Seven ages of rock

For some time now I have followed a documentary on rock music on BBC 2. It’s aired every Saturday night and I find it really interesting. Last week it was about punk and how The Sex Pistols and The Clash shape the music scene in the ’70. This Saturday it was about heavy metal.

The seven ages the documentaries deal with are:

  • The birth of rock: Blues-based Rock 1963-1970
  • White light, white heat: Art Rock 1966-1980
  • Blank Generation: Punk 1973-1980
  • Never say die: Heavy metal 1970-1991
  • We were the champions: Stadium Rock 1965-1993
  • Left of the dial: Alternative Rock 1980-1994
  • What the world is waiting for: Indie 1980-2007


So I missed the first two, but intend to see the rest for sure. I find it interesting because my generation forgets where influences come from, if they even know that there are people who influenced! Many things get sampled, but many bands get forgotten. Shame.

In the Never Say Die documentary, heavy metal and how it came about was told. Near Birmingham a new band took the scene: Black Sabbath. They played very differently to the bands before and started to write darker music, with horror elements in their lyrics.

Picture: Black Sabbath 1970’s – source here

unfortunately, lead singer Ozzy Osbourne was put out of the band because of the excess lifestyle taking a toll on the bands survival. But they paved the way for bands like Judas Priest, who in fact created almost the entire leather look so many band took over. Of course this caused a lot of controversy: the long hair, the black looks, the spandex pants (oh my!), the dubious lyrics… heavy metal took rock to a whole new level.

I did know Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the water’, but didn’t know it was in fact based on an actual event they witnessed. In the documentary, the band members said that they want to Geneva to record a new album. In the hotel where they were supposed to record, Frank Zappa gave a concert which Deep Purple attended. Some crazed fan in the audience shot a flare into the ceiling, which resulted in the whole (wooden) hotel burning down. According to one of the band members the only thing he saw the next morning was the smoke hanging over the lake. I found that interesting. They still recorded their album in Geneva, but were 7 minutes short of an album. So they added the track ‘Smoke on the water’ and it is now one of the best known tracks (and guitar riff) known to date.

An other chapter was about Iron Maiden who took metal to a whole new level of their own, with now two lead guitars playing unlike before. I’ve always admired their album artwork. frightening as it may be, the artwork was consistent to all their work. My brother has many LP’s.

Finally the documentary takes you to Metallica in the mid-’80s. In America a lot of bands follow one after the other, glam rock with guys in high heels, with Mötley Cruë in the lead. Metallica tried and succeeded in giving metal a more honest sound and really taking rock to a faster way of playing guitar. As a little kid of about 5, my oldest brother taught me the lyrics of Metallica’s Enter Sandman. I didn’t understand English, so I had no idea what I was singing along to. Now all those years later, I may think it was the turning point when my life took this strange path. It explains a lot now… why I’m a bit strange.

Anyway: if you wish to know more about the Seven ages of rock click here and you can find info, pictures, air dates and clips. It’s worth it, so take a look! The is even an artist guide!


9 thoughts on “Seven ages of rock

  1. Fab

    Me neither, all that ‘pimp’ and whatnot… I have a friend and she’s really into 50cent. I don’t get the attraction. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. It’ll always be a bit of a mystery to me.There is already so much abuse in the world, it doesn’t need to come out of my radio as well.

  2. SQT

    Fab– I bet Guns & Roses gets a mention. They burned out fast but they were a big deal for awhile. 80’s Hair Metal gets its own category here in the U.S.

  3. Stewart Sternberg

    I am going to have to check this out. I consider myself something of a rock historian, which is probably why I should stop think of myself at all.I think today we are going through a confused era where “Whine Rock” and weak, almost apologetic vocals mix with indistinct guitar lines. One thing I can’t do is include rap into the mix. Rap may be popular music, but keep it away from my genre.

  4. Fab

    Picard, keep in mind it’s by the BBC. The West Coast gets mentioned, only less then the Brittish bands. Why would that be? Hm.Hello Hageltoast! I have tried to visit your blog, but I can’t figure out which is the new one and which the old. Maybe it’s me?Sqt, there are other bands that haven’t been mentioned to my knowledge, but maybe Guns & Roses will get some time in next episode, being such a stadium band and all. Thank you all for dropping by!

  5. Jean-Luc Picard

    I know about this documentary, but haven’t seen it. The psychadelic west coast music of the 60’s seems to be generally overlooked.

  6. SQT

    Rap is not my favorite either. My husband has a CD of an alternative rock group(I can’t remember the group now) that did a remake of a NWA song in which you can actually understand the lyrics. They were absolutely repulsive! I can’t begin to understand how gansta rap has become so popular when they glamorize killing people and abusing women. I really really don’t get it.

  7. SQT

    I love these documentaries. They have them on all the time on VH1 here in the States and I watch them every time. Metallica gets a lot of respect as a metal band, but as a kid of the 80’s I remember Mötley Cruë fondly. They were all about fun and being wild–definitely a band for the times. And if you’re going to mention 80’s metal you can’t forget Guns & Roses– they were huge at the time.

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