Jason brought up a great topic yesterday: the appeal of classic rock to younger generations. Though acts like U2 and R.E.M. are now considered classic rock, I'm talking the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Cream. Regardless of which generation it is, acts like these get people excited. I wonder though: why are these bands still revered even though there have been so many other bands after them?
I remember when I got into classic rock: I was in 8th grade and Led Zeppelin was the band for me. The year before, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Metallica showed me that rock music could be a little tougher and harder than bands like Poison, Whitesnake and Europe. With some exposure of classic rock radio along with various sources, Led Zeppelin came into my life. Physical Graffiti was my first record of their's and I would get their whole catalog over the next two years. Over the years, I have added a few Who records (Tommy, Live At Leeds, Who's Next, Sell Out, a couple of collections), Pink Floyd records (Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Echoes) and Stones records (Aftermath, Let It Bleed, Exile on Main Street, Hot Rocks), but I don't own any Sabbath, Deep Purple, Cream or Hendrix records. I've always meant to get these records (especially Hendrix's three proper albums), but I always get distracted. Plus, with these acts still staples of classic rock radio, I still hear their songs.
Though I've listened to indie rock, punk rock and hardcore (and its various spawn) for most of the last ten years, a number of classic rock bands have still stuck with me. Sometimes I'll dig out a Led Zeppelin record and be amazed at how great this music still is (especially Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III and Houses of the Holy). So, what's so great about this stuff? Plenty.
In the late-'70s, bands like Journey and Styx offered a more pop-friendly version of rock while a band like KISS put the emphasis on the spectacle while also becoming more and more pop-friendly. Then there were bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Kansas and Yes who let their chops be at the forefront. Becoming a large pimple rather than a welcome juggernaut, punk rock was a sense of relief for a lot of people. Instead of trying to out-solo each other, punk was about the pure simplicity of rock music heard in the '50s and '60s.
The '80s saw all kinds of metal with bands like Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Slayer, Scorpions and Iron Maiden, along with a gravy train of pop-friendly hair metal bands. Then you have bands like Pantera, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam in the '90s, who were more influenced by bands of the '70s classic rock than '80s cheese rock. However, with the cheeseball faux rock of Creed and Nickelback along with nu-metal of Limp Bizkit and Korn, this stuff only really lasted for a while in the mainstream. With emo and screamo looking like they're not going to last in the mainstream, I'm better understanding classic rock's appeal.
With classic rock, there is vast appeal without a severe factioning off. Bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin still rock harder and have a wide appeal. Back when they were starting, there was no such thing as corporate rock. These bands were themselves with melodic tunes with muscle. This formula has tried to be modernized over the years, but you just can't beat the original, real thing.