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History Essay:
Rock 'n' Roll in the Eighties Onward

In the eighties and nineties, the popularity of FM radio along with new media such as CD and video brought rock music to a greater commercial ebb than ever. Artists such as Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and The Rolling Stones had all played 50,000 seat venues on corporately charged mega tours. Perhaps as sort of an antidote to all this, in the mid eighties a so called "alternative" camp started to form. This community sought out and supported music from little known, mostly independent artists that had likely never played anything larger than a small club. There was an irony that came with membership in this category though. When a successful alternative group finally reached that critical mass of high popularity, were they really "alternative" any more? Case in point, R.E.M. was one of the darling alternative bands of the mid eighties. A decade later, virtually a household name, they signed a multi-Million Dollar contract with a major recording label.

As the nineties rolled on a generation gap started to show. Younger rock fans were drawn towards "grunge" oriented groups like Pearl Jam and the Stone Temple pilots, while their elder cohorts (parents?) still enjoyed the likes of the Rolling Stones, Beatles and Led Zeppelin. A lot of this was short-lived however, as the aforementioned mammoth concert tours by the 'Stones and U2 had a tendancy to attract fans of all ages. In 1995, a major U.S. network television documentary brought the Beatles story - and record sales, to a whole new generation.

Essay references:
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth ed.; The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (1989)

Also:Fifties | Sixties | Seventies


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