HARD ROCK is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in
the mid-1960s, with the garage , psychedelic and blues rock movements.
It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric
guitars , bass guitar , drums , and often accompanied with keyboards .
Hard rock developed into a major form of popular music in the 1970s,
with notable bands such as
AC/DC , the Who ,
Led Zeppelin , Queen ,
Black Sabbath ,
Deep Purple ,
Aerosmith , KISS and
Van Halen . During
the 1980s, some hard rock bands moved away from their hard rock roots
and more towards pop rock , while others began to return to a hard
rock sound. Established bands made a comeback in the mid-1980s and it
reached a commercial peak in the 1980s, with glam metal bands like Bon
Def Leppard and the rawer sounds of Guns N\' Roses , which
followed up with great success in the later part of that decade. Hard
rock began losing popularity with the commercial success of R">
Drum notation for a back beat .
Hard rock is a form of loud, aggressive rock music. The electric
guitar is often emphasised, used with distortion and other effects,
both as a rhythm instrument using repetitive riffs with a varying
degree of complexity, and as a solo lead instrument. Drumming
characteristically focuses on driving rhythms, strong bass drum and a
backbeat on snare, sometimes using cymbals for emphasis. The bass
guitar works in conjunction with the drums, occasionally playing
riffs, but usually providing a backing for the rhythm and lead
Vocals are often growling, raspy, or involve screaming or
wailing, sometimes in a high range, or even falsetto voice.
Hard rock has sometimes been labelled cock rock for its emphasis on
overt masculinity and sexuality and because it has historically been
predominantly performed and consumed by men: in the case of its
audience, particularly white, working-class adolescents.
In the late 1960s, the term heavy metal was used interchangeably with
hard rock, but gradually began to be used to describe music played
with even more volume and intensity. While hard rock maintained a
bluesy rock and roll identity, including some swing in the back beat
and riffs that tended to outline chord progressions in their hooks,
heavy metal's riffs often functioned as stand-alone melodies and had
no swing in them. Heavy metal took on "darker" characteristics after
Black Sabbath 's breakthrough at the beginning of the 1970s. In the
1980s it developed a number of subgenres, often termed extreme metal ,
some of which were influenced by hardcore punk , and which further
differentiated the two styles. Despite this differentiation, hard
rock and heavy metal have existed side by side, with bands frequently
standing on the boundary of, or crossing between, the genres.
The roots of hard rock can be traced back to the 1950s, particularly
electric blues , which laid the foundations for key elements such as
a rough declamatory vocal style, heavy guitar riffs , string-bending
blues-scale guitar solos , strong beat , thick riff-laden texture ,
and posturing performances.
Electric blues guitarists began
experimenting with hard rock elements such as driving rhythms,
distorted guitar solos and power chords in the 1950s, evident in the
Memphis blues guitarists such as
Joe Hill Louis , Willie
Johnson , and particularly
Pat Hare , who captured a "grittier,
nastier, more ferocious electric guitar sound" on records such as
James Cotton 's "Cotton Crop Blues " (1954). Other antecedents
Link Wray 's instrumental "Rumble " in 1958, and the surf
rock instrumentals of
Dick Dale , such as "Let\'s Go Trippin\' "
(1961) and "
Misirlou " (1962).
Cream , whose blues rock improvisation was a major factor in the
development of the genre.
In the 1960s, American and
British blues and rock bands began to
modify rock and roll by adding harder sounds, heavier guitar riffs,
bombastic drumming, and louder vocals, from electric blues . Early
forms of hard rock can be heard in the work of
Chicago blues musicians
Elmore James ,
Muddy Waters , and Howlin\' Wolf , the Kingsmen 's
version of "
Louie Louie " (1963) which made it a garage rock standard,
and the songs of rhythm and blues influenced
British Invasion acts,
Led Zeppelin live at
Chicago Stadium , January 1975.
Groups that emerged from the American psychedelic scene about the
same time included
Iron Butterfly ,
Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge
. San Francisco band
Blue Cheer released a crude and distorted cover
Eddie Cochran 's classic "
Summertime Blues ", from their 1968 debut
Vincebus Eruptum , that outlined much of the later hard rock and
heavy metal sound. The same month, Steppenwolf released its
self-titled debut album , including "
Born to Be Wild ", which
contained the first lyrical reference to heavy metal and helped
popularise the style when it was used in the film
Easy Rider (1969).
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968), with its 17-minute-long
title track , using organs and with a lengthy drum solo, also
prefigured later elements of the sound.
