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Rock and Roll
Transcript of Rock and Roll
A History from star to finish
First Rock and Roll Hits
In 1955 rock and roll has it's first nationwide #1 hit when Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" tops the Pop Charts.
In 1955 black R&B artists Little Richard and Chuck Berry score significant Pop hits. Scouts from RCA records, looking to sign their own rock and roll performer, buy out the contract of Memphis singer Elvis Presley from regional label Sun Records.
King of Rock and Roll
In April 1956 Elvis Presley tops the Pop Charts with his first RCA single release "Heartbreak Hotel". By the end of the year he would be the first artist ever to have nine singles in the top 50 at one time.
By 1957 rock and roll artists appear regularly on the popular music charts and by 1959 rock and roll records account for 43% of all records sold.
Elvis Presley continues to score hits in the early part of the decade, but the music continues to diversify with the folk revival, the Brill Building sound, Phil Spector's wall of sound, girl groups and surf music, all impacting the early part of the decade.
The Motown, Stax and Atlantic labels bring more african-american artists back to the forefront of the pop charts. By 1964 American artists are sharing the top of the charts with U.K. bands led by the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In the U.S. garage bands emerge, inspired by the British Invasion sound.
In the sixties rock music comes of age and dominates the popular music charts.
Sixties songwriting moves beyond pop love songs and begins to include social consciousness and political statements.
In the second half of the decade psychedelic music reflects the growing hippie culture. Bubblegum music is created to generate radio friendly pop singles.
Album sales begin to gain importance, as a harder rock sound emerges and sows the seeds for heavy metal.
In the sixties, television becomes a major force in rock music as networks try to attract a younger audience
Thus it wasn't long before the youth of America was finding itself deeply questioning its country's leaders. A large part of the innocence went out of pop music. And then came the British.... The Beatles were merely the most visible of the many British music acts that found success in America in the mid-60's.
The rapid adaptation of new vinyl record formats, along with advances in solid body electric guitars, change the way people create and listen to music. An equally important convergence occurs in what people are listening to on the radio and jukeboxes, along with the records they are buying. White teenagers begin listening to and buying traditionally African American music such as Rhythm & Blues.
In the early 1950's the American Pop Charts are dominated by the remnants of the big band era
The Rhythm & Blues Charts feature African-American artists playing to a predominately African-American audience in urban centers and the south.
Cleveland, Ohio radio Disc Jockey Alan Freed is an exception with his "Moondog Show" where he spins up-tempo rhythm & blues hits, but aims his show beyond the African American audience and gains an audience of both white and black teenagers.
Freed eventually names this combonation of musical styles and influences - electric blues, boogie, jazz, gospel, R&B vocal groups and country - "Rock and Roll".
Beginning of Rock and Roll
As technology changes, rock and roll makes room for new, more advanced sounds.
The solid body electric guitar becomes commercially available in the early fifties and is quickly adapted by R&B artists, as well as Pop artists.
The 78 RPM record is replaced by the LP (long playing) vinyl album and the 45 RPM single is introduced.
Independent record labels are quick to pick up on the opportunity and begin to release Rock and Roll records from newly signed artists.
Former Western Swing band Bill Haley And His Comets adapt the new sound, writing and recording the first rock and roll hit on the Pop Charts in 1953. R&B hits are covered by white artists and turned into pop hits, but the original versions soon begin to cross over to the pop charts also. This brings African American R&B artists access to the Pop Charts and a new wider audience
Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and when he was 13 years old, he and his family relocated to Memphis, Tennessee.
Presley was an early popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues.
His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.
In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in a comeback special
, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours.
Several years of prescription drug abuse severely damaged his health, and he died in 1977 at the age of 42.
The end of the decade is marked by tragedy as a February 1959 plane crash takes the lives of rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.
Phonograph records were large and heavy and easily damaged. These records played at 78 rpm's (78 revolutions per minute) and were played on rather awkward record players that were usually part of a large piece of furniture (console), which often was located in the living room.
Record companies marketed music to adults and radio stations played music that would appeal to the entire family
In the 1950's, records began to change with the development of new technology that led to both the 33 rpm record and the 45 rpm record. The advantage of the new technology was that more musical information could be put on a record, and it was of higher technical quality.
Not only were 45's much cheaper to buy than the old 78's and the larger 33's, but they could be played on a small record player that could be purchased inexpensively by a teenager and kept in his or her room.
