The history and development of British rock music


If you are a rock music fan like me, you must love going to pubs that play live rock music. One of these great pubs is The Rocksteady, a concert hall with a very relaxing atmosphere. In this article we will discuss the history and development of British rock music.

Rock music in the UK before the mid-1960s is somewhat lost behind the “Beatlemania” and the British invasion of rock and roll groups in the United States. What is now abbreviated as simply “rock” music incorporates elements of R&B and blues and was, according to Rolling Stone magazine, apparently already dead by the early 1950s, already in decline even as the genre gains popularity in the United States. British rock artists like Tommy Steele were eclipsed by the emerging American rock and rolls that dominated the music charts for most of the decade. The term “rock and roll” originated from Alan Freed in the 1950s, credited by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for “popularizing R&B records which became the foundation of rock” and a “tireless promoter of the genre” . US bands gained popularity in the UK with the rise of the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley.


In the mid-1960s, what is now known as the British invasion stormed the United States; the cultural phenomenon was led by rock and roll artists from the UK whose rise in popularity in the US included the Rolling Stones and the Who, and, most importantly, the Beatles. Trained by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, The Beatles quickly rose to fame not only in the UK but in the US, and are considered the leaders of the British invasion of the 1960s and one some of the most famous and influential bands of all time. Their mix of 1950s rock and roll with influences from other musical genres including classical, pop and folk, like their 1968 hit “Blackbird”, transformed the typical fan popularity into “Beatlemania”. Rolling Stone calls them “Britain’s main cultural export” of the 1960s, adding that “the trail they made to the colonies quickly became a well-trodden trail.”

The increase in the number of fans for British rock groups – and the The influence of the Beatles – paved the way for other acts during the British invasion like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s. The Rolling Stones contrasted with the style and appearance of The Beatles, which Rolling Stone Magazine (well named, of course, after the band itself) called it “the kind of band whose parents had every right to feel uncomfortable … back in rock and roll.” Their songs embraced the meaning of teenage delinquency and rule violation first associated with the genre by Bill Haley & His Comets with their recording of “Rock Around the Clock” in 1954. The Rolling Stones have produced hits like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Paint it Black” and “Sympathy for the Devil” and were followed by other “bad boy” groups like the Who, making their US debut with what Rolling Stone magazine called an “anarchic show” with included broken instruments and equipment and appealed to the rebellious state of mind of young people of the time.


The success of British rock and roll in the United States also saw the emergence of rock subgenres including punk, glam, hard, heavy, and indie rock. Rock stars like Elton John and David Bowie wrote and performed songs in a mix of subgenres in the late 1960s and 1970s. Elton John, one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, is best known for his hits like the rock ballad “Rocket Man” released in 1972, as well as for his work on several film scores including Disney’s The Lion King (1994), and is considered by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as “among the most successful acts of the rock age, arguably in a class with Presley and the Beatles”. David Bowie’s rock and roll style was much more varied, described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as having “bent the rock & roll convention in so many imaginative and contradictory ways [with] constant evolution, brilliant innovation and enduring artistry ”with hits like 1969’s Space Oddity and its memorable glam rock alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. After his death in 2016, Rolling Stone magazine called him “the greatest rock star of all time.”


The late 1970s and 1980s saw the rise in popularity in Queen, best known for songs such as “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. The group is one of the biggest stage rock groups in the world, their music is meant to be performed in front of large crowds; the 1977 hit “We Will Rock You” in particular was to be accompanied by the audience’s participation in creating the rhythm of the song with two taps of the feet followed by a clap. Their performance at Live Aid in 1985 is still considered one of the greatest rock performances by The New York Times and Rolling Stone Magazine. The rock version of Queen mixed both hard rock and heavy metal with incorporations of pop and – for their 1975 chart-topping song “Bohemian Rhapsody” – operas.

Today British rock and the subgenres it inspired have evolved and produced new groups like Bring Me the Horizon and Enter Shikari, the first called ‘UK’s first rock export’ by Loudwire and the second a “real force of British rock”. Older bands now considered classic rock, including Queen and the Rolling Stones, continue to organize tours and concerts around the world. The renewed interest in some of the biggest names in British rock history is a result of the attention garnered by films such as Yesterday (2019) inspired by the Beatles song and set in a fictional reality in which struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is the only one who remembers The Beatles. Biopics Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) starring Rami Malek as iconic Queen singer Freddie Mercury, and Rocketman (2019) starring Taron Egerton as Elton John also rekindled interest in older generations while introducing the youngest to the genre. Queen continues to tour with current frontman Adam Lambert while Elton John in 2018 announced his plans for a three-year retirement tour. British rock from the 1950s and early 1960s was heavily influenced by rock stars from the United States, but it is now unquestionably influential not only in American rock music, but also rock music.

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