In Britain, rock music took more of a European feel with the underground movement that was born out of psychedelic clubs. Canterbury became the center of the most experimental school of rock music. The Soft Machine were the most important band of the period, lending rock music a jazz flavor that would inspire "progressive-rock". Among the eccentric and creative musicians that grew up in the Soft Machine were Robert Wyatt, David Aellen, and Kevin Ayers. Their legacy can be seen in later Canterbury bands such as Henry Cow, no less creative and improvisational.
Progressive-rock took away rock's energy and replaced it with a brain. Traffic, Jethro Tull, Family and later Roxy Music developed a brand of soul-rock that had little in common with soul or rock and roll: long, convoluted jams, jazz accents, and baroque arrangements derailed the song format. King Crimson, Colosseum, Van Der Graaf Generator, early Genesis, Yes and started playing ever more complex, theatrical and hermetic pieces. Arrangements became more and more complex, insturmentalists become more and more skilled. Electronic instruments were employed frequently. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Third Ear Band and Hawkwind created genres that at the time had no name (decadent cabaret, world-music and psychedelic hard rock).
The paradigm soon spilled into continental Europe, that gave its first major rock acts: Magma, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero.
Even Britain's folksingers sounded more like French intellectuals than oldfashioned storytellers. The folk revival of the Sixties was mainly the creation of a fistful of three collectives: the Pentangle, the Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band. But around them singer songwriters like Donovan, Cat Stevens, Nick Drake , John Martyn, Syd Barrett and Van Morrison established new standards for musical expression of intimate themes.
The 1960s were the "classic" age of rock music. The main sub-genres were defined in the 1960s. The paradigm of rock music as the "alternative" to commercial pop music was established in the 1960s. Wild experimentation alloweds rock musicians to explore a range of musical styles that few musicians had attempted before 1966. Captain Beefheart and the Velvet Underground also created a different kind of rock music within rock music, a different paradigm within the new paradigm, one that will influence alternative musicians for decades. More than musical giants like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, humble musicians like Captain Beefheart, the Velvet Underground and the Red Crayola may be the true heroes of the 1960s.
In Britain, the early Seventies saw the proliferation of hard rock and progressive-rock and their branching into several sub-genres. British musicians gave rock and roll an "intellectual" quality that made it the cultural peer of European cinema and literature. British rock was dragged down by the same stagnation that afflicted American rock. The momentum for innovation was rapidly lost and the new genres created by British musicians either languished or mutated into commercial phenomena. Musical decadence led to decadence-rock, personified by dandies David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Eccentric remnants of progressive-rock such as Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel started avantgarde careers that were to lead 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.
Later in Britain first came industrial music, invented by Throbbing Gristle as a hybrid of avantgarde and rock music, and then dark-punk, whose main proponents were Joy Division, Siouxsie Sioux, Public Image Ltd, the Cure, the Killing Joke, the Sisters Of Mercy.
In early 80s Britain chose a different course, almost in the opposite direction, towards simpler and more commercial music. It all started with the modernist sounds of Ultravox, Wire and XTC, and their vaguely robotic melodies. Then Japan and Simple Minds turned that sound into pompous pop songs. And finally Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark and others created synth-pop, that typically was pop played on electronic instruments and sung by a female or gay singer (with a few notable exceptions). The Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys were probably the most artistically successful of the many that climbed the charts. The Irish U2 and the Smiths turned sharply towards melody.
In 90s Britain was the place for psychedelic music. It started with the Liverpool revival of Echo And The Bunnymen and Julian Cope, then it picked up speed with dream-pop (Cocteau Twins, the Australian Dead Can Dance, the Norwegian Bel Canto, and later the formidable triad of Slowdive, Bark Psychosis and Tindersticks) and with the Scottish noise-pop bands (Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream ) and finally reached a climax with the shoegazers (My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3, Loop, Spiritualized, Catherine Wheel), before folding into a new form of ambient music.
By the end of the decade, Britain was awash in Brit-pop, a media-induced trance of super-melodic pop that spawned countless "next big things", from Verve to Oasis to Blur to Suede to Radiohead, the band that finally disposed of it. But the best in the melodic genre came from humbler groups, led by girls, like Primitives and Heavenly.
The 1990s were also the decade of heavy metal, that peaked in Los Angeles with Metallica, Jane's Addiction, Guns And Roses, and that soon split into a myriad subgenres (doom metal, grind-core, death metal, etc) and funk-metal (Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine in Los Angeles, Primus and Faith No More in San Francisco). Marilyn Manson was the late phenomenon that recharged the genre.
The Nineties were the age of electronic music, whether in dance, ambient or noise format. Electronic musicians and ensembles spread to Belgium (Vidna Obmana), France (Air, Deep Forest, Lightwave), Germany (Sven Vath, Mo Boma, Oval, Mouse On Mars, Air Liquide), Canada (Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, Delerium, Vampire Rodents, Trance Mission), Scandinavia, and especially Japan (Zeni Geva, Boredoms, Merzbow, the triad of noise). Britain's revitalized ambient scene yielded Orb, Main, Rapoon, Autechre.
Britain's dance music was far more successful (creatively speaking) than its rock bands: Madchester (Stone Roses), rave (Saint Etienne), transglobal dance (Banco De Gaia, Loop Guru, Transglobal Underground, TUU) ambient house (Orbital, Future Sound Of London, Aphex Twins, Mu-ziq), jungle (Goldie, Squarepusher, Propellerheads), trip-hop (Portishead, Tricky), and plain techno (Meat Beat Manifesto, Prodigy, Chemical Brothers) artists redefined compositional processes and cross-bred countless genres.
Industrial music and grindcore somehow merged and spawned terrifying sounds in the albums of Techno Animal and Godflesh.
The Irish Cranberries and the Scottish Belle And Sebastian are among the revelations of the end of the decade.
Of course, it is impossible to mention all the bands and branches of rock, but we tried to mention the brightest ones. Rock music continues its developing and nowadays almost every band merges rock with some other genres and classification is getting impossible and now based on similarity between band's style and existing branch of rock. In this work we tried to avoid mentioning such brunches as "hardcore", "hardcore metal", "death metal" etc. because links between above mentioned branches and its parent branch is very transparent.
Irwin, Colin. "Britain's Changing Roots". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 64-82. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books.
Mathieson, Kenny. "Wales, Isle of Man and Britain". 2001. In Mathieson, Kenny (Ed.), Celtic music, pp. 88-95. Backbeat Books.