The Sounds of Summer: A Look at the Changing Landscape of Heavy Music Through the Years
I'm writing from beneath a palm tree on the patio of the Tower Cafe. This site was once Tower Cut Rate Drug Store, where a kid named Russ Solomon asked his father if he could sell records out of the back of the shop.
That little after school business grew into Tower Records, but that was a lot of summers ago. Tower Records is no more, and the palm tree outside of Mr. Solomon's old pharmacy is a bit bigger than it was in little Russ's time.
I like this place. I like to imagine the kids cruising down Broadway in the summer of 1965, Tower's big neon sign reflected in the hoods of their deuce coupes and bucket T's. Heavy music was in its infancy that summer. Kids on the cruise cranked their AM radios and the Yardbirds' "For Your Love" blared through their car speakers. It was one of Eric Clapton's last cuts with the band, but no harm no foul: Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page waited in the wings.
Summer 1975 was a different story. Tower was still here, but the kids cruising Broadway were rolling in American muscle -- Chevelles, GTOs, Mopars, their glove boxes packed with brand new 8-Tracks. Black Sabbath's Sabotage was released that summer, UFO's Force It, Rainbow's debut album featuring the great Ronnie James Dio.
Ten years later, Tower Records was all over the world but Tower Drugs was still right here on Broadway. Summer '85 was a golden age for hard rock and metal. Megadeth released their debut album, Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! that June, and Mötley Crüe's Theatre of Pain unleashed the power ballad on an unsuspecting world. AC/DC, Dio -- there wasn't a Fiero on the cruise that wasn't rocking, and there wasn't a Camaro that didn't have RATT blasting from its tape deck.
In the summer of 1995 we were on the cusp of everything changing. Netscape released the first widely adopted internet browser earlier that year, a technological advancement with serious repercussions to the music industry. The Tower Records located across the street from the new Tower Cafe had no idea that its days were numbered.
Cruising was illegal on Broadway now, but even if it wasn't GTOs and Boss Mustangs were much too expensive for kids to drive. The new rides were hand me down Civics and Toyotas, removable CD players stuffed into their tired dashboards.
Grunge had changed the landscape, too. Hair metal acts were like dinosaurs coughing up meteorite dust. Kurt Cobain was only one year gone that summer, but Dave Grohl was moving on, as Foo Fighters released their first album on Independence Day 1995. And let's not forget that the punk revival was still going strong, with Rancid unleashing the stellar album ...And Out Come the Wolves in August '95.
Summer 2005: fear, war, America divided. Record stores as we knew them were vanishing quickly, replaced by the toxic combination of file sharing and a pocket-sized device called the MP3 player. MP3 players were such a novelty that at the turn of the millennium it seemed like they were embedded in everything. Buying a new toaster? Get the one with the MP3 player.
Only the fittest survive, though, and musical toast wasn't the killer app. The big winner was Apple, whose iTunes would soon become the biggest record store in the world. Within a year Tower Records as we knew it was out of business.
That summer the mighty Motorhead celebrated their 30th anniversary and the Foo Fighters celebrated 10 years by releasing In Your Honor. Dream Theater released Octavarium and summer 1975 veteran Alice Cooper was back with Dirty Diamonds.
But what was blasting in most of those white earbuds spotted at the Tower Cafe was Avenged Sevenfold's major label debut, City of Evil.
So here we are, summer 2015, fifty summers of heavy music behind us. Muscle cars are back, and there's a record store across the street again from where I sit beneath the palm tree outside of Tower Cafe. Hard rock and heavy metal have never been bigger. No matter where you live, chances are there's a festival coming to a site near you.
What's going to be streaming out of the windows of the cars coming down Broadway this summer? The number of new releases slotted for June through August is huge so take your pick, drop the top and crank it. Summer is almost here.
Top 50 Hard Rock + Metal Guitarists of All Time: