In assessing the popular music of the last half of the 20th century, rock music was undeniably king. It was a massive cultural force that spread around the globe. Initially driven by young Baby Boomers, rock grew bigger and stronger, eclipsing all other genres. And central to this was the electric guitar.
That sound, with all its power, distortion, and infinitely diverse tonalities, can still drive music fans into ecstasy.
For many, the electric guitar is a symbol of rebellion and liberation. It’s a vehicle for freedom of expression. And it opened the doors to new types of creativity. Had it not been for the electric guitar, rock, initially considered a musical fad, probably wouldn’t have survived the 1950s.
Its history is a complicated one, involving musicians, inventors, tinkerers, happy accidents, big multinational companies, and lone wolves. Some names are well known while others, despite their contributions to the decades-long evolution of the instrument, languish in obscurity, known only to guitar geeks and obsessives.
And while there have been many occasions when pundits declared that rock (and by extension, the tools to make this music) is dead, the electric guitar has proven to be extremely adaptable and has (at least so far) been able to take on all comers, especially when placed in the hands of radicals and rulebreakers.
If a power chord played through a Marshall stack has ever given you chills, then you’re in the right place. This is the history of the electric guitar, part 3.
Songs heard on this show:
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Give It Away
- Elephant, Tame Impala
- Green Day, Brain Stew
- Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory
- Radiohead, Creep
- White Stripes, The Hardest Button to Button
- Beck, I Think I’m in Love
- Offspring, (Can’t Get My) Head Around You
- Jane’s Addiction, Mountain Song
- The Ramones, Blitzkrieg Bop
Here’s Eric Wilhite’s playlist
for the program.
The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:
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