At the Gates's riffing style has been copied so much that AtG's album Slaughter of the Soul might seem predictable to a first time listener who's already acquainted with the over 9000 knockoffs.
Barbra Streisand, Cher, Madonna, ...three leading ladies of the music industry, almost all possessing huge gay followings, who also spent a fair bit of time doing things in the movie biz. Hard to believe they're some of the most innovative girls around, considering (at least in Madonna's case) every blonde pop singer from the nineties onward is compared to them or called their Successor.
The Beatles pioneered and popularized so many of the recording and musical techniques commonly heard in rock and pop music today that it can be hard for newcomers to truly appreciate how ground-breaking they actually were. In particular, Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band can suffer from this. (It was particularly impressive for being recorded with only 4 tracks. In today's digital world, where everything can be done on a computer, most people don't understand what that even means and why it's so impressive.)
The Beatles do, for the most part, avert this trope, though - while people may not always recognize today how groundbreaking they are, they continue to be one of the most popular and beloved bands of all time, and their albums continue to sell out nearly a half-century after they were originally released. And every generation of teenagers seems to re-discover The Beatles (see there was the popularity of Across the Universe and the Beatles edition of Rock Band). And it's rare to find anyone who actually denies The Beatles' influence. Even a lot of the Hype Backlash will still admit The Beatles were innovative, just that they weren't the only ones pioneering those things and don't like how they're often discussed as though they were.
The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" used groundbreaking techniques that are so common now listeners unfamiliar with their history might not recognize how revolutionary the album is.
Memphis power pop band Big Star's debut album #1 Record drew inspiration from The Beatles and The Kinks. It now sounds incredibly conventional but was astonishing around its 1972 release.
Bob Dylan. In the documentary No Direction Home, Dave Van Ronk tells a story about "House of the Rising Sun," which Dylan recorded on his (self-titled) debut album. The version he recorded was arranged by Van Ronk and Dylan had learned it from hearing him perform it live. After Dylan recorded it, so many people accused Van Ronk of ripping it off from him that he finally stopped performing it. Later, when the Animals covered Dylan's version the song, the same thing happened to him.
Boyd Rice. Play an old record by him to someone today and they might think that it's someone trying to learn to make a loop. They might not realize that Boyd was one of the earliest pioneers of sampling and record scratching.
Breaking guitars (or any other instrument). In the 60's, breaking your instruments on stage was seen as the epitome of badassness, rebellion and edginess. Today, breaking guitars is so overdone it's a rock n roll cliche.
Big & Rich. Although they never had much in the way of big hits, they brought a very rock-influenced sound to the genre, which spread once John Rich began producing and/or co-writing for other artists (most notably Gretchen Wilson) and record producer Dann Huff began playing up his own rock influences. Now, Loudness War is as commonplace in country music as it is anywhere else, and many people think that there's too much of a rock sound in mainstream country... but how quickly those same listeners forget that Garth Brooks and Shania Twain were just as rock-influenced in the 1990s, making their songs seem less "out there" in comparison. And if you go further back to the 1980s, you'll see these influences in Alabama, who won Artist of the Decade for that time because of their rock influence.
Before Big & Rich, there was Conway Twitty. Now seen as a lynchpin of classic country, he was never part of the Grand Ole Opry in part due to his "rock and roll sound".
Billy Ray Cyrus became popular in 1992, at a time when there was a trend toward "traditional country", and his very rock- and pop-influenced "crossover country" style (complete with the ubiquitous novelty hit "Achy Breaky Heart") and mulleted, musclebound, hip-wiggling pretty-boy stage presence was both very uncommon in the genre, and polarized many country purists who saw him as a Scrappy. His success, however, brought a younger, hipper, more rock-influenced audience to country music, and helped to give the genre more mainstream attention and airplay. You can see more exaggerated influences in stars like Blake Shelton or Kenny Chesney topping the charts, but Billy is still not acknowledged, and his daughter is now more well-known than he is.
Chely Wright. All the buzz about her coming-out as a lesbian and its impact on country music and its listeners has caused people to forget that she is not, actually, the first out lesbian in country music - K.D. Lang preceded her by a good 20 years or so.
k.d. lang was a bit of an outsider in country music, who was never quite accepted by the Nashville establishment as one of "their own" even before she came out as lesbian; it's not just a coincidence that her first album after coming out was a pop album rather than a country one.
Faith Hill. When she hit it big in late 1999-early 2000 with the massive crossover hit "Breathe", every single female act in the genre was cutting Power Ballads with a similar sound and similar incentive to cross over. These attempts usually were met with failure (except for Martina McBride getting a few huge crossover hits -- albeit in 2004, after the craze died down), and what's more, Faith ended up hoist by her own petard when country radio shunned her very heavily pop-influenced Cry album.
