60 Firsts in Rock Music History - NSF - Magazine (2023)

Firsts in Rock Music: Rock music is known for its strong emphasis on live performances and the rebellious spirit it embodies. It has evolved and diversified over the years, giving rise to numerous subgenres and styles such as classic rock, hard rock, punk rock, alternative rock, grunge, metal, and many more.

Here we listed firsts in Rock Music

First Rock and Roll Song: There’s a lot of debate about what song should hold this title, but “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (actually Ike Turner and his band) in 1951 is often credited as one of the first.

First Rock and Roll Band: Bill Haley & His Comets, who started out as a country band in the late 1940s, is often credited as one of the first rock and roll bands. Their hit “Rock Around the Clock” from 1954 helped popularize the genre.

First Concept Album: While there’s debate on this one too, The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from 1967 is often credited as one of the first, if not the first, concept albums in rock music.

First Heavy Metal Band: Black Sabbath is often credited as the first heavy metal band, with their self-titled album in 1970 defining the genre’s dark and heavy sound.

First Punk Rock Band: The Ramones are often cited as one of the first punk rock bands, with their self-titled debut album from 1976 setting the stage for the punk rock movement.

First Music Video on MTV: The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video aired on MTV when it launched on August 1, 1981.

First Band to Release a Downloadable Single: Aerosmith was the first major band to release a downloadable single. In June 1994, they released “Head First” for download via the CompuServe online service.

First Stadium Rock Concert: The Beatles’ concert at Shea Stadium in New York in 1965 is often considered the first major stadium concert, setting the precedent for future rock acts.

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First Album to Use Synthesizers: The Monkees’ 1967 album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” is often credited as the first rock album to use a Moog synthesizer.

First Use of the Term “Rock and Roll”: In 1951, DJ Alan Freed in Cleveland started using the phrase “rock and roll” to describe the style of music that was becoming popular among teenagers.

First Use of Feedback: The Beatles’ 1964 song “I Feel Fine” begins with a guitar riff that is often considered the first use of feedback on a rock record.

First Rock Opera: The Who’s “Tommy,” released in 1969, is often credited as the first rock opera.

First Double Album: Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde,” released in 1966, is often considered the first double album in rock music.

First Album to Debut at Number One: The Monkees’ “More of the Monkees” was the first album to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart in 1967.

First Major Rock Festival: The Monterey Pop Festival, held in California in 1967, is widely considered to be the first major rock festival.

First Quadraphonic Album: Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon,” released in 1973, was one of the first albums mixed and released in quadraphonic sound.

First Use of Sampling: Pink Floyd’s “Money” from 1973 features cash registers, coins, and other sound effects, which can be considered early use of sampling in rock music.

First Digital Recording: The rock band The Doobie Brothers were the first to release an album recorded entirely on a digital system. The album, “Minute by Minute,” was released in 1978.

First Rock Band to Perform in the Soviet Union: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was the first American rock band allowed to perform in the Soviet Union in 1977.

First Album to Sell More on Compact Disc (CD) than Vinyl: Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms,” released in 1985, was the first album to sell more copies on CD than on vinyl, signifying a major shift in how consumers listened to music.

First Rock and Roll Record to Top the Charts: Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” was the first rock and roll record to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop charts in 1955.

First Use of Distortion: Ike Turner and his band recorded “Rocket 88” in 1951, which is widely considered to feature the first intentional use of guitar distortion.

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First Album to Feature a Hidden Track: The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967) is considered to be one of the first albums to include a hidden track, a high-pitched dog whistle followed by a looped sound collage, in the run-out groove.

First Use of the Wah-Wah Pedal: Chet Atkins is credited with the first recorded use of a wah-wah pedal on a 1955 recording, though the device didn’t become popular in rock music until the late 1960s.

First Rock Concert Broadcast Live Via Satellite: In 1967, The Beatles performed “All You Need Is Love” during a live international satellite broadcast as part of the television program “Our World.”

First 3D Album Cover: The Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (1967) featured a 3D album cover.

First Hard Rock Album: “Vincebus Eruptum” by Blue Cheer, released in 1968, is often considered the first hard rock (and potentially the first heavy metal) album.

First Album to be Mastered Digitally: Ry Cooder’s “Bop Till You Drop” (1979) was the first popular music album to be digitally recorded and mastered.

First Album to Sell a Million Copies on Compact Disc: Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” (1985) was the first album to sell a million copies on CD.

