The Evolution of Alternative Rock

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Stephanie Rollens
MUS 1010
Prof. Ingram
Fall 2012
Research Paper: The Evolution of Alternative Rock
a. Introduction/Overview
A phrase coined by many emerging bands in the early 1980’s, ‘alternative rock’ has become an increasingly more popular term used to describe artists that try to be innately different, yet veer away from the establishment and wish only to play the music they want to play without “selling out”. While it isn’t as concentrated or specific as other genres like hip hop or classical music, alternative music encompasses a wide variety of artists and songs over decades, most of which could be subcategorized into grunge, metal, punk rock, progressive, new wave, and even mo or folk rock. Alternative rock has fueled the creative spirits of not only artists but fans as well, from beatniks, to non-conformists, all the way up to today’s ‘hipster nation’. It’s nearly impossible to define it as a movement simply because there is no one concrete belief that all artists and supporters share; alternative rock simply focuses on the power of individuality.

b. Historical Background
Though its popularity heightened in the 80’s and continued to remain popular through present day, alternative rock was in fact born in the 1960’s alongside many progressive anti-establishment art, music, literature and activism. This began the cultural classification known as “underground music”. The seeds of what was to become alternative rock today were sown in this new underground music scene, filled with hippies that rocked out to anything but the ordinary. Most of this music during that time coincided with what was going on with the word – the Vietnam War and the Cold War.

While most was in some way, shape or form political in nature, this music was simply weird. During the 1960’s, young people devoted themselves to artists and songs that stood out among the rest. And though legendary bands like The Beatles, as well as American artists like Bob Dylan and Janice Joplin became household names at this point in time, they evolved beside the controversial LSD inspired musicians like The Doors and 13th Floor Elevators. It was these artists that revolutionized the industry by breaking the mold; it was psychedelic rock that gave way to what we now refer to as ‘alternative rock’. Being awfully progressive for its time, psychedelic rock offered a totally new perspective to the use of these so called “mind-expanding drugs” and arguably launched the popularity at the time. Because so many young people enjoyed this music and idolized people like Jim Morrison of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, the use of such drugs was sensationalized, and this alternative lifestyle was often blindly supported. Unfortunately, times like these will never get a full consensus on how influential music like this was on the minds of young people and generations of artists to come. There are those that lived it, who swear by spiritual and artistic enhancements these drugs offer, and there are those who might say that all this movement did was breed a doped up army of youths with eclectic tastes in music. Whatever one’s standpoint may be, there is absolutely no getting away from the fact that the events leading up to the 60’s as well at the creation of LSD and psychedelic rock paved the way for a new contemporary movement in rock ‘n roll.

c. Artist/Movement Profile
Seeing as alternative rock encompasses many genres of music including progressive, new wave, grunge, etc., it is nearly impossible to choose just one that stand out among the rest. Indeed there are several in every generation that stand out and transform people’s thinking. It’s often been said that everything’s been done already; you just need to figure out how to do it differently. That being said, there is one band that most people today associate with modern alternative music: Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band currently consists of founding members, vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist...
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