This meant that there were now two markets for music, one for adults who bought mostly 33 rpm records and continued to play them on console phonographs and the other for young people, who bought mostly 45's and played them on small phonos in their rooms.
The white teens of the major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles began to turn to the stations that played music they had never heard before.
It turned out that the music being played on the "black" radio stations in those cities was Rhythm and Blues (R&B). This music was familiar to the black population in America, but was brand new for many whites.
Big Joe Turner's song "Shake, Rattle and Roll" began to be played on the white stations.
The white record companies started looking for white acts that played something resembling R&B. Groups like Bill Haley and His Comets and soloists like Elvis Presley brought a strong country background to the music, and this combination of R&B and Country became Rock and Roll.
The blues-based song structure combined with white influences was fast, sexy, catchy and could be danced to easily and with excitement. These qualities, along with the fact that it horrified adults, caused Rock and Roll to become popular with teenagers, who then, for the first time had their own music.
Among the important bands and soloists in 1950's Rock and Roll were:
Willie Mae Thornton
Big Joe Turner
Bill Haley and His Comets
Jerry Lee Lewis
Buddy Holly and the Crickets
the Everly Brothers
Pop music gradually became controlled by new young "vocal"-groups, taking their power from a combination of the performer's charisma along with the songwriting talents of the production team, who operated behind the scenes.
Eventually rock artists came to be expected to write and even produce their own songs, becoming responsible for everything about how their records sounded--but that would have to wait for Marvin Gaye, Brian Wilson and Lennon & McCartney.
In general there were four main pockets of early 60's pop:
1. the East Coast DooWop and girl groups were singers and groups whose origins are in the street-corner a cappella groups found in many urban centers.
With very rare exceptions, these groups did not write their own songs, but relied on their handlers to set up the recording sessions, pick the material, and produce the records. In fact, many of these behind-the-scenes people eventually became stars in their own right in the seventies
2. The R&B and Soul scene included many talented people who often didn't receive the popularity of less-talented white groups, because of barriers and prejudices against buying "race" records.
Later in the decade, after the British groups acknowledged their debt to soul music, and as the civil rights movement inspired black pride, the general American public rediscovered these performers.
3. the California scene was first dominated by instrumental surf groups like the Surfaris, the Crossfires, and Dick Dale & the Del-tones. Dale, the "King of Surf Guitar," in particular helped define how modern rock guitar solos would sound.
the Beach Boys added vocal harmonies to the surf sound. This surf-&-drag sound was so popular that the style showed up all over the place, even in tv theme songs such as the Munsters and Hawaii Five-O.
the real important stuff was happening in the recording studios, where young artists like Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and the team of Sloan & Barri began turning the studio itself into their instrument.
4. The Motown record label in Detroit was founded by Berry Gordy Jr., and while its recording stars were all black, you couldn't necessarily call this totally black or "soul" music. Instead, Gordy controlled the performing styles, clothes, even hairdos of his artists, grooming them for success in the wider mainstream American audiences.
The label's slogan, "the sound of young America," and their nickname, "Hitsville USA" point to the wide net that Motown attempted to cast.
One of the many successful performers who recorded for Motown is Marvin Gaye, who was first to take control of his own career and insist on artistic control over his recordings. Later Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson would also prove to be outstanding writers and producers, but Marvin Gaye was the first at Motown.
Many people count the Fab Four's landing at La Guardia airport on February 7, 1964, and their performance on the Ed Sullivan Show a week later, as the official beginning of what came to be called the "British Invasion."
The Beatles were hugely popular; at one point they had the top five records on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
Their sound and attitudes influenced everything that came afterwards--even today, when kids sing along with pop tunes on the radio and sing soft Britty "r's", they're unconsciously mimicking the English sound.
British Invasion killed off almost all the existing American groups (only the Beach Boys, Four Seasons, and the biggest Motown acts managed to survive).
American groups dressed and sounded just like the Brits, as for instance the Knickerbockers, Beau Brummels, Buckinghams, Sir Douglas Quintet, and Turtles--before the Turtles became famous they used to hang out at bowling alleys and order tea with plenty of milk, speaking in fake English accents and trying to pass themselves off as Gerry and the Pacemakers. Then the folkies went electric.
The next two years, from 1965 to 1967, saw the most amazing experiments and changes in rock music ever.
1967's "summer of love" passed then it all started to come undone in 1968. In that year both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated.
The civil rights movement gave up its nonviolence philosophy as SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was taken over by radical extremists.
Richard Nixon was elected president, and Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California; both ran on strong law-and-order campaigns.
