What Made Classic Rock 'Classic'?


Rock Star
I remember listening to a self-proclaimed Classic Rock radio station play a brand-new Tom Petty song. And I thought at the time that it didn't belong.

I just read part of a thread over at "The Other Place" about Journey where 2 guys were in disagreement about the definition of their 'classic' lineup. It was first claimed the classic lineup was the period of the huge hits that included Jonathan Cain, which went right by me without a thought, until someone else insisted the classic lineup was the original one with Gregg Rolie. And then I was like, yeah, I can see that point. Also.

So I began to wonder, What is it that makes something 'Classic'? Mainly in the context of classic rock. (So, not cars, eg.) Was it a time period in their career, or a certain length of time that had to pass before it could claim the title? Or that it came out during a particular era...? And was classic rock a term used to define a characteristic of certain music, and then at some point it became a genre, to wit, the new Tom Petty song? Or maybe it's about staying power.

I'm curious if the term can be defined.
I don't think it can be determined, simply because there are going to be so many opinions about it that no one will ever come to an agreement. The classic rock station down here plays Metallica and Alice In Chains, so I'm guessing they're going off the "it's 25+ years old, it's 'classic', I personally think of classic rock as the guys who started playing rock first, in the 60's and 70's. The classic rock radio station I grew up with in Maine subscribes to that idea, because they haven't changed their playlist since the late 80's. :rofl

I was watching two music critics discuss something similar yesterday, in regards to prog metal, which they both agreed is most commonly synonymous with 'technically challenging music' and isn't really accurate to the meaning of the word "progressive". Hahahah, I absolutely know when I was a little teenage shitburger I used to trash any music that wasn't technically challenging and enjoyed being called a prog snob because, teenager shitburgerism. :LOL: And I absolutely refused to acknowledge Tool as a progressive band, despite the huge amount of prog elements in the band and even more to the point, the fact that they were actually progressing their sound and style album to album. Their first one sounds nothing like their last one and it could have been two different bands who wrote them. "No shredding, 10-hour guitar work outs? Pussies..."

But if you take anything I said above and state it in any gathering of prog fans, they'll pick apart everything they don't agree with, even though I wasn't even stating my personal opinion of the genre. :rofl
Classic Rock in my head means late '60s through to 1980.
For whatever reason it stops being 'classic' once you're in the '80s :rofl

That naturally begs the question: "Well, what would you call '80s rock?" - but I don't have a good answer. Just '80s rock?? :whistle
it started being coined by radio station in the early 80's , mostly based on AOR from the 60's to late 70's :idk
That's what I see bands that do 80's covers call themselves.

That naturally begs the question: "What do you call 90's, or ooh, 2000's rock?" Kinda starts to sound weird. :ROFLMAO:
Looking at Radio and Streaming stations lineups - this seems to be typical categories:
- Oldies = 50s-60s (seems to include 60s non-rock)
- Classic Rock = 60s - 70s rock
- 80s Rock (which tends to be broken into 80s alternative rock vs. 80s rock, etc.
- 90s Rock (which tends to be broken into 90s grunge vs. 90s rock vs. 90s alternative)
- And I guess then it’s 2000s…

I’m not trying to define all the categories or genres of course. But it’s just funny that at a high-level, Classic Rock tends to be it’s own thing, and then after that, it tends to be decade-based…. i.e., you would say “wanna hear some classic rock or 80s rock?” and not “wanna hear some 70s rock or 80s rock?”

I dunno. Interesting question…
Time period for sure and I think Fireproof broke it down pretty well

Animated GIF