What is ‘classic rock’ according to America and when did it die?

The genius minds over at FiveThirtyEight sought out to define ‘what is classic rock’ and ‘why isn’t it what it used to be,’ these are those findings.

It’s no mystery that rock music on the radio (and popular rock in general) sucks big fat donkey balls these days…but why? What happened? And when did rock on the radio become virtually unlistenable? Well, thanks to FiveThirtyEight we now have some of those answers.

Their data concluded that 57% of all music played on classic rock radio stations was recorded/produced in the ten-year span from 1973-1982…So now we know ‘when’ the heyday of classic rock took place, but we still need to know ‘what’ constitutes classic rock. They’ve of course answered that too.

In a week long period of tracking song plays across classic rock stations all over the USA, these were the most played songs, giving us a clearer idea of what the public defines as classic rock:

So, what does this table mean in relation to the one above it?

Cities where rock stations have longer legacies, like Detroit and Philadelphia, tend to prefer an older style of classic rock — think J. Geils Band and the Beatles — while cities without that history tend to favor the more contemporary set.

However, further complications of what constitute classic rock regionally can be attributed to things such as migration and immigration. All of this is fascination, and you need to go read it all over here in its entirety on FiveThirtyEight!

But in a follow-up blog to the one listed above, they’ve gone even further and defined Classic Rock as having started with The Beatles and dying with Nirvana:

So what about a somewhat inclusive definition centered around the median classic rock song? Of the 1,652 songs for which we have accurate release year data, the median song was released in 1977. If our definition is the middle 90 percent of songs — essentially, cutting out the earliest 5 percent and latest 5 percent — that gives us a range of 1966 to 1995, which is reasonable.

So, there we have it: Kurt Kobain killed classic rock and left us with Courtney Love.

Thanks for nothing, Kurt.


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