Rock music used less drug-fueled experiments of just a year before, and used less-experimental sounds, but the topics became angrier. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the most successful of these groups, and wrote "Green River" and "Proud Mary"
The Yardbirds broke up, and Led Zeppelin, the quintessential seventies hard rock band, took over their niche.
Finally, the rise of the Black Power movement helped spur soul music to heights of popularity never before experienced. Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin became major stars.
1969 saw two important rock festivals, Woodstock in August and Altamont in December.
People tend to remember Woodstock because the hippies were mostly able to organize and run a 450,000-person three-day festival with few major problems, in retrospect its overwhelmed facilities and bad weather were a symbol that Woodstock was really the end of an era.
By the end of 1969, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix had all died of drug overdoses.
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimmy Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942, in Seattle.
He to play guitar as a teenager, Hendrix grew up to become a rock guitar legend. He had a difficult childhood, sometimes living in the care of relatives and even acquaintances.
At the age of 14, Hendrix saw Elvis Presley perform. He got his first electric
guitar the following year and eventually played with two bands—the Rocking
Kings and the Tomcats.
Hendrix dropped out of high school, but he worked odd jobs while continuing
to follow his musical goals.
Hendrix enlisted in the United States Army in 1961 and trained at Fort Ord in
California to become a paratrooper. Even as a soldier, he found time for music,
creating a band named The King Casuals.
Hendrix worked as a session musician and played backup for performers like Little Richard, Sam Cooke and the Isley Brothers. He also formed a group of his own called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, which played gigs around New York City.
In 1966, Hendrix met Chas Chandler—a former member of the Animals, a successful rock group—who became his manager. Chandler convinced Hendrix to go to London where he joined forces with musicians Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to create The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Members of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Eric Clapton were all great admirers of Hendrix's work. One critic for the British music magazine Melody Maker said that he "had great stage presence" and looked at times as if he was playing "with no hands at all."
The band's first single, "Hey Joe" was a success in Britain, and was followed by other hits like "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cried Mary."
On tour to support his first album, Hendrix became popular with his outrageous guitar-playing skills and his experimental sound. He won over American music fans with his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, which ended with Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire.
That same year, Hendrix performed at the Woodstock Festival. He played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and amazed the crowds while demonstrating his talent as a musician. He was also a songwriter and musical experimenter. Hendrix even had his own recording studio in which he could work with different performers and try out new songs and sounds.
Hendrix died on September 18, 1970, from drug-related complications.
While this talented recording artist was only 27 years old at the time of his passing, Hendrix left his mark on the world of rock music and remains popular to this day.
As one journalist wrote in the Berkeley Tribe, "Jimi Hendrix could get more out of an electric guitar than anyone else. He was the ultimate guitar player."
The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger (b. 1943)
Keith Richards (b. 1943)
Ian Stewart (b. 1938 d. 1985)
Charlie Watts (b. 1941)
Bill Wyman (b. 1936)
Brian Jones (b. 1942 d. 1969)
Mick Taylor (b. 1949)
Ron Wood (b. 1947)
their name was inspired by the title of a Muddy Waters song, “Rollin’ Stone”
Formed in 1962, they hold the record for longevity as a rock and roll band. There have been hiatuses, especially in the 1980s, but never a breakup.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were friends as kids. Both families moved in the mid-Fifties but they got rekindled in October 1960, when the two ran into each
other at a train station and Richards noticed the imported R&B
albums Jagger was carrying under his arm.
Jagger was a hardcore blues aficionado, while Richards’
interest leaned more toward Chuck Berry-style rock and
roll. Richards soon joined Jagger’s group, Little Boy Blue
and the Blue Boys.
The Rolling Stones landed an eight-month residency at the Crawdaddy Club, where they attracted a following of fans and fellow musicians.
By then, the group’s final lineup had been set, with founding members Jagger, Richards and Jones augmented by drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman.
In 1964 the Rolling Stones headlined their first British tour and released the single “Not Fade Away” (a Buddy Holly cover) and their first album, retitled England’s Newest Hitmakers/The Rolling Stones for U.S. release.
At mid-decade, the three forces in popular music were
the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. They
influenced one another, and aspects of Dylan’s
folk-rock and the Beatles’ similar turn in that direction
with Rubber Soul were clearly evident on the Stones’
Between the Buttons, which appeared in 1967. -
In 1969 Jones passed away and the Rolling Stones deemed his passing as "death by misadventure". He was replaced by Mick Taylor, and the band continued to grow in popularity not just in Britain, but also in the U.S.