By the end of the decade a distinct genre of hard rock was emerging
with bands like
Led Zeppelin , who mixed the music of early rock bands
with a more hard-edged form of blues rock and acid rock on their first
Led Zeppelin (1969) and
Led Zeppelin II (1969), and Deep
Purple , who began as a progressive rock group in 1968 but achieved
their commercial breakthrough with their fourth and distinctively
heavier album, In Rock (1970). Also significant was Black Sabbath's
Paranoid (1970), which combined guitar riffs with dissonance and more
explicit references to the occult and elements of Gothic horror . All
three of these bands have been seen as pivotal in the development of
heavy metal, but where metal further accentuated the intensity of the
music, with bands like
Judas Priest following Sabbath's lead into
territory that was often "darker and more menacing", hard rock tended
to continue to remain the more exuberant, good-time music.
The Who on stage in 1975
In the early 1970s the Rolling Stones developed their hard rock sound
Exile on Main St. (1972). Initially receiving mixed reviews,
according to critic Steve Erlewine it is now "generally regarded as
the Rolling Stones' finest album". They continued to pursue the
riff-heavy sound on albums including It\'s Only Rock \'n\' Roll (1974)
Black and Blue (1976).
Led Zeppelin began to mix elements of
world and folk music into their hard rock from
Led Zeppelin III (1970)
Led Zeppelin IV (1971). The latter included the track "Stairway to
Heaven ", which would become the most played song in the history of
Deep Purple continued to define hard rock,
particularly with their album Machine Head (1972), which included the
tracks "Highway Star " and "
Smoke on the Water ". In 1975 guitarist
Ritchie Blackmore left, going on to form Rainbow and after the
break-up of the band the next year, vocalist
David Coverdale formed
Whitesnake . 1970 saw the Who release
Live at Leeds
Live at Leeds , often seen as
the archetypal hard rock live album, and the following year they
released their highly acclaimed album Who\'s Next , which mixed heavy
rock with extensive use of synthesizers. Subsequent albums, including
Quadrophenia (1973), built on this sound before Who Are You (1978),
their last album before the death of pioneering rock drummer Keith
Moon later that year.
Emerging British acts included Free , who released their signature
All Right Now " (1970), which has received extensive radio
airplay in both the UK and US. After the breakup of the band in 1973,
Paul Rodgers joined supergroup Bad Company , whose eponymous
first album (1974) was an international hit. The mixture of hard rock
and progressive rock, evident in the works of Deep Purple, was pursued
more directly by bands like Uriah Heep and Argent . Scottish band
Nazareth released their self-titled début album in 1971, producing a
blend of hard rock and pop that would culminate in their best selling,
Hair of the Dog (1975), which contained the proto-power ballad "Love
Hurts ". Having enjoyed some national success in the early 1970s,
Queen , after the release of
Sheer Heart Attack (1974) and A Night at
Opera (1975), gained international recognition with a sound that
used layered vocals and guitars and mixed hard rock with heavy metal,
progressive rock, and even opera . The latter featured the single
Bohemian Rhapsody ", which stayed at number one in the UK charts for
nine weeks. Kiss onstage in Boston in 2004
In the United States, shock-rock pioneer
Alice Cooper achieved
mainstream success with the top five album School\'s Out (1972), which
was followed by the #1 album
Billion Dollar Babies in 1973. Also in
1973, blues rockers
ZZ Top released their classic album Tres Hombres
Aerosmith produced their eponymous début , as did Southern
Lynyrd Skynyrd and proto-punk outfit
New York Dolls
New York Dolls ,
demonstrating the diverse directions being pursued in the genre.
Montrose , including the instrumental talent of
Ronnie Montrose and
Sammy Hagar and arguably the first all American hard rock
band to challenge the British dominance of the genre, released their
first album in 1973. Former bubblegum-pop family act the Osmonds
recorded two hard rock albums in 1972 and had their breakthrough in
the UK with the hard-rock hit "
Crazy Horses ." Kiss built on the
Alice Cooper and the look of the
New York Dolls
New York Dolls to
produce a unique band persona, achieving their commercial breakthrough
with the double live album Alive! in 1975 and helping to take hard
rock into the stadium rock era. In the mid-1970s
their commercial and artistic breakthrough with Toys in the Attic
(1975), which reached number 11 in the American album chart, and Rocks
(1976), which peaked at number three.
Blue Öyster Cult , formed in
the late 60s, picked up on some of the elements introduced by Black
Sabbath with their breakthrough live gold album On Your Feet or on
Your Knees (1975), followed by their first platinum album, Agents of
Fortune (1976), containing the hit single "(Don\'t Fear) The Reaper ",
which reached number 12 on the Billboard charts. Journey released
their eponymous debut in 1975 and the next year Boston released their
highly successful début album . In the same year, hard rock bands
featuring women saw commercial success as Heart released Dreamboat
Annie and the Runaways débuted with their self-titled album . While
Heart had a more folk-oriented hard rock sound, the Runaways leaned
more towards a mix of punk-influenced music and hard rock. The Amboy
Dukes , having emerged from the Detroit garage rock scene and most
famous for their Top 20 psychedelic hit "Journey to the Center of the
Mind" (1968), were dissolved by their guitarist
Ted Nugent , who
embarked on a solo career that resulted in four successive
multi-platinum albums between
Ted Nugent (1975) and his best selling
Double Live Gonzo!
