Times When Rock Could Have Died

Although rock music might seem bulletproof at first glance, there were times when things didn't look so good for the guitar-driven sound.

Ultimate Guitar

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.

Early Days

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.

Threat: Pop

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.

Threat: Disco

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.

Savior: Punk

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.

Threat: Glam

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.

Savior: Thrash

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.

Threat: PMRC

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.

Threat: Rap

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.

Savior: Grunge

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.

Threat: Electronica

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.

Modern times

Threat: Mediocrity

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.

91 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Chris Cornell stated that the grunge movement was a reply to the cheap glam metal bands...
    Started out okay then sort of petered out from there. Rock could have died from Mustaine leaving Metallica? Nu Metal saving rock from electronic music?
    Nu Metal made the rap/electro-enjoying youngsters listen to the bands like Metallica, Mudwayne, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Black Sabbath etc. I personnaly know a bunch of those people.
    Mudvayne is Nu Metal. But Mudwayne, I like that dude.
    And yeah, I know Mudvayne are nu metal, but they have no rap influence.
    It was just a lame joke playing on the name Wayne, and the people agree by vote lol. I'm assuming you're from Germany or a relative area? Trying to understand the "w" and "v" confusion and I figured with Hefeweizen that would make sense with my non-european thought process. Anywho yeah, lame joke! By me that is.
    Not gonna lie man, stuff like SOAD and Slipknot led me to the good stuff.
    I consider Dee Snider the person who saved rock from PMRC Check these vids out:
    I was so proud of Dee that day. I followed this story closely back then and Dee was a brave guy for facing up to those clowns on capitol hill.
    I love that he did that, but the fact that he keeps mentioning that testimony and how much ass he kicked back there kinda makes me go "whoa, slow down lady, you weren't the only one at those hearings" Perhaps it says something about his career: ever since the 80's ended he's released like 1 album. The rest of his time seems to be spent topping UG polls and voicing opinions on some of those crappy VH1 shows
    Uhm, judging him based on how much records he releases? He has been involved in other cool stuff since then.
    In my opinion, the biggest threat now is mediocrity, like the writer of the article said. For that matter, even genre confusion. My girlfriend says "Oh, I have a new rock song on my ipod. Want to hear it?" and it's more or less cheap pop. Mediocrity and laziness will continue to stagger rock until people appreciate more complicated music like symphonic metal or prog metal, or even older metal/rock bands. Also, I think the writer means glam threatened to kill rock as in the music of it. Bear with me here, but glam was more about image, not the music. We do have some great and complex songs from the glam era, but some of it was lazy and the bands focused more on image.
    The music industry needs so called "mediocre" music to keep the industry afloat. Challenging/progressive music doesn't sell, unfortunately.
    "The industry", as you put it, is slowly fading. As bands realize that they can do more than ever before on their own, the big record companies are floundering. I personally see this as a good thing.
    simple doesnt mean its bad & complicated doesnt mean good. this wont do down well here but for me simple is 99% better
    I think the ever increasing popularity of the originally European exported dance music under the "EDM" moniker would be the biggest 'threat' to rock in recent years. Where rock used to be for the rebellious youth, most of the youths these days simply aren't feeling very rebellious (let's be frank, we've had it better than most previous generations) and as such they're going for the happy happy electronic music. The increase in popularity of EDM in the last few years has been amazing and it's pulling a lot of young'uns in. The extent of youthful rebellion these days is people saying how they all want to go to clubs and get pissed paralytic, which is exactly the message being sent out by a lot of pop music.