In 1970, the Stones launched their own record company, Rolling
Stones Records, for which they signed a distribution deal with
Atlantic Records. The initial releases on the new label were
Sticky Fingers and a raunchy single, "Brown Sugar"
The Eighties saw the Stones achieve their highest-charting
album (Tattoo You, Number One for nine weeks in 1981) but also
take the longest period between tours (eight years).
Several Band members started solo careers, but the band's
legacy still lives on today.
1960's Rock and Roll
Janis Lyn Joplin was born on January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas.
She grew up in a small Texas town known for its connections to the oil industry. Joplin struggled to escape from this confining community, and spent even longer to trying to overcome her memories of her difficult years there.
She developed a love for music at an early age, and sang in her
church choir as a child. Joplin was a good student and fairly
popular until around the age of 14, when she started gaining
In High School, Joplin began to rebel. She chose to wear men's shirts and tights, or short skirts. Joplin, who liked to stand out from the crowd, became the target of some teasing. She was called a "pig" by some, while others said that she was sexually promiscuous.
Joplin eventually developed a group of guy friends who shared her interest in music and the Beat Generation, which rejected the standard norms and emphasized creative expression (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were two of the Beat movement's leading figures).
Musically, Janis Joplin and her friends gravitated toward blues and jazz. Joplin was also inspired by legendary blues vocalists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Odetta. The group frequented local working-class bars in the nearby town of Vinton, Louisiana. By her senior year of high school, Joplin had developed a reputation as a ballsy, tough-talking girl who like to drink and be outrageous.
After graduating from high school, Joplin went to college in Beaumont, Texas. There, she devoted more time to hanging out and drinking with friends than to her studies. At the end of her first semester at Lamar, Joplin left the school.
In 1962, Joplin fled to the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied art. In Austin, Joplin began performing at folksings—casual musical gatherings where anyone can perform. With her gutsy singing style, Joplin amazed many audience members.
Joplin then spent some time in New York City, where she hoped to have better luck getting her career off the ground, but her drinking and drug use prevented her success.
Joplin slowly returned to performing, and in May 1966, was recruited by friend Travis Rivers to audition for a new psychedelic rock band based in San Francisco, Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Joplin blew the band away during her audition, and was quickly offered membership into the group.
Most of the band's praise focused on Joplin's incredible vocals. Fueled by heroin, amphetamines and the bourbon she drank straight from the bottle during gigs, Joplin's unrestrained sexual style and raw, gutsy sound mesmerized audiences—and all of this attention caused some tension between Joplin and her bandmates.
Eventually she left the band, but Joplin struggled with her decision to leave Big Brother.
Following a performance at Woodstock, Joplin released her first solo effort, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, with Kozmic Blues Band. But Kozmic Blues received mixed reviews, with some media outlets criticizing Joplin personally.
Feeling uniquely pressured to prove herself as a female solo artist in a male-dominated industry, the criticism caused distress for Joplin. Outside of music, Joplin struggled with alcohol and drugs, including an addiction to heroin.
Joplin's next album would be her most successful, but also her last. She recorded Pearl with the Full Tilt Boogie Band and wrote two of its songs, the powerful, rocking "Move Over" and "Mercedes Benz," a gospel-styled send-up of consumerism.
Ball and Chain
The Doors were among the most intense and revolutionary bands of the Sixties. The impact of their career has resonated far beyond their brief half-decade as a recording and performing entity.
Their words and music captured the Sixties with undeniable power. A cult of personality continues to surround Jim Morrison, their lead singer.
Morrison was a charismatic lead singer, yet he had more extreme forms of behavior than those icons. Morrison pushed himself to the limit with drugs, alcohol and hard living, becoming one of rock’s most celebrated martyrs when his body gave out at the age of 27.
The Doors comprised vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. Morrison fearlessly approached Doors performances as a kind of experiment in mass provocation, resulting in scenes of chaos. It was his way of externalizing a personal philosophy.
The Doors’ oversized personality came largely from Morrison, who a deep interest in shamanism and ritual, and an unsettling preoccupation with death. The source of Morrison’s intensity was addressed early in the group’s existence. “It’s the feeling of a bowstring being pulled back for 22 years and suddenly let go,” he explained.
The origins of the Doors date back to the summer of 1965, when Morrison and Manzarek – who’d met as students at UCLA’s film school – first broached the idea of forming a rock band that would marry words and music in provocative new ways.
