Rock and roll is a widely listened genre today. A lot of sub-genre has come to evolve and has been enjoyed by listeners from all ages. Currently we have a lot in our hands; pop-rock, hard rock, alternative rock, and inspirational rock to name a few. All of these genre’s can be viewed to sound different and uneducated ears may call it to be on completely different genre, but you will listening to it closely you would see similarities that comes from a common root. And this root can be drawn out from its early form called the “early rock and roll music”. The history of early music is as colorful and vibrant as the music itself. It was influenced by the times culture, economic status, technology and a lot more. All harnessed by our early respected artists and translated to music via words and musical instruments. Tracing the origin of the music is quite hard to put a finger on, but collectively it was popularize in the United States and was appreciated and adapted to other countries in the world. A lot of cultures adapted this music style but the amazing thing is the music style is kept though it may appear in many forms.
The word “rock and roll” is kind of old. It was a nautical term that can be traced from the English literature at the early 1600’s describing the movement of a water vessel. The word is quite literal in its meaning rock means the fore and aft movement while roll means the sideways movement. It has evolved to a lot of meaning to different people, culture and location. It meant a religious term that was used by the African American people (Anonymous, (n.d.), when did rock and roll music start?). It was coined because it was associated with the powerful feeling a listener gets when they listening to gospel music. It is also connoted to be a word that means dancing but has a subliminal context of sex, which actually spawned a negative image for the parents during that time. This played an image that dancing with rock and roll music includes a lot of flirting and ends up with sex. Which led it to be widely known that way, roll was now used in phrases like “I rolled her hard in the hay” or, “My boyfriend rolled me good” which directly means the act of sex (Anonymous, (n.d.) History, para 4).
The first person who is credited to have used the word in describing music is disc jockey from Cleveland Ohio name Alan Freed. He was back then playing rhythm and blues for a multi-racial audience . There a lot of early records who are contested to be first to come out as a rock and roll record; the likes of Rocket 88, Jackie Brenston (1951), Rock and roll, Paul Bascomb(1947) and Leroy sent me, by Joe Brown (1949) just to name a few(Anonymous. (n.d.)).
Early rock and roll groups played with drums, bass, with the piano and saxophone as lead instrument. Today a Rock group commonly is composed of 3 guitars; the rhythm, lead and bass, with the drums. The chords was pretty easy that time, comparing it in contrast the music styles before it jazz which is more on improvisation and classical which is “academic” in nature. Which was why early music academics had a hard time accepting its genre mainly because its simplicity in music theory. Rock and Roll was played in 3 to 4 chords or so which makes it catchier and gets much retention to the masses. This is how rock music gained its popularity and even the lifespan of songs in peoples mind.
A lot of “sub-genres” spawned during the early stage or rock and roll. To discuss a few; there is Rockabilly which was mostly upbeat music with the strong presence of guitar riffs on it. It is a combination of country music and blues. This sub-genre was greatly popularized by Elvis Presley. We also have blues rock which is a type of rock music which is close to its roots, bluntly putting it its blues with a guitar on distortion. It shares the same feel of the music and same pentatonic mode but differs in the aggressiveness of sound. While jazz-fusion in the other hand was a mesh with jazz and rock sound. Basically rock is on its early stage was a sound produced by combining two music styles.
A lot of things influenced the rise of rock and roll music during the early 50’s one of them technology. Instruments back then was only the piano and saxophone as lead, but the dawn of guitars came. This attracted more listeners of rock and roll music. The first guitars were amplified semi-hollow guitars, which was used by jazz players. That was why semi-hollow guitars now are commonly called jazz guitars. But the change was really felt with the birth of solid body guitars. Musicians now have the option of playing the guitar in higher gains giving the listeners a different and joyful high while listening to rock music. Solid body guitars eliminated the problem with resonation that produces feedback in semi-hollow guitars. At the late 50’s advancement in sound of the guitar change they managed to accidentally discover the art of distortion. In a recording Johnny Burnette with a song called “The Train Kept A-Rollin'” the amplifier lost a valve. Back then they recognize it as a funny sound but when it got out it received a good review from there it gained it popularity (anonymous, (n.d.)). This was then integrated to different guitar amplifiers from early makers like Fender (59’ bassman amp), and Marshall Amplifiers. Advancement in media also took a leap in the 50’s era. Radios have been available to almost everybody and presently we have Ipod’s and MP3 players. This gave a slight decline in appreciation of music then and now. Back then music is appreciated live and even made by own. Where artistry is personally touched and heard. It does not affect the music itself but it has effects on the appreciation. Advancement on gadgetries also made difference on its culture. The dawn of digital sound made impact on the way it’s made. Though rock creativity is still on the artists’ hands some people though have the technology still opts to record or sound analog. They say that the essence of music is still there. Unlike with digital it’s just converted electronic files that are heard through a transducer of some sort, though to some extent this is debatable.