    Cool article I like how it shows how silly human culture is, with all those ridiculous clothes people used to wear. BTW the nu metal thing has a point, I got to metal\rock though that genre, because it was the only heavy thing on MTV ten years ago, it definitely helped kids discover heavy metal etc.
    Aryan Death Man
    glam threatened to kill rock music? :s and here i am,thinking glam was part of a rock n' roll movement silly me.
    Glam is a threat, but nu-metal is a savior. How the hell does that work?
    Probably because most people into thrash at the time saw glam as nothing more than overglorified pop-rock, and, despite how much I dislike it, Nu-metal actually started to get people into rock/metal that wouldn't have found it otherwise. Personal opinions aside, it makes sense.
    okay who wrote this? don't get me wrong, i love rock music, but rock was never threatened by other genres of music. i don't believe i'm the only one here that doesn't enjoy rap, jazz or electronic music (i can see rock elitists just waiting to pick me off). to be fair, the rock genre has changed and evolved so much in the past 60 years, what was "rock" in the 50's is totally different to "rock" now. rock music is always evolving, and along with these so called "threats", these are also evolving. some of these savior's are combining the threat and rock together, such as nu metal (rap and metal). rock music will never die, and neither will these other "threats" of rock. so don't go on about how rock might have died or is dying, because you're no worse than people that always say "the old days were the better days".
    I haven't caught neither your post's message nor what's wrong in the article either. Those 'so called' threats really existed and threatened the rock music in whole. More than that, they helped rock to evolve, because there's no evolution without rivalry.
    I don't understand why jackson4321 got down-voted, he made perfectly valid points. Plus, for some reason I can't put my finger on, every post TryTheKetchup makes irritates me immensely.
    I find this article both pointless and shallow. Music should be treated as a singular entity; all of the genres go hand-in-hand with each other at the end of the day. Music has, and always will, have an ebbing and flowing of different trends. Viewing certain genres of music as "threats" to others is petty.
    Alright, where is "Indie" rock, here? I think that the mainstream went nuts over guitar bands like Silversun Pickups, Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse, MGMT, and, recently, bands like Tame Impala, after nu-metal, and early 00's "emo", and alt-rock died down. I'm not even going to get into the more underground bands, which have seriously taken off with the rise of the internet. On top of all of that grunge stuff, there was an explosion of new sounding rock music in the 90s, from My Bloody Valentine, Disco Inferno, Slowdive, Bark Psychosis, Neutral Milk Hotel, or the more emotional punk from American Football, Cap'n Jazz, or Sunny Day Real Estate. This is just to name a few. They may not be Metallica level, but they were MTV music video, influence multiple generations level. This article points out that rock started out as a small, rebellious genre, but cites the decrease in mainstream popularity as evidence of it's (possible) demise. I think that rock 'n roll is a spirit, and that spirit wont necessarily be found in super mainstream bands, and just as the genre started, it will always be a quiet, but ferocious beast, herded by a small group of individuals. Rock wont evuh die, dawg. \m/ \m/
    This is the answer I was waiting for. I think the saviour of modern music is in the hands neo-psych bands like Tame Impala, MGMT and the newer Arctic Monkeys stuff
    I don't know why you got thumbed down. I haven't ever seen somebody rock as hard as MGMT does live. Of Moons, Birds Monsters, and 4th Dimensional Transition are insane live! Tame Impala's new album Lonerism sounds so fresh, and the manipulation done to the songs actually sounds good, and not like some weird avant garde band. The problem is, though, is that that style has sort of tapered off, recently.
    Rock was saved in the 60s by "garage rock"? If rock was "saved" in the 60s it was saved by the Beatles. I've never heard the Beatles described as garage rock. If garage rock ever had a rock-saving-day it would be more recently. the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Black Keys etc Also you say rap and rock "fused" in the later part of the 90s? How about the Beastie Boys from the late 80s? or Aerosmith and RunDMC with Walk this Way also in the late 80s, Anthrax and Public Enemy collaborated in a re release of Bring the Noise in 91, and of course NO ONE fused rap and rock to with more stunning results than Rage Against the Machine in the early 90s. This article seems to give more insight into the author's personal musical tastes than the history of rock music.
