Readers who attended, heard of, or wished to attend any of the evolutionary rock concerts from the 1950s to 1985 will be eager to get a behind-the-scenes look at what really went into bringing about those phenomenal performances now in the history books. .
Music writer, journalist, and longtime author Marc Myers takes readers through a vivid account of this era of musical nostalgia in his new book “Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There”.
The book examines live rock performances during these years, highlighting how this genre of entertainment became a rite of passage for young people as it evolved with music, technology and cultural changes in the world. ‘era.
The book is based on first-hand information gleaned from more than 90 interviews with musicians, promoters, stagehands and many others involved in the production of live rock concerts during those years, serving as Oral History of What Myers Calls the “Golden Age.” of the rock concert experience.
Myers is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, where he writes about music and the arts. His previous critically acclaimed books include ‘Anatomy of a Song’ and ‘Why Jazz Happened’. He also appears monthly on SiriusXM’s Feedback and posts daily to the award-winning JazzWax.com website.
Why and how did you become a musical author, and what is your role today?
I started at the New York Times in the late 1970s as a college intern. After graduating, I worked there full-time for five years before leaving to become a magazine and newsletter reporter. Then I wrote about taxes, finance, and real estate in New York. Since 2010, I’ve had a dream job writing about music and interviewing movie and music stars for The Wall Street Journal as a regular contributor and columnist, including “Anatomy of a Song” and “House Call “. Yes, a long and winding road, but I finally ended up doing what I love the most: writing about music.
Your new book ‘Rock Concert’ offers an in-depth history of music’s role as an influence on American society, primarily from the 1950s to 1985. Please briefly describe some of the artists you believe have been most instrumental in shaping the rise of rock music during those years. year.
The rise of the rock concert was a natural consequence of the radio appeal of rock ‘n’ roll and fame-seeking artists and entrepreneurial promoters who saw the value in live performances. While the popularity of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and other great rock ‘n’ roll artists of the 1950s was initially due to their appearances on radio, television, records and film, the rock concert only became a phenomenon in the late 1960s, when public address systems could satisfy large crowds. The rise of alcohol-free venues in major markets that accepted teens was also key to rock’s growing popularity.
Popular artists who contributed significantly to the oversized growth of live rock between 1950 and 1985 include Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Who, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Queen.
As they became more sophisticated, how did rock concerts, as you put it, “change society as a whole”?
The rock concert unified youth culture beginning in the 1950s. Prior to the 1950s, the music industry was not interested in the youth market. They could not afford phonographs, radios or records and had to listen to their parents’ favorite artists. Rock ‘n’ roll created a mass commercial market among young listeners. Popular 45s themes focused on teenage dreams, anxieties and worries. The lyrics were about dating, breaking up, cars, surfing, school life, strict parents, uptight teachers, and misunderstanding or unfair treatment.
In response, youth culture redefined cool with new approaches to fashion, language, and behavior. But perhaps the biggest cultural impact of the rock concert has been new ways of thinking about social and political issues. Youth culture has developed new values and opposed parents and institutions. The causes they championed and which were taken up by artists included rebellion against middle-class conformity, racial segregation and discrimination, conscription, and the Vietnam War. Artists and rock fans have also supported civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, the environment, family farms, ending world hunger, and promoting research on the AIDS. For decades, the rock concert has been a rite of passage, a place where youth culture has come together and where the anxieties of school life and growing up have been replaced by a collective passion for music and artists.
Please describe the impact that black musicians and fans have had on music during these years, and its influence on the formation of rock music and rock concerts.
Black artists and fans played an important role in shaping rock ‘n’ roll with the development and support of R&B in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Black rock ‘n’ roll artists such that Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard, among others, became major influences on many white rock artists who followed. This is also true of black American blues artists whose records influenced the emerging blues-rock bands of Britain in the early 1960s. Sly and the Family Stone, Sam and Dave, Billy Preston, Richie Havens and other black artists made significant contributions to the energy level, vocals and solos of the rock concert.
Towards the end of your book you discuss how the internet, social media, cell phones, downloading, iTunes and other technologies have dramatically reduced the societal impact that rock artists and rock concerts once had . What do you think of rock, pop, rap, country and other concerts today?
All of today’s live pop concerts owe a debt to the creation and development of the rock concert over the past seven decades. In recent years, the model that the rock concert has pioneered and perfected has been cleverly supersized by global entertainment conglomerates. Yet concerts today still face the same challenges and risks as Elvis Presley’s concert at the Cotton Bowl in 1956, the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965, Woodstock and Altamont in 1969, California Jam in 1974 and Live AID in 1985 – crowd control, security and safety.
The big difference now is that no matter where you sit in a venue, you can see the performer up close on stage thanks to the massive LED video screens. The special effects are also more visually spectacular and have cinematic reach. As a result, seeing favorite stars perform live remains just as dramatic, relevant and rewarding as it was many years ago.