back to article You say you want a musical revolution. Actually, have three

‪Pop music history has been marked by three distinct revolutions over the last 50 years, according to data-crunching boffins.‬ Three epochal years – 1964, 1983 and 1991 – marke, the greatest upheavals in musical tastes, according to Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, based on an analysis of more than …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rap on!

    I said a hip hop,

    Hippie to the hippie,

    The hip, hip a hop, and you don't stop, a rock it

    To the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie,

    To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Rap on!

      TU for bringing back some memories....

  2. TheProf Silver badge

    Out of date

    Not a very critical piece El Reg. And so late to the party too.

    New Scientist

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Out of date

      We've got a method - and by golly we're going to apply it to something!

      Not even airplay is immune to manipulation. You'll find the same track played on multiple radio channels at the same time on consecutive days in exactly the same way you hear the same adverts on multiple channels at the same time. Its almost as if someone... paid for it to be there. Its so blatant, that I doubt even the request shows do more than pick the people who want the tracks/artists they want to play anyway.

    2. Skiper

      Re: Out of date

      Female ejaculation comes in two forms ? Now _that's_ interesting !

  3. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

    never mind the journal ...

    here's the arXiv version :-)

  4. Yugguy

    Pap music, meh.

    METAL!!! PUNK!!!

    1. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: Pap music, meh.

      Metal, which is basically 50/60's rock and blues with more speed and a shit load of overdriven guitar. 30 years at the metal mast, don't get me wrong I'm a fan of anything decent like Emperor, Suno))) and Skeletonwitch but I'm under illusion where metal's roots are. I was brought up listening to Cliff and the Shadows, The Ventures, Stones, Floyd and Buddy Holly, I can see almost direct lines running back to those 60's bands.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    I think hip-hop saved the charts

    Hip-hop and rap ruined the charts... not that the charts ever mattered to me.

    They missed a big revolution in the mid 80's with grunge! I'm looking at the family tree of grunge from Spin Magazine, and I see lots of Seattle grunge bands started in the 80's.

    1. jacobbe

      Re: I think hip-hop saved the charts

      The salient words here are "pop charts".

      When push comes to shove, there wasnt much grunge in the charts. For every grunge song, there was at least 13 "Take That" singles above it.

      1. Amorous Cowherder

        Re: I think hip-hop saved the charts

        Grunge was basically a fusion of Husker Du/Pixies/Sonic Youth rock oddness, a lot of Neil Young style lyrics and chuck in some Ramones anger occasionally! I name check Screaming Trees, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains to name three.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: I think hip-hop saved the charts

          @Amorous Cowherder

          I would add a few to the list... Tad, The Melvins and Mudhoney. I was never a fan of Husker Du or Pixies, but was exposed to a lot of Sonic Youth and may have seen them? The 80's were a long time ago!

          However, your list has my favorites from the era. Great picks!

    2. Code Monkey

      Re: I think hip-hop saved the charts

      Grunge was nothing revolutionary; just another flavour of rock music.

  6. Paul Shirley

    American Pop music history has been marked by three distinct revolutions

    Apparently things like punk never reached the US ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: American Pop music history has been marked by three distinct revolutions

      Err, punk started in the US; the British version had a bad start so took a while to catch up, by which time it was already morphing into the early 80s stuff.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: American Pop music history has been marked by three distinct revolutions

        So the punk concerts I bounced ( door security not pogoing) at in the South Eastern UK from '76 on wasn't punk and the thousands of fans weren't punks?

        Who'd have known?

        Incidently Siousxie from the Banshees was hot and a nice girl to chat to.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: American Pop music history has been marked by three distinct revolutions

          +1 for Siouxsie. A class act, and now I am an old geezer to my kids (i.e. 40+) I have passed on the story that Hong Kong Garden was written in response to some nasty racists hassling the owner of the takeaway in the town where Siouxsie lived. Doesn't matter what you look like, my dears, so long as you have as much class as Siouxsie and Budgie.

  7. Chris Evans

    1983 synthesisers!

