Alternative Rock: How it came to be

Lashonde Lavelle Christian
November 10, 2020
4 minutes
Alternative Rock, or also known as alternative music found its initial calling, or back then, more so a whisper, in the 60s.
The genre’s name was coined to describe an example of music that was different, as compared to mainstream music. Its vision was to be a genre that didn’t hunt commercial success, but rather an underground sound which stood on its own two feet, and needn’t had to coincide with the ideals of major labels.

Upon its inception, the genre hadn’t found its name and was called differently based on regions. For instance, in the States it was referred to as ‘College Rock’. It was popularly played on college radio circuits, and was also a type of music, college students seemed to be drawn to. In Britain on the other hand, it was known as ‘Indie’, as a means to signify its independent, underground ideologies.

Image via Tidal

Although the music genre may have started out slow in the 80’s, acts then, set the foundation for all the acts that would come. It was during that time where college rock bands like the ‘Pixies’, ‘They Might Be Giants’, ‘Dinosaur Jr.’, and ‘Throwing Muses’ were wildly prevalent. Besides that, the music was also played widely in the UK, particularly by DJs like John Peel, Richard Skinner, and Annie Nightingale.

Image via The Sun

However, believe it or not, for the longest of time, Alternative Rock was a genre misunderstood. It was defined as a musical model which rejected the commercialism of mainstream culture. In actuality though, it was merely a genre that stood in substitute to mainstream acts of the time, and didn’t attain or crave attention from dominant labels.
Its initial agenda was meant to insinuate status, instead of style. Back in the 80’s, the music was often played in small clubs, recorded for independent record labels, and spread by word of mouth.

Effecting its role as an umbrella term for underground music, Alternative Rock was like a tree, to the various branches that sprawled out from it. From Grunge, Indie Rock, Britpop, Gothic Rock, Indie Pop, and many others, the genre didn’t refer to one specific style of music, but rather numerous, diverse sub-genres which also subsisted under it.
As a matter of fact, in the 90’s and the 2000’s, alternative became the general term for all rock music. It diverged from what the term originally meant and thus, became difficult to define, as it had to be done based on the time period being referred to.

It was also in the 90’s when the genre officially split into two, Alternative and Indie. This was due to the fact that the genre it had grown to become, had different ideas of artistic authenticity prior to mainstream exposure. So what was one body, had then gone and divided itself into two separate forms; mainstream (alternative) and underground (indie).
With time, Alternative Rock grew, and even acts that weren’t by definition classified as alternative, went on to assume that identity, due to the genre’s popularity.

Image via Unsplash

Today, although going through various different phases and alterations, Alternative Rock is still very much prominent and sought after in the music industry. As it happens, according to Billboard data, Alternative Rock songs that have reached number 1 on the charts in the past, has seen salient and steady increase over the decades.

Besides that, some of the hottest most preeminent bands in the industry, was also named greatest alternative artists of all time.

Producing some of the best songs in the music scene, Alternative Rock has since stood strong for over 80 something years. Despite its many challenges to get to where it is today, we’re somewhat certain the genre will continue finding a way to live on after this, maybe even for another 80 something years.
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