Double Live Gonzo! (1978). Rush on stage in
From outside the United Kingdom and the United States, the Canadian
trio Rush released three distinctively hard rock albums in 1974–75
(Rush , Fly by Night and
Caress of Steel
Caress of Steel ) before moving toward a more
progressive sound with the 1976 album 2112 . The Irish band Thin
Lizzy , which had formed in the late 1960s, made their most
substantial commercial breakthrough in 1976 with the hard rock album
Jailbreak and their worldwide hit "
The Boys Are Back in Town ", which
reached number 8 in the UK and number 12 in the US. Their style,
consisting of two duelling guitarists often playing leads in harmony,
proved itself to be a large influence on later bands. They reached
their commercial, and arguably their artistic peak with Black Rose: A
Rock Legend (1979). The arrival of Scorpions from Germany marked the
geographical expansion of the subgenre. Australian-formed
with a stripped back, riff heavy and abrasive style that also appealed
to the punk generation, began to gain international attention from
1976, culminating in the release of their multi-platinum albums Let
There Be Rock (1977) and
Highway to Hell
Highway to Hell (1979). Also influenced by a
punk ethos were heavy metal bands like
Motörhead , while Judas Priest
abandoned the remaining elements of the blues in their music, further
differentiating the hard rock and heavy metal styles and helping to
create the new wave of British heavy metal which was pursued by bands
Iron Maiden , Saxon and Venom .
With the rise of disco in the US and punk rock in the UK, hard rock's
mainstream dominance was rivalled toward the later part of the decade.
Disco appealed to a more diverse group of people and punk seemed to
take over the rebellious role that hard rock once held. Early punk
bands like the
Ramones explicitly rebelled against the drum solos and
extended guitar solos that characterised stadium rock, with almost all
of their songs clocking in around two minutes with no guitar solos.
However, new rock acts continued to emerge and record sales remained
high into the 1980s. 1977 saw the début and rise to stardom of
Foreigner , who went on to release several platinum albums through to
the mid-1980s. Midwestern groups like Kansas ,
REO Speedwagon and
Styx helped further cement heavy rock in the Midwest as a form of
stadium rock. In 1978,
Van Halen emerged from the Los Angeles music
scene with a sound based around the skills of lead guitarist Eddie Van
Halen . He popularised a guitar-playing technique of two-handed
hammer-ons and pull-offs called tapping , showcased on the song
"Eruption " from the album
Van Halen , which was highly influential in
re-establishing hard rock as a popular genre after the punk and disco
explosion, while also redefining and elevating the role of electric
GLAM METAL ERA (1980S)
The opening years of the 1980s saw a number of changes in personnel
and direction of established hard rock acts, including the deaths of
Bon Scott , the lead singer of AC/DC, and
John Bonham , drummer with
Led Zeppelin. Whereas Zeppelin broke up almost immediately
AC/DC pressed on, recording the album
Back in Black (1980)
with their new lead singer,
Brian Johnson . It became the
fifth-highest-selling album of all time in the US and the
second-highest-selling album in the world.
Black Sabbath had split
with original singer
Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 and replaced him with
Ronnie James Dio , formerly of Rainbow, giving the band a new sound
and a period of creativity and popularity beginning with Heaven and
Hell (1980). Osbourne embarked on a solo career with Blizzard of Ozz
(1980), featuring American guitarist
Randy Rhoads . Some bands, such
as Queen , moved away from their hard rock roots and more towards pop
rock , while others, including Rush with Moving Pictures (1981),
began to return to a hard rock sound. The creation of thrash metal ,
which mixed heavy metal with elements of hardcore punk from about
1982, particularly by
Metallica , Anthrax ,
helped to create extreme metal and further remove the style from hard
rock, although a number of these bands or their members would continue
to record some songs closer to a hard rock sound. Kiss moved away
from their hard rock roots toward pop metal: firstly removing their
makeup in 1983 for their
Lick It Up album, and then adopting the
visual and sound of glam metal for their 1984 release,
both of which marked a return to commercial success.
Pat Benatar was
one of the first women to achieve commercial success in hard rock,
with three successive Top 5 albums between 1980 and 1982.
