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Classic rock was originally conceived as a radio station broadcasting format and although loosely defined, it generally includes the music from rock bands formed between the early 1960's and late 1970's. The most common classic rock band line-up is a, lead singer, lead guitar player, a rhythm guitar player, a bass guitar player, and a drummer, although many bands also feature a keyboardist, at least on some tracks.
Concept albums are a major part of classic rock, and there are many available. Amongst the prime examples are probably the four Pink Floyd concept albums, including The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, as well as The Who's two major rock operas: Tommy and Quadrophenia, along with Who's Next, one of the most often-played classic rock albums of all time. The Beatles famed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is another prime example.
The origins of the Classic rock radio format could be traced back to The Beatles' groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which would forever change several courses of the rock and roll format, especially with the slow rise of the FM radio format, even though a majority of people were still listening to AM radio. Since Sgt. Pepper did not originally spawn any singles, both AM and FM stations began to play select tracks from the album, thus adopting what would otherwise commonly be called Album Oriented Rock (AOR), or "Album rock", in an attempt to retain listeners. One of the first AM stations to adopt this style of programming with the attempted introduction of AM stereo broadcasting, was KRQX in Dallas, Texas where George Gimarc played a leading role in its introduction.
"Album Rock" would continue to be popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but by the end of the 1980s, "Album rock" would be re-adopted as "Classic rock" by FM radio. In the United States, this rock music format now features a limited playlist of songs ranging from the 1960s album tracks to current songs by artists associated with the loosely defined "classic rock era" — Some classic rock stations (especially in California), call the format "The Eagle" (named after Steve Miller's hit song "Fly Like An Eagle").
Classic rock is also a term used to mean a fusion of classical and rock music, or more usually, rock music arranged for and played by a symphony orchestra and is consequently also called Symphonic rock. The style was popularised by a series of albums called "Classic Rock", "Classic Rock 2", etc. performed by the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s. The resulting easy listening albums sold well and were popular until the early 1980s, when the form seemed to fall out of favour with the public. The LSO even scored a hit single with a medley of Classic Rock called Hooked on Classics, in 1981, though whereas the earlier albums were "classical" arrangements of hits by such artists as the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Nilsson and others, Hooked on Classics took the opposite tack – arranging a series of well-known classical pieces into a medley with a common tempo and adding a rock drumming track. The medley form was briefly popular around that time due to artists such as Stars on 45.
There have also been a number of popular songs based on classical music – see List of popular songs based on classical music.
The term classic means enjoyed by every generation. Classical music is not simply from another time, it is the music that is understood and listened to, to this day.
In the same way, Classic rock is rock music that is listened to and enjoyed to this day. The timeline for what is classic is always expanding. Many classic rock streaming radio stations now have segments devoted to punk rock, 80's hair bands and 90's grunge. The key element is whether the music is listened to and accepted by new generations.
List of Classic Rock Stations
- Q107 – Toronto, Canada
- Q1043 – New York, NY
- WZLX – Boston, MA
- WKPE – Yarmouth, MA
- WMGK – Philadelphia, PA
- Radio Hauraki, New Zealand nationwide