    "1983 when electronic bands [started using]... (synthesisers, samplers and drum machines)"

    The use of synthesisers and mellotrons (An early type of sampler) were well established in Prog Rock bands (Pink Floyd, Yes etc) by the early 70's. I think the study is showing an American bias.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: 1983 synthesisers!

      Ahem . . .

      "The Moog synthesizer gained wider attention in the music industry after it was demonstrated at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967"

    2. Rosco

      Re: 1983 synthesisers!

      This work seems to identify not the first pioneering use of musical styles, but the first widespread adoption. Yes, prog-rockers were pioneers of synth sounds but you wouldn't say that the early '70s charts were characterised by that sound.

      Likewise, hip-hop and rap arguably started in the 70s, but it didn't start gaining a foothold in the charts until the early 90s.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1983 synthesisers!

        I was a UK session keyboard player throughout the '80's. DASH and PCM recorders for multitrack and mixing down didn't become widespread until the late '80's. For me, the major changes around 1983 were, in descending order:

        1. Widespread adoption of digital signal processing, especially the replacement of plate, spring and echo chamber with digital reverb (AMS and Lexicon); digital delay (AMS); harmonising (Eventide); and upper harmonic enhancement (Aphex, some of which tended to be added at the mastering stage);

        2. Widespread use of triggered drum samples (usually in an AMS) to replace bass drum and snare drum sounds, resulting in a very consistent, not to say oppressive, drum sound;

        2. Widespread use of the Solid State Logic mixing desk, which had a characteristic 'shiny' sound to its EQ and mix bus compressor plus gates on every input channel, used along with AMS reverb to create the Phil Collins gated reverb drum sound;

        3. Widespread availability of digital synths (Yamaha DX7, PPG) and cheap analogue/digital hybrids (Roland Juno 60) having a very different, thinner,singer and more middle sonic signature than earlier synths;

        4. Drum machines (Linndrum, Oberheim, to a lesser extent Roland TR808);

        5. Low-bit samplers (Fairlight II; Emulator, etc.).

        Blimey, those were the days. I find it all pretty well unlistenable now. I much prefer the sound of "Kind of Blue'...

        BTW, I spent Autumn 1983 touring Germany and the UK with Hot Chocolate. Best band I ever played with, with the best band leader and front man. Errol RIP.

    4. Hairy Spod

      Re: 1983 synthesisers!

      either that or they are using Queen's "No synthesisers" statements on their albums which suddenly stopped in the early 80s as a guide to how all music was made as if nothing (else) really matters.

      1. Ilgaz

        Re: 1983 synthesisers!

        Ironically, they created the best syth based songs as a rock band.

    5. Christopher Lane

      Re: 1983 synthesisers!

      If you want to get technical the Theremin was around in 1928 (I think?)...

      1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

        Re: Theremin 1928?

        Not as early as '28,but also the Oramics Machine is worth a mention...

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. Dan Paul

      Re: 1983 synthesisers! Watch it!

      SOME of us discerning listeners in the USA were already well aware of those bands in the very late 60's and early '70's.

      How about Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, early Genesis, Yes, Rick Wakeman, Strawbs, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Moody Blues, Gentle Giant, Kansas, Procol Harum, King Crimson, Eno & Fripp, Zappa, Jethro Tull, Van deGraf Genrator, Can, Caravan, Curved Air, Camel, etc, etc. The list is too long and these "boffins" are anything but boffins.

      Still some of the best music ever produced and makes most of today's popular music look like the derviative excrement it is. Seen alot of these on the septugenarian tours and the youth of today that hear these bands are just blown away at how good they are. When I tell them these are 50 & 60 year old bands, they can't believe it.

      1. Skiper

        Re: 1983 synthesisers! Watch it!

        Thank god, punk came and killed all those boring bands (except for Kraftwerk).

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: 1983 synthesisers! Watch it!

        The list is too long and these "boffins" are anything but boffins.

        "I don't understand this study and I don't want to!"

    7. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: 1983 synthesisers!

      I think the study is showing an American bias.

      RTFA. The study tracked changes in the music in the US Billboard Top 100 chart. It's not "showing an American bias" - it''s about popular music in the US.

