of the stature of Queen or Led Zeppelin, wouldn’t it?
- Technology makes music more accessible than ever. It’s so much easier being a guitar teacher than it was in the 20th century. If someone wants to learn a particular song, I can easily look it up on YouTube or Spotify. You can also record your own music at home thanks to recording software.
Whatever, your reasons – and there are plenty more besides – come and start exploring the amazing history of classic rock with guitar or bass lessons, and keep the magic alive.