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Th& Daily Tar Heel Thursday, April 9, 19375
4The Daily Tar HeelThursday, April 9, 1987
By CATHY yCKUGH
Assstant Omnibus Editor
"It's only rock V roll, but 1 like
t, lllcc it, yes, I do!" goes the old
Rolling Stones song.
Today, in a new era filled with new
inyl (and non-vinyl), the statement
Jiiii nas iruin. wnemer mcyTe
listening to rock thatnard'or soft,
classic-jDnouveali rap or ballad
style, or just muc 'whh a good beat,
people still lov? focfcfVroll.
But, .experts' tyAyis becoming
increasingly diff It UV define just
what qualifies as roll. From
classic rock to Chn ian jock to rap
rock to jazz and trbkes, rock n
roll, with help from cnipact discs
and college radio stations, is embrac
ing more styles than ever before.
What is considered rock 'n' roll in
the 80s includes rap rock, Christian
nation of jazz and the blues, and the
entrance ef heavy metal bands into
the Top 40. ,
Last year, for example, Atlantic
Records released the 14-record set of
"Atlantic Rhythm and Blues, 1947
1974." This year they are continuing
with the . eight-record "Atlantic
Blues" and the 1 5-record set, "Atlan
"The resurgence of the blues has
a lot to do with the Baby Boom'
generation refinding the blues and
jazz," WXYC's music director Steve
Balcom says. "Rap is appreciated by
the younger nerationmd the
popularity of i "hristiapdc and
metal reflect4ur 'totjf altive lean
ings. Pee;:!? are jiio no longer afraid
to s3yftheye6u'gious, and the
succlsfApyGrant and Michael
SmitfMeMif kids okytp be in
the rock business withoutoeine all
sex, drugs and alcohol has earned
Balcom says he sees a conservative
trend in older rock performers.
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"Many rock performers - David
Bowie is a good example have let
maturation tame them and make
them more commercial."
But, speaking of older rock, let's
back up. Perhaps one reason behind
the increasing individualization of
rock is that its basics are stolen; it
includes something new from every
era, from everywhere. Perhaps the
parents of children growing up in the
60s didn't understand the popularity
of the Beatles any more than the
parents of today understand tj"
attraction of the Beastie Boys, bvt
to begin to understand where rock
is going in the 80s, let's look at where
In the 50s, rock 'n' roll pop was
dominated by teen idols and girl
groups from the record industry and
unorganized, mysterious outbreaks
across the country, from streetcorner
d oo-wop to blues in Chicago to
rockabilly in Memphis and rhythm
'n blues in New Orleans. Elvis
Presley emerged to become the father
of rock V roll,, that embodiment of
"a white ma if with a Negro sound
In the 60s, Baby Boomers' tastes
took over the pop music market and
it became dominated by rock. Little
Richard and Chuck Berry were
joined by the British Invasion bands:
the Rolling Stones, The Who and the
Beatles. Rock genres grouped and
regrouped, eventually showing a
decided split between the singles
buyers of AM pop and the album
The 70s saw the full emergence of
hea.vy metal bands such as Led
Zeppelin and ACDrSputhern
Rock bands such as Lyn "yfrard,
and the disco, punk and n setyles.
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And the 80s? What changes will
they be credited with? The 80s have
fostered rap and new wave. Rap, that
talk-to-a-beat genre, is self
explanatory, but defining new wave
is a different story. "New, wavers an
outdated term," Balcom saklEvery
person thinks it means something
What else makes the 80s rock
scene? Balcom says it's noteworthy
that the Bangles have been so
uccesssful with their album "Differ
ent Light. 1 here were a lot oi
women's groups in the 60s, and in
ihe 70s we had Patti Smith and
Heart, but the Bangles are unique in
that they're all musically sound.
They've also had to live down, the
Go Go's' reputation."
Ballads like those of Lionel
Richie's, according to Balcom, will
always be popular. "If Lionel Richie
farts on a piece of vinyl, people will
buy it because they just love him."
Over the years, rock has managed
to combine jazz, blues and Tin Pan
Alley. It has taken in country,
classical, rhythm V blues, folk rock
and hard funk. It has admitted
psychedelic rock, punk rock and
streetcorner doo-wop. It has
absorbed heavy metal, Southern
. rock, ballads, reggae, (dare we even
mention it?) disco, and, recently, rap.
The music of the 80s reflects this
potpourri, but thejiot new word in
the record business is the technolog
ical advancement that industrialists
say will eventually make vinyl obso
lete: compact discs.
"CDs are how Thomas Edison
meant for us to hear music," said Bob
Walton, WRDU's music director.
