While some artists throughout rock history gradually became stranger as their careers went on, including The Beatles and Radiohead, there are other artists who started off strange and inaccessible but eventually moved toward accessibility, whether it was due to pressure from their label or a legitimate desire to clean up their sound. Here are seven artists who became more accessible:
1. The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was the original experimental rock band, the first example of a rock band that might be too "challenging" for the average listener. Their 1967 debut The Velvet Underground & Nico incorporated elements of minimalism, noise and drone music into a rock template, while their sophomore effort White Light/White Heat amped up — very literally — the noise elements.
But, their next two albums, The Velvet Underground and Loaded, were a complete shift, almost completely abandoning any avant-garde elements in favor of more low-key, even traditional pop songs.
While most people think of Genesis as Phil Collins's pop rock band from the 1980s, the band's first few albums were anything but pop rock. With Peter Gabriel on lead vocals and Steve Hackett on guitar, the early '70s incarnation of Genesis specialized in lengthy, progressive compositions such as "Supper's Ready" and surreal rock operas such as 1974's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Though the band still pursued progressive rock after Gabriel left in 1975, the departure of Hackett in 1977 set Genesis on the pop path they would become most famous for.
3. Bruce Springsteen
Though Bruce Springsteen is hardly ever considered "challenging" or "experimental," his early works do have a more progressive bent than his 1980s megahits. Springsteen's second album in particular, The Wild, The Innocent, & the E-Street Shuffle, is an incredibly dense and complicated work, with just seven songs stretched over 47 minutes.
It would not be until Springsteen's fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, that he would adopt more traditional pop structures in his songwriting.
4. Public Image Ltd.
Though The Sex Pistols promised to destroy rock 'n' roll, John Lydon's second band Public Image Ltd. was closer to actually delivering that promise, playing a primal and often atonal style of music that was aggressively anti-rock.
As the '80s wore on, however, PiL cleaned up their sound and fell in line with the new wave/dance bands of the time, such as New Order.
5. Hüsker Dü
When they first began performing in the early '80s, Hüsker Dü was known as one of the fastest and most furious hardcore punk bands in the United States. Though their early albums documented this aggressive sound, Hüsker Dü soon moved away from the hardcore scene in favor of melodic yet still dark alternative rock songs, even moving into power pop toward the end of their career.
Out of all the bands from the early '80s hardcore scene, the Minutemen were by far the most challenging, writing songs in a bizarre punk/funk style that were so short and unmelodic that they barely registered upon first listen. Though they never got into any sort of "pop" territory, by 1984-85 the songs became longer, catchier and more eclectic, even making a sarcastic attempt at accessibility with their 1985 EP Project Mersh — mersh being short for commercial.
Metallica's "Black Album" may be the biggest selling album in the SoundScan era, but it is also one of the most controversial metal albums ever released, with many Metallica fans denouncing its cleaned-up, melodic sound and abandonment of the band's early thrash metal style.
As the 1990s continued, Metallica continued this move away from thrash, even incorporating blues and Southern rock styles into their albums Load and Reload.
What other bands eventually became more accessible? Let us know down in the comments section.