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Last Updated: Friday, 22 August, 2003, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Rock finds its voice again

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The Darkness
Not even metal journalists could foretell The Darkness's success
As The Darkness, Metallica and Linkin Park toast Kerrang! Awards success, rock music is enjoying rude health at the expense of pop and dance. What has happened to bring rock back into favour?

When clubbing became the musical culture of choice in the mid-90s, dance purists claimed they had killed rock. But now the tables have turned.

Rock is back. The logos of hoary old metal acts such as Kiss and AC /DC are worn as a badge of ironic pride by fashionable youth. TV adverts come with ear-splitting soundtracks from bands like British metal band Motorhead.

According to the British Phonographic Institute's (BPI) own figures, in 2002 rock records outsold pop. It was only by 31% to 30.3% - but rock was on top, buoyed by records from acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvana.

Clubland decline

And in the last three years - with a jump from 22% in 1999 to 31% last year - rock album sales have risen by nearly a third.

At the same time the dance music scene has struggled with falling fortunes. Dance magazines such as Muzik have been hit hard. Superclubs such as Cream in Liverpool have folded.

The Ministry of Sound, which once boasted a magazine, record label and radio station, is now redefining itself as a more upmarket nightspot as traditional club nights fall out of favour.

Truly, the church of rock is very broad at the moment
Dave Everley, Kerrang! deputy editor

This weekend's Reading Festival, which little more than a decade ago attracted acts such as Uriah Heep, Bonnie Tyler and Meatloaf, seems to be rediscovering its rock past after becoming more alternative in the 1990s.

This year sees the traditional Sunday rock day headlined by Metallica, and also features bands such as Good Charlotte, System of a Down and Sum 41 - all of them unashamed rockers.

The Friday line-up rests heavily on rock acts, such as Linkin Park, Blink 182 and The Datsuns, also.

The Lycra-and-bouffant-hair sporting rock sensation, Suffolk's own The Darkness, have become one of the most talked about bands of the year - and without a whiff of credibility.

The band won best album and best live act at the recent Kerrang! awards and they are also in the running for the prestigious Mercury music awards.

Marilyn Manson
Marilyn Manson: Ploughing his own furrow

The success of rock, and its gradual acceptance back into mainstream musical culture, has surprised even some of its most ardent fans.

"To be really honest I never thought the Darkness would turn out to be as big as they are," rock magazine Kerrang!'s deputy editor David Everley told BBC News Online.

"I saw them last year at the Notting Hill Arts Club playing to 150 people, and there was no way I thought a year later they would be opening for Robbie Williams at Knebworth and playing to 300,000 people."

Pop backlash

Mr Everley said rock's recent fortunes were part of a regular cycle - rock would go out of fashion, then return a few years later with a slightly different sound.

"In the 1980s there was the heavy metal stuff like Iron Maiden, then there was the big hair metal of bands like Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses, and then there was the grunge era.

"The we have had the new metal scene with bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit taking over the world, and at the same time you have someone like Marilyn Manson ploughing his own furrow."

He said pop was "more disposable" - and said that more people were being turned on to rock because of pop talent shows like Pop Idol and Fame Academy.

"I think anyone who listens to rock is going to be sick of that in the first place," he said.

The Strokes
Rock now embraces credible, arty bands like The Strokes

A spokesman from Virgin Megastores said rock instores were proving to be their most popular - and that rock records were consistently top sellers.

He cited a recent instore signing by The Darkness as one of the most popular in the chain's history.

"Most of the fans are 14-year-old kids - it seems at that age they are either into Blue, or they are into rock bands. I think its fantastic they are getting into rock - it may sound strange, but I think it's quite wholesome."

As for just what constitutes rock now, even Mr Everley is impressed with the range.

"It used to just mean bands like Iron Maiden in the 1990s - now it is everything from Marilyn Manson to the White Stripes and the Strokes, who we feature in our magazine.

"Truly, the church of rock is very broad at the moment," he said.

Please see below for a selection of your views on the rise of rock.

As someone who has roadied for the likes of Iron Maiden, Krokus and local metal bands in the Edinburgh area in the early 80's and never 'lost the faith' the media's current interest in metal is hilarious. Bands like Iron Maiden, Halford, Saxon, Deep Purple, Metallica etc. released a lot of their best work in the 90's. Metal and rock never went away - it was just not fashionable to like it (and that has been true for most of the 70's, 80's 90's and no doubt will be true again soon enough). We don't care we'll just keep rockin'!
Fergie Meek, Scotland

The whole thing is cyclical, rock is an ever-present undertow which people remember exists when all we are offered is pap like Gareth Gates and Girls Aloud. Don't get me wrong everything has a place, but where do they drag these acts from, please? Bands like Metallica and the Chili's have staying power because they are emphatic about what they do, oh and they have musical talent to offer to boot.