      Similarly, it's not about what was "well established" in particular genres. It's about what was in the Top 100. And while Pink Floyd, for one, were indeed both successful and influential in the US (Dark Side of the Moon will apparently be on one of the Billboard charts until the heat death of the universe), such successes were not sufficient to define the overall shape of popular music in the US.

      It's a shame1 the study is unrelated to your concerns, but them's the breaks. You're welcome to do your own statistical analysis of other musical trends in other places.

      1Not really.

  8. LDS Silver badge

    Rock was born ten year before 1964...

    ... ant it was not the always highly overrated Beatles and Rolling stones to introduce it (especially the Beatles with their lame ye-ye sound). They were not a music revolution, but a 'behavioral' one. They understood that looking like idiots, and acting like idiots, would have paid much more than their music in years when young people wanted to 'feel different' and break with the 'old ways'.

    From a musical point of view, other artists were much more innovative than the easy sound of Beatles (moreover, usually badly performed), and the repetitive sound of Rolling Stones. But on stage, they were the 'revolutionaries' people looked for regardless of the music. Perfect 'products' for the times. The same 'game' will be repeated often in the following years with other singers and groups...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Rock was born ten year before 1964...

        Sister Rosetta Tharpe was rocking by the 40's. But as people point out it might be better to describe a musical genre as beginning when the mainstream start to notice - though this can leave you with the impression that the music industry actually helps musicians which it patently doesnt.

  9. Turtle

    Music, But Not To My Ears.

    "This was a real revolution: suddenly it was possible [to have] a pop song without harmony,"

    For those who want less music in their music.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Music, But Not To My Ears.

      >For those who want less music in their music.

      Try academic electronic music - no harmony, no melody, no rhythm, no audience.

  10. Forty Two

    "based on an analysis of more than 17,000 songs from the US Billboard Hot 100."

    Having lived and listened through the entire period I recall several "upheavals". "Dead Skunks in the Middle of the Road", "My Ding-a-Ling", "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" ... Bit like determining the eating trends of a city by looking at the fast food wrappers in a landfill.

  11. John Sanders

    I hate rap and hip-hop

    I tried to like it, but ultimately I could not shake the impression that it is the type of music someone without talent can make.

    One of the reasons I learned to use Adobe Audition & Audacity is so I could cut rap pieces of perfectly good songs.

    The best example I can think of is "Dirty Harry" from Gorillaz. Suddenly it is a good piece of music.

    Also my daughter asked me once to give the treatment to one of Katy Perry's songs "Black Horse".

    I'm not alone on this, plenty of people do that online these days.

    1. Cowboy Bob

      Re: I hate rap and hip-hop

      Depends on the rap genre as to whether talent is required. There's pop-rap (which the article is talking about that has virtually no redeeming features), all the way through to the talented but lower selling artists who are effectively putting poetry to beats, people such as Dälek -

    2. Hollerith 1

      Re: I hate rap and hip-hop

      Oooo, I thought I was the only one to open up the old audio editor (WavePad, in my case) and cut offending bits. Not just the rap, if I don't like it, but what I consider really dumb bits in an otherwise brilliant song. For instance, the little 'recitative' (if I might call it that) towards the end of Garbage's 'Why do you love me', which suddenly stops the song, contradicts it completely, and isn't good. >snip< perfecto.

    3. Scott 26

      Re: I hate rap and hip-hop

      > I'm not alone on this, plenty of people do that online these days.

      One of the most fascinating "how-to mix" videos is Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up:

  12. rcp27

    It would be interesting to see if the same trends appear if the method is applied to the British charts. I expect the dates of the upheavals would be different, and I suspect the influence of rap and hip hop are less strong in the British market.

  13. theOtherJT


    "A lot of hair metal and stadium rock, like Bon Jovi and Bruce Spingsteen, came into the charts, and they had a bigger share of the overall charts," Mauch added. "But then rap and hip-hop came in. I think hip-hop saved the charts."

    ...but then again I grounded out on the late 80s at some point and am still stubbornly trying to pretend that there's no such thing as "Dubstep"

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old news ...

