The early innovators of rock ‘n’ roll are credited with revolutionising traditional styles and creating a rebellious youth counterculture. The rise of rock music came parallel with mass media communication such as television and radio. The first rock stars to appeal to the mainstream audience have had a lasting impact on what we now know as sub-genres of rock.
Elvis Presley – the king of rock ‘n’ roll
Elvis began his singing career in 1954. His on-stage charisma at the time was unlike any pop star before him. His dance moves earned him acclaim with female fans, but his rockabilly vocal style stood out as extraordinary. Elvis Presley’s influence on rock music and culture can’t be underestimated. He transformed the world of blues, country and bluegrass for a new generation of rockers.
Bill Haley – breakthrough success
Rock Around the Clock (1955) by Bill Haley and His Comets is considered one of the first hit rock songs to feature an electric guitar and drums. It was ahead of its time in that the band were all singers, and collectively joined in with vocals. The record sold 40 million copies and reached number one in the US pop charts. Shake, Rattle and Roll was another hit by the same artist.
The Beatles – the first global superstars
Arguably the most famous of all bands, these Liverpudlians exploded onto the rock scene since their debut single Love Me Do and PS I Love You in 1962. Their lyrics of love and affection in a contemporary rock format made them an instant pop hit and began the pop-rock era in the UK charts.
‘Beatlemania’ is often used to describe their unique image, style and music rocked Britain and around the world. The Beatles evolved with the changes in 1960’s rock music from blues to psychedelia and transformed the landscape of guitar music in their own right.
Jimi Hendrix – the wild experimentalist
Few musicians are deemed to be as influential on their genre as Jimi Hendrix, who inspired John Frusciante and Prince amongst many. Hendrix was a pioneer of the late 60’s psychedelic movement. His experimental guitar riffs, best appreciated in the 1992 collection Jimi Hendrix Experience, made him one of the great guitarists that has ever lived.
Led Zeppelin – the rule-shapers
Over the band’s 12 years, Led Zeppelin constantly found new and original sounds. They not only defied convention but invented new ones.
Their biggest albums were their self-titled 1969 debut, the flawless 1971 creative masterpiece ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ and their double-album epic ‘Physical Graffiti’. Led Zeppelin transcended the genre, as they crafted trendy records by changing the tone and content of their songs to stay one step ahead of the rock music game.
The Rolling Stones – the long-lived kings
It’s easy to see, judging by the length of their 57-year stardom and 26 studio albums that The Rolling Stones are widely referred to as the greatest rock band of all time. The no-holds-barred energy of their backing tracks and passionate lyrics from lead singer Mick Jagger are an obvious inspiration to many genres of rock bands across the past five decades of rock.