JRock stands for Japanese rock music. It started in Japan in the 1970s, but it has become a worldwide sensation and has spread to the United States, Europe and other places. Unlike other types of rock and roll or Japanese pop (J-pop), Jrock has its own unique style.
This style of music was influenced by the Beatles’ first concert in Japan in 1966, which honored Japanese war casualties. The Beatles’ hippy style, unique sound and wild energy simultaneously stirred, encouraged and angered the Japanese people. As the 1970s unfolded, rock had taken hold in many parts of the world and was spreading quickly before it caught on in Japan, but when it hit, it hit hard. JRock refused to die, even when other countries had moved past rock to new musical sensations and styles.
Early groups that were instrumental in laying a foundation for JRock include folk rock group The Alfee and punk rock group Sheena & The Rockets. These began as imitative of Western rock, but they quickly found their own niche and following. Initially, JRock was not popular with natives, but the bands would not be so easily shut out of their own country. They felt like they had something to bring to the world of music, and they persevered. Eventually, the style caught on and continued into the 1980s, with bands like Shonen Knife, Boowy and Buck-Tip, which were noted for following their own beliefs rather than those of mainstream musicians.
In 1989, a violent, crude rock group called X JAPAN started the first Japanese rock movement, known as visual kei. Visual kei involves mostly men who wear make-up, spike and dye their hair, and don costumes of leather or vinyl. This style is focused on image, and by Western standards, it is similar to Gothic or punk music. The performances take place in the dark.
Japan remained behind the rest of the world in general music movement, but JRock continued into the 1990s with groups like Three Michelle Gun Elephant, GLAY, B’z, Judy and Mary, and Malice Mizer. These bands and their songs became a part of Japanese culture by being incorporated into video games, television shows and animated series known as anime. This fueled the enduring popularity of JRock throughout the country and eventually worldwide, as Asian culture was featured in other countries. The book Jrock, Ink provides more explanation about this style of music and the 40 biggest bands that contributed to it.