UK

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ROCK MUSIC JOURNEY THROUGH 700 SONGS

HISTORY OF ROCK  ∙  USA & CANADA  ∙  UK  ∙

Early UK rock

UK ROCK IN THE 50s

The advent of rockabilly in America spawned the launch of rock'n'roll in England. The first famous British rockers were Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard in 1956-58, soon joined in the Charts from 1959 by Billy Fury, Adam Faith and West Indies born singer Emile Ford. As for the impact of this first wave of British rock, the song 'Move it' (1958) is reputed to have been the first non-American rock hit, Billy Fury's cover of  'Wondrous place' (1960, orig. Jimmy Jones, USA) is still among the rock classics today and John Lennon (1940-1980) is remembered for stating in later interviews: "Before Elvis, there was nothing" and "Before Cliff and the Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music".

BRITISH ROCK IN THE 60s

While the reverb guitar sound of the Shadows (Cliff Richard’s backing group) became a landmark of British rock’n’roll in the early 1960s, the inclusion of rock rythms into traditional English pop & folk shaped what became known as British beat music. The Beatles were part of this wave and achieved mass-popularity in the USA in late 1963, triggering a so-called British invasion of the American Charts. Successful releases by the Animals, the Rolling Stones and the Who in 1964-65 sparked a full-fledged British rock scene which itself spawned the British RnB rock, hard rock and progressive rock genres.

BRITISH ROCK IN THE 1970s

Hard rock and progressive rock had their heyday in the early 1970s under the leadership of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and the Who for hard-rock and David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Genesis for progressive rock, a genre which subsequently saw the emergence of major groups like Queen, Supertramp, Dire Straits or the Police. British punk rock emerged in 1975 driven by now legendary names such as the Sex Pistols, the Damned, the Clash, the Jam, the Stranglers, Generation X (ft. Billy Idol) and the Undertones (ft. Fergal Sharkey). On this backbone, new wave developed as a post-punk rock genre fueled by influence from innovative bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, Joy Division, Simple Minds, the Boomtown Rats (ft. Bob Geldof) and Fisher-Z (ft. John Watts).

BRITISH ROCK IN THE 1980s

New wave and synth-pop produced a magnificent vintage of British pop music in the 1980s. Simple Minds, U2, Eurythmics, New Order, Boy George, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, the Pet Shop Boys and Billy Idol rank among the most famous names thereof but many others like Ultravox, Talk Talk, the Fixx, the Jesus And Mary Chain, Rupert Hine, Shriekback, Lloyd Cole or Echo & the Bunnymen equally delivered exceptional music. The gothic rock scene also peaked, notably with the Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Joy Division and the Smiths becoming some of the most influential bands in the world.

BRITISH ROCK IN THE 1990s

Notable new genres redefined British rock music in the 90s including Britpop, alternative rock, trip-hop and shoegazing. Britpop was a mainstream pop-rock wave lead in 1993-95 by the groups Pulp, Blur, Suede and Oasis. Alternative rock was marked by the somewhat grunge sound of Radiohead's debut single 'Creep' in 1992, the unique rock style of prodigy PJ Harvey from 1995, and the raw glam rock of Placebo from 1997. Trip-hop burst in with the release of Massive Attack's "Blue lines" LP in 1991 and Portishead's “Dummy” LP in 1994, two albums that helped define the trip-hop genre and garner its popularity in the 1995- 2000 period. As for the shoegaze - or shoegazing - musical genre, it was initiated with the 1991 album "Loveless" by Irish avant-garde rock band My Bloody Valentine and spanned the 2000s.