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Classic rock was originally conceived as a radio station programming format which evolved from the album oriented rock (AOR) format in the early-1980s. In the United States, this rock music format now features a large playlist of songs ranging from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, with some stations including a limited number of current releases.

The classic rock stations recreate the sound of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) stations of the 60s-90s (although usually with a much more limited playlist) and appeal mainly to adults, rather than teenagers. Some classic-rock stations also play a limited number of current releases which are stylistically consistent with the station's sound, such as fitting the vibe of the other rock music

The origins

The origins of the classic rock radio format can be traced back to The Beatles' groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which would forever change several courses of the rock and roll format, especially with the slow rise of FM broadcasting even though a majority of people were still listening to AM radio. Since Sgt. Pepper did not spawn any singles, both AM and FM stations began to play select tracks from the album in an attempt to retain listeners. Soon both stations and artists realized that album cuts rather than Top 40-oriented singles could be a major source of radio airplay and artist visibility.

Taken to the furthest level, this created what would be called progressive rock radio in the late 1960s and 1970s. This format was associated with elements of freeform radio, where disc jockeys controlled what was played. A more commercially-oriented variant called album-oriented rock (AOR), or "album rock", emerged in the mid- and late 1970s. This format concentrated on album cuts as well, but on a more structured, playlist-oriented basis.

AOR would continue to be popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, but by the end of the 1980s, as "albums" had been supplanted by compact discs and as station playlists largely stopped keeping up with developing musical trends (including New Wave music), "album rock" evolved into "classic rock radio" on many of these FM radio stations.

Classic rock radio is similar to oldies radio in that the format is based upon music of the past, hence the playlist and artists featured are relatively stable in comparison to Top 40 or other contemporary formats which are based primarily on current releases. However, various bands and songs will come in and out of style on classic rock radio, regional favourites may be featured in a particular market, and newer recordings by the format's core performers will occasionally be showcased. Additionally, in the process of jockeying for position and listener share in competitive markets, stations will often add songs and artists only marginally associated with the classic rock radio era, and some stations combine the classic rock radio format with other formats, including modern rock in an attempt to increase popularity. The hybrid of classic rock and modern rock radio is also referred to as active rock.

Key artists and albums

The core albums, artists, and songs most often represented in classic rock radio represent a subset of the albums and artists that were actually popular between the mid sixties into the early eighties. On radio, the most enduring classic rock songs and artists have proven to appeal to new generations of listeners as well as older listeners who knew the music when it originally appeared.

Classic rock formats typically include selections from British hard rock and progressive rock bands, American 1970s rock bands and solo artists, and some material from late-1960s rock acts. In many areas, southern rock acts form a significant subset of classic rock playlists as well.

Some classic rock playlists also include some of the hard-rock and heavy metal bands of the 1970s and 80's and some amount of new wave selections.


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