The Diversity of Classic Rock: An Introduction

Aaaahhh classic rock… It’s not something that people think is very diverse. Look at any “classic rock” station in America – there are few female DJs, if any. Most of the DJs are white and male. As a 20-year-old mixed race woman, I’m from quite a different walk of life than most classic rock DJs. Classic rock is not a white man’s game! It’s music. It’s for all to enjoy. Anyways, the roots of rock and roll were invented by Black Americans – coming from blues and jazz, developing into R&B. This music travelled all over the world, naturally. People wanted to share it because that’s what you do when you like something and you want other people to be aware of it. Culture spreads that way. British Invasion music had a lot of American influences. Rock music from the 60s had lots of influences from around the world as well, and you’ll see what I’m talking about in the later blog posts. American and British rock music made its way all over the world – to Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. My mum, who was my age in 1979 and lived in Caracas at the time said that she liked listening to music like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There were even classic rock musicians from Africa and Asia. I’ve met people from all over the world on Tumblr who love classic rock. No matter what part of the world you’re from, Classic Rock is a “Universal Love” (MFSB reference).

Take a look at this neat little chart from School of Rock: You’ll see what I’m talking about

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These genres fuse together at times. What we know as classic rock has influences from country, jazz, disco, hip hop, funk, Latin, Reggae/Ska, Raga, folk, and various traditional music from different countries.

Classic rock musicians are diverse in many ways from what walks of life they come from to their musical influences. Men and women alike love playing this music! Some are from wealthy and well off backgrounds, while others were from working class backgrounds. In height, they range from 5′ Suzi Quatro to 6’6″ Joey Ramone. In one band alone, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks is 5’1″ and Mick Fleetwood is 6’5″. They’re diverse in religious beliefs – George Harrison was Hindu, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) is Muslim, Roger Waters is an Atheist, Freddie Mercury was Zoroastrian, Jim Morrison was spiritual, Simon and Garfunkel are Jewish. There are classic rock stars from many different ethnic backgrounds. There are classic rock stars born and raised on every continent (except for Antarctica, haven’t heard of any penguins making rock music). We’ll go into the specifics of the diversity of classic rock in the coming blog posts – complete with links to YouTube videos with music because that’s what this blog is about! Can’t have a music blog without some music!

What is Classic Rock exactly? When did it all start? They couldn’t have possibly have called it “Classic Rock” in the 60s because that music was new and there was no way of knowing at the time if it would be remembered in the decades to come or if the music would have an expiry date. According to Jon Pareles in an article he wrote in the New York Times in 1986 it spun off from a music format called AOR – Album Oriented Rock, and it was all about the essential hits from the 60s and 70s. What was in the top 40 at that time.

Beyond a radio format, classic rock includes subgenres like British Invasion (Beatles, Stones, Who), Psychedelic (Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane), Blues Rock (Yardbirds, early Fleetwood Mac) Prog Rock (Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer), Glam Rock (David Bowie, T Rex), Surf Rock (Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, Link Wray), Hard Rock (AC/DC, Aerosmith), Garage Rock (Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Standells), Punk Rock (Ramones, Clash), Instrumental (The Shadows, The Ventures), Art Rock (10cc, ELO).

Since then, the 60s and 70s music is being phased out on classic rock stations and is being replaced by 80s and even 90s music (what even? I thought the 90s was 10 years ago). Sometimes you’re hearing Nirvana or Pearl Jam on the same station you would hear Queen and The Rolling Stones on. I do like some 90s music however (I love Oasis).

Now for a little bit about me:

How did I fall in love with classic rock? Why do I want to be a classic rock DJ? What were my influences?

Let’s go through the questions one by one:

How did I fall in love with classic rock?

I fell in love with classic rock through my love of the 60s. Which all started when I was 14 and bored one day from coming back from secondary school. I decided to watch Austin Powers. Instantly I fell in love with the 60s aesthetic. I started reading all about the 60s and fell in love with the clothes, the youth subcultures and activist movements. When I was 15 I fell in love even more with The Beatles and I got a haircut that was Beatle like that I still have today – same fringe, just longer hair. Before that I had hair kind of like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The Beatles are one of those bands that are the gateway to loving classic rock. I branched out from there and fell in love with many other bands. That same year The Boat That Rocked came out. Later on I would rewatch School Of Rock which I absolutely adored when it came out and now I have a better understanding and appreciation of classic rock bands.

When I was 17 I started getting into buying vintage clothing and when I was 18 I started buying lots of records. I wanted a record collection of my own, like my dad has. My dad has a few hundred records, and I have maybe 60 something records. No idea because I move around all the time and my parents have most of my record collection. I went to my first classic rock concert when I saw Roger Daltrey do Tommy in 2011. Since then I’ve seen Roger Waters, The Who, Yes, Paul McCartney, Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Heart, The Lambrettas, and Secret Affair in concert. I’ve even gone to a Pete Townshend book signing.

Why do I want to be a classic rock DJ?

I just really like music and it has gotten me through difficult times. I really love classic rock and many of these bands have great messages in their music. I love what rock and roll stands for. It’s about going against the grain, rebellion, revolution, standing up for what is right, social change and progress. I may not be able to get in a time machine and travel back to the 60s and go to festivals like Monterey, Woodstock, and Isle of Wight. I’d love to go shopping in Swinging London – go to shops like Biba and Granny Takes a Trip. I’d love to go to the 70s and go to Wigan, The Twisted Wheel, and The Golden Torch. I’d love to buy lots of records for a lot cheaper than I would get them today. I may not be able to do that but I want to have a show, a platform where I can bring back all the good memories of the 60s and 70s and keep the “Love Alive” (get it? It’s a Heart reference) for the decades and the music.

What were my influences?

Definitely listening to podcasts as a teenager. I thought being a DJ would be awesome! Definitely The Boat That Rocked was a big influence in my desire to work towards my goal. The School Of Rock was an influence for me as well. My dad was a DJ in the 70s in California and he was a huge inspiration for me and he encouraged me to go for a Communications degree.

I’m going to leave you with one last thing, a little (fun) homework:

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See you next time!

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