"They essentially re-record ahe
albums digitally, so'thcre's no scritch,
scratch or pop. "You cannot buy a
good vinyl copy of an old Rolling
Stones, The Who, or Elton John
x - ft.
album it's just not possible.
Listening to one of ihenY on CD lets
you hear things ffijt bowd never hear
before."., ' ) W '
Rolling Stone agatzne has been
chronicling theis: of CDs, saying
they are- allowmgVthe rock music
industry to exfits borders by
making previously untouchable
recordings (like some of Presley's first
tapes) available to the public.
Yet one of the largest forces in rock
'ri' roll today, according to producers,
is college radio stations, which break
new bands to the general public.
Remember when The Police were
unheard of? The Pretenders? And,
yes, even the almighty Springsteen?
Maybe not, but Bob Walton does.
. Walton, who was WXYC's music
director from the 4ime when the
campus radio station began on
Margh 20, 1977, until 1979,
rerncnfsljreaking in new bands on
thCKH tffcre other Album Oriented
RoC i - ' i) stations picked them
up. indefinitely remember XYC
beingtbjplirst to break in The Police
in 1978," Walton says. "I can say I
knew, for example, when Elvis
Costello and the Pretenders were first
played, but 1 can't take any personal
credit for it." '
As music director of WRDU in
Raleigh, Walton chooses what to
play or not to play. He admits that
sometimes it's difficult to keep the
preferences of listening audience in
mind when new releases come out '
"If we have something really
controversial that comes out, we may
let the college stations play it first,"
Walton said. "Hopefully, IVe been
around long enough that I know
what's right. If I'm doing my job
right, people will like what we play.
WXYC has good experimentation
we keep tabs on what they're doing
Have you heard of The Saints, The
Stranglers, The Damned or Killing
Joke? They may sound like weird
religious cults,! but they're all rock
bands currently oh Rolling Stone
magazine's college radio stations'
Top 10 list of albums. Chances are,
as Balcom says, youH hear more
about them 1 once they've proved
themselves on college air. ,
"We play bands first," Balcom
says. "College radio stations are the
prime source of artist development
today. We receive new releases from
all labels, and they call us up and
ask us if we've been olavine them."
Balcom says it is often difficult, for
him to to censor a new band, he reauy
likes in order to conform somewhat
to public tastes.
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their first single, 'She's un
w thJr Hhnt alhum Licensed
before their debut album (Licensed
To 111) was released, " Balcom saia.i
"It was a big move for AOR, a risk.
They make some really lewd com
ments, especially about women, but
you just cant take them seriously.
Actually, 1 think it's too bad that the
Beastie Boys hit number one with
their rap album because RUN
D.M.C. has had three albums they
really pioneered the rap rock genre."
Bands and artists that Balcom has
introduced on the air include U2,
Julian Cope, The Smithereens,
R.E.M.Timbuk3 and Los Lobos.
"It's really great to see bands like
these.cross over (from college stations
..to AOR stations)," Balcom said.
;?I2 used to be an alternative band
until people finally gave them a break
'War' really broke them. Local
radio stations were afraid to play
such' controversial songs as 'New
Year's Day and 'Sunday, Bloody
It's not just
El s Presley and
Sunday,' but their reputation on
college air finally got them out,"
While college radio continues to ,
expose new rock talents to the
general public, CDs are not only
keeping alive, but promoting older,
classic rock 'n' roll to the generations
who didn't grow up with Elvis Presley
and the Beatles.
The recent release of the first four
Beatles' albums ("Please, Please Me,"
"With the Beatles," "A Hard Day's
Night" and "Beatles for Sale") on
CDs may prompt a resurgence of
interest in their music, Walton said.
4 Rubber Soul' "Revolver" and
; i' "Help!" are due out in the next few
weeks and "Set. Peooer's Lonely
if ,( ' . . a ..... 't . l
mvt 3uhe40$s 20th anniversary.
;: "There ffe a resurgence of Beatles
music about four to five years ago,"
Walton said. "It's too early to tell,
but I think it may happen again. Well
play some of the less well-known cuts
from The White Album' and 'Sgt.
PeppeVs' and kids will probably say,
hey, they're pretty good. Of course,
1 could be wrong they may think
they're just four old farts by now."
Chances are that parents of the 80s
don't understand their children's
fascinations with the Beastie Boys
any more than parents of the 60s
understood their children's passion
for the Beatles.
The 80s decade, with' its CDs,
college radio stations, and plethora
of styles, will perhaps go down as
the age of rock, V roll expansion.
Whether or not today's fans were
"Born in th$,tfX$ xlimbing their
"Stairway Helen," giving love a
bad name braying for their right
to party, they are all part of 80s rock.
The varied musical sounds of
Michael Smith, R.E.M., and
The Stranglers add to the ever
broadening definition of rock
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