    i really hope i can bring back grunge. i might not be able to, but i hate this modern stuff, it drives me nuts (no offense to those who enjoy pop)
    Rock is in a bad place now because the only new rock bands are indie and many of those bands just aren't good. I give them credit for trying to create new sounds but in some cases it goes too far.
    I'd suggest that the new post-hardcore (for lack of a better term) has probably been the one rock movement since nu-metal to really emerge. Although its not really a defined movement but bands like QOTSA, Biffy Clyro, Muse, Twin Atlantic which are party heavy, part melodic and usually feature unconventional arrangements and timings. That alongside indie/garage rock of the past 10 years have kept kids buying bits of wood with strings on them rather than turntables/flutes/keyboards etc.
    I don't think any of those bands are Post-Hardcore...
    you need to think about something besides what genre to label a band as. Can you imagine playing with this guy? I'd imagine it'd be something like... "that riff was a little too 90's metal, gimme something more like a post-hardcore with a sort of 80's punk twist. But make sure sure it's in a progressive rock timing, without the..." that's as far as he'd get before someone would kick him in the balls
    I think the savior is still ''preparing for battle.'' The last few years the smaller, local rockbands keep becoming better and better, releasing very professional stuff and growing more popular at high speed. That's what I noticed at least. I don't think the savior will be a metalgenre, i think it'll be some kind of rockgenre that for example The Deaf and Kensington belong to.
    I think it will be Folkish Rock like Deer Tick and 90's influenced stuff like Cage the Elephant and Blood Red Shoes.
    I am so very proud to be fortunate enough to live in the Seattle-area. Every day, I stop and think about how I am so close to where some of the greatest bands of all time forged their sounds, and live in one of the greatest communities on Earth.
    Wow I didn't even know there were so many threats. I'm gonna get paranoid now.
    I'll buy the early arguments since rock was in its infancy, but after the 60s, I doubt its really been threatened that much. The 70s saw the rise of arena rock and guys like Frampton shattered album sales records. Sure the 80s had glam, but you still had rock, metal, etc bands selling well (look at Ozzy's solo records, U2's Joshua Tree, in England bands like the Stone Roses began to take off). Even rock records in the late 90s were able to sell (OK Computer, Californication). I wouldn't call any of these threats, just mostly fads that came and went. I think history has shown us that there are always going to be guitar-driven bands, and there will always be an audience for that type of music. Rock music survived this long, and I think genres like Dubstep will be looked at in 20 years how we view something like Disco now.
    So, if we follow what's at least SEMI-popular in mainstream pop music right now, there's going to be some sort of dubstep revival about 30-40 years from now?
    I don't agree with everything said here but interesting article nonetheless. It obviously took some effort to write so props to the writer. It's sad though, looking back at the 2000's there really weren't any interesting rock movements going on and the 2010's haven't been any different thus far. I think rock music had hit a plateau in the creativity pool during the mid 1990's. That said, there will always be a niche for rock music and I doubt it'l ever fade away.
    There may not have been a good big movement where lots of bands entered the mainstream through one particular style but there have been loads of great individual bands in that time, so i think it's wrong to say creativity peaked and plateaued in the 90s.
    @Metalisnotmusic: Wow, you sure are a nice fellow. Just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean you can be a jackass about it, man...
    I think the saviour to Mediocrity will be Prog-Metal. so many great prog-metal bands like Animals as Leaders, Dream Theater, Periphery, The Safety Fire who all make amazing stuff.
    I honestly doubt that prog metal will ever get into mainstream.
    I doubt that as well. Most people listen to simple songs that easily grow in mind and progressive music is far more complicated.
    Prog metal isn't excactly new... Rush is by many considered the first prog metal act, and they started in 1968... I'd rather say that it's metalcore. Sure it's not very brutal, nor do I say it's very good (although there are incredibly good metalcore bands), but it's guitardriven music that's grown really popular.
