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date: 14 December 2019


  • Richard Middleton


A term used to denote a particular category of pop music. A contraction of Rock and roll, it first appeared in the 1960s, when it was used to describe certain new pop music styles developing after about 1965 in North America and Britain. These styles were mostly associated with young, white audiences and musicians: for example, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in Britain, and bands based in California such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. The governing principles that were felt to underlie these styles were their seriousness and commitment. These qualities were the basis of a contrast made by rock fans and musicians between their music and contemporary popular music styles considered to be more commercially orientated, by now often described pejoratively as ‘pop’. Subsequently ‘rock’ was applied to music thought to display the same sense of commitment or to derive stylistically from rock of the late 1960s. The rock–pop contrast became a staple of critical and historical discourse. However, even in the 1960s the sociological and stylistic distinctions between rock and pop were often blurred, and this was increasingly so from the 1970s on, especially after punk rock (...

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