The Diversifyin’ Late 60s/Early 70s, Part III: Why Isn’t There Rock-Blues

If rock is blues and country, then is blues-rock just bluesy blues and country? How blues is blues-rock in comparison to rock? Of course, if someone in 1956 called a group or artist “blues-rock,” it most certainly would have been redundant, but by the time of the sub-genre explosion in rock music (or as I like to call it, The Great Rock Schism) in the late sixties, all sorts of groups like Cream (and for that matter, any of Eric Clapton’s groups,) The Spencer Davis Group, The Rolling Stones, J. Geils Band, Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green’s version,) and hoards more identified themselves as blues-rock.

Though rock had its roots in jump blues, R&B, and country, throughout the 60s, the genre absorbed all sorts of influences like Tin Pan Alley, Phil Spector, classical music, urban folk, and not to mention the drug culture around it. So when bands like The Rolling Stones played Robert Johnson on Let It Bleed (the song Love In Vain, though credited as traditional is in fact Mr. Johnson,) they were reintegrating rock music’s original roots into their music, making blues-rock a callback to earlier times. Even though The Stones could play low-key Delta blues when they wanted to, or hard-driving Chicago blues, they were always a rock band. They played in front of thousands of screaming fans, played their instruments loud, and they played them fast.

Of course, this leaves us with the observation that no music is called “rock-blues.” Blues is too exclusive for that, yet what out there can’t fall under the umbrella of rock music? The Stones, a rock band, released Exile On Main St., a rock record, back in ’72 featuring blues, country, gospel flourishes (I love that… whenever I read about rock music integrating gospel, it’s always in flourishes,) as well as pop and rock. Nowhere else in popular music can a record like that exist. Jazz, blues, country, swing, and everything else are very purebred; rock is the hybrid genre. It absorbs everything it sees. Only rock could contain such divergent artists like The Stooges, The Moody Blues, and Duane Eddy?

The all encompassing nature of rock music might be the root of its longevity in the public consciousness, as it is a continuously evolving and growing genre, absorbing more styles, developing new ones, stepping back with roots revivals, making it possible for people to still enjoy rock music, even if “rock music” doesn’t necessarily stay the same over the years.