Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
How & when did the term "alternative" enter rock / pop discourse?

JoB (JoB), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:25 (fourteen years ago) link

When they stopped calling it "college rock".

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:28 (fourteen years ago) link

..circa the late 80's.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:28 (fourteen years ago) link

Yep, when "college radio" bands started getting played on non-college stations, circa 1985 was my guess.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:29 (fourteen years ago) link

Does "alternative" = "underground" and wasn't that a widely used concept in the Sixties/Seventies?

JoB (JoB), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:30 (fourteen years ago) link

which came first, "alternative" or "modern rock"? (which was supposedly shortened to just "mod" by lots of late '80s teenagers, supposedly, as crazy as that sounds).

chuck, Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:33 (fourteen years ago) link

Modern Rock came first, by far I think. Minneapolis had a "modern rock" (read "new wave") radio station in the earliest 80's. I didn't hear "alternative" as a marketing buzzword until the late '80s, with total saturation coming around the time Nirvana broke.

Daniel Peterson (polkaholic), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 19:55 (fourteen years ago) link

When the word "indie" had become meaningless.

Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 21:08 (fourteen years ago) link

The word "alternative" was being used in Rugeley, UK to describe the 20 minute medley of B52s, Dead Kennedys, Simple Minds and Spear of Destiny that got played in the middle of the Cedar Tree disco. We used to have a quick mosh and then settled back down to proper dancing with Alexander O'Neal and Colonel Abrams.

Speedhump Bungle (noodle vague), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 21:12 (fourteen years ago) link

Erm, I meant to say "in 1985 in Rugeley" etc.

Speedhump Bungle (noodle vague), Wednesday, 16 February 2005 21:13 (fourteen years ago) link

five years pass...

Lots of answers, all true.

I first heard "alternative" as a cultural distinction circa '88 at the Majestic movie theater in Madison, Wisconsin, not far from where Nirvana recorded the Nevermind demos a little later. A co-worker volunteering at the community radio station was talking about how she goes through the New York Times looking for stories that are "more alternative." I asked what that meant, and she said they emphasize "a more alternative perspective." "You mean leftist?" I said.

I honestly don't remember hearing it again until it was everywhere circa '92, but for a couple years, at least, it retained that sense of an entire alternative (and yeah, vaguely leftist) culture, basically the counterculture gone momentarily mainstream (and into comics, queer culture, DIY video, zines, etc.) by sheer force of demographics, with a SPIN/First Avenue/Lollapalooza/mid-'90s-MTV-type embrace of many genres, especially hip hop. I.e. it was mid-'80s punk ten years later, when there were more kids. That sense was quickly lost in "alt-rock," but stuck around in the phrase "alternative newsweeklies" and other uses.

"Indie" took hold at about the same time, but as I remember was almost entirely applied to film. "Indie rock" was more an economic distinction in the '90s (and a leftist one at that) than a stylistic one. It didn't come to be shorthand for a sound until circa 2001. (I remember, because I argued about it with my friend Melissa Maerz! "How can something sound like indie rock?") When "indie" started being applied to music on major labels, the transformation was complete. It's possible this was more popular regionally before, but I never heard "indie rock" in the '80s in Wisconsin.

One reason "indie" and "alternative" gained ground in the '90s was so many people began rejecting "punk," which always struck me as dumb. For me, the scene was an idea and a culture that could absorb a huge variety of music, and maybe create bridges to other scenes. It was always about politics and outrage and a sense of belonging, about creating something that's yours, which is why Public Enemy was such a bolt of electricity--the division from hip hop and metal now obviously racial and class-based.

Today "punk" means either the various DIY moshing undergrounds or a style of Top 40, which is hilarious. The vast in-between and all-around once associated with that scene is now called alternative and indie. The sad thing is that "punk" became a defensive term--anything emphatically not "alternative" (i.e. nothing radio would ever like) or emphatically not "indie" or "college rock" (i.e. nothing college radio would ever like). The emotional/political/community thing wasn't totally lost, but it drew back into a stylistic corner (or a series of them). The hardcore phenomenon of writing lyrics that are inaudible or incomprehensible without a lyric sheet seemed to take over in the '90s and '00s. But wasn't punk supposed to be about urgent communication and provocation?

Pete Scholtes, Thursday, 16 December 2010 18:32 (eight years ago) link

Oh, and alternative high schools. That actually might be where it's had the longest association with punk rock, no? Sorry, I revived this out of my own interest, not responding to anything on the rock thread...

Pete Scholtes, Saturday, 18 December 2010 06:51 (eight years ago) link

Not that it proves much, but I found 51 hits for "alternative music" on a news search engine from 1980-'85, nearly 700 for '85-'90 and "more than 3,000" for '90-'95.

