Top 10 rock and roll innovations

I love rock and roll. So put another dime in the jukebox baby. So says Joan Jett and so say I except of course these days it’s more download another song to your MP3 player baby.

The evolution of music in the 20th century echoed and created the social history of the time. Rock and roll developed along with the new concept of ‘teenagers’, helping to define the generation gap. Along the way, it changed the way we acted, dressed, did our hair, listened to music and the way music was marketed. We bought it then and we are still buying it now.

The glory days of rock and roll may be in the last century, but the legacy lives on in a variety of innovations, fads and inventions. And in those irascible aging rockers who keep on keeping on, refusing to hang up their guitar straps.

Here are 10 top innovations spawned by rock and roll:

1. Smashable guitars

As far as we know, Mozart never smashed up his harpsichord, but Jerry Lee Lewis and Pete Townsend had no such qualms with their respective piano and guitar. A company from Japan has created affordable smashable guitars that you can destroy in your real (or imagined) gig and then it can be recycled by the company who will create another guitar from the wreckage and donate it to charity.


Destruction with a heart, thanks rock and roll.

2. Designer instruments

If you prefer to worship your musical instrument rather than wreck it, you may like the concept of designer creations, where your chosen piece is a work of art. Hand painted, strange shapes, gem covered, gold plated, able to light up – you name it, they did it.

Crystal encrusted baby grand

3. Rocker fashion

From the early Mods and Rockers, through mop tops and boots, hippie, glam rock and disco to new wave, punk, grunge and hip hop, musicians have a lot to answer for. However, the quintessential look of long hair, jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket is still considered rocker chic for both men and women today and can get you into almost anywhere.

On the catwalk, on the podium, on the high street.

4. Rock star hotels

After some ‘edgy glamour’ or ‘artsy bohemian flair’? You can stay and play like a rock star in holiday hideaways chosen by or owned by a celebrity musician. Lots of people are getting in on the act in setting up new ventures or just renting out that second or third or fourth villa owned on an island somewhere – Iron Maiden, Mick Jagger and Bono to name a few hoteliers. However, don’t expect to be able to trash it or demand anything too outrageous. Those days are pretty much gone and the best way to do that is to play the online game instead.


This West Hollywood hotel was once known as the Riot House, but has calmed down now and is still a haunt of rockers but for those looking for a good night’s sleep.

5. iPad music maker

This innovation moves us right into the 21st century. Forget acoustic and electronic, now you can go virtual. You can download programs and apps and make music from a whole orchestra as well vocals on your laptop.

6. Virals, tribute acts and take offs

We have all mimicked our favourite bands at one time or another whether it is the head turns from Mamma Mia, the moon walk of Michael Jackson or biting the head off a bat (or is that just me?). Even the Muppets have got in on the viral take off and their biggest online hit was Bohemian Rhapsody, which was also done deliciously well in Wayne’s World. Tribute acts appear in clubs in every city, some have even become almost as famous as the acts they perform.

Tribute act Bjorn Again means no need for ABBA to get back together.

7. Reunion tour

Aging rockers never die, they just go on a reunion tour. Of course, some super groups never break up in the first place, they just keep going and replace any band members they need to along the way. Sometimes there is a rift to get over, hurt feelings to work through, but there is money and publicity in that too. You could name 100 or more bands who have managed to get over it and get back together for the fans.


We’re putting the band back together.

8. Spinal Tap (music news invention)

The term rockumentary as a genre was first used in 1969 and later parodied to brilliant effect in the “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” (deemed by US Library of Congress 2002) 1984 film, This is Spinal Tap. Directed by Rob Reiner and mostly ad-libbed by its three main stars, the film has become a classic cult hit. It was so convincing that many people actually believed the band existed and many rock stars at the time admitted that much in the movie really did happen to them.

This is Spinal Tap ( no, not really).

9. Music videos

Rock and roll changed the way we watched music. Apart from live shows, we only saw our favourite bands and singers perform on TV, often lip-synching in a studio. The music video changed the face of marketing and suddenly a new industry was born, a breeding ground for many future film makers and their crews. We went from full length features such as Hard Day’s Night to promotional clips to what we now know as the music video. While Alice Cooper, Devo and AC/DC were in vanguard of the new look, it was Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit Thriller that shook us all night long. MTV began broadcasting in 1981and 24/7music video TV was born.

A music video that is a spoof about making a music video – Jack Johnson works with Ben Stiller.

10. Air guitar

You can’t have a history of rock and roll innovations and not include the air guitar. I defy any man under 55 to admit they have never played air guitar. Usually it is just air, but just like the hairbrush became a microphone, any number of tennis racquets, brooms and cricket bats became guitars in bedrooms across the world. There are international competitions for the serious and toys for the boys. Girls get in on the act too, but really it’s primarily a guy thing. Check out Tom Cruise in Risky Business, he spawned a whole dancing in your underwear genre on his own.

Air guitar is the ultimate rock and roll innovation.

Midge has written for a number of travel and music blogs, mostly on her adventures of travelling around on virgin trains for holidays and watching gigs on the way.