George Strait. When he first hit the charts in 1981, he was markedly more country than his peers, most of whom were following the pop crossovers of acts such as Alabama, Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers. The rise of similarly "neotraditionalist" acts like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and Clint Black in the late 1980s-early 1990s followed in George's footsteps. While many of his contemporaries have faded, George has somehow managed to keep his A-list status with minimal change to his sound, sometimes making it quite hard to remember just how much of a pioneer he is.
Gretchen Wilson herself seemed to spark not one, but two examples of this: besides being a rock-influenced creation of John Rich, her Signature Song "Redneck Woman" sparked a wave of spunky women-with-attitude types and anthemic songs about southern pride. The former trope has died down considerably thanks in part to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood's death grip on the genre, but the latter is still prevalent.
Johnny Cash and other acoustic music in general gets this treatment these days. Most teenagers think singers like Johnny Cash are boring. In his day, Cash was shocking to the Moral Guardians. These days, the acoustic guitar seen as a starting point for learning the guitar. It's had to imagine what music would be like today without the instrument.
Dance music. Most of it falls victim to this eventually. Not so long ago nobody had heard of acid house, rave, big beat, gabba, trip-hop, drum'n'bass, jungle... Anything that's new is so easily taken up and copied by imitators that it soon sounds totally conventional and often technologically primitive. (Think of MARRS "Pump Up the Volume", "Out of Space" by the Prodigy, or anything by Fatboy Slim for example).
Very few people nowadays might hear Suicide or Silver Apples, the two bands that arguably spawned electronic music, and guess that their origins are pre-disco.
The Doors are something of an aversion of this. They came from an era when music was populated by bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys - bands whose music was light and (relatively) friendly. The idea of a band singing 11 minute apocalyptic tracts with Oedipal themes, who also wrote songs about serial killers and who were willing to acknowledge the horrors of the Vietnam War (who also happened to be led by a leather clad poet/filmmaker) was practically unthinkable. Forty years on, although Morrison is occasionally viewed as pretentious, their music still sounds as fresh today as it did then (if it sounds dated at all, that's only because of Ray Manzarek's ballpark-style organ), even if it's viewed as a major influence on many bands since, such as Pearl Jam, Echo & The Bunnymen, Nine Inch Nails...the list goes on.
Dr Dre's "Nothin' But a 'G' Thang". At the time, a hip-hip video with low riders, backyard parties and lots of posing in front of the camera was something new and different. Needless to say, it was certainly influential.
Eiffel 65 sounds a lot less fresh today after thousands of rappers ran the Autotune gimmick into the ground.
Eric Clapton. Although he was never as experimental as his contemporary, Jimi Hendrix, Clapton was a major influence on all rock after 1966. He almost single-handedly resurrected the Gibson Les Paul, one of the most ubiquitous guitar designs today. Not only that, he created (or popularized) rock guitar as we know it. His playing during this era inspired the "Clapton is God" graffiti. Hendrix himself was an admirer. Today, although he's still a skilled guitarist at 64, Clapton is mostly known for the light pop he recorded from the 70's onward. Even his watered-down acoustic version of "Layla" is arguably more familiar to younger generations than the original. He influenced just as many guitarists as Hendrix (usually both are cited), so his playing is often considered tired and clichéd. But he used to be kind of cool.
"Funk" effects in rock music (the "wah-wah" pedal, etc.). When these first appeared in the late '60s in works by bands like Cream, they sounded dangerous and even diabolical. But then, in the '70s, so many TV shows began to use mild funk flourishes in their theme songs that today a style that once offended so many people just sounds ridiculous. This was partially fixed in the early '80s, when (if only in that one instance) Michael Jackson's Thriller managed to make funk sound Badass again.
Gang Of Four's trademark sound to some extent: Starting around the Turn of the Millennium, a lot of post-punk/New Wave-influenced bands like Franz Ferdinand and Maximo Park started using minimalist, choppy guitar riffs and stiff but funk-influenced rhythms in a similar manner. This actually led to a resurgence of interest in Gang Of Four (and eventually, a partial reunion), but it also can make their debut album Entertainment! seem less innovative than it was at the time. The key thing that still sets Gang Of Four apart is that these newer bands usually lack their overtly political lyrics and occasionally really harsh guitar feedback.
