5 Game-Changing Moments That Defined Rock Music


The Evolution of Rock Music from the 1950s to the 1990s

By Josh Taylor

Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll or rock 'n' roll) is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, along with country music.

It has since evolved into the widest genre of music, hosting some of the biggest musical acts in history. Here, we take a look through the rock ages and establish where it all started, looking back at its origins, and some of its most significant and game-changing moments.

The Creation of Rock and Roll

Chuck Berry invented rock and roll in 1955. He was a black man playing black music. But times had changed: white kids were listening to rhythm and blues throughout the North East, and white musicians were playing rhythm and blues side to side with country music.

Chuck Berry, born Charles Edward Anderson Berry, was one of the most important singer-songwriters, and the pioneer of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Rock and Roll Music", and "Johnny B. Goode", Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive.

Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.


Beatlemania was the intense fan frenzy directed towards the English rock band, the Beatles, in the 1960s. Their popularity started growing in the United Kingdom in late 1963. They are still regarded as the most important and game-changing band in the history of rock music.

Formed in 1960, the band from Liverpool went on a decade of dominance, and became widely regarded as the foremost and most influential music band in history. In 1963, their enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania"; as the group's music grew in sophistication, led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, the band became integral to pop music's evolution into an art form and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s.

Without the Beatles, many, if not all, of the rock bands that followed may not have ever existed. 

The 1970s 'The Rock Golden Years'...and Punk!

The 1970s is regarded by most classic rock fans as the best and most significant decade for rock music.  The '70s produced some great music across a broad variety of sub-genres of rock, from progressive rock, to pop-rock, and ultimately to punk rock.  A bridge between the trippy psychedelia of the late '60s and the lean New Wave of the early '80s, the decade embraced everything from the four newly solo Beatles to Motown to the Eagles to Donna Summer to the Sex Pistols.

For the first time ever, we now had multiple rock bands selling out stadiums, with their band members becoming household names. Rock was certainly in its peak years, and many would argue that the '70s, as a decade for rock music, has never been matched since. However, it was the emergence of punk rock that added a new dimension to the rock scene, and would ultimately influence many of today's modern punk bands.

The Rise of Heavy Metal 

The new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) was a nationwide musical movement that started in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and achieved international attention by the early 1980s. 
The roots of heavy metal come from bands like Blue Cheer and Jimmy Hendrix, but officially Black Sabbath is cited as the first heavy metal band.

The genre of heavy metal was geographically associated with Birmingham, England, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Starting with Black Sabbath, the heavy metal scene flourished with bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but also paved the way for the American thrash metal scene, with bands like Metallica and Megadeth.

Black Sabbath are viewed as the most game-changing rock band of the late 70s.

Appetite for Destruction - the fall of glam rock

Amid all the hair metal cock-rock posing and partying that dominated the LA scene in the 80s, one group stood out - way out - projecting a much grittier reality of life on the streets and a volatility that had gone missing in hard rock: Guns N’ Roses.

Labelled as the most dangerous band in the world, Guns N' Roses took rock to grittier heights than ever before. They didn't hit the big time straight away though, but after the 1987 release of their hugely successful debut album, Appetite For Destruction, the band were kings of the rock world by the turn of the decade.  Jim Evans, Rock Guru magazine writer and reviewer, once said "Rock had become very camp, and embarrassing, in the '80s, quite frankly. We desperately needed a band like Guns N' Roses to come along and shake things up a bit. They made rock music cool again, and totally badass!"

Nirvana - The Rise of Grunge

Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is the music genre formed from the fusion of punk rock and heavy metal, and a subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the U.S. state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns. By the early 1990s its popularity had spread, with grunge bands appearing in California, then emerging in other parts of the United States and in Australia, building strong followings and signing major record deals.

Grunge was commercially successful in the early to mid-1990s, due to releases such as Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, Alice in Chains' Dirt and Stone Temple Pilots' Core. The success of these bands boosted the popularity of alternative rock and made grunge the most popular form of rock music at the time.

Although grunge was a gigantic success, it was one of the shortest lived eras of rock music, with many grunge bands fading from view by the late 1990s. However, grunge did influence later sub-genres of rock, such as post-grunge, indie, and nu-metal.


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