A rock opera or rock musical is a musical piece in the form of an opera or a musical in a modern rock and roll style rather than more traditional forms. It differs from conventional rock and roll music, which is often a song that is unlinked in plot or story with other songs, but overlaps considerably with concept album or rock musical.
The distinction may be that the rock opera tells a story and a concept album sets a mood, but some albums tell moody stories and others tell stories about moods. The rock musical is defined by having no identification with a band and a generally stronger air of show business. The categories are flexible, to say the least.
Examples of rock operas include:
- Pretty Things, S.F. Sorrow: Either the first rock opera or the first concept album
- The Who, Tommy (1969): The album which arguably popularized the term "rock opera"
- The Who, Quadrophenia (1973)
- Pete Townshend, White City (1986): Subtitled "A novel", a video was released in conjunction with this album.
- Pete Townshend, The Iron Man (1989): A "musical" based on Ted Hughes' book The Iron Man (which was also the basis for the animated film The Iron Giant)
- Pete Townshend, Psychoderelict (1993): An album of linked songs with dialogue advancing the story between the music, a version without the dialogue was also released
- Spock's Beard, Snow (2002): Has a storyline and themes very similar to The Who's Tommy
- David Bowie, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
- Pink Floyd, The Wall (1978)
- Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar: Considered a rock musical
- Godspell: Also a rock musical
- Moulin Rouge: A stretch, uses a collection of rock songs from many sources to tell a story.
- Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell and Bat out of Hell II: Back Into Hell
- Styx, Kilroy was Here (1983)
- The Kinks, Preservation Act 1, Preservation Act 2, A Soap Opera, and Schoolboys in Disgrace
- Genesis, The lamb lies down on Broadway: Famous prog-rock opera.