As we begin a brand new decade, let's take just a moment to look back at how music has changed over the past sixty years.
When the 1950's began there was no indication that we were about to embark on a rock and roll revolution. Quite the opposite, in fact. The first #1 Record of the new decade was "I Can Dream, Can't I" by The Andrews Sisters (with Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra). The Andrews Sisters were no strangers to the pop charts, having already scored a number of hits for over the past decade by this point. This particular song was itself a remake of an old Tommy Dorsey Hit from 1938 ... certainly nothing new there! (The '50's "officially" opened with Gene Autry's Christmas Classic "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" on top of the charts, a position it assumed on New Year's Eve. The first NEW #1 Record of the new decade belongs to The Andrews Sisters as cited above.)
Things mosied along for the next five years ... revolutionary Disc Jockeys like Alan Freed started to play more and more R & B Records on his program while most of mainstream America listened to hits by Teresa Brewer, The Ames Brothers, "If I Knew Your Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake" by Eileen Barton, Perry Como, Nat "King" Cole, Patti Page, Mario Lanza, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Johnnie Ray, Eddie Fisher, Jo Stafford and Les Paul and Mary Ford, ALL of whom topped the charts during 1950 - 1954.
But then, right around the middle of 1955, Bill Haley and his Comets rocked our world with "Rock Around The Clock" and what became known as "The Rock Era" from this point forward, was roundly ushered in, the likes of which we had never seen before. This was no longer our parents' music ... THIS music spoke to US personally ... it was made FOR us (and pretty soon it would be made BY us) ... a whole new generation ... a musical EXPLOSION if you will ... had begun.
Of course, before he "rocked us" Haley had also "rolled us" the year before with "Shake, Rattle And Roll", a #7 Pop Hit, but NOTHING up to his point made the universal, world-wide impact that "Rock Around The Clock" did ... and, by 1956, the first #1 Song in the Nation featuring the newly accepted "pop culture" phrase "Rock And Roll" in its title became the unlikely distinction of Kay Starr when "Rock And Roll Waltz" reached the summit in February of that year.
But this was just the beginning ... two months later, America discovered Elvis Presley and, over the next three years, The King would top the charts again and again and again with hits like "Heartbreak Hotel", "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You", "Don't Be Cruel", "Hound Dog", "Love Me Tender", "Too Much", "All Shook Up", "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear", "Jailhouse Rock", "Don't", and "Hard Headed Woman".
Rock and Roll was EVERYWHERE ... and artists like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Platters, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, The Everly Brothers, The Coasters, Ricky Nelson, Lloyd Price, Frankie Avalon, Conway Twitty, Bobby Darin were burning up the charts. Suddenly, TEENAGERS were buying most of the records ... and movies and television quickly reflected (and adapted to) this change in what we wanted to see most.
A good percentage of the public resisted ... they called it all a "fad" and pronounced that it would "NEVER last" ... but here we are, some 55 years later STILL talking about it, still listening to it, still writing about it and (best of all) still enjoying it. Rock And Roll Music CONTINUES to drive and influence each new generation that discovers it. Every piece of music and every artist that caught our awareness back in the '50's has gone on to influence every artist that's come along since, with each of these NEW artists putting their own "spin" on things, inspiring the next wave of where music was headed.
Sure, we've bended it and twisted it and turned it inside out since then ... analyzed it and dissected it ... we've added a little bit of this and a little dash of that ... we've added bells and whistles and frills ... strings and horns ... we've funked it up, "hipped" it up (and "hopped" it up), and stripped it all back down again to the very bare essentials that got us here in the first place ... but rock music is STILL the driving force in music today ... and it will never die.
A look at the chart as we enter the new decade of 2010 isn't going to show us anything new or revolutionary regarding what's going to become the next big musical trend in our lives ... it just doesn't work that way. We don't KNOW what the next craze will be ... and that's what helps to make all of this so new and interesting and exciting. Even after all these years, rock and roll music is still evolving!