All musical genres have there moments in the limelight and it'll return full circle until times when genuine originality shakes things up again.
Tim Barker, UK (currently residing in France)

The majority of pop acts are one-dimensional, disposable and forgettable. The music industry have created this situation by saturating the charts with such acts, so they can hardly complain when their latest 'idol' has a 6 month career span. Rock acts tend to appeal to people on a number of levels, be it musicianship, image, performance, etc. I'm 37 and I'd still love to be Gene Simmons
Matt Sefton, UK

I've been a rocker since I got the AC/DC LP for Those About to Rock... when I was 7 (I'm 31 now). All these generic, no talent, created pop bands are starting to loose their appeal and people are turning to real music and real bands (that write, produce and play their own music), which must be good. My favourite era in rock was the late 80's, early 90's. I've still got the tapes (yes, tapes) of Guns N Roses, Poison, Motley Crue and of course Britain's No1 glam rockers, Tigertailz and I still listen to them! The best live rock band I've ever seen though was Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan is a guitar maestro! Not to sure about ZWAN though, but I guess everything changes and I suppose that's not a bad thing...
Dunk, UK

Well, in fairness, in terms of being a credible "cutting edge", dance music died about 10 years ago: it seems to me perhaps a bit disappointing to see, instead of a new departure like house music originally was or hip hop before it, we have a somewhat bland regurgitation of across-the-board rock that could have been (and in the Strokes case "was") made in the 1970s.

But hey, anything's better than a generation hooked on S-Club . I'd gladly see a Val Doonican revival as long as it took sales away from these industry produced faceless hairdressing students. Nice to see kids buying music that's been made by (gasp) musicians.
feargal, ireland

Rock never went away. It's now just headline news that's all. During the so-called 'rock drought' years in the late '90s there were loads of great rock albums released.
G Smith, UK

Rock music has always been around, in one form or another, since the beginning of popular music. Whatever trends may occur, ultimately everything goes back to the guitar. I can't see a computer really having the same appeal! The production line, glorified karaoke of "Pop Idol" and the like, is the crowning example of where fat cats stuffing their wallets (and getting huge tv viewing figures), takes priority over musical integrity. How much longer must we tolerate this? Rock on!!
Ceri Chambers, UK

I got into rock when I was fed up with the charts full of manufactured bands with more talent at looking good than being able to sing. One of my favourite bands now is Red Hot Chili Peppers, none of them are lookers but they write and perform excellent music. That's where the real talent lies....
Jo, UK

I used to go and see The Darkness regularly in Camden before they hit the big time and even then they stood out a mile for the quality of their songs and live performances. Good luck to them!
Piper, UK

Anyone for Rock Idol (tm)?
Mick Sanderson, England

Most "nu-metal" bands are nothing more than boy bands with guitars. Linkin Park are far too clean living to be real rockers. Trust the Americans to grab an idea and totally mess it up! I mean, all these new punk bands are nothing like punk! they can almost play for a start! Some real bands remain of course but on the whole, watch Kerrang on tv and you'll see a load of pretty boys pushed together and told what to do by image consultants/managers. Not rock!
Bug, uk

Rock Music is invariably played by musicians foe music lovers whereas pop music is under the control of money grabbing moguls who treat their acts as one-tear products, sing cover versions and are not given time to learn and develop their craft Rock is also a live experience whereas pop involves miming to backing tapes
Huw Williams, Wales

To see truly great Rock N Roll look no further than Jersey. New Jersey that is and see that perhaps the greatest Rockers come from here namely Bruce (the Boss) Springsteen currently coming to the end of one the biggest sell-out tours of all time and also Bon Jovi. Anyone who saw them at Hyde Park in June (I was one of those 90,000+ people) would realise that music may come and go but Rock N Roll lives forever. As a great man once said "Don't Bore Us, Get the Chorus"
Tim Park, Guernsey, C.I

Its good that the youth get a large variety of music but "rock" as only become popular because the music industry say its time. Linkin Park are no different to Boyzone in the way that they are both manufactured. Sure its a new sound for the kids but what's described as being "genuine" isn't always... keep your wits about you!
james, uk

Pop is pleasant and nice to listen to but it isn't very filling. Rock fills the soul.
Neil, UK

I am a fan of rock music predominantly, however I would rather hear the likes of S Club and DJ Sammie on TV and radio than the awful Darkness who have confused irony with simple bad taste. Some things like '80s poodle perm metal are best left buried.
Sam, UK

Rock music is far more accessible now, but that's more because the record companies are always looking for the next fast buck. Once the Rock Dollar becomes harder to earn they'll move onto another genre and hype it up, leaving fantastic up and coming bands and some established ones floundering. But who cares, I've always been into Alternative/Indie/Rock and that won't change it's just great to have such a choice right now. It still makes me laugh though that "great new bands" that my mates 16 year old brother has just discovered are bands I've been listening to for years! Two years ago the same person was hooked on R&B - fickle youth culture anyone?
James Canfer, UK

Does this mean I'll be able to listen to Radio 1 again !?
Andy Morgan, UK

Everything is cyclical and the media talk as if rock has not existed since 1989. There were also quite a few bands doing lots of dance/rock crossovers anyway (Primal Screen spring to mind). So it is not a big deal and just the media trying to find something to say. Believe it or not some people actually like both and lets hope we don't get boring old and young rockers boasting (the most dull and conservative of beasts) that dance is dead and rock is king - it will all change and merge again.
mark speed, england

Pop is all about trends and fashion and what people are into. Rock doesn't follow this, and will never go out of date. Rock on rock!
Rich H, UK

Variety is the spice of life and the charts became a domain for boy and girl band clones, R&B etc... Young people now want some excitement and something to allow them to rebel.
Giles Jones, UK

Now is a truly great time for rock music. The backlash against manufactured bands has been so pronounced that musically, anything goes so long as it's genuine - let's just hope the kids can tell the difference...
Brett, UK

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