  15. Frumious Bandersnatch

    suddenly it was possible [to have] a pop song without harmony

    If that was in 1991, then I guess Napoleon XIV must have been some sort of visionary? That came out in 1966 and although the wiki link doesn't mention it, I recall reading that he was denied composition rights (iirc) because it didn't have any of the usual elements of a "song", most notably not having any "notes" (no pun intended, it's all just glissando with no fixed stops). I think that the link here might explain that in point 5... he lost certification from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

    Also, while I'm talking about pre-dating, how about Blondie (Rapture, 1980) and Gil Scott-Heron (TRWNBT, 1970) as rappers/proto-rappers? And obviously there were tons of electronic artists before the 1983 cutoff (like Bruce Haack, but many before him, too). Less eclectically, Telstar was a massive hit in 1962...

  16. DJV Silver badge

    7 year cycle

    I always thought that music from the mid-1950s onwards roughly seemed to have a 6-8-year cycle in the UK:

    1956 - Elvis Presley and rock (ok, Haley and Rock Around The Clock was 2 years earlier)

    1963 - Beatles (which morphed into the later hippy stuff)

    1971 - Glam - Bowie, Bolan etc.

    1977 - Punk

    1983 - Synth-based stuff and new romantics

    1991 - Hip-hop etc. by which time I had pretty much lost interest in the charts due to old age, senility or getting married (I forget which)

    1. lambda_beta

      Re: 7 year cycle

      Reminds me of sun-spots!

    2. Skiper

      Re: 7 year cycle

      That's about it although you forgot american black music (blues, soul, funk). For the kiddies, altough I doubt there are many on this site, I suggest you check out the documentary "Dancing in the streets" from the BBC. Great way to understand the evolution of popular music from 1950 to 2000.

  17. 1 Million Dollars

    MTV Raps, most definitely saved MTV. Early rap was dynamic, energetic and that home - brewed creativity, you get at the start of any movement.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Synth bands were heading the UK charts before '83, by which time incidentally the New Romantic thing was already pretty much over. By '83 things were staring to dissolve and dilute in terms of both the music and the fashion.

    80/81 gave us Tubeway Army/Gary Newman, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Visage, Ultravox, OMD, and of course The Human League. 83 was not really a stand out year compared to the big chages in sound that happened on the turn of the decade.

    A/C because as far as I know all of the photos have been destroyed, If I did choose an icon the coat would have a ruffle collar and lots of gold braid and the face in it would be painted in pale green a kind of mauve with black outlining - Thats one photo I did keep, was I ever that young?

  19. Stevie Silver badge


    "The" synthesizer revolution was actually a number of major and minor revolutions that started with the subtractive/additive "analogue" synths that were monophonic and shared info, when they could, using a simple control voltage/gate hookup through the truly game-changing DX7 FM synth (which fathered the Yamaha affordable home keyboard market and got rid of the Wakeman Wall O' Keyboard Racks overnight to the everlasting joy of the roadies) and not long after a game changed again move to sample-based music generation systems, all alongside a transition to inter-music-toy communication using MIDI.

    Parallel developments led to inexpensive polyphonics (it is harder to do that than you might think) and velocity sensitive keyboards, all important in the development of the astounding, damn-near real feal of today's electronic pianos with feedback mechanics that let you feel the non-existent hammers falling back after hitting an imaginary string through the same keyboard that moments before you could have sworn was just like a real pipe organ register.

  20. x 7

    Why is everyone forgetting the letter "C" when talking about crap music?

  21. phil dude


    I just got back from a festival here (Shaky Knees), and saw a pretty astonishing array of new, different and mature music (Noel Gallagher player, yeah, the one with the brains from Oasis).

    But some of the music was, how shall I put it, pretentious twaddle?

    Oh and I saw Spinal Tap...they didn't call themselves that, but.....

    Icon gives the flavour...


  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rock Family Trees?

    Slightly OT, but does anyone remember the documentary Rock Family Trees? Great series showing onw band A morphed into Band Z by way of B, C , D, an affair between the drummer and the producer's astrologer, etc etc. As you can imagine the Fleetwood Mac episode made Game Of Thrones look like a picnic.

