Genre rivalries, there are a lot of them. They can be between different subgenres of rock or between different genres. You’re told to pick one side or the other, you can’t like both. Or can you? A silly question, of course you can like more than one thing. Don’t let the elitist fans tell you what you can and cannot like. I can rant all day about elitist fans, but I’ll leave that for another time. In this post we’ll be covering the crossovers between disco and rock with an emphasis on rock musicians trying their hands at disco. Disco played an important role in popular music and inspired the dance genres of the 80s and beyond.
In the past Diversity of Classic Rock posts, we were talking about different walks of life of various musicians. Now, we’re going to focus on Classic Rock in Europe. Continental Europe that is! Music from Continental Europe doesn’t get nearly the visibility that music from the UK gets. In some cases there is xenophobia, such as critics associating Kraftwerk with Nazi Germany. The sad part is many musicians are forced to play music in English in order to get to an international audience, and to get success in America. And many of these musicians if they get famous are just known as one hit wonders. Few foreign language songs make it into the top 40. The US is a big country and musicians therefore consider it an achievement for their music to chart in America and to tour America. To reiterate from an American perspective, when you’re hearing about musicians from the other side of the Atlantic, you’re mostly hearing about British musicians. Musicians from every continent (okay, maybe not Antarctica) have contributed to rock and roll, and European musicians have made many contributions. Come and join me on the Diversity of Classic Rock European Tour where we explore classic rock bands from different European countries.
Germany has an interesting history of rock and there is a big following there of rock music, especially progressive rock, experimental music, and new wave. Rock music in Germany was a bit of a late bloomer compared to other countries in Europe because of the Nazis suppressing popular music in the 40s like jazz and swing music. However, there were many musicians from the UK and Ireland who lived in Germany and played gigs there for a time. The Beatles, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, John O’Brien-Docker, and Rory Gallagher all at one point were in Hamburg. Now why Hamburg? According to Ministry of Rock, Hamburg was the place to go because it was a port city with lots of sailors who wanted to go to clubs to hear energetic rock music. Many of these musicians came from cities and towns with a lack of a club scene, so Hamburg gave them what they wanted, an audience, a change of scenery, and a place to practise and become better performers.
Austria on the other hand did not have as much of a rock music scene, but there are a few famous musicians who are from there.
Let’s explore classic rock in Germany and Austria!
As you may already know with your friends not failing to tell you, it was “Back to the Future Day”. In the second movie, Marty McFly travels 30 years into the future to this year 2015, and not only that, but he travelled to Wednesday, 21 October 2015. I can’t believe that 1985 is 30 years ago. I’m already having a hard time believing I’m in my 20s. I always think of the 90s as the last decade, but early 2000s movies that I remember watching as a kid are now celebrating their 10th anniversaries. I was thinking about this all day… Even though my blog posts don’t focus on the 80s, inevitably the decade has made its way into classic rock stations. Heck, even 90s music plays on classic rock stations. As much as I take the piss out of the 80s because of the (mostly) ridiculous fashion choices, it was a pretty neat decade with great movies and MTV actually played music. The music was pretty good too. In honour of 1985 being 30 years ago, let me share with you my 30 favourite songs from 1985, in no particular order. Anyways, hope everyone had a happy Back to the Future Day and hopefully I’ll get some self lacing Nikes and a hoverboard.
Classic rock took influences from everywhere. Hip hop/rap started in the late 70s, but it influenced classic rock musicians in the 80s and later. Let’s see how classic rock influenced hip hop and how it incorporated hip hop. So what were hip hop’s influences? Looking at the chart from School of Rock, it seems like it came from disco and funk, which took influences from R&B and doo-wop, and from there the blues. We can see that this is true because many rappers have sampled soul, funk, and r&b songs like Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft”, Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm” (this song reminds me a lot of early hip hop and I can see how it is influential), James Brown’s “The Payback”, “Between The Sheets” by The Isley Brothers, “Amen Brother” by The Winstons, and “The Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl. Many more have been sampled and we can go on and on. A good resource if you want to check and see what has been sampled or what used samples is http://www.whosampled.com/. Turns out that in a way School of Rock was right!
Even before funk, disco, R&B, and soul music, there was talking blues. One of the earliest examples of talking blues is from the 20s. This was a time before the LP record, a time before television. Mind you, the sound quality isn’t great because they didn’t have the best recording technology at the time. Chris Bouchillon is “The Original Talking Blues Man”. His father was a banjo player. His first talking blues song was recorded in 1926 and released in 1927. The idea of him talking instead of singing was born from the recording director telling him to talk instead of sing. He made a sequel to the song in 1928. This sub-genre of blues inspired musicians like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. From the blues came genres like soul and R&B, so talking blues is an ancestor of rap, when you think about it. So is rap really almost 90 years old? Or is it even older than that?
Actually, according to some sources, there were roots of rap before talking blues. In West Africa stories were told rhythmically and blues music came from work songs and African-American spirituals. By the 20s during the Harlem Renaissance there was jazz poetry, and in the 50s and 60s, beat poetry. According to Elijah Wald, hip hop is “the living blues”. The Last Poets, poets and musicians who came out of the black nationalist movement in the 60s and 70s were influential to many hip hop musicians. Their music was political, and their rhythms were tight. I like the drums in “When The Revolution Comes”, from 1970. The Last Poets formed in 1968 in Harlem and were influential to Gil Scott-Heron and later on hip-hop musicians.
An important part of ska music was “toasting” which is making sounds, repeating words, rhyming, and talking over the beat of the music. Ska music started in the 60s in Jamaica and has spread all over the world and is an important part of the skinhead subculture in Britain. Toasting is a precursor to rap.
Here’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, by Bob Dylan from 1965. This is one example of talking blues that’s a bit more contemporary.
A lot of people pit different genres against each other. Many musicians from all different genres have a lot of respect for each other. So these supposed rivalries are a bit fabricated. You also can like more than one genre. There’s a lot of stereotypes about rap, such as “Rap has no meaning.”, when really, a lot of early rap had a meaning and was very political and very intelligently and poetically written. This stereotype is not true at all. Let’s find out what classic rock and oldies musicians have been influenced by the genre or influenced the genre.