By the time Pearl Jam released Riot Act, quite a few younger music fans accused the band of being a Creed ripoff. (helps that Creed singer Scott Stapp has a voice which sounds exactly like Eddie Vedder's)
Even Nirvana, and a number of other popular alt-rock/grunge groups, were highly influenced by The Pixies. Kurt Cobain even admitted that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was his attempt at ripping-off of a Pixies song. Listen to that song, then listen to "U-Mass" by The Pixies. The former is a sped-up version of the chorus of the latter.
Black Sabbath is often considered the first metal band. Take a moment and consider how weird that sounds.
That title is often given to King Crimson, which just sounds all the weirder.
It's kind of weird to hear that in the late '70s/early '80s, metal bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica were mistaken for punk. This was because "heavy metal" in the late '70s was seen as the slow or midtempo fare of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and it was punk bands that were known for playing at fast tempos. Thus, the early '80s genre of "speed metal" doesn't seem that fast compared to later shred-metal, power-metal and extreme metal bands, but in its day, metal played at the speed of punk rock was a novelty.
A serious casualty of this trope was NWOBHM pioneer Diamond Head. They were barely famous, in comparison to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon, but their influence on Metallica was profound. Metallica's earliest recordings were covers of Am I Evil, Blitzkrieg and It's Electric. However, Diamond Head never became as famous as the band they influenced, and ended up opening for them at the National Bowl event in 1993, and chose songs covered by Metallica to get accepted by the crowd. However, a relatively subdued performance and Diamond Head not being so famous made them look and sound like a band covering Metallica. They split up shortly afterwards.
Pantera is probably the biggest offender of them all. In the midst of their numerous copycats (really, just about every metalcore and nu-metal band in existence), it's hard to believe that, at one time, their style of metal was both unique and interesting.
Helmet virtually invented the start-stop metal riff that dominated the late 90's. You'd never know it to hear their successors (e.g. Korn, Deftones, etc.) but the idea came from jazz.
Isis and their blend of post-rock and Sludge Metal. One mixed review of their album In The Absence of Truth remarked "it's not Isis' fault that they sound unoriginal these days. All you have to do is pick up a copy of Decibel, open it to any page, and you'll find someone counting the group as an influence..."
James Brown. The beats and breaks of many of his songs have been sampled or imitated so many times that his music would sound very cliché now, if it wasn't, you know, James Brown.
Jazz. In an example of Older Than They Think, it was considered radical and subversive when it came out, and many of the pioneers of the genre managed to push the limits of what their instruments could do farther than it was thought possible. Now, the genre as a whole is often overlooked as "old people's music," and the once-groundbreaking work of the likes of Louis Armstrong is basic stuff that every jazz student learns. (Student? They'd never teach this stuff, as recently as The Seventies!) Jazz first came to be in The Gay Nineties and arguably peaked in The Roaring Twenties, so this is Older Than Television and about as old as radio.
Jimi Hendrix, though to such a minimal extent that it's almost a subversion. He's been copied by almost every rock guitar player who followed ("There are two kinds of guitar players: those who'll admit to be influenced by Hendrix, and liars"), and while he no longer sounds quite as fresh as he did in the Sixties, there's a good fraction of his material that still just sounds out there.
The Kinks. Known in America mostly for "You Really Got Me" and "Lola", at the time they were a big hit in the UK, pioneering not only guitar hooks, but intelligent songwriting that would eventually lead to Britpop. Not to mention their riff for "Picture Book" getting ripped-off by Green Day. The fact that they were banned from the America for most of the 1960's didn't help.
Kraftwerk. In the 70's, they were mind-blowing, because few people had heard pure electronic music before. These days, the band's early work sounds primitive, simple, and just plain dated compared to the legions of bands it inspired.
Korn. Many considered this to be the case with them, referenced by the band itself when they titled their third album Follow the Leader.
Larry Graham. When he first came out, his bass style of slapping and popping was new and refreshing. Now people (bass players excluded) complain it's boring and flashy.
Led Zeppelin suffers heavily from this. In particular are John Bonham's drum beats. (Especially on "When The Levee Breaks") His influence is so pervasive in modern rock that many younger listeners are legitimately baffled as to what's the big deal about him.
Jimmy Page, aside from influencing many guitarists of the era, also is credited with changing the way producers would record in studio. His technique of using multiple microphones and different distances created an "ambient sound" with more dimension than was conventional at the time.
