by Alex Cosper (12/30/12)
The late seventies marked an era of heavy disco influence on the pop charts. It also was the era that arena rock began to flourish. Rock artists who were succcessful at incorporating disco in their music included Rod Stewart, Kiss and The Rolling Stones. Meanwhile, stadium rock was growing with those same artists, along with Van Halen and Aerosmith. At the same time, a completely different type of music known as punk was brewing in America and becoming very popular in the U.K.
New wave music featured elements of punk and electronic music. Blondie's hit "Heart of Glass" captured many interesting details about the era in the sense that it was pop, disco and new wave. A more crazy-atmospheric type of new wave came from The B-52's whose "Rock Lobster" went completely outside the boundaries of conventional pop or rock. The sound of frat party music returned with the more vibrant new wave. Some of the more poetic new wave artists included Talking Heads, Elvis Costello & The Attractions and Patti Smith Group.
The Clash, The Police and other British bands who mixed ska with rock were helping define the new alternative music as international and not so much belonging to one country. In America The Cars produced a balance between traditional rock and inventive pop. Radio consultants began to divide the radio dial up into specific formats as part of the mainstream moved toward album-oriented rock and another part moved with dance music.
FM overtook AM by the end of the decade for radio listenership. By 1979 FM technology had improved so that listening to it in the car was no longer interrupted by tranmission problems. That's when freeform stations began to disappear and were replaced by more streamlined dance or rock stations. As mainstream radio tightened, it opened the door for different types of radio such as modern rock, which began to develop at KROQ in Los Angeles. The late seventies also ushered in rap music to the mainstream. The song "Rapper's Delight" by Sugar Hill Gang was the first rap song to ever made the top 40. Interestingly, it was issued on an independent label. Hip hop had been around in New York since about 1974 with DJ Herc, who mastered the art of communal storytelling. The Sugar Hill Gang's style was closer to Grandmaster Flash, who rapped in rhythm with the beat. It marked the beginning of a trend in which the main focal point of a dance record was the DJ.
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