HARD ROCK IS BORN
The Hard Rock of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and a handful of other late 1960s and 1970s artists will be featured in the lessons coming in this chapter. Out of the Blues explosion and, more particularly, from the splinters of groups like the Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, human and musical elements of the Hard Rock sound came together. But, individuals and bands aside, Hard Rock would have developed differently were it not for the backdrop of change that approached its zenith in those years. As the lessons will suggest, the youth culture that emerged in the 60s gave Hard Rock its aesthetic, its ambition, and a enormous canvas on which to create.
In this chapter Jimi Hendrix will play a pivotal role, in part because he comes to Hard Rock not from the Blues explosions in Britain and the U.S. but from the world of R&B. A guitar player with the Isley Brothers and, at one time, Little Richard, Hendrix manifests a connection to Soul. Songs like "The Wind Cries Mary" take guitar stylings that point to 1960s Soul and bring them into a new context. In much the same way, Eric Clapton of Cream takes the Blues he explored in both the Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers and forces new things out of the genre. It happens in the songwriting, in the sense of exploration, and also in the volume. Technology becomes a part of the story as the musicians search for new sounds, whether through pedals or amplifiers that can be pushed to new limits.
Among the other issues raised in these lessons will be changing conceptions of the "Rock star" and the attendant mythologies, together with the advent of Stadium Rock. With Led Zeppelin as a case study of sorts, Hard Rock bands and the culture that surrounded them come to embody the kind of excess that, by second half of the 1970s, gave Punk Rock something at which to sneer. The gap between the audience and the performers grew, with the new "Rock star" living in what, from the outside, was perceived to be a fantasy world of needs met instantaneously, of money, mansions, and private planes. To whatever degree this perception was true, the Hard Rock era was certainly one in which the music industry was enormously profitable. Hard Rock set itself up to be challenged, even attacked. And many were poised to help with the job.