The History of Rock: Trends

Fads and trend-setters of the rock world.

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It might be only rock 'n' roll, but the past six or seven decades have certainly tangled up the rock genre in terms of endless subgenres. Numerous trends have appeared, some ending up as brief fads, other becoming the genre's very foundation. So right now we'll focus on some of the more prominent rock trends in a brief rundown. Check it out below.

Artsy Years

The tendency to write different, progressive music appeared not long after the rock's initial inception. The prog subgenre was arguably born with King Crimson in the late '60s, further expanding the experimental approach of early psychedelic rock and adding endless new layers and nuances. Prog rock saw its peak in 1972, probably the most peculiar year in the history of rock - a single year that brought us such masterpieces as Yes' "Close to the Edge," Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick," Genesis' "Foxtrot" and ELP's "Trilogy." The fact that "Thick as a Brick," an album consisting of a single 44-minute track, managed to top the Billboard chart is often considered as somewhat of a pop culture anomaly and will likely never happen again. Where It's at Today Prog rock and the later-evolved prog metal are very much alive today. The complex approach and mysterious vibe keep attracting a cult following and even spawn great new acts once in a while, fusing what cannot be fused and keeping the crowd at the edge of their seats, just as they should.

Punk/Garage Attitude

The "stick it to the man" or plain "f--k you" attitude is arguably one of the cornerstones of the rock genre. It's the kind of approach that brought us not only punk, thrash and grunge, but rock 'n' roll itself. The artists' desire to express themselves in their own way and style was always awarded if executed properly and from the heart. Where It's at Today Alive and well we guess. There's always been a thin line between rebellion and spoiled brats in the modern society, but if channeled right, the teen angst can indeed turn into productivity. Elitism and several other side effects might come to one's mind, but whoever got the rock approach right in their lives hardly regretted it. As for the new bands, could the lack of proper "f--k you" attitude be where the problem lies?

Disco Injection

Back in the '70s, disco took the world by storm, causing an outrage among rock aficionados. Although the genre's key elements carried on, the disco itself was fairly short-lived, at least in the mainstream sense. But it did manage to find its way to the rock world, hence the numerous disco-fueled tracks at the time. Anyone from KISS to Bad Company caught a part of the disco vibe, but no long-term consequences were left. Where It's at Today Well, it's mostly dead as a dodo. The disco fling turned out to be just a fad in the rock domain, but was still powerful enough to remain memorable.

Glam Time

The '80s were all about having fun, making them the ideal time for glam rock to thrive. Delving away from the original glam rock appeal and taking matters to both their extremes and mainstream media, glam rock and metal brought an entire new image and vibe to the rock scene, turning into one of its biggest trends. Where It's at Today The glam's still doing OK these days. Young bands still embrace the glam style to at least a smaller extent, some of the '80s hair metal greats still have a way to reach kids, which is what it's all about in rock music when you think about it.


In a way, the indie approach goes hand in hand with the punk attitude, yet it's often drastically different, probably due to lack of direct aggression on the indie side. And as always, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can free the artist of any boundaries commonly associated with major labels, but on the other, it can just serve as an excuse for having no talent, giving the scene a bad name. Where It's at Today In the modern interweb days, the DIY approach is a must, so in a way it's often an obligation more than a trend. Numerous artists have to take the promotion, release and production into their own hands, turning the "jack of all trades" array of abilities into a must for staying afloat in the music business.

Rap It Up

Although they sometimes can't stand each other, rappers and rockers have many common traits, so it's no wonder that the fusion of two was inevitable. You could say that the '80s "Walk This Way" rendition was what propelled the rap rock into mainstream and it's been going fairly strong since. Even the '90s "brought the noise" with an Anthrax/Public Enemy collaboration and then the 2000s really cranked it up with nu metal. Where It's at Today Ever since the hayday of nu metal, rap rock trend's also been declining. It's still going fairly strong of course and could once again strike the public limelight in the coming years.

Electronica Influence

The embedding of electronic music elements can be traced back to the early days of rock and is sometimes a bit of an iffy subject among rock fans. Unlike say rap rock, where it's easier to get the clear picture and state an opinion, electro music experiments are much more different between each other. So for example, one could be a great fan of Pink Floyd's electronica experiments, but not be too fond of nu metal's sonic experiments within the same domain or vice versa. Where It's at Today Since electronic music is at the height of its popularity at the moment, its influence is fairly strong in the rock domain as well. Korn stand out as a major band that recently experimented with electro sound, as well as Muse and many others. With the massive popularity of technology, you could say that electronica/metal mixture could thrive in years to come, but that yet remains to be seen.