During a chance meeting between Morrison and Manzarek on Venice Beach, Morrison sang a few of his songs to Manzarek, including “Moonlight Drive”. Manzarek responded by saying: “Jim, those are the best songs I’ve ever heard... Man, we’ve got to get a band together. We’re going to make a million dollars!” Morrison responded, “Ray, that’s exactly what I had in mind.” Morrison even had the band’s name picked out: The Doors.
Early Doors lineups evolved out of Rick and the Ravens, Manzarek’s barband, which included his brothers Rick and Jim. Guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore, both of whom were in a meditation group with Manzarek, joined as others fell away, and the group became a four-piece band.
Krieger could play a variety of styles, including flamenco,
blues and psychedelia, and his skill as a slide guitarist became
a core ingredient in the group’s sound. As a drummer,
Densmore had a creative, dynamic flair that lent itself to
the Doors’ surreal, kaleidoscopic music.
The Doors had no bass player. Manzarek filled that role at
live shows and on early recordings by playing a Fender
keyboard bass with his left hand while playing conventional
keyboards (organ and piano) with his right hand.
Before the release of their last album,
, Morrison took a hiatus from the Doors and moved to Paris. There was talk of him returning to tour with the group, based on the album’s success, but it never happened. Jim Morrison died of a heart attack in the Paris apartment he shared with his girlfriend Pamela Courson on July 3, 1971.
Morrison’s death at age 27 put and end to the original group, although the surviving members released two albums as a trio – Other Voices (1971) and Full Circle (1972) – before breaking up and moving on to other projects. Both Krieger and Manzarek have issued solo albums.
The Beatles break up in 1970, but all four members continue to impact the decade with successful solo careers.
Psychedelic music declines, but morphs into hard rock, progressive rock and heavy metal.
Touring bands move from playing clubs and theaters, to playing sports arenas.
Big time bands (many of them formed in the '60's) such as the Rolling Stones, Pink
Floyd, The Who, Grand Funk and Led Zeppelin travel in private jets and play to thousands in arenas and outdoor stadiums.
A clear distinction emerges between Top 40 radio and FM album oriented rock radio stations. Car stereos become common, first with FM stereo radio, then 8-Track tapes, followed by cassette tapes.
This diversity of music distribution channels, along with an expanding market allows for a wide variety of new rock styles to emerge. The early seventies are dominated by singer songwriters and soft rock.
Live albums are popular, with huge hits for Rare Earth, Peter Frampton, and Kiss. Reggae moves out of Jamaica to become a world wide genre. Disco dominates the radio and dance floors in the late seventies.
Punk rock, a throwback to sixties garage rock, emerges in the late seventies as a reaction to arena rock, progressive rock and disco. Punk becomes New Wave as bands move beyond guitars and drums, and begin incorporating synthesizers.
The early 1970s were, in many ways, another "dark age"
for rock music, but this time the Establishment did not
try to obliterate it: it absorbed it. Rock music became
In 1971 the musical Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew
Lloyd Weber opened on Broadway, using arrangements,
rhythms and melodies inspired by alternative rock.
A concert for Bangladesh, attended by the stars of the counterculture such as Bob
Dylan, became the most successful benefit event since the war, and began a tradition
of rock stars acting like prominent political personalities.
After the excesses of the mid Sixties, a more peaceful way of rock had been proposed by Bob Dylan and others when they rediscovered country music. And "country-rock" became one of the fads of the Seventies, yielding successful bands such as the Eagles.
Reggae became a mainstream genre thanks to Bob Marley. Funk became even more absurd and experimental with George Clinton's bands. Hard rock began heavy metal, that soon became a genre of its own (Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Rush, Journey, Van Halen). The Seventies were mostly a quiet age, without the excess of the Sixties.
In Britain, decadence-rock was personified by musicians David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Remnants of progressive-rock such as Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel started avant-garde careers that led to an expanded notion of rock music.
New musicians such as Kate Bush and Mike Oldfield helped liberate rock music from the classification in genres and opened the road to more abstract music.
But the single most influential musician was Brian Eno, who first led Roxy Music to innovate progressive-rock and then invented ambient music.
David Jones began performing music when he was 13 years old, learning the saxophone while he was in High School. Following his graduation at 16, he worked as a commercial artist while playing saxophone in a number of mod bands. These bands released singles, which were generally ignored, but he continued performing, changing his name to David Bowie in 1966 after the Monkees' Davy Jones became an international star.
