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The Changing Definition of Rock

As you know, CFR is primarily a rock station and our first channel, CFR Rocks, is dedicated to that genre. But what is rock today? Back in the day, bands and artists such as Super Tramp, Kate Bush and even later bands such as The Calling, were not classed as rock. Now however, many stations and rock shows play Kate Bush and Super Tramp regularly, and even boy guitar bands like Wheatus, Bowling for Soup, Feeder, Alien Ant Farm etc appear often on request shows and on rotation playlists.

In the 70s and early 80s, this would never have been tolerated. Rock was UFO, Saxon, Kiss, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Rainbow (and even then the Difficult to Cure era came under severe disapproval from "rock" fans), Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, with most US bands generally listed as AOR or MOR (Adult Oriented Rock/Middle Of the Road). Of course we had Metal, Prog Rock, Blues and Blues Rock, and even Southern Rock was just coming in to the camp as sub genres but it was easy to separate and list the bands.

But as the 80s progressed, more genres became the norm. Pomp Rock, Pop Rock, Cock Rock, Hair Metal, thrash metal, death metal to name a few. But even within this explosion of sub-genres, Kate Bush and Super Tramp (as great as they are) were not rock. And when bands like Wheatus came on board in the 90s rock fans would do whatever they could to distance themselves from what they said was a pop song (reviewers called these songs guitar pop).

In fact back in the early days of my rock show (some 7 years ago now!) I used to have a feature called "Rock Or Not!" in which I played a kate Bush song. Not one single listener accepted that Kate Bush was rock. Now we regularly play her songs, and those same listeners have requested her songs on our shows.

So why has our definition of rock changed so much?

Certainly, organisations such as The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have made controversial choices of those it includes under the rock & roll banner, including Abba, Madonna, and this year Janet Jackson! Just as guilty are record companies who produce "rock" compilation CD box sets that includes Jennifer Rush, Blondie, and the Pretenders for example. The 90s saw guitar based pop bands like Blur and Oasis come to the fore, and of course the noughties had a massive rise of teen-guitar-pop bands top the charts. We never called them rock, but record labels and Radio 1 listeners did.

However, bands like Bon Jovi on one extreme and Iron Maiden on the other extreme also count amongst their fans people who would never consider themselves rock fans. So the definition of rock in the last decade or two has blurred across all media.

It's all a mess in many ways. But it does lead to some great comments in our Forum :)

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