Often categorised with the new wave of British heavy metal, in 1981
Def Leppard released their second album High \'n\' Dry , mixing
glam-rock with heavy metal, and helping to define the sound of hard
rock for the decade. The follow-up Pyromania (1983), reached number
two on the American charts and the singles "Photograph ", "Rock of
Ages " and "Foolin\' ", helped by the emergence of
MTV , all reached
Top 40 . It was widely emulated, particularly by the emerging
Californian glam metal scene. This was followed by US acts like
Mötley Crüe , with their albums
Too Fast for Love (1981) and Shout
at the Devil (1983) and, as the style grew, the arrival of bands such
White Lion ,
Twisted Sister and
Quiet Riot . Quiet Riot's
Metal Health (1983) was the first glam metal album, and arguably
the first heavy metal album of any kind, to reach number one in the
Billboard music charts and helped open the doors for mainstream
success by subsequent bands. Poison seen here in 2008, were
among the most successful acts of the 1980s glam metal era.
Established bands made something of a comeback in the mid-1980s.
After an 8-year separation,
Deep Purple returned with the classic
Machine Head line-up to produce Perfect Strangers (1984), which
reached number five in the UK, hit the top five in five other
countries, and was a platinum-seller in the US. After somewhat slower
sales of its fourth album, Fair Warning ,
Van Halen rebounded with the
Top 3 album
Diver Down in 1982, then reached their commercial pinnacle
with 1984 . It reached number two on the Billboard album chart and
provided the track "Jump ", which reached number one on the singles
chart and remained there for several weeks. Heart , after floundering
during the first half of the decade, made a comeback with their
eponymous ninth studio album which hit number one and contained four
Top 10 singles including their first number one hit. The new medium
of video channels was used with considerable success by bands formed
in previous decades. Among the first were ZZ Top, who mixed hard blues
rock with new wave music to produce a series of highly successful
singles, beginning with "Gimme All Your Lovin\' " (1983), which helped
their albums Eliminator (1983) and Afterburner (1985) achieve diamond
and multi-platinum status respectively. Others found renewed success
in the singles charts with power ballads, including REO Speedwagon
with "Keep on Loving You " (1980) and "Can\'t Fight This Feeling "
(1984), Journey with "Don\'t Stop Believin\' " (1981) and "Open Arms "
(1982), Foreigner 's "
I Want to Know What Love Is ", Scorpions '
Still Loving You " (both from 1984), Heart’s "
What About Love
What About Love "
(1985) and "
These Dreams " (1986), and Boston 's "Amanda " (1986).
Bon Jovi 's third album,
Slippery When Wet (1986), mixed hard rock
with a pop sensitivity and spent a total of 8 weeks at the top of the
Billboard 200 album chart, selling 12 million copies in the US while
becoming the first hard rock album to spawn three top 10 singles —
two of which reached number one. The album has been credited with
widening the audiences for the genre, particularly by appealing to
women as well as the traditional male dominated audience, and opening
the door to
MTV and commercial success for other bands at the end of
the decade. The anthemic The Final Countdown (1986) by Swedish group
Europe was an international hit, reaching number eight on the US
charts while hitting the top 10 in nine other countries. This era
also saw more glam-infused American hard rock bands come to the
forefront, with both Poison and Cinderella releasing their
multi-platinum début albums in 1986.
Van Halen released 5150
(1986), their first album with
Sammy Hagar on lead vocals, which was
number one in the US for three weeks and sold over 6 million copies.
By the second half of the decade, hard rock had become the most
reliable form of commercial popular music in the United States.
Original member Izzy Stradlin' on stage with Guns N\' Roses in 2006.
Established acts benefited from the new commercial climate, with
Whitesnake 's self-titled album (1987) selling over 17 million copies,
outperforming anything in Coverdale's or Deep Purple's catalogue
before or since. It featured the rock anthem "
Here I Go Again '87" as
one of 4 UK top 20 singles. The follow-up
Slip of the Tongue (1989)
went platinum, but according to critics Steve Erlwine and Greg Prato,
"it was a considerable disappointment after the across-the-board
success of Whitesnake". Aerosmith's comeback album Permanent Vacation
(1987) would begin a decade long revival of their popularity. Crazy
Nights (1987) by Kiss was the band's highest charting release in the
US since 1979 and the highest of their career in the UK. Mötley
Crüe with Girls, Girls, Girls (1987) continued their commercial
Def Leppard with Hysteria (1987) hit their commercial
peak, the latter producing seven hit singles (a record for a hard rock
act). Guns N\' Roses released the best-selling début of all time,
Appetite for Destruction (1987). With a "grittier" and "rawer" sound
than most glam metal, it produced three top 10 hits, including the
number one "Sweet Child O\' Mine ".