Is It Time The Phrase ‘Classic Rock’ Was Retired?

Has The Term ‘Classic Rock’ Served Its Purpose? Is it Time To Move On & call it Rock Music Again?

This might be a bit controversial but this is just my personal view!

The first time I was aware of the phrase ‘Classic Rock’ was when the album of that name was released in 1977 which featured various rock tracks performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
We then went through the rest of the 70s and 80s happily using terms like Punk, AOR, Heavy Metal, Thrash etc but at the end of the day, it was all rock music.
In the early 1990s, Grunge arrived and with it a level of confusion even amongst the established rock acts of the time. The key thing was Heavy Metal seemed to have changed for good and Nu-Metal, Rap-Metal (Rock without guitars solos) seemed to be on the ascendant. I remember watching Headbangers Ball on MTV thinking where has all the normal tock music gone?
I can’t remember what I was reading (it could have been Kerrang) but someone referred to Rainbow Rising as Traditional rock or Classic Rock and the phrase started to stick. It represented rock music before the change, it was a passport to the past. Saying you liked classic rock meant you were from the era of those classic bands and albums.

Then in 1998, Classic Rock Magazine arrived and which brought the older rock fans together and gave all those bands back their audience in one place. Classic Rock Magazines could run covers with features on Led Zeppelin over and over again. The main focus was on the names from the past, the cover CD would try and introduce new acts but it was news on our favourites bands we really wanted to read about.

However, I feel in the last few years we are seeing a shift again. There are now numerous young rock bands emerging from all around the world. Many of these are superb and since running Now Spinning Magazine and this channel I have been amazed just how many there are.

I see them as rock bands. I don’t think any of them would want to be called a new ‘classic rock band’ that sounds like they are re-creating the past or not looking forward. Phrases like Heavy Metal still works, PROG works now but the word Classic Rock seems tired. Stick the word classic before PROG or metal, soul, Folk and it conjures up images of the past.
A bit like Classical Music, we all think that represents primarily dead composers when in fact there is a lot of new music being written and released.

I remember reading an interview with Ian Gillan when he said he hated being called a classic rock act as it meant all people wanted to talk about was Smoke on The Water and not the new stuff.

So do you think the phrase will naturally fade away as people go back to using the phrase ‘rock music’ or do you think it will always refer to legacy bands from rocks first golden age?

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Phil Aston | Now Spinning Magazine

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