Keeping The Pipeline Full Since 1966
Ever since the dawn of Rock 'n' Roll there's been a drive to sanitize the form. For every great talent like Chuck Berry or Elvis there seemed a slew of hacks providing something tamer, safer and disposable.
As The Beatles became serious artists, an opportunity arose to recapture that fun, innocent sound. The Monkees, a total studio creation, filled the bill. They weren't the first to be packaged but they created the most workable model.
Face it. Not everyone in the music biz is a genius - or even close. However, there are a lot of people who can take an idea, even if it's not their own and run with it. As a genre corporate Rock lasted as long as any trend. And in doing so, provided a day to day soundtrack that kept people entertained between Rock's flashes of brilliance.
Interestingly, the music wasn't awful, in fact it did what it was supposed to do. By the '70s record labels needed to keep the pipeline full. Rock "artists" were unpredictable, moody and demanding. They rarely delivered albums on time. On top of that, an "artist" might go off on some non-commercial tangent. Record labels had distribution networks that needed accessible, saleable product. Turns out, there was no shortage. Instead of having producers manipulate musicians, corporate Rockers often did it to themselves in their quest for the next hit. These musicians homogenized Rock and mainstreamed the sound for a mass audience; Hard Rock, Art Rock or even Jazz Rock. They sold accessibility. The format was simple. Pour in some faux emotion and make it easy to remember. The true measure was commercial viability. Their main tool was the wretched "Rock ballad," a true contradiction.
What gave corporate Rock some measure of credibility was most of the groups wrote or at least attempted to write their own material. Though it yielded limited results, it offered some personality and individualization. For good or ill, no Brill Building hack songwriter could ever have come up with "Mr. Roboto."
It wasn't all bleak. Corporate rockers attracted scores of fans who after a while moved on to other, more creative Rockers. Some corporate Rock was good, or even sounded inspired; but in the final analysis there was far more chafe than wheat.