Ludwig Van Beethoven makes this trope Older Than Radio. The Mark Steel Lectures profile of Beethoven focused on this effect since his work is so old that it can't help but be merely another part of the classical repertoire. Beethoven was one of the first composers to write autobiographical tunes, one of the first to be independent of royal patronage, was unprecedentedly loud, and in behavior was the spiritual ancestor of the moody modern rock star. Mark imagined the same thing happening to today's pop music: (In an affected very posh BBC Radio 3 accent) "It's fascinating to note how the composer Mr Fifty Cent, blends the pianoforte with lyrics as they begin: 'I'm a cop killa, gonna shoot you up the ass'". And also notes how quickly the effect takes hold. Even now the kids can't really understand what was so different about punk rockers saying they were pretty 'vacant'.
Beethoven does mostly avert this trope, though, as far as classical music fans go. People still find his music earth-shattering centuries later, even those who had heard all the increasingly wilder and weirder stuff that followed in his footsteps. Richard Wagner is a much better example of a composer who was revolutionary in his time (one of the first to really push at the boundaries of tonality, to give just one example) and yet is considered hackneyed and clichéd now.
Marvin Gaye is remembered by many as a Memetic Sex God thanks to his hit songs "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing." What people forget is that his signature is all over Motown, soul and R&B as we know it.
In the four years since Meshuggah released their breakout album, Obzen, an entire genre - progressive groove metal, or "djent" - has come to the forefront of the metal world, based almost entirely on expanding the Meshuggah sound (the word "djent", the colloquial name for the entire genre, started as onomatopoeia for Meshuggah's guitar tone). Some, including major metal blog Metal Sucks, speculate that, in the wake of what bands like Periphery, Tesseract and Vildhjarta have been creating, the now-upcoming new Meshuggah album Koloss is going to come off as very uninteresting and behind-the-times.
Michael Jackson. In the U.S. anyone who grew up after the first round of child molestation charges in 1993 grew up in a world where radio stations would avoid playing his music for both fear of controversy and the general opinion that his new material was inferior to the old, where the only time he ever appeared in the media was with whatever shocking and disturbing antic he came out with next, and where he was a far too easy target for comedians. After his death, hearing his Glory Days music played over and over again on the radio, and seeing his videos re-run on MTV, they fail to see anything unique about his style, as the best aspects of it have been standard pop music fare for the past 20 years. Add to this the fact that his big-budget music videos often look cheesy and/or low-budget by today's standards, and the datedness of the fashions, and synthetic sound, well, they could be forgiven for saying "Why was he ever famous to begin with?"
Even the moonwalk looks dated and cheesy now compared to all the dance innovations that have come since; so much so that it's easy to forget that almost every one of those newer dance moves was created by someone who started dancing precisely because of how well and truly blown their minds were by Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk.
The Misfits, a 1980s punk band that was considered edgy for their lyrics inspired by horror films and other horror related imagery. Now this, and their pop punk sound, would be considered mainstream emo.
The Ramones and the Sex Pistols were a reaction to the largely overproduced and masturbatory progressive rock genre, and decided to do the exact opposite by never really learning to play their instruments. The punk scene exploded into the mainstream in 1977, and to modern day listeners, both of the aforementioned bands sound either sloppy or overly melodic, depending on what you listen to.
Inversion: early punk music is now viable radio material, which it absolutely wasn't -- indeed, was intended to not be -- when it was current.
The ubiquitous Ramones t-shirt on every wannabe "edgy" C-list celeb is borderline example in its own right. Some Guardian music journalist claimed that "the kids" were turning to wearing previously shunned Nirvana/Grunge-era logos as a kind of backlash against '70s rock t-shirts.
As mentioned above, the original punk rock was a rebellion against the traditional rock 'n' roll sound. But after hardcore punk came with its extremely short songs, simple music and aggresive lyrics, the original punk rock looks like rock 'n' roll.
In photos from before he retired from music, Richard Hell could be seen dressed in a very typical punk rock style, with spiked hair and ripped-up, drawn-on shirts held together with safety pins. For this reason, it can be sort of surprising to hear his band Richard Hell & The Voidoids, since they didn't really play conventional punk rock. The thing is, Hell is actually credited with inspiring much of the early punk rock look - Malcolm McLaren has cited him as the main influence on how The Sex Pistols were dressed for instance.
Ray Charles' fusion of R&B and Gospel vocal stylings in the 1950s (at a time when most R&B singers had more of a smoother show tunes vibe, a la Nat King Cole) was revolutionary and ground-breaking. Even controversial (Many Blacks saw such music as blasphemous). Sixty years later... Charles' sound sounds bog standard, if catchy.
Richard Wagner is one of the best examples of this in classical music/opera. There was nothing like what he was doing at the time. He pushed at the boundaries of tonality in a way no composer had done before; he invented the leitmotif (basically, a "theme song" for a character, object or concept), the staple of just about every film score ever; his writings about the Gesamtkunstwerk (the "total art work" that combined music and drama) had a huge influence on the development of not only opera but also musical theater. But these days, with over a century of increasingly weirder and more boundary-pushing work inbetween, Wagner's work sounds increasingly hackneyed and overwraught. Plus, pretty much every stereotype of opera in general - from fat ladies in horned helmets (though they were winged in the original), to the idea of opera as super-complex and daunting (previously, opera was divided into either lighthearted rom-coms or hammy melodrama) - comes largely from his work.
It may be lost with newer listeners to appreciate how revolutionarySly And The Family Stone were in the late Sixties, to have a band performing a very raw, Afrocentric, psychedelic, rock-infused style of funk music, with a very radical and countercultural style of clothing and hairstyles, a multi-racial, multi-gender lineup, and very countercultural/socially conscious lyrics for the time period they were popular in. They helped set the direction for much of what black music, and music in general, would follow from The Seventies onward. The 1971 album, There's A Riot Going On, in fact, was one of the first funk albums to use a (very crude and early) drum/rhythm machine.
U2 When they first arrived, they were praised not only for being the first Irish band to hit it very big abroad, but also for the pure defiance in their lyrics. To have a group from Dublin speak so convincingly about issues that affected them was unheard of. Their music was like nothing else around. Years later They have become better known for Bono's preacherman antics while their political lyrics seem tame compared to bands like Rage Against the Machine.
The sound of U2, and in particular the guitar work of The Edge, eschewing solos and rock guitar conventions for an atmospheric/rhythmic, textural, chiming approach relying heaving on delay and effects was equally influential, but it's hard not to find an Edge-infuenced guitarist in a rock band (or generally U2-inspired group) since at least The Nineties.
Humorously, Velvet Underground was not terribly popular at the time, so people now theorize that every single person who liked Velvet Underground must have started a band.
The Who. At the time, the "sloppy" drumming by Keith Moon was revolutionary. Now it's a standard part of the rock landscape.
Yet, in turn, fans of The Who think Keith Moon invented the stereotype of the "wild and crazy drummer," when in reality it started much earlier with jazz drummers, particularly Gene Krupa.
It was, however, certainly a new thing in rock and pop music of the time, to approach the drum kit with ferocity and athleticism, and to use double-bass drums and more than five or six-piece drum kits and multiple cymbals on a pop or rock record.
The Compact Disc, introduced in 1982, was a revolutionary breakthrough in The Eighties, offering a cleaner, clearer way of listening to music than the vinyl formats of the previous sixty or seventy years. It brought, even in its 8-bit sound, more intimacy and detail, and captured the whole of the record, uninterrupted by record sides or weird formatting like the eight-tracks of The Seventies. It may have influenced the way new music is recorded, mixed, mastered and produced, as well, as music grew in complexity and digital precision to cater to CD listeners. The 78-minute storage capabilities might have led to longer albums. Nowadays, it (and the mp3) are the industry standard, and the novelty of it seems lost to newer generations.
The "shock" factor in older music, especially Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop, tends to suffer from this a lot as time goes on. For instance, Screamin' Jay Hawkins (who would be one of the biggest sources of inspiration for Alice Cooper, who in turn was the source of inspiration for just about everyone else) terrified people with his stage performances and the tone of his music. Now days, the most likely reaction from footage of Jay strutting around in a witch doctor get-up is laughter. This is largely from an audience that has been so "shocked" over the years that many musicians say that the only way anyone these days could be genuinely shocked is if the authorities let someone commit suicide on-stage.
Synthesizer and sampling technology, particularly from The Eighties can count. With modern, increasingly realistic and expressive all-in-one-box digital workstations now the norm, it can be jarring to know that many of the features now taken for granted in newer instruments were once the exclusive property of $5,000 to $100,000+ instruments like the Fairlight CMI, the E-mu Emulators I and II, the New England Digital Synclavier and the Kurzweil 250 thirty or so years ago. Even with the Yamaha DX-7, Roland D-50 and Korg M1 (and samplers like the Akai S900 and Ensoniq Mirage), it was relatively crude technology. Computer software has often taken over for hardware, and things like the $30 Fairlight Pro app are derided as slow and crude, if not amusing for its retro qualities.
Radiohead. Their albums "The Bends" and "OK Computer" (along with their breakout hit "Creep") were so innovative that the band's combination of introspective darkness and falsetto vocals were promptly ripped off by massive numbers of alternative rock musicians, most of which went on to massive mainstream success greater than Radiohead had ever had at the time. Frustration with this led to the band's Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly album, "Kid A." The genre switch worked, and they've been quite successful and critically acclaimed since.