When the '60's started, the "next phase" didn't hit until 1964 when The Beatles (followed by the rest of The British Invasion) first hit our shores. But there was a WHOLE lot more added to the musical spectrum of the 1960's than just the contributions of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones ... the '60's gave us the most diverse sounds in hit music we've ever experienced ... radio played British Rock, Motown, Atlantic and Stax Soul, Bubblegum, Folk, Surf Music, Protest Music, "Feel Good" Music, , Psychedelic Music, Hard Rock, and The Singing Nun ... and they played it ALL side by side!!! We have never experienced a time in radio programming this "uncategorized" since.
The '70's began with a lot of pop / teen-idol wannabes dominating the charts: The Jackson Five, The Osmonds and David Cassidy and the Partridge Family all scored #1 Hits early on ... before singer / songwriters like Carole King, James Taylor, Elton John, Harry Chapin and Jim Croce began to offer something just a little bit deeper, capturing the hearts of quite a few of us in the process. Country rock and acoustic rock moved to the forefront, thanks to artists like The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and America ... but, like it or not, (for better or for worse!), the '70's didn't TRULY explode until disco hit in 1975 ... and even THAT didn't prepare us for "The Bee Gees Revolution" of 1978!!! In between, hard rock and heavy metal became the viable alternative for those of us who just couldn't get into the whole gold chains / platform shoes / and light-up dance floors disco scene and, thanks to the new FM dial, where most of us were getting our music fix from this point forward, we've pretty much had our choice of "segregated" music ever since.
1980 began with a wide variety of sounds coming out of our radio ... disco's "last gasp" with KC and the Sunshine Band at #1 with "Please Don't Go"; this hit was followed by chart-topping hits by Blondie ("Call Me"), Lipps, Inc. ("Funkytown") and Diana Ross ("Upside Down"), all attempting to keep that disco-groove going just a little bit longer. Billy Joel was trying on a little mainstream "punk" for size with "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me", Pink Floyd was topping the charts with some album / art rock by way of "Another Brick In The Wall" while Queen went ALL the way back to the rock-a-billy sound of the '50's for THEIR huge #1 Hit "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Who would have EVER guessed that little Michael Jackson (who was one of the MAJOR musical factors of the 1970's, alongside his brothers in The Jackson Five but was now all grown-up and dancing to his own beat) would dominate the decade with his solo career, giving us the likes of "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough", "Rock With You", "Billie Jean", "Beat It", "Thriller", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "Bad", "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Smooth Criminal" ... transcending ALL genres of music, appealing to ALL races, creeds and colors worldwide with a phenomenon we hadn't seen since the mid-'60's.
In the 1990's the girls finally had their say ... top artists of the decade included Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain. By the end of the decade, radio was touting the "New Pop Revolution" thanks to artists like Britney Spears, *NSync, The Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera and Hansen. "Feel Good Music" was back on the radio and music was fun again. And, before it was over, we also caught our first wind of rap and hip-hop, a sound and style that would go on to dominate the first decade of the new millennium.
Today, a lot of us don't listen to so-called "modern" music anymore ... we've been turned off by the anger and language of what constitutes "musical expression" these days. We've reverted back to the sounds we loved growing up ... some for nostalgic reasons ... others because you just can't beat a good melody, a beat you can dance to and lyrics that DON'T have to be bleeped-out at least once every sentence. It's a real pleasure to hear some of today's kids, aged 7-15, programming the music of OUR generation into their birthday parties and get-togethers ... and singing along with every word.
We've seen and heard a lot these past sixty years. The next big thing? I don't know ... NOBODY really does ... and, quite honestly, it really isn't fair to speculate. Will we see music go back to a "simpler" sound? Or will some brand new phase that hasn't even been invented yet delight a good number of us? All of this remains to be seen.
Welcome to 2010 ... who knows what the Musical Gods have in store for us!!!