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A history of rock in the united states of america

The division has now evolved into a clearly defined mass taste and a clearly defined elitist taste. We changed where the horizon was.

We moved it on. For the millions of viewers at home, most of whom have no idea what an Arcade Fire is, the band quickly crowds a matronly Barbra Streisand and her wizened A Star Is Born co-star Kris Kristofferson out of the television frame. To some observers, the shocking news is instantly significant.

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What did that say about the state of rock music? Recovery was the most popular album of 2010, followed by fellow Album of the Year nominee Need You Now by the pop-country trio Lady Antebellum, which logged 3. According to Billboardone rock band — Nickelback — ranks among the Top 10 artists of the first decade of the 21st century. Rock did much better on the top touring artists listcapturing seven out of the first 10 spots. Only one group, Dave Matthews Band, has been around for less than 20 years.

But even in an age of rampant illegal downloads and cheap streaming services, six music fans are buying Eminem records for every one fan that picks Arcade Fire. And what about the artist also known as Marshall Mathers? The ability to be yourself while also making the most money and the loudest, brashest impression has long been associated with musical greatness in his genre. For decades, rock and roll was fueled by the same greed for cultural capital that now powers the hip-hop generation.

Was rock ’n’ roll America's greatest revolution?

Rock history is written by the losers, in other words, which is why the importance of insurgents is overstated while the people inside the castles — the rich and famous rulers of middle-of-the-road rock and roll — are disregarded or flat-out ignored. The folks were too busy buying Bruce Springsteen and Huey Lewis records to notice.

I started caring about rock right around the time that Pearl Jam and Nirvana came and went as go-to cultural shorthand for disgruntled kid-dom.

I realize this admission makes me appear hideously un-hip. In my mind, the bands and artists that have really mattered in rock were able to express the most uniquely human parts of themselves while at the same time transforming into something profoundly massive and uniquely inhuman.

The groups that personified what rock sounds, looks, talks, comes, stays, lays, and prays like in the popular consciousness over the past several decades have not railed against the status quo; they are the status quo as far as the majority of rock fans are concerned. Unlike the niche-oriented rock bands of today, these groups are responsible not only for many of the biggest-selling albums of their time, but of all time. This era of rock and roll transformed the meaning of success in popular music, bringing rock to stadiums and mansions, shopping malls and Super Bowl halftime shows, as well as every wood-paneled basement rec room and teenage car stereo from Eureka, California, to Bangor, Maine.


This music spoke to millions of people; it informed their fantasies of power and wealth, influenced their way of looking at the world, and spawned a thriving subculture with a booming economy and a living history that informed every new generation of bands. It seemed to stretch outward toward an infinite future, always new but with clearly visible roots, the perfect conflation of novel poppiness with never-ending mythology wrapped in denim jackets and cheap sunglasses.

Even today, the archetype is so fixed and commonplace as to be thunderously obvious: Long-haired men in tight pants, playing crushingly loud music on guitars and drums in front of tens of thousands of people, and held upright by groupies, mounds of blow, and the luxury of deluxe tour buses and multimillion-dollar record contracts.

And yet this archetype has all but disappeared from pop culture.

The Winners’ History of Rock and Roll, Part 1: Led Zeppelin

I picked these bands because they rank among the most popular of their respective eras, and they all remain active in some form to this day. The Beatles have sold more albums, as has Elton John. But Zeppelin truly is the right choice because it is the band that set the terms by which every other band afterward would come to classify victory in rock music.

Before Led Zeppelin ; A. Financial reward, artistic freedom, business intelligence, chemical enrichment, sexual misadventure, posthumous mystique — no matter the conversation, Led Zeppelin is the gold standard.

Formed by Jimmy Page in 1968 after his previous band, the Yardbirds, imploded, Led Zeppelin was a winner from the very beginning. The depiction of Grant as a violent brute is the most lasting impression that people have of him, though those who know him contend that his bark and bulk was worse than his bite. The Rolling Stones later based their own deal with Atlantic on the Zeppelin contract.

He believed that forcing Zeppelin fans to focus on LPs rather than 45s would be more profitable.

This music does not date because Jimmy Page is the best hard rock record-maker ever, and the production on Led Zeppelin albums is the platonic ideal of rock-and-roll audio. All of the pertinent data is there on wax, right where Jimmy Page left it many moons ago. Every time you put on a Zeppelin record, the time-space continuum turns into the Washington Generals.

But Zep has grown more camera-friendly as it has gotten older, so much so that the band even consented to an interview on CBS This Morning to promote Celebration Day. Anyway, the reporter inevitably asked Zeppelin about the terrible reviews the band received from critics at the time the original albums came out.

This has long been a huge part of Zeppelin lore. It somehow makes Zeppelin seem even greater than they are and great rock critics seem even dumber. Led Zeppelin was routinely slammed for being derivative and crass. Not coincidentally, Led Zeppelin appealed almost exclusively to kids and blue-collar Middle Americans. It was beyond them. Critics were incorrect to disparage Led Zeppelin, but their reasoning was not inaccurate. They understood what Zeppelin was about; they just were out of step with the rock audience for thinking it sucked.

If you hated Zeppelin, you hated that this was selling millions of records. If you loved them, you were drawn in by the reflected image of your own desires.

Coming up in Part 2: Kiss is the ultimate example of a rock band basing its image on a hunger for money and fame.