Rock and roll music era can be viewed as a transition of music. The artistry of early music before it was reserved, formal, refined, and disciplined. This is the usual embedded culture of the 40’s in the US. Rock and roll dictates a lot on the change of state of mind by people at that time. You can also say that the easy global acceptance was sign that a common culture was shared globally during those times. The popular rock music if back then provided to produce identities, which is actually evident until now. It is tied with stereo typing; giving subliminal messages that affects the culture back then. On the other hand people like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Charlie Pride stood up to go against the flow. Rock and roll back then at the 50’s keeps its roots intact but it tells you that it wants something else. “Wanting to break free”, “desires to be loose” and “desire to have fun” was a common message of early rock and roll music. During the era of 1954 to 1959 the rock and roll music is at its peak of their success and mostly of the songs is more on about the issues being teenagers like identity crisis, love, sexuality and energetic songs. In this year, Elvis Presley became famous with his song “Blue Moon of Kentucky” which was recorded in Sun Records Label as well as “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard by Specialty Records and “Sh Boom” by The Crew Cuts by Mercury Records. If you compare the song of the 1950’s and 1960’s, you will notice that most of songs in the Fifties were more of the dancing songs and in the Sixties more of the head banging idea and most of bands were now using electric guitars and modernized drum set. As you analyzed or as you compare the message of the songs in the rock and roll era, it is more of being a teenager and how you deal as you grow up and in the music of the sixties, it is more of freedom of expression in their surroundings and they used their songs to deliver how they really feel and to let the superiors know what they want and it is more of appreciation of their surroundings. It gave the people at that time a start to have new mind sets, different practices and norms that through the years created different cultures. It was adapted by different people so it produced different cultures. Rock music now gave a lot of cultures, like the rebellious culture, punk culture, or even the drug induced culture. But the era of 50’s maintained its lightness and pureness being the early stages of the music. Early rock and roll music is highly respected by present artist and musicians. The artistry of the era was original, it was combination of other styles but still at that respect it still requires musical talents that by then were raw and just beginning. The generation of sound back then has to come from pure genius. Unlike today’s writing where it is commonly observed that written music today has some small percentage of “influenced sounds” where some parts of the music will sound like other artists. Even if this is not intentionally done it came to the extent that we can no longer avoid it, so what we do is regulate it through rules that will limit it. In terms of music theory for rock and roll music the rules is there is none. It’s like the rule breaker of the music before it. The culture it brought out is clearly stamped on its style. It’s like studying modes in jazz, master its tone then try to break free from it, innovating its predecessors to be open to transition.
The music industry then and now was pretty much the same. The structure of its constitution are still of the same concept. The composer and lyricist still play the primary role in making the music itself. The job of putting it all together with its theme and instruments use is still with the arranger. While the producers and engineers work on the tail end by providing them with the record and developments. The major and independents relationship played a big role in shaping the culture of music that time. Major players are under groups of people where big capital is available. They are open to a bigger chunk of the masses but tend to be “bland” and sound the same. But what makes it work is it is listened to by many it which contributes a lot to its salability. While the independent players, play it “raw” they are more dynamic and they bring new things to the table. I have seen this and at some time been a part of it. Music artistry is more available in the independent circle then and now. Its targeted market is highly influenced by economics of that time. This is where the use of popular music comes to play. Combination of the stereotyping and the attachment to it was back then a marketing tool. Rock music has range of music that target’s the general white people, when back then racism is still rampant. Even for teenagers who are into rebellion. Even the black people have their music of their own, which is blues. It is where they express their hardships in life. That’s is why the African American people of that time say that blues can only be made by them. The culture back then uses music as somewhat a flag that bares their economic status of their life. That’s why generally people back then keep to there own music. Which is still evident until today’s music industry, rap music is still mostly dominated by the African American and punk rock is still with the teenage white.
Anonymous. (n.d). when did rock and roll music started?. http://www.hoyhoy.com/dawn_of_rock.htm
Anonymous. (n.d). Rock and Roll origins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock%27n_Roll
Townsend D. (n.d.). Rock ‘n’ Roll Culture and Ideology http://www.dntownsend.com/Site/Rock/rcksum.htm
Anonymous. (n.d). History and technology of music. http://www.danbyrnes.com.au/hotm/1940s.htm
Anonymous. (n.d). Rock and Roll music and culture.