    Um...what exactly about Rush could EVER be called "Metal"? Rush was Prog Rock, as were all the other '70s Prog bands. As for "Metalcore", I think you need to listen to bands like Zao, Converge, Botch, Deadguy, Rorschach, Shai Hulud, early Cave In, etc. You know, bands that actually have hardcore influence and therefore deserve the "-core" tag.
    why does this guy feel the need post his definitions of genres every chance he gets? the best stuff will never fit into only one category. and if it does, who gives a ****. Please stop, sam.
    Second Rate
    Rush's first album most definitely bears some sonic similarities to other metal bands of the day. A lot of that sound remained with the band when they started incorporating elements from prog rock. I would say that definitely qualifies Rush as a prog metal band. Not only that, music is not static, is it? Later purveyors of a particular genre rarely sound exactly the same as their forebears. When was the last time you heard a speed metal band that sounded like Judas Priest or Raven? I'm gonna guess not recently.
    Ugh this is a stupid article. In the 60's rock and pop were basically considered the same thing. And since when has glam even been considered not a part of rock music?
    ... Savior: DJENT. But to abstain from predictable hate I'll say Progressive Metal is saving the rock/metal scene. The talent pool and the range of creativity brought in by new bands make for incredible and, even to some extent, accessible music.
    Why doesn't anyone mention Ozzy's solo career. That's ****ed up, he is still popular up to this day. besides he is still putting on concerts. also He and Black Sabbath created heavy metal.
    Hmm, a few of the genres I'm not so sure of. Pop music for examples was always fused with rock. The Beatles in the early years were basically a pop-rock band, as there were many more experimental things happening underneath. For pretty much the whole history of recorded music (which isn't long) there has been a mainstream sphere and an underground sphere, and the in between of course. Rap and electronic I don't know if they really threatened rock. In some ways they did push its popularity down for bringing something new to music, but the clash didn't last very long as the different genres began to exist side by side, even merging at time (RatM, Radiohead releasing Kid A, melody combined with beats in hip-hop in the late 90s, etc.) I wouldn't say that rock was invulnerable but more that it could evolve, like a reptile shedding its skin. It picked up new influences and dropped old ones. Genres that didn't died out pretty quickly. That's my wall of text for this article.
    The reason there have been no new rock movements is because Nu-Metal was the response to electronic music. The issue is that most of popular music is still electronic. Personally I think that whoever could get dubstep kids interested in rock (muse tried to do this) would be a genius.
    Id throw in the more elaborate Indie acts as possible saviours. Not talking about The Hives here, more like baroque and experimental stuff.
    No offence to the indie rock lovers, but honestly it doesn't have much of a rebellious sound to it.
    Personally I think the new rock genre that will only grow in the coming years is stoner, desert, or fuzz rock. This underrated genre is all what rock is about: relying on solely the sound of band and hardly any on the look of the band. Besides, the genre is still considered somewhat underground and not as mainstream and though I risk sounding like a hipster...isn't that what early rock was all about??
    no distinct current rock movements? what about the whole indie thing? or djent? pop punk? even emo? There are so many. Also, mediocrity's been around forever. Its just harder to remember from years past because nobody remembers the mediocre guys.
    This here is my opinion, and a very biased one at that...Maybe heavy symphonic or epic sounding music will make a rise. I notice that the sound is starting to make a rise in underground and semi-mainstream hip hop and we all know that hip hop and rock are two sides of the same coin.
    So basically it's always been Rock "saving" itself... Nowadays, I'm thinking that Garage and Indie Rock are very close to strike a huge movement in pop culture, it's not unusual to look at a chart and see that a quarter of it (at the very least) is composed from bands that are associated with these genres. Day by day I can relate more and more to what most of my friends that mostly listen to mainstream music are hearing, instead of just bashing it.
    i could save Rock and Roll now if people gave me a chance, I'll save Rock and Roll just like the Ramones did. But a little deeper. It's pretty simple but requires experience.