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American Rock Culture

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Essay title: American Rock Culture

“Sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was the rallying cry for a movement that changed American culture forever. Rock and

roll first startled the American scene in the mid-1950’s, but no one then could have predicted the remarkable vitality and staying

power of this new music. The early tradition of rock has gone through many transitions. Provocative and outlandish stage attire

and behavior have been an important resource since the birth of rock and roll. Decades following the birth of rock and roll, many

have witnessed a steady ever changing parade of hair styles, costumes, gestures and props. As the level of tolerance and

acceptance grew, rock stars adopted more bizarre and shocking images. It is in this context that “punk” rock, seen by some as

a startling new direction in the late 1970’s must be considered. Rock music achieved a new respectability and power at the

same time (Ward, Stokes, Tucker, Rock of Ages, 547). Punk was rock’s most notable attempt in the late 1970’s to inject angry,

rebellious, risk taking notations into the music.

The musical style called punk rock developed in the United States out of raw and energetic music played by the

garage bands of the mid-sixties. These bands were mainly teenagers playing basic guitar chords, and failing away at drums and

cymbals in their own garages. This resulted in sounds that were rough, raw, and musically undisciplined, which expressed their

interests and brought music to their level (Charlton, Rock Music, 204). Given that the greatest garage bands could barley play,

we may assume not only that virtuosity has nothing to do the form, but also that the Utopian dream of every man and artist can

come true right here, in our suburban land of opportunity-- the ultimate proof that rock and roll is the most democratic and

all-American of art forms (Miller, History of Rock & Roll, 261).

While teenage garage bands were becoming a hit and making it onto the pop charts, slightly older, artistically trained

but jagged musicians were writing poetry and singing about urban decay. This artistic expression was not the first, this sort of

idea far artistic expression had been at the root of several literary, artistic, and musical styles in the twentieth century, including

the dadaist movement and the Beat movement (Charlton, Rock Music, 204). The dadaists, a group of artists from Switzerland,

expressed their views of madness and chaos exemplified by World War I. The dadaists saw this kind of devastation and

destruction of human life that took place during the Was, and expressed their views by fashioning artwork out of trash or other

material put together in a chaotic form.

The same fear of the potential human animal had for violence, along with the awesome power of modern-day

weapons, influenced many later artists to share the concerns and emulate the work of the dadaists (Charlton, Rock Music, 204).

The Beat poets and writers of the fifties, directed their feelings of anger towards society in their poetry and writings. The manner

in which the Beats openly confronted the problems that most people ignored, as well as the dada, influenced desire to produce

an anti-art to express the belief that society had lost all sense of value was at the philosophical root of the punk movement,

which eventually spawned a style of music (Charlton, Rock music, 204).

The grandest example of a risky, aggressive, cynical yet ambitious sensibility worming it way into the rock world was

the man many called a godfather of punk: Lou Reed (Ward, Stokes, Tucker, Rock of

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