Retro / Revitalize (or Rehash) the Old

A trend that's been present almost since the dawn of rock. It's somehow in human nature to idealize the past, so common revisits to the older genres shouldn't come as much of a surprise. And as always, things aren't black or white here, so the given approach can sometimes result in brand new genres; other times, it's just rehashed songs. But nevertheless, all the post-genre subgenres out there should give you a clear picture of how things are. Where It's at Today As long as there's something good going on today, it's bound to be revived tomorrow, or at least a few days after. Therefore, the post-genre genres are going fairly strong today. The post-grunge, commonly associated with Nickelback, scored major popularity and record sales, young thrash metal bands are going fairly strong (you could call the post-thrash in a way I guess), as well as several other genres. But will the music of today be worthy of revisiting for the generations to come? We're not too sure, so let us know in the comments.

28 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Have y'all heard about Lynard Skynard and Molly Hatchet getting together to do a retro compilation album? They're calling it... "Gimme Back My Mullet"
    Oh and the disco injection... Daft Punk - Get Lucky is currently being played nonstop on radio now for the last 2-3 months if not longer? Dont forget Lady GaGa either.
    Those aren't in any way rock though are they?
    Some would argue they're funk, rock, disco. It's hard to really say.
    If daft punk is funk so is maroon five, get lucky is pretty ****ing disco, we've just been so drowned in those sounds for the last decade that disco is less of a genre now and more of a sound that's fully permeated white dance music (in my definition this encompass's as many Indy artists now as electronic). Dubstep was a big deviation from this and used triplets and contrast of heavy and light melodies in way that seems to be trying to emulate metal. (this is based mostly on the sound skrillex introduced, sorry if my genre definitions off) but all in all discos been dominant for a while here.
    Nero Galon
    You could have mentioned how the Retro/Revitalize is a reincarnation of the Mods from the 60's such as The Who. Still a good read though. Loved the "Dead as a dodo" part haha!
    In the Glam article, the 80's were a time where girls looked like guys and guys looked like girls, the picture says it all.
    For anyone wanting to get a little more in-depth with the history of rock trends, check out BBC's Seven Ages of Rock, great way to kill seven hours
    love that documentary, wish the metal one was a little more in-depth though. Wouldn't have discovered black flag without it.
    Nero Galon
    BBC have also made a lot on individual genres such as 3 parts on punk in Britain and also early British metal. They're usually on BBC Four on Friday/Weekends. My brothers hate me for watching them all
    Interesting article but I sense a tad bit favoritism and one sidedness Punk in its initial form is pretty much dead aside from a very cult following (some of which only listen to the classics anyways) but Punk developed into many ways that it's alive in many genres.There is a huge link between reggae, ska, and punk in the underground scene which tends to have all 3 genres present at gigs. Then you have Hardcore Punk such as The Gallows, Comeback Kid etc. The thing you have to also remember is that punk didnt have much boundaries in the day and sometimes it's hard to put a 'true definition' on it. Oh and you can't forget pop-punk which is bigger than most of the genres above
    I wouldn't say that Disco is completely dead alot of post-punk and post-punk revival bands entire drum patterns are disco influenced, there is still alot of disco influence in rock drumming.
    Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys are fine examples. Also, Daft Punk's most recent album is very disco-influenced and sold like hot cupcakes.
    Great read, but i sort of missed the hard-rock/classic rock part, and earlier rock'n'roll and blues! : ))
    Had the potential to be a great article but I thought it left much to be desired
    Agreed. Pretty devoid of substance. There's a picture of Rush without any mention. Really? Isn't that journalism 101?
    So for example, one could be a great fan of Pink Floyd's electronica experiments, but not be too fond of nu metal's sonic experiments within the same domain or vice versa.
    You struck a nerve right there. I was one of those that fell right into this category. That was until I started hanging out with friends who were really into all sorts of electronic music and found out that I've been missing a whole lot of great, passionate and well-made music.
    Digging the Libertines picture... great band. Wish they hadn't fallen apart so fast...