The Development of the Rock Musical in the Late 20th Century

1814 words 8 pages
Rock Opera
Term Paper

The Development of The Rock Musical In the Late 20th Century

Rock opera in its narrow definition seems to be a purely British phenomenon, possibly because at the time of its arrival England, as opposed to the United States, had not found its musical theater voice yet: while musical theater was booming in the United States from the early twentieth century onwards, England didn't develop a popular musical tradition until the late 1960s, when Andrew Lloyd Webber started to write and produce large-scale musicals for the London theaters.
To provide an overview of the scope of the genre of rock opera, I will briefly discuss some of the most renowned works. It is usually the British rock band
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In the album's last song, "The Trial", Pink finally faces himself, mentally prosecutes himself, and the wall comes tumbling down. On the musical plane, the opera mirrors the fragmentary presentation of the story, seamlessly blending melodic fragments, sound effects, and larger musical numbers (cf. "The Wall: Pink Floyd"). In the end, Pink – very much like Jimmy in Quadrophenia – is disillusioned by his success, feels trapped by fame and wounded by his failed relationships; salvation through rock music does not take place.
As we have seen with the works discussed above, the interest in hard-core rock opera in the 1970s can most directly be attributed to sociological causes. If we now take a closer look at Tommy, probably the most famous rock opera, we will encounter some of the key factors and mechanisms that are at play in rock opera, its production, and its reception in general.
Tommy was written by Pete Townshend, leading member of the British rock band
The Who, and was first released as a double concept album on 23 May 1969 – at a time when England was lurching from crisis to crisis, shaken by an extremely weak economy, a high unemployment rate, high inflation, strikes, and social friction. The LP became a huge hit for the band, climbing up to No. 4 in the United States album charts (staying on the charts for forty-seven weeks) and to No. 2 in the United Kingdom. By 1993, the band had sold two million copies of the album in the United States


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