    1. Queasy Rider

      Re: Rock Family Trees?

      That sounds like a Monty Python skit to me.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Rock Family Trees? - Rock Notes

        From (a band actually took their name from the Monty Python sketch 'Rock notes'

        (abridged: actual skit or sketch is longer, with bits about a wedding).

        "Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle. "Fell off the back of a motorcyclist, most likely," quipped ace drummer Jumbo McClooney upon hearing of the accident. Plans are now afoot for a major tour of Iceland."

  23. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Serious Fogeys

    I was never into popular music. I was the only kid in my peer group in the 80's who had an appreciation (bordering on the exclusive-obsessive) of the Art of Noise. I never had a lot of time for music with lyrics for an awfully long time, preferring the minimalism of Kraftwerk and the experimental work of Gershon Kingsley (was that hard to get a hold of pre-internet, I'm still amazed I found out about it's existence.

    I rather quite like rap now (not exclusively so, but when the mood takes me) Lench Mob, Cypress Hill, Sensor. I think I was only 'awakened' to it through The Art of Noises 'The Seductionfo Claude Debussy' album.

    These mornings though, I tend to rise to the sounds of rather 'genki' j-pop, (Houkago TeaTime, Doco, etc. anything chirpy) need something to energise me, and drugs are too unhealthy long-term

  24. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Any "researchers" who talk about rap and hip hop as of a category of music disqualify themselves from being called musical experts.

    And so it comes as no surprise that they have totally missed the revival of progressive music since the first decade of this century.

  25. SVV

    These are music experts?

    "the Rolling Stones – burst onto the US charts with a rocky sound that swept away popular music's jazz and blues chords."

    Yeh, the Rolling Stones were really well known for their dislike of blues, and sure swept away its' chord structures with their avant-garde atonal serialism......

    'The second greet stylistic revolution came in 1983 when electronic bands using new instruments (synthesisers, samplers and drum machines) burst on the scene.'

    Is that "new as in just invented" or "new as in just bought it from the shops"? Anyone who thinks that these things were invented in the early eighties has no clue whatsoever.

    'The most recent upheaval (and for the analysts at least, the greatest) came in 1991 when rap and hip-hop (which make little use of harmony, emphasising speech sounds and rhythm instead) hit the mainstream.'

    So Grandmaster Flash, etc, didn't have worldwide hit records in the early 80s?

    What's the conclusion to their research? That a new type of electronic dance music called "house music" is about to become popular?

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Anyone who thinks that these things were invented in the early eighties

      In all fairness the article doesn't say that, but you are right that there is a perception that this is when the technology was invented as opposed to when portable electronic instruments became a) practical and 2) affordable.

      And that was down to the abandonment of the original Moog/Roland/ARP style synths for the FM synths that followed in the wake of the DX7, which was not only simple to use, it had digital memory in which to store the settings (called "patches"). This crashed the prices of the old-school "analog" synths so far they were not economical to make within a decade. In '84 I picked up a new SH101 leadline analog synth with all the available bolt-ons for it for exactly one hundred dollars.

      Once sampling (another technology that had been around for yonks) was affordable (which was around the mid-to-late 80s) the game changed again and you got everyone and his dog making much use of other people's work.

  26. Rick.PGC

    Why are two colleges in England using US Billboard charts to track changes to popular music? I Quote "when British bands – from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones – burst onto the US charts". These, and many other bands were already popular in England so the "revolution" had already happened, the fact that the US was playing catch up should have been the story. Please don't get me wrong, there are many, many, US based bands producing excellent music but the story would have different dates if British or European or World music had been analyzed.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You say you want a revolution yeah

    Well you know, we all wanna change the world

    You tell me that it's evolution

    Well, you know We all want to change the world


    You say you got a real solution

    Well, you know

    We'd all love to see the plan

    You ask me for a contribution

    Well, you know

    We're all doing what we can

    But if you want money from people for Windows 8

    All I can tell is brother you have to wait

    Don't you know it's gonna be all right?

    All right, all right

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