The emergence of alternative rock

The term alternative rock was coined in the early 1980s to describe rock artists who did not fit into the mainstream genres of the time. Bands dubbed "alternative" had no unified style, but were all seen as distinct from mainstream music. Alternative bands were linked by their collective debt to punk rock, through hardcore, New Wave or the post-punk movements. Important alternative rock bands of the 1980s in the US included R.E.M., Hüsker Dü, Jane's Addiction, Sonic Youth, and the Pixies, and in the UK The Cure, New Order, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Smiths. Artists were largely confined to independent record labels, building an extensive underground music scene based on college radio, fanzines, touring, and word-of-mouth.

Few of these early bands, with the exceptions of R.E.M. and The Smiths, achieved mainstream success, but despite a lack of spectacular album sales, they exerted a considerable influence on the generation of musicians who came of age in the '80s and ended up breaking through to mainstream success in the 1990s. Styles of alternative rock in the U.S. during the 1980s included jangle pop, associated with the early recordings of R.E.M., which incorporated the ringing guitars of mid-1960s pop and rock, and college rock, used to describe alternative bands that began in the college circuit and college radio, including acts such as 10,000 Maniacs and The Feelies. In the UK Gothic rock was dominant in the early 1980s, but by the end of the decade indie or dream pop like Primal Scream, Bogshed, Half Man Half Biscuit and The Wedding Present, and what were dubbed shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, and the Boo Radleys. Particularly vibrant was the Madchesterscene, produced such bands as Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets, and Stone Roses. The next decade would see the success of grunge in the United States and Britpop in the United Kingdom, bringing alternative rock into the mainstream.

From Wikipedia

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