September 18, 2023
Music HistoryOngoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: “Groups” vs. “Bands”

These days we call a bunch of musicians playing together a “band” or a “group.” The two words are interchangeable. But it wasn’t always this way.

In the early days of rock, musicians played in a “group.” That was the collective noun. The Beatles, for example, were originally known as a “beat group.” It wasn’t until sometime after 1966 that people started using the term “band.” (“Combo” was another less-used term.)

Why the shift? Because by the middle 60s, the fleeting and ephemeral music of “rock’n’roll” of the 50s and begun to evolve into the more serious and rebellious, and anti-establishment “rock music.” And some critics began using the word “band” as a way of bestowing an outlaw image on these groups—like a “band of criminals,” or whatever.

It was a subtle shift in language, but it was adopted, and we’ve been calling them “bands” ever since.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37066 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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