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Holly ([personal profile] hollymath) wrote2018-11-05 05:10 pm
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A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

tl;dr: Andrew has started a podcast! You might like it if you like music! If to support it on Patreon, you'll be helping us out a lot because we had a big drop in household income a few months ago!

That Patreon support would also get you access to short stories he hasn't printed publicly, all the many books he's read -- fiction and non, everything from music writing and science fiction to murder mysteries and historical thrillers -- and any new ones he writes. But he's pouring a lot of time and effort into this podcast now and people seem to like it, so I thought some of you might be interested in that too.

Under the cut, I'm going to quote a long section of a recent blog post where Andrew talks about the motivation to do this project; I think it's moving and interesting even if you don't think you care about any history of rock music.
I’m starting to worry if five hundred songs wasn’t too few, and I shouldn’t have gone for a thousand songs.

Because this is important to me. More important, I think, than I’ve made clear. This is something that’s been percolating for about seventeen years, although it only took full form a few months ago.

I think it started when I was at university. In my second attempt at getting a degree, I was studying a course on popular music history, and early on in the course the lecturers talked about Carl Perkins, and played some of his music, then laughingly said “don’t worry, we don’t expect you to listen to this for fun, you just have to know about it.”

I *loved* Carl Perkins, then and now. I was listening to him for fun. And I wondered how someone could teach a course that would lead people to have any understanding at all of popular music, if they dismissed out of hand the very possibility that their students could actually enjoy the music they were talking about.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m watching the Everly Brothers on their last UK tour. The show was fantastic, and they came out and did an encore. They did two songs in the encore — “Blue Yodel #9 (T For Texas)”, the old hillbilly song by Jimmie Rodgers, and “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke. And they both sounded like Everly Brothers songs, and fantastic. And I had a sort of gut-level realisation that they came from a time when Jimmie Rodgers and Sam Cooke were both just… music, that they liked. They didn’t have to be in one style or another. They were just good music, and they were both connected to what the Everlys were doing.

Fast forward another year or two, and I’m at a mediocre festival. But like all mediocre festivals, there had been a couple of great acts, and one of them was the Del McCoury Band. I’d not really known anything about McCoury, who’s one of the all-time greats of bluegrass, before seeing him, but I was absolutely blown away by his band, who were professionals of the old school, dressed smartly in matching suits, playing with breathtaking precision. I instantly became a fan.

The next day, there was a band I *had* been looking forward to until that day, Hayseed Dixie, a novelty act who did bluegrass covers of hard rock songs. They came on, and they were… frankly nasty in their stereotyped, “Dukes of Hazzard” style faