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Classic rock is not, strictly speaking, a musical genre, but rather a radio format that features old-school rock songs. There is no set definition of "classic rock," with just about everybody having their own personal criteria. The unwritten definition used by the website ultimateclassicrock.com (and many people) generally seems to be any music created by a non-alternative note  rock band/artist who was at the peak of their/his/her career between the rockabilly/rock and roll (using the strictest definition of the latter term) and the Grunge/Alternative Rock eras (basically, rock from the mid-ish-early-ish '60s to the very early '90s). That being said, classic rock radio stations have started playing more recent music, including grunge and alternative artists, diversifying their playlists as Gen Xers and older Millenials aged into the demographics that classic rock stations targeted. While the rock and roll/rockabilly artists of the '50s and early '60s are indeed both classic and rock, they tend to not be considered "classic rock," since they virtually never seem to get played on stations of that radio format.

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Classic rock radio stations are common in the United States and Sirius XM Radio features several classic rock-oriented stations, including: The Bridge (classic soft rock), Classic Rewind (late '70s and '80s classic rock), Classic Vinyl ('60s and early '70s classic rock), Deep Tracks (classic rock deep cuts), Classic Rock Party (upbeat/energetic classic rock), 1st Wave (classic New Wave, Punk Rock, and Post-Punk), Hair Nation (Hair Metal), Ozzy's Boneyard (classic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal), and various single artist channels.

There are also several syndicated radio programs that play classic rock bands and artists, including The House of Hair with Dee Snider, Nights with Alice Cooper, Flashback with Matt Pinfield, The Classics with Steve Downes, and Off the Record with Joe Benson.


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Some genres associated with Classic Rock include:

  • Arena Rock (also known as adult-oriented rock [AOR], note  melodic rock, stadium rock, or corporate rock): Polished, slick, glossy, shiny, radio-ready, and commercially-friendly (generally without being out-and-out pop rock) rock that was at its peak between the mid '70s and early '90s and featured Hard Rock anthems and soft rock Power Ballads and typically showcased prominent keyboards.
  • Baroque Pop (also known as baroque rock): This genre of pop and rock is known for combining those styles with the compositional styles and instruments of classical music.
  • Blues Rock
  • Boogie rock
  • Comedy rock
  • Country rock
  • Dance-rock: Rock music influenced by Pop and Post-Punk. It originated in the early 1980s, following the decline in popularity of punk and Disco.
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  • Experimental rock
  • Folk rock: Rock music with acoustic instrumental textures
  • Glam Rock: Flamboyant, theatrical rock music that was at its peak in the '70s and often featured performers in androgynous outfits
  • Hair Metal (also known as glam metal or pop metal note ): Slick, generally radio-ready rock music that was at its peak between the mid '80s and very early '90s and featured artists in glammed-up costumes performing Hard Rock anthems and Power Ballads that still rocked pretty hard
  • Hard Rock: Rock music on the harder, heavier, faster, louder, or more aggressive side
  • Heartland Rock: Rock music that appeals to blue-collar Middle American ethos
  • Heavy Metal: This genre is similar to Hard Rock, except that its sound is heavier/harder and it has a darker, more sinister, more menacing, more intimidating edge to it
  • Jam band: A rock band that usually features extended improvised sections of music in their live performances
  • Jazz rock (frequently used synonymously with Jazz Fusion)
  • New Wave: A style of oft-quirky pop rock and pop that evolved out of Punk Rock and was at its commercial peak between the late '70s and mid '80s
  • Pop rock
  • Post-Punk: Rock music that evolved out of Punk Rock that was more experimental
  • Power Pop: A fusion of pop rock and Hard Rock
  • Power Metal: Lighter and Softer Heavy Metal music
  • Progressive Rock (sometimes shortened to prog rock or prog, and frequently used synonymously with art rock): A somewhat experimental genre dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what rock music is artistically capable of.
  • Psychedelic Rock (frequently used synonymously with acid rock): Trippy rock music inspired by '60s and '70s drug culture
  • Punk Rock: Stripped-down, hard-rocking, often politically-charged music that developed in the mid '70s and often revolved around short songs
  • Reggae rock
  • Roots rock: Rock music that imitated the sound of earlier rock 'n' roll
  • Soft rock: Rock music on the softer, lighter, slower, quieter, or gentler side
  • Soul rock
  • Southern Rock: Rock music played by bands/artists originating from the Southern United States
  • Space rock: Rock music characterized by loose and lengthy song structures and centered on hypnotic, otherworldly-sounding instrumental textures
  • Speed Metal: Heavy Metal, but extremely fast and abrasive
  • Swamp rock: Rock music inspired by swamp/bayou culture
  • Wagnerian rock: Rock music centered around bombastic, melodramatic, operatic, and lengthy songs (think of your typical tune penned by Jim Steinman)
  • Yacht rock: Smooth, laidback rock music that usually has a sunny- or tropical-sounding quality and is generally poppy and soft in nature


Classic-era, non-alternative note  bands and artists associated with Classic Rock include:

Important Note: The bands'/artists' primary genres are listed as well, with Arena Rock being considered a subgenre of Hard Rock and soft rock, Hair Metal a subgenre of Hard Rock, New Wave a subgenre of pop rock, and Punk Rock a subgenre of Hard Rock. When these subgenres are listed, their larger genre is not, to avoid redundancy and unnecessary wordiness.

Bands and artists generally considered too old to be Classic Rock, but may show up once in a while on the radio include:

Newer and/or alternative bands and artists that sometimes get played on Classic Rock radio include:

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