Monday, October 3, 2011

Guitar's historical rise to fame thanks to Rock

In 1962 a Decca records spokesperson made the following comment after being presented a Beatles demo;  "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

It just goes to show that the experts do get it wrong sometimes. Guitar in the years to follow would become the center of the pop music world at least in the western world. By the late 60's guitar bands were all the rage. Even Elvis would strut the stage with a guitar despite the fact that he only knew a few basic chords. Chuck Berry in my opinion laid the foundation not only for guitar but Rock n roll influencing almost everyone including Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Angus Young and of course The Beatles who in turn influenced most of the popular guitar players today.


The 70's and the rise of disco

By the end of the 60's guitar was synonymous with rock music but by 1970 it appeared as though everything possible in terms of rock music had been done. The 70's was the era of disco which dominated the pop scene but as they say, 'If you can't beat em...'   Guitar bands like KISS for example who were venturing towards a disco sound while maintaining their rock roots were not unusual. Even serious jazz guitarists like George Benson turned to disco. It seemed that 'Stayin alive' musically speaking meant going disco. Yet despite the concerns of the day that rock was dying and disco had taken center stage the 70's still manage to produce some of the all time great guitar rock songs.  Songs like 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Smoke on the water', 'Hotel California', 'TNT' and 'Sweet home Alabama'   became the songs most requested by guitar students for years to come.  In hindsight it was the rock songs of the 70's that catapulted rock into the 80's ushering in a new era of Guitar legends.

The 80's - Guitar worship

The 1980's could arguably be named the age of guitar. Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Guns n Roses, Journey, Queen, U2, Metallica, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Toto, The Police are examples of  guitar based super groups who ruled the 80's music scene even though several were formed in the 70's or even 60's. Even Michael Jackson got in on the act recruiting several guitarists from the above mentioned bands to play on his albums. The guitar hero had truly peaked. Guitarists like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash and my personal favourite Van Halen were literally worshiped. Teenagers everywhere wanted to be guitarists. The 80's was also a time for virtuosos rock guitarists. There were literally dozens of guitarists who were able to  make a room full of very accomplished guitar players jaw's drop to the floor in amazement. Rock guitar had in someways become a circus with audiences being wowed with the latest techniques often combined with effects. Guitar skills were worshiped especially by the youth but by the end of the 80's audiences for the most part had grown tired of the freak show it seemed and were back looking for catchy songs.

A time for Grunge

While some of the 80's guitarists continued into the 90's and virtuoso rock guitarists were still popular the 90s brought something new to the table. Grunge was the new sound which was actually somewhat retro being based on Neil Young's raw guitar sound. The most popular band was Nirvana despite only releasing three albums over 4 years. The 90s also saw a decline in guitar bands in the charts but there was still plenty on offer for guitar lovers such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Green Day and so on.

Rock guitar from 2000 onwards

The guitar has experience a slight decline in the last decade but the quality and quantity of great guitar music is still out there. Much has changed mostly due to the internet especially in the way music is distributed but rock guitar is well and truly alive and well. You just have to know where to look.



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