When we say the word 'alternative music' what do we really mean? This article will discuss the meaning of alternative music in our day and age, describing the genre’s development from the 1950s on-wards.
Alternative music is a genre which developed in the 1950s. Its roots are very near to 1950s rock and roll, which itself is an offshoot of jazz, blues and roots music.
Alternative music is generally regarded as 'subversive' and is generally less commercial, preferring to record and play their music for small audiences and on amateur labels. They tend to be anti-establishment, often leaning toward jazz, folk, or blues.
Since the mid to late 1970s, alternative music has spread worldwide, becoming popular in America and England, but still maintaining a loyal following in Japan, Spain, France, Holland, and most countries in Europe.
To have a look at how a few popular alternative groups have developed over time, click through the stages below:
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier was released in 1980, and was not only a huge hit in England but also around the world.
The story centers around a trio of Neo-Nazis who have been discovered to have a network in the British Secret Service, but there is a large cast of characters including the real-life former Head of MI6, Sir Roger Moore.
It's is a spy thriller, with Bond type villains and Ian Fleming-esque characters. It also features a theme song by composer John Barry, who was the original Bond composer, before Sam Cooke took over.
It features the song with the three-syllable name, which is still used as the title for the series, and has become popular on alternative music radio stations today.
This song was originally performed by a rock group called The Smiths, but became hugely popular after it was re-recorded for the film and released as a single in 1982.
Some of the best alternative music of the 1980s came from California. Amongst the biggest were bands like The Meat Puppets, The Offspring and Blur.
Oy Vey Baby was written by singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood, who is best known for fronting The Meat Puppets. This album is considered one of the best of the genre.
His music is known for being “alienated” or “off-kilter”, which are highly apt descriptions for this particular genre. Blur had hit songs like Parklife, Song 2, and Thinking About You, which are considered to be modern day alternative classics.
Perhaps Blur's best known song, Parklife, is the best known alternative music anthem of the 1980s. Song 2, which was written by Alex James, featured in several music videos and became a huge hit in the early 1990s.
This is considered by some to be one of the greatest rock songs ever written.
Other notable bands which made alternative music popular include The Offspring, Foo Fighters, and The Pixies.
1984 was the brainchild of producer Joe Meek, who used electronic and jazz music to create a new, futuristic sound that paved the way for the industrial music genre.
His groundbreaking music took a while to catch on in the mainstream, but by the end of 1984, he had two of the most popular alternative rock acts working under his direction.
The Rolling Stones enlisted Meek to make the band's 1981 album, Love You Live, which sold 7 million copies worldwide.
The first album, 1985's It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, sold 3 million copies in the United States and led to the release of the Rolling Stones' Wild Life album the following year.
As a producer, Meek was behind the five albums by the Doctor and the Medics (Doctor, Doctor, Doctor), the debut album by Blur, and the debut album by The Offspring.
This legendary label had produced and marketed some of the most innovative, creative, and influential albums of the late 20th century.
A decade after 1984, it's interesting to see how the industrial and rave music of the 1990s completely changed the music world. It was easy to see that the mainstream music of the late 20th century was dominated by synthesized sounds and beats.
Sweet 'n' Sour is often considered the first acid house record, and many believe that it laid the foundation for techno and dub-step. This album was written and produced by members of the “rave generation”, who were often involved in the European drug culture.
As an addition, new wave music and post punk were also becoming popular at the time.
This track, an early acid house anthem called Rock 'n' Roll, was produced by Underground Resistance, a group of rave DJs who helped pave the way for rave music.
Singer/songwriter (and founder of Subterraneans Records) Danny Elfman has become an iconic music producer.
Some of his most famous songs are Batman and Larger Than Life. He also scored several well-known films, including the Jack Nicholson-starring One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Tim Burton's Big Fish.
Elfman used synthesizers and other electronic instruments for his tracks, rather than guitars and drums. His music may be more “simple” and “simple-sounding”, but his style is what made him such an integral part of the alternative music scene.
His most famous single, Larger Than Life, is perhaps his best known alternative rock song. The track was originally recorded for the 1989 film, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and reached the top of Billboard's alternative music chart.
Pablo Cruise, like some other bands on this list, had no real pop hits. What they had was a sound that was an original take on the music of the late 1980s, and helped paved the way for the alternative rock genre.
Kurt Cobain cited this group as one of his favorite bands, and Nirvana covered several of their songs on their 1991 debut album, Bleach.
Cruise's debut album, Alive, was released in the United States in 1988, and rose to number three on the US album charts. Live is one of their best-known hits, and was the first of three US Top 20 hits, along with Deep End and Let's Go Crazy.
The main guitar riff from the song can be found in many other popular songs, including those by Coldplay, The Cardigans, and the Foo Fighters.
This song was a big hit, reaching the Top 10 in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
It was one of the biggest British hits of the decade and became the third biggest record in the UK during the week of August 24, 1988, as well as the biggest solo record of the year.
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