Upon completing a record with one of his bands, he spent several weeks in a Scottish Buddhist monastery. Once he left the monastery, he studied with Lindsay Kemp's mime troupe, forming his own mime company, which was short-lived. He soon created an arts company.
Following its release, Bowie began to develop his most famous incarnation, Ziggy Stardust: an androgynous, bisexual rock star from another planet. Before he unveiled Ziggy, Bowie claimed in a January 1972 interview with Melody Maker that he was gay, helping to stir interest in his coming album.
Taking cues from Bolan's stylish glam rock, Bowie dyed his hair orange and began wearing women's clothing. He began calling himself Ziggy Stardust, and his backing band -- Ronson, Woodmansey, and bassist Trevor Bolder -- were the Spiders from Mars.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released with much fanfare in England in late 1972. The album and its lavish, theatrical concerts became a sensation throughout England, and it helped him become the only glam rocker to carve out a niche in America.
After recording with the Spiders from Mars, he unexpectedly announced the band's breakup, as well as his retirement from live performances, during the group's final show in 1974. He retreated from the spotlight to work on a musical adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, but once he was denied the rights to the novel, he transformed the work into Diamond Dogs.
The album was released to poor reviews in 1974, yet it generated the hit single "Rebel Rebel," and he supported the album with an elaborate American tour. As the tour progressed, Bowie became fascinated with soul music, eventually redesigning the entire show to reflect his new "plastic soul."
Hiring guitarist Carlos Alomar as the band's leader, Bowie refashioned his group into a Philly soul band and re-costumed himself in sophisticated, stylish fashions. The change took fans by surprise.
Bowie relocated from Britain to Los Angeles, where he earned his first movie role in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). While in L.A., he recorded Station to Station, which took the plastic soul of Young Americans into darker, avant-garde-tinged directions yet was also a huge hit, generating the Top Ten single "Golden Years."
The album inaugurated Bowie's persona of the elegant "Thin White Duke," and it reflected Bowie's cocaine-fueled paranoia. Soon, he decided Los Angeles was too
boring and returned to England; shortly after arriving back in
London, he gave the awaiting crowd a Nazi salute, a signal of his
growing, drug-addled detachment from reality.
The incident caused enormous controversy, and Bowie left the
country to settle in Berlin, where he lived and worked with
Once in Berlin, Bowie sobered up and began painting, as well as studying art. He also developed a fascination with German electronic music, which Eno helped him fulfill on their first album together, Low.
Released early in 1977, Low was a startling mixture of electronics, pop, and avant-garde technique. While it was greeted with mixed reviews at the time, it proved to be one of the most influential albums of the late '70s, as did its follow-up, Heroes, which followed that year.
Scary Monsters was Bowie's last album for RCA, and it wrapped up his most innovative, productive period. Later in 1980, he performed the title role in stage production of The Elephant Man, including several shows on Broadway.
Over the next two years, he took an extended break from recording, appearing in Christiane F (1981) and the vampire movie The Hunger (1982), returning to the studio only for his 1981 collaboration with Queen, "Under Pressure," and the theme for Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People.
Later, he recorder Let;s Dance and it became his most successful record, thanks to innovative videos for "Let's Dance" and "China Girl," which turned both songs into Top Ten hits. Bowie supported the record with the sold-out arena tour Serious Moonlight.
Following a health scare, Bowie quietly retreated from the public eye. Over the next few years, he popped up at the occasional charity concert or gala event and he sometimes sang in the studio for other artists.
Archival releases appeared but no new recordings did until he suddenly ended his unofficial retirement on his 66th birthday on January 8, 2013, releasing a new single called "Where Are We Now?" and announcing the arrival of a new album.
The album was released in March of 2013. Greeted with generally positive reviews, The Next Day debuted at either number one or two throughout the
world, earning gold certifications in many countries.
The following year, Bowie released a new compilation
called Nothing Has Changed, which featured the new
song "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)."
The Seventies were largely a decade of consolidation, rather than innovation, but two phenomena erupted that would have a strong impact: disco-music and punk-rock.
Disco-music was the first genre to use electronic instruments for commercial, mass-scale music. The beat of dance music would never be the same again. Orchestral arrangements became as ordinary as a guitar solo.
Punk-rock had an even greater impact, because it came with the emancipation of the record industry from the "majors". Thousands of independent record labels promoted underground artists and soon the music scene was dramatically split between mainstream rock and alternative rock.
Punk-rock per se was fast, loud rock and roll music, but it quickly became a moniker for all angry music of the time.