The Death of American Rock and Roll

By the late fifties, rock and roll had begun to move away from the raw immediacy of its early stars and become a vehicle for the banal contrivances of camera friendly faces singing songs about teenage romance. It had barely established itself, yet rock and roll was losing its rebellious edge and drifting into the abyss, becoming nothing more then a catchphrase for corporate-sponsored teen music with a beat.

Another unfortunate development was the resegregation that began to take place. Previously, rock and roll had made tremendous headway in breaking down the barriers between the races. By the end of the decade, this would be a memory, and the industry would regress to business as usual. Pat Boone, Debby Reynolds, and Tab Hunter all had #1 hits in 1957 with no crossover appeal, while only "safe" black acts like Johnny Mathis and Sam Cooke had #1 hits, with tame, lukewarm performances.

More disturbingly, the influence of R&B had on rock and roll and doo wop all but disappear, with Tin Pan Alley and country music becoming the major sources of new material. All was not lost, however,  to the most die-hard-rock-and-roll fan had it was disheartening to see rock and roll fall prey to the corporate machinations and manipulated anarchy formula.

"The Darkest Hour Is Just Before the Dawn"
"Dedicated To the One I Love" by The Shirelles

Across the ocean in Britain things were much different. British youth had followed rock and roll from its beginnings and from a distance that allowed them a clearer view of the music. England was not saturated with around the clock radio. There exposure came from the few  singles shipped from America and limited programming on the government controlled BBC. This limited availability contributed to an excitement, much like young white Americans had discovered late at night with there radios listening to R&B stations in rock's earliest days.

While Americas turned to a lighter pop, teen idols and the Twist, the British kept there taste for authentic rock and roll and R&B. A new generation of British bands - the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Animals, Kinks, etc. began reshaping the music in their own image and make England the rock capital of the world.

The British Invasion of 1964 brought America's music - reinvented and revitalized - home, a a new generation of rock fans were born. Rock now entered what is now known as its Classic Era.

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