It is almost impossible to imagine Western society without the influence of rock n roll; the artists that became renowned as (rock)gods, the aesthetic, the culture that so many live and breathe, and of course, the music that became the soundtrack to our lives. Many of the greatest artists of all time are of some rock inclination; whether that be Buddy Holly, Nirvana, or The Rolling Stones – the charts simply wouldn’t be the same without the unpredictable and volatile genre.
Rock started to emerge in the 1940s through the masterful rhythm of Chuck Berry and his contemporaries. Twenty years later, The Rolling Stones became the true face of rock n roll as they advocated for sex-positive youthful rebellion; this controversy became synonymous with rock which took the genre to brand-new cultural heights. By the 70s, artists started to push rock music into heavier, darker territories. At the same time, hard rock and metal were behind conceived; Pink Floyd gave rock trippier, more progressive tendencies with their seminal album, Dark Side of the Moon. Another major move in alternative music happened in the 70s as punk artists, such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols extrapolated rock elements and fused them into their punk sound.
The 80s was the era for sleaze rock, indie rock and college rock bands, while the 90s delivered the grunge movement with Nirvana, Hole, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam chomping at the aggressive discordant bit. Mainstream rock artists from across the globe became part and parcel of the music industry at the start of the 90s, but with the death of Kurt Cobain, the popularity of alternative music took a nosedive – despite the best efforts of Limp Bizkit, Staind, Puddle of Mudd and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
In any definitive guide of the best rock bands of all time, the rock artists that made their debut in the 21st-century are few and far between. But regardless of how much you want to pull the plug on the life support of rock, it isn’t quite dead – yet. For irrefutable proof, you only need to consider Black Midi, Yungblud, Greta Van Fleet, Highly Suspect, The Snuts, and Dirty Honey, who are all bringing in the new wave of classic rock – in their own way.
Contemporary rock may not sound like it used to, but that is one way in which rock has remained consistent over the past eight decades – it never has sounded like it used to. Each new generation of artists has found room for expressive and experimental manoeuvre.