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article image‘The Golden Age of American Rock’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Jan 18, 2014 in Entertainment
This three part BBC Four documentary traces American rock from the 1960s to the 1980s. Some of the major players are interviewed along the way.
These programmes also have a political narrative; whether or not you agree with that, there can be no doubt that the music covered here is some of the greatest ever recorded. Like most other music, American rock is not something that was born and grew in isolation. The black influences going back to the 1950s and 40s are acknowledged, as is the British, specifically English influence.
What actually happened - although it is not mentioned here - was that American music crossed the Atlantic in the 50s in what Al Stewart called the Eisenhower years, and this inspired a generation in the UK. Along with their American counterparts, these were the first teenagers. Then British bands conquered the States in turn, especially The Beatles, whose influence can hardly be overstated.
Of the hard rock bands, Led Zeppelin with their two hour sets made a big impression Stateside; formed in 1968, they toured the US shortly after. Not that there was any shortage of homegrown talent. Ted Nugent began touring in 1967; he appears in this programme, and has some characteristically strong words for substance abuse and those who engage in it.
Drugs were of course an unfortunate accessory and for some a necessity during the 60s - how else would the song White Rabbit have been written? Then later, LSD and plain old dope gave way to cocaine.
Among those sharing their thoughts are Tom Petty, Steve Miller, who had a massive hit with The Joker (number 1 in the UK as well as the US), and Englishman Peter Frampton, whose Frampton Comes Alive became the biggest selling album of all time.
Alice Cooper explains his 1973 hit Elected; there is also music from The Eagles, and from Fleetwood Mac (although no personal appearance) and likewise Kiss, who provide the glam rock - a better band than many have in the past given them credit for.
Tom Scholz of Boston from Boston also puts in an appearance, but of course there are many who don't get a mention, including Dan Fogelberg, who could rock with the best of them as for example his classic Face The Face, likewise there is no Jackson Browne, and does anyone remember Y&T? These guys are still active.
There is no Wishbone Ash either, who although English relocated to the States; Ted Turner lives in the Deep South, and check out the SongFacts interview with Andy Powell.
The fact that so many names had to be admitted shows just what a monstrously creative and talented era this was in rock music, and not just in the US.
Unless you were around in the 70s, in the US, the UK or other countries - including Japan where some Western bands were massive - you can't appreciate what you have missed. Thankfully there is YouTube for both nostalgia, and the bands of today, who like Isaac Newton, stand on the shoulders of giants.
The Golden Age of American Rock can currently be found on BBC iplayer. The third and final episode will be screened January 24.
More about Heavy metal, Hard rock, fleetwood mac, Ted Nugent, Steve miller
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