The first indication of rock’s next rebirth came on March 20, 1990, when there was a riot at a Depeche Mode autograph session in Los Angeles. No one expected that many people to show up to see a band that had been a solid cult act at best for most of their career.
That riot came 13 years and 10 days after the Sex Pistols’ infamous Buckingham Palace stunt, 26 years and one month after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan and 39 years after “Rocket 88” came out.
The Depeche Mode Riot was the start of the era of the Alternative Nation of the 90s. The next six years were once again incredibly fertile: Manchester, grunge, industrial, Goth, Lollapalooza, Britpop, hip-hop. Rock’n’roll was resurrected, this time in the image of Generation X.
The peak came shortly before Kurt Cobain’s suicide in April 1994. But then things quickly went off the rails. Metallica hijacked Lollapalooza in 1996. The Smashing Pumpkins melted down in a haze of drugs and death. Nu-metal’s polarizing sound tore the scene in half. And then came grunge derivatives like Creed to put the final nails in the coffin.
Meanwhile, a period of solid economic growth and the seeming end of the Cold War led to a rise in public optimism. Meanwhile, Generation Y began to come of age musically and all they wanted to do was dance to the Spice Girls, ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Rock limped through the rest of the 20th century.
Again, there were exceptions — the Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 come to mind — but the era 1999–2002 was all about boy bands and pop tarts.
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