Throwback Thursday: The Start of Indie Rock

By Andrea Lara

black cassette tape on top of red and yellow surface
Photo by Stas Knop on

Welcome back for your latest on Indie and Alternative Rock! This week we are taking it back to where it all began. Thanks to certain artists, indie is bigger than ever. Without their daring decisions to play outside the norm, we may not have had as many independent musicians today. As early as 1965, we have seen bands who experiment with their creativity. 

The Velvet Underground is said to be one of the earliest to influence indie today based on their artistic mix of pop, psychedelic, and proto-rock. The band consisted of Lou Reed as the singer/guitarist, John Cale who was a multi-instrumentalist, Sterling Morrison who was another guitarist, and Angus MacLise who was the drummer, although in 1965 he was replaced by Moe Tucker. With inspirations such as “pop music, drugs, and New York City’s art scene,” the band became a muse for all other outcastsBandmate John Cale once said that “the band has a sense of ‘it’s us against the world’.” It is clear today that a mindset like that worked for them in allowing their artistic vision to prevail. You can find more information on this from Double J. Some popular songs by the include “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Sunday Morning,” which features female artist, Nico, and “Venus in Furs.” 

Fast forward eleven years and you have The Buzzcocks. The band was founded by singer-song writer-guitarist Pete Shelley and singer-song writer Howard Devoto. Their first EP, “Spiral Scratch” was the introduction to all things possible in this time. It proved that artists could have complete control over their music from start to finish which is what we know as indie today. Their sound was a punk-rock and pop reshape that not many were getting behind, especially record labels, but that did not stop them from selling over 16,000 copies and reaching top 40 for Spiral Scratch. Some songs to check out by The Buzzcocks are “The,” “Ever Fallen In Love,” What Do I Get,” and “Orgasm Addict.” 

Moving on to the 80’s, we have The Smiths. Like other indie bands and influencers, they are known for re-writing the norms for a rock band. They swayed their audience into a new kind of performance and style which included more pop to their rock. It became pop-driven guitar over the average rock band sound. This technique is often used in the more recent indie bands such as The 1975 or Wolf Alice and many more. The Smiths are made up of vocalist Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke, and Drummer Mike Joyce. Some well-known and loved songs by them include “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” “How Soon Is Now,” “This Charming Man,” and “I Know It’s Over.”  

Skipping ahead to the late 90’s, we have The Strokes. The band members include singer Julian Casablancas, guitarist Nick Valensi, and Albert Hammmond Jr., Bassist Nikolai Fraiture, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti. With their debut album Is This It, the band reeled in the audience with their retro style rock. While still making music today, The Strokes continue to represent indie and its making with their unique and creative sound. Popular songs by them are “The Adults Are Talking,” “You Only Live Once,” “Reptilia,” and “Why Are Sundays So Depressing.”  

Now to the early 2000’s, we can’t forget about The Killers. With Brandon Flowers as the vocalist, Mark Stoermer as the bassist, Dave Keuning as the guitarist, and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. on drums, the band has made it big but that doesn’t allow for their beginning to be forgotten. They started off with Flowers and Keuning performing some late night shows at clubs in Las Vegas. The sound is described as out there and of course overtime evolved, especially once the other two members, Stoermer and Vannucci joined. Together the group made their way out of Vegas but still with their artistic choice. More to the story can be read on The Marquee. As many already know, some of their popular songs include “Mr. Brightside,” “When You Were Young,” Somebody Told Me,” and “All These Things That I’ve Done.”  

This is just a small look into the much bigger history of how indie became what it is now. Spreading creativity and taking control of the music and content from beginning to end is a continuous inspiration to many, many more.          

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