The Rolling Stones, Springsteen … The Killers: what is classic rock? | Pop and rock

In the weekly magazine of the Resolute Guide! chronicle, we take a look at a crucial pop culture question you were dying to know the answer to – and let’s fix it, once and for all

The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen, to name just three, are all rock bands that have achieved classic status. But are they “classic rock”? It turns out that the term is not easy to define. Does it have to do with popularity? Or a certain time? Is it a genre in itself? Or, over time, has classic rock just been defined as an old song with guitars on it?

If we are to define classic rock by sound alone, then there are a few key characteristics. Songs that fall into this category will often be guitar-led, with fairly straightforward chord progression and influenced by rhythm and blues in its purest form. The idea that these songs are considered “classics” is supported by their lasting success. Take the Eagles, whose album Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) became the best-selling album of all time in the United States in 2018 after being certified 38 times platinum.

Classic rock is intrinsically linked to the adolescence of the “boomers”: those born between 1946 and 1964. This would suggest that it is not necessarily defined by a specific sound but by a specific era. This places the “golden age” of classical rock roughly between 1964 and 1982. Thinking of the popular rock groups of the time, however, their catalogs cannot necessarily be defined by a single term, suggesting that ‘it’s more of a genre label. Rockin ‘in the Free World, the 1982 opus Trans by hitmaker Neil Young, for example, is generally regarded with disdain by classical rock purists to sound more soft cell than soft rock, due to its heavy synth output. In this regard, an artist cannot necessarily be classic rock through and through; it is too simplistic a term to attribute it to catalogs that span several decades.

While the Golden Age is apparently indicative of the baby boomer youth, it also suggests that classic rock might just be an amalgamation of teenage anthems in a more general sense. While Woodstock 99 – the next-gen version of the 1969 counter-cultural festival juggernaut – is now rightly seen as a misstep from a bygone era, it was perhaps also a marker for a new generation listening to their songs. future classic rock artists. So, does the definition only depend on the passage of time? Could we soon see Blink-182 and Limp Bizkit grouped together under the same umbrella as Black Sabbath and the Who?

Streaming effectively keeps the notion of classic rock alive, carefully curating playlists for the archetypal classic rock fan, but that hasn’t stopped more contemporary artists, such as the White Stripes, from coming out. sneak out. This suggests that the aforementioned idea of ​​an aging population as opposed to a specific generation might be a more likely marker of classic rock over the years.

Perhaps, however, there is one thing that trumps the whole debate about what constitutes classic rock: the marketing. With the origin of the term coming from American radio stations trying to appeal to an older audience and maintain listening numbers, classic rock is really just a way to repackage music that is no longer considered. as directly relevant by those of a younger generation. Basically the Killers are the new queen and we’re all going to have to get used to it.

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