In Britain, as in the rest of Europe, rock and roll had an immediate youth appeal--each country soon had its own Elvis Presley--but it made little impact on national music media, as broadcasting was still largely under state control. Local rock and rollers had to make the music onstage rather than on record. In the United Kingdom musicians followed the skiffle group model of the folk, jazz, and blues scenes, the only local sources of American music making. The Beatles were only one of many provincial British groups who from the late 1950s played American music for their friends, imitating all kinds of hit sounds--from Berry to the Shirelles, from Carl Perkins to the Isley Brothers--while using the basic skiffle format of rhythm section, guitar, and shouting to be heard in cheap, claustrophobic pubs and youth clubs.
In this context a group's most important instruments were their voices--on the one hand, individual singers (such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney) developed a new harshness and attack; on the other hand, group voices (vocal harmonies) had to do the decorative work provided on the original records by producers in the studio. Either way, it was through their voices that British beat groups, covering the same songs with the same lineup of instruments, marked themselves off from each other, and it was through this emphasis on voice that vocal rhythm and blues made its mark on the tastes of "mod" culture (the "modernist" style-obsessed, consumption-driven youth culture that developed in Britain in the 1960s). Soul singers such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke were the model for beat group vocals and by the mid-1960s were joined in the British charts by more intense African-American singers such as Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding. British guitarists were equally influenced by this expressive ideal, and the loose rhythm guitar playing of rock and roll and skiffle was gradually replaced by more ornate lead playing on electric guitar as local musicians such as Eric Clapton sought to emulate blues artists such as B.B. King. Clapton took the ideal of authentic performance from the British jazz scene, but his pursuit of originality--his homage to the blues originals and his search for his own guitar voice--also reflected his art-school education (Clapton was one of many British rock stars who engaged in music seriously while in art school). By the end of the 1960s, it was assumed that British rock groups wrote their own songs. What had once been a matter of necessity--there was a limit to the success of bands that played strictly cover versions, and Britain's professional songwriters had little understanding of these new forms of music--was now a matter of principle: self-expression onstage and in the studio was what distinguished these "rock" acts from pop "puppets" like Cliff Richard. (Groomed as Britain's Elvis Presley in the 1950s--moving with his band, the Shadows, from skiffle clubsskiffle clubs to television teen variety shows--Richard was by the end of the 1960s a family entertainer, his performing style and material hardly even marked by rock and roll.)
Folk rock, the hippie movement, and "the rock paradox"
The peculiarity of Britain's beat boom--in which would-be pop stars such as the Beatles turned arty while would-be blues musicians such as the Rolling Stones turned pop--had a dramatic effect in the United States, not only on consumers but also on musicians, on the generation who had grown up on rock and roll but grown out of it and into more serious sounds, such as urban folk. The Beatles' success suggested that it was possible to enjoy the commercial, mass-cultural power of rock and roll while remaining an artist. The immediate consequence was folk rock. Folk musicians, led by Bob Dylan, went electric, amplified their instruments, and sharpened their beat. Dylan in particular showed that a pop song could be both a means of social commentary (protest) and a form of self-expression (poetry). On both the East and West coasts, bohemia started to take an interest in youth music again. In San Francisco, for example, folk and blues musicians, artists, and poets came together in loose collectives (most prominently the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane) to make acid rock as an unfolding psychedelic experience, and rock became the musical soundtrack for a new youth culture, the hippies.
The hippie movement of the late 1960s in the United States--tied up with Vietnam War service and anti-Vietnam War protests, the Civil Rights Movement, and sexual liberation--fed back into the British rock scene. British beat groups also defined their music as art, not commerce, and felt themselves to be constrained by technology rather than markets. The Beatles made the move from pop to rock on their 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, symbolically identifying with the new hippie era, while bands such as Pink Floyd and Cream (Clapton's band) set new standards of musical skill and technical imagination. This was the setting in which Hendrix became the rock musician's rock musician. He was a model not just in his virtuosity and inventiveness as a musician but also in his stardom and his commercial charisma. By the end of the 1960s the great paradox of rock had become apparent: rock musicians' commitment to artistic integrity--their disdain for chart popularity--was bringing them unprecedented wealth. Sales of rock albums and concert tickets reached levels never before seen in popular music. And, as the new musical ideology was being articulated in magazinesnew musical ideology was being articulated in magazines such as Rolling Stone, so it was being commercially packaged by emergent record companies such as Warner BrothersWarner Brothers in the United States and IslandIsland in Britain. Rock fed both off and into hippie rebellion (as celebrated by the Woodstock festival of 1969), and it fed both off and into a buoyant new music business (also celebrated by Woodstock). This music and audience were now where the money lay; the Woodstock musicians seemed to have tapped into an insatiable demand, whether for "progressive" rock and formal experiment, heavy metal and a bass-driven blast of high-volume blues, or singer-songwriters and sensitive self-exploration.
4. Rock in the 1970s
The 1970s began as the decade of the rock superstar. Excess became the norm for bands such as the Rolling Stones, not just in terms of their private wealth and well-publicized