Although rock music might seem bulletproof at first glance, there were times when things didn't look so good for the guitar-driven sound. Specific events, new genre and movements, the list of threats goes on and on. Sometimes such threats were subtle, sometimes they were loud and clear. Whatever the case may be, it's all written down in the history books.
So we'll check out some of the events and times that could have changed the course of rock music in a pretty bad way. We all know that rock survived some pretty rough events, but these could have affected it is just as badly.
Threat: 1956 Rock Music Ban
We'll kick things off with the early days. On June 3, 1956, Santa Cruz autrorities officially declared rock music as illegal, banning its airplay and labeling it "Detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community." Such actions from the authorities were caused by a rock party on the night before, showing just how unprepared some people were for the rock revolution.
Savior: Common sense, we guess. It was highly unlikely that the ban could have spread across the States, although similar acts were declared within the same month in Texas and New Jersey. But in general, rock simply couldn't be banned or stopped. If it did however, who knows how what course would the music, and the entire culture of the 20th century take.
The '60s were a pretty good time for the rock culture, as rock music was in full swing, spreading throughout basically all popular subgenres. When it comes to specific threats, it was still more about the authorities and the conservative masses being unable to accept the new genre, but music-wise, things were looking great for rock.
Although the '60s were a time of great musical experimentation and groundbreaking efforts, there were still certain acts that wanted to play it safe and reach the crowd with nothing more than bland pop. However, rock music had plenty of tricks to easily beat all threats.
Savior: Garage rock
Or blues rock, or psychedelic rock or any of the era's most prolific rock greats. The crowd seemed hungry for the new sounds, so there was no stopping for the rock genre.
A time when some of the biggest rock icons reached their peak. The culmination of prog rock. A time when Jethro Tull was able to top the Billboard Album chart with a record consisting of a single 45-minute track (Yes, it's "Thick as a Brick" we're talking about, and yes, that single tune is nothing short of amazing). A good time for hard rock, prog rock and numerous subgenres. But, as Greg Lake nicely put it, prog rock quickly "disappeared up its own a-s" as a few other rock threats have emerged.
During the mid and late '70s, disco movement was in full swing, massively attracting audience and putting rock off the charts. Although it received hate galore from the rock crowd, disco still managed to produce a solid portion of all-time classics and guilty pleasures of even the most hardcore rock fans. However, the threat was still there, and it was a major one.
With most of the classic rock acts already having released their greatest efforts, it was the punk genre that proved to the world just how alive the spirit of rock 'n' roll really is. Not only did punk prove it, but it screamed it out loud and shoved it in everyone's face. Granted, the peak of punk was a short-lasting one, possibly even shorter than the golden age of disco, but it spurred the rock community back on track.
The infamous '80s. A time when rock reached the mainstream status, and it wasn't always a good thing. The big-hair glam movement went a bit too far, threatening to cause the rock to implode and succumb to the pop sound. But in general, it was actually a good time for music, regardless of the genre.
So as we already noted, the glam movement was going too far, the record companies were forming rock bands based just on the look of individual members, and despite several top '80s glam acts releasing a fair share of great albums, glam simply seemed to shallow and vain to carry on the rich tradition of rock culture.
As usual, the underdogs were the ones who saved the spirit of rock. Hungry for nothing but genuine emotion and true rock, or metal sound, a scene of glam-loathing kinds brought rock back to what it is a gritty, rebellious movement. Some of the top thrash acts even rose to that ultimate super-stardom most can only dream of, bringing a breath of fresh air for the rock sound.
The infamous 1985 PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) court case and an attempt to essentially increase control over music and reduce the kids' access to music they labeled as inappropriate. As you could have expected, most of the troublesome music belonged to the rock genre.
Savior: Rock saved itself here, fair and square. PMRC did get their "Parental Advisory stickers, but the whole case basically only increased the popularity of rock. However, if the verdict was more severe, the final outcome could have been much worse.
Threat: Dave Mustaine Not Kicked Out of Metallica
There are a lot of funny stories out there about some of the rock greats never coming together in the early days, but if Dave Mustaine didn't get kicked out of Metallica, rock music could have taken a serious blow. Sure, we might have ended up with the ultimate metal band, but what about the worst case scenario? Everything could have simply imploded, resulting in neither Metallica or Megadeth ever emerging to the music scene. And without such major acts, what would the state of metal look like nowadays?
Savior: Well, Metallica. The guys did what they had to and kept doing their thing while Mustaine kept doing his. Over three decades have passed and they are still among the finest the genre can offer.
As the '90s rolled in, so did a new set of rules when it comes to music industry and trends. Rap became huge, threatening to take over the title of the most rebelious, youthful genre. With the new technology also came the new trend of electronic music, additionally drawing the crowd away from the good old rock.
The early '90s saw the rap taking over the scene. Some of the genre's all-time greats were at the height of their power, pushing rock straight off the charts. Granted, the rock spirit was very much alive among some of the rappers, but it was still a drastically new approach, in sonic terms far away from the gritty, guitar-driven sound. Rock even fused with rap during the decade's later years, but right now it needed something to give it a kickstart, and that's exactly what it got from a certain town far up on the west coast.
The new emerging rock scene from Seattle proved to be just the thing rock needed. Not everyone is thrilled about the word grunge, but it still wraps up the entire movement in the most concise way. Rock was fresh once again, resulting in several fruitful years and some of the ultimate classics from the likes of Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
Up until the '90s, electronic music was successfully fused with rock and several other genres, but it was in the past century's final decade that the new wave of electro music emerged, faster, more powerful, more aggressive some even might say.
Savior: Nu metal
Fusing metal, electronica and hip-hop in a unique guitar-driven blend, nu metal grew into a major global movement, ultimately becoming one of the rock's saviors. Interestingly enough, it also became one of the arguably most hated rock subgenres, but the fresh approach and the fact that the genre brought rock back are simply undeniable.
Many rock aficionados these days argue that mediocrity is killing rock. No major rock movement has emerged since nu metal, which was well over 10 years ago and numerous critics point out that rock is holding on to the new releases from its veterans, which most often tend to be nothing more than mediocre within their own league. One could argue that the same goes for several other most popular genres, so could the slow fade-away into mediocrity be the way rock will end?
Savior: We're still waiting obviously. New gems are definitely out there, and probably always will be, but the lack of a specific new movement is undeniable. However, we all know that rock's a tough one, and it will likely carry on to attract young rebel spirits in many years to come.