A new look at ‘classic rock’

Nicole Aikens

I would never claim to know all there is to know about music, but there are just some highly unqualified statements that I can’t ignore.

While I was in class, I overheard a conversation two of my classmates were having about what music they like. The girl was shuffling through an iPod Touch, and the guy was rattling off names of popular rappers. At this point, the conversation took a turn for the worse.

The guy then says the typical, “I listen to everything but country.” To which the girl replied, “Well, do you like old school rock … like Nirvana?” At first I laughed it off, thinking it had to be a joke. But then I had a realization that still haunts me – she was dead serious.

Nirvana was popularized in 1991 with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” To call Nirvana “old school” would be like calling ‘N Sync classic. The claim is erroneous.

When Nirvana made it big, they were playing a new brand of Seattle grunge metal. Although the genre stems from the roots of rock and roll, it is in no way any form of classic rock.

After hearing this, I can’t help but assume there are many more people whose knowledge of classic rock is lacking, at best.

To help combat the force of mainstream pop that clogs radio waves today, here’s a little Music History 101. It’s a short list of the genuine classic rock groups that many of today’s bands list as their influences.

The Beatles – The Beatles were formed in 1960 and consisted of members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best, who was replaced by Ringo Starr two years later. These men led the revolution that was the “British Invasion.” They made music spanning genres from 1950s rock to more experimental psychedelic rock. They were always reinventing themselves, which is what made The Beatles so timeless.

Beatles for Beginners: “Help” or “She Loves You” (Try “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” if you’re looking for something a bit more psychedelic.)

The Rolling Stones – In 1962, The Rolling Stones were formed with the original members of Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart. They rode The Beatles’ coattails in the “British Invasion.” The Stones played a bluesy type of rock, accentuated by Jagger’s exuberance and theatrics and Richards’ brilliance on guitar.

Stones for Beginners: “Start Me Up” or “Honky Tonk Women”

Led Zeppelin – Zeppelin was formed in 1968 in England. The original group members were Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. Page and Plant led the band to play a type of rock that replaced the pop aspect with heavy guitar. Led Zeppelin is truly one of most influential rock bands in history, attributed to aiding in the start of heavy metal.

Zeppelin for Beginners: “Immigrant Song” or “Black Dog” (Proceed to “Stairway to Heaven” with caution. Do so only when you feel you’re truly ready.)

The list of truly great rock bands is by no means limited to these three, but these should give you a good start to make an easy transition even further into the world of legendary “old school rock.” No one should ever confuse Nirvana with the likes of these bands ever again.

Contact all correspondent Nicole Aikens at [email protected].