Pete Scholtes, Saturday, 18 December 2010 07:00 (eight years ago) link

pete - you should ch2eck out the google books ngram thread that jaymc started yesterday. I plotted the prevalence of "alternative rock" vs "indie rock" between 75 and 95, I think.

Auto Mall Maniac (kkvgz), Saturday, 18 December 2010 12:27 (eight years ago) link

eight years pass...

here's a few cool recent headlines from bold alternative rock music magazine Alternative Nation:

Kurt Cobain's Daughter Shows Off Backside In Hot Coachella Photo
Van Halen Disturbing List of Drugs at Show Allegedly Revealed
Eddie Vedder Has Surprising Reaction to Small Crowd at Show
Slipknot's Corey Taylor Makes Bold Quitting Announcement
Metallica Intimidated Ozzy Osbourne In Front of Famous Actor
Kurt Cobain's Girlfriend Reveals If He Enjoyed Getting Head
Metallica Icon Gross Photo After Using Toilet Revealed
Ozzy Osbourne Disgusting Bathroom Accident Revealed
Steven Tyler Filmed Pulling Down Pants at Aerosmith Show
Kurt Cobain's Daughter Filmed Swimming in Bikini
Gavin Rossdale Reveals Bold Truth About Billy Corgan
Limp Bizkit Make Bizarre Kurt Cobain Joke
Keith Richards Bizarre Shitless Photo Revealed
Van Halen Icon Reveals What He Did With Keith Richards Daughters
Slash Reacts to Michael Jackson Pedophile Accusations
Mick Jagger Brutal Disrespect of Led Zeppelin Revealed
Motley Crue Reveal If They Hated Pearl Jam
Kurt Cobain's Girlfriend Reveals How He Was 'Little Bitch'
Red Hot Chili Peppers Singer Bizarre Haircut Revealed

del griffith, Saturday, 27 April 2019 18:24 (seven months ago) link


☮ (peace, man), Saturday, 27 April 2019 18:43 (seven months ago) link

sorry, typo! should've been "Shit-Smeared"

del griffith, Sunday, 28 April 2019 00:17 (seven months ago) link

this drives me mad at stores that still insist on maximizing their genre sections. Other day I noticed Joy Division was in Alt and New Order was PopRocks. what is that?! Did New Order overcome bring Alt?

Nevermind there's also a fkn "Electronic" section!

maffew12, Sunday, 28 April 2019 05:13 (seven months ago) link

Spotify have an Alternative 60s playlist which features The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals and other obscurities.

Dan Worsley, Sunday, 28 April 2019 09:27 (seven months ago) link

OMG, that list is really bad. In what way is France Gall "alternative" besides the fact that she's French? I saw the "alternative 70s" playlist, and clicked on it thinking I'd find obscure German tracks and weird prog rock...but it had all stuff I've heard before, plus Blue Oyster Cult and Pink Floyd.

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? (I M Losted), Monday, 29 April 2019 00:46 (seven months ago) link

four weeks pass...

bet you didn't think anything interesting was still happening in the world of alternative music. well guess what? you were wrong and Brett Buchanan from Alternative Nation is right:

Eddie Van Halen Disgusting Kurt Cobain Bombshell Finally Revealed
Guns N' Roses Icon Reveals Who Sexually Molested Women
Howard Stern Reveals What Really Killed Scott Weiland
Guns n' Roses Icon Reveals Disturbing List of Drugs He Did
Van Halen Icon Massive Bill for Alcohol Revealed
Billy Corgan Reveals Heartbreaking Reason He Gained Weight
Chris Cornell's Widow Emotionally Reaches Out to Billy Corgan
Van Halen Icon Reveals Dark Kurt Cobain Secret
Dave Grohl Makes Bizarre Food Demand at Concert
Kurt Cobain's Daughter Reveals Bizarre Chest Photo
Eddie Vedder Made Bold Remark to A-List Star at Beach
Steven Tyler Finally Reveals If He Dislikes Joe Perry
Corey Taylor Fiance Reveals Slipknot Gay Surprise
Eddie Van Halen Emotional Text to Sammy Hagar Revealed
Kurt Cobain's Daughter Shows Off Hot Abs Tattoo
Eddie Vedder Reacts to Bug Flying On Him During Performance

del griffith, Tuesday, 28 May 2019 18:00 (six months ago) link

Tell me all your thoughts on God

brimstead, Tuesday, 28 May 2019 18:32 (six months ago) link

Eddie Van Halen Disgusting Kurt Cobain Bombshell Finally Revealed

Sadly I searched that out, and from what I can gather the disgusting bombshell is that Kurt kissed Eddie hello upon meeting him backstage after a Nirvana show?

Sam Weller, Wednesday, 29 May 2019 07:29 (six months ago) link

two months pass...


— Silver Jews (@silverjews) July 12, 2019

del griffith, Thursday, 8 August 2019 16:04 (four months ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.