First Band to Live Stream a Concert on the Internet: The rock band Severe Tire Damage holds the distinction of being the first to live stream a concert on the internet, performing live at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, California, on June 24, 1993.

First Use of Backwards Tape: The Beatles’ “Rain” (1966) is often credited as the first popular song to use a backwards tape effect.

First Rock Band to Appear on the Cover of Time Magazine: The Beatles were the first rock band to grace the cover of Time Magazine in 1967.

First Use of Theremin in Rock Music: The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” (1966) is well-known for its use of an electro-theremin, an early electronic instrument.

First Band to Use Light Shows in Performances: The San Francisco band The Charlatans were known for being one of the first rock groups to use light shows during their performances in the mid-1960s.

First All Female Rock Band to Achieve Chart Success: The Runaways, with members like Joan Jett and Lita Ford, were one of the first all-female rock bands to achieve chart success in the mid to late 70s.

First Rock Song to Win Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards: The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” (1979) was the first rock song to win Record of the Year at the Grammys.

First Rock Album to Win Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards: Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” (1977) was the first rock album to win the Album of the Year award at the Grammys.

First Music Video with Computer Animation: Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” (1985) is known for being one of the first music videos to incorporate computer animation.

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First Album to Use a Synthesizer: The Monkees’ “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” (1967) is often credited as one of the first rock albums to feature a Moog synthesizer.

First Satellite Radio Broadcast of a Concert: Paul McCartney’s concert in Los Angeles in 2001 was the first to be broadcast live on satellite radio, reaching listeners across the globe.

First Rock Song to Use Orchestra: The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” (1967) was one of the first rock songs to effectively use an orchestra.

First Rock and Roll Song to Hit Number One on the Pop Charts: Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” (1955) is often credited as the first rock and roll song to hit number one on the Billboard pop charts.

First Rock Video Played on MTV Europe: The first video to play on MTV Europe was Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” taken from the album “Brothers in Arms.”

First Artist to Play All Instruments on an Album: Paul McCartney played all the instruments on his first solo album, “McCartney” (1970).

First Use of the Moog Synthesizer in a Rock Song: The Monkees’ song “Daily Nightly” (1967) was one of the first to feature the Moog synthesizer.

First Use of a Talk Box in a Rock Song: “Howlin’ for My Baby” by Howlin’ Wolf (1960) is one of the first instances of a talk box being used in a rock recording.

First Band to Have Its Debut Album Enter the Charts at Number One: British pop-rock band Spice Girls’ debut album “Spice” (1996) entered the UK charts at number one.

First Rock and Roll Song to Win a Grammy: The first rock and roll song to win a Grammy was “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” by Domenico Modugno (1958).

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First Live Album to Top the Billboard Charts: “Frampton Comes Alive!” (1976) by Peter Frampton was the first live album to top the Billboard album charts.

First Rock Music Video to Reach One Billion Views on YouTube: “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses was the first rock music video to achieve this feat.

First Platinum Rock Album: Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” was one of the first rock albums to be certified platinum (one million copies sold) in 1974.

First Use of a Fuzz Pedal: Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was one of the first rock guitarists to use a fuzz pedal, in the opening riff of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965.

First Rock Musician to Win a Nobel Prize: In 2016, Bob Dylan became the first (and as of my last update in 2021, the only) rock musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

First Band to Release an Album on the Internet: In 1994, Aerosmith became the first major band to release a song (“Head First”) on the internet for digital download.

First Rock Song to Reference the Internet: “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai, released in 1996, is considered one of the first rock songs to reference the internet.

First Rock Album to Feature a CD Bonus Track: R.E.M.’s album “Document” (1987) is one of the earliest examples of an album containing a bonus track exclusive to the CD version.

First Use of a Drum Machine in a Rock Song: Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” (1971) is widely considered the first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart to feature a drum machine.

First Rock Band to Sell Concert Tickets Online: The Beastie Boys were the first major band to sell concert tickets directly to fans over the internet in 1994.

First Rock Band to Incorporate Rap: Run-D.M.C.’s collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” (1986) is considered a pioneering fusion of rock and rap.

First Album to Be Simultaneously Released as an LP, Cassette, and CD: In 1985, Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” was the first album to be released in all three formats at the same time.

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What was the rock and roll in the 1960s? ›

The 1960s gave the rock world The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, the British invasion, surf music, folk rock, funk, soul, psychedelic music and ended with Woodstock.

What was the first rock and roll song? ›

The first rock'n'roll record was 'Rocket 88', recorded by Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats at Sam Phillips' Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

Why was rock and roll so popular in the 1960s? ›

A blend of African-American and white musical traditions, rock and roll challenged existing social norms, including the segregation of the races. Rock and roll also became the soundtrack of a youthful generation defying the expectations of their parents.

Who were the first rock bands? ›

Some of the early Rock and Roll artists were Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley and the Comets. The first number-one single of Rock and Roll was "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets. Rock and Roll emerged in the early 1950s.

What band had the biggest impact on rock and roll in the 1960s? ›

The Beatles

First on our list, the Beatles are undoubtedly the most successful and influential rock band of the 1960s (and in the history of music, probably). The lineup consisted of John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney.

What made rock and roll popular in the 1950s? ›

Rock and roll music celebrated themes such as young love and freedom from the oppression of middle-class society. It quickly grew in favor among American teens during the 1950s, thanks largely to the efforts of disc jockey Alan Freed.

What is the oldest rock song? ›

There's still one very important ingredient in rock and roll: a distorted guitar. And that's why we agree that Jackie Brenston's “Rocket 88” from 1951 should be considered the first rock and roll song.

What was the first rock and roll #1 hit? ›

​​1955 brings Rock and Roll's first #1 hit - as Bill Haley and His Comets top the Pop Chart with the single "Rock Around The Clock". Teenagers are quick to pick up on the new "rock" sound. Top 40 radio and the Pop Music Charts are still dominated by "parents music" and rock n' roll is considered a novelty for the kids.

What was the first hard rock song? ›

Early forms of hard rock can be heard in the work of Chicago blues musicians Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf, the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" (1963) which made it a garage rock standard, and the songs of rhythm and blues influenced British Invasion acts, including "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks ( ...

Who was the first rock star of all time? ›

When you think of rock n' roll, Franz Liszt might not be the first name that comes to mind. But the classical pianist, born 200 years ago today, was in many ways the first rock star of all time. In the mid-19th century, Liszt was tearing up the polite salons and concert halls of Europe with his virtuoso performances.

What is the oldest rock band of all time? ›

Early in the 1960s, in The Hague, two local boys named Rinus Gerritsen and George Kooymans started a band, which became the forerunner of Golden Earring. Initially, the young band was known as The Tornadoes, which holds the record for the oldest rock band in the world.

Who was the first true rock band? ›

Bill Haley & His Comets had no rivals. They were the first rock'n'roll band, and Rock Around the Clock was the first international rock'n'roll No 1.

What was the greatest era of rock and roll? ›

The Best Era of Rock Music – 1970s

The music created by the bands of this era had a long-lasting impact on the music industry. Hits from the rock genre dominated the charts during this era and became all-time classics that would be respected and revered by people to this very day.

Who were two of the famous early rock and roll artists in the 1950's? ›

Among the important bands and soloists in 1950's Rock and Roll were Willie Mae Thornton, Big Joe Turner, Bill Haley and His Comets, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent, the Everly Brothers, and Carl Perkins.

What was the greatest decade for rock and roll? ›

Music historians often enshrine the 1960s as the best decade for popular music, because it's when rock became a countercultural movement led by giants like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. It was also the decade of soul music, with the emergence of the eminent Stax and Motown record labels.

What is rock n roll and why was it important? ›

Rock 'n' roll emerged as a new musical genre in the 1950s, blending African American traditions such as blues and gospel with white American country music and Western swing. It made an important impact on America and the world by inspiring and contributing to social and cultural change.

What was the rock and roll movement? ›

rock and roll, also called rock 'n' roll or rock & roll, style of popular music that originated in the United States in the mid-1950s and that evolved by the mid-1960s into the more encompassing international style known as rock music, though the latter also continued to be known as rock and roll.

Why was rock and roll controversial in the 1960s? ›

One of the moral panics associated with the first wave of rock 'n' roll was the fear of race mixing - that young black and white kids would get together over this music that had a rhythmic, primitive, sensuous beat.

What was rock and roll known for? ›

Rock and roll (often written as rock & roll, rock 'n' roll, or rock 'n roll) is a genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It originated from African-American music such as jazz, rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie, gospel, jump blues, as well as country music.


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