Styles & Forms | Melodic Rock

During the 1970s, tuneful hard rock loomed over the US charts like a fluffy, pink colossus. The arrival of baby-faced guitarist Tommy Shaw led Chicago rockers Styx to become the first American group to achieve four consecutive triple-platinum albums, and when Journey appointed singer Steve Perry, it made them one of the biggest bands in the world.

Foreigner have now sold an incredible 60 million albums – 35 million of those in the US alone – as a consequence of such airwave standards as the 1980s hits ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’, ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ and ‘Hot Blooded’.

In the 1980s, British band Def Leppard utilized state-of-the-art technology, clever marketing and widespread touring to tap into the pop market with their Pyromania and Hysteria albums, a blueprint later used more ruthlessly still by Bon Jovi. The latter pair of bands were among the few to survive the grunge rock revolution, though Leppard surprised many by daring to flirt with the style themselves on their 1996 album Slang. Having overhauled themselves for a new generation of MTV viewers, ex-Deep Purple frontman David Coverdale and his former blues band Whitesnake also received long-overdue US attention as the 1980s drew to a close.

Ebbing Enthusiasm

Post-grunge, the only real metamorphosis that melodic rock has undergone is a downsizing of its audience. All save a tiny minority of acts have long since abandoned the pretence of creatively advancing their music. Like no other genre, except perhaps progressive rock, fans of AOR (album-oriented rock) demand re-hashes of the same old ideas. At grass-roots level, Vaughan, Von Groove, Ten, Harem Scarem, Mecca and Westworldall represent a glut of highly entertaining though inward-looking artists. Even new albums from top-tier bands often elicit scant enthusiasm, and Journey and Van Halen both ended long-term deals with Sony and Warner Brothers in 2002.

However, a decent living can be made on the lucrative summer touring circuit, and perhaps for that reason alone many of melodic rock’s main players continue to exist. Although Journey sold just 200,000 copies of Arrival, their debut with ex-Tall Stories singer Steve Augeri replacing Steve Perry, they and others like them seem determined to continue.

Invaluable exposure on TV’s South Park, Austin Powers: Goldmember and the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy has rewarded Styx – these days without keyboard player Dennis De Young, the voice of ‘Come Sail Away’, ‘The Best Of Times’ and ‘The Grand Illusion’ – with an unlikely renewed credibility that peaked when Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, Tenacious D and Billy Bob Thornton all made guest appearances on the group’s fourteenth album, Cyclorama.

Guitarist Mick Jones and vocalist Lou Gramm, the latter recovered from a life-threatening brain tumor, have celebrated Foreigner’s 25th anniversary with 50 US dates and embarked upon their first album together since Mr Moonlight in 1994. Boston came back with a new album, Corporate America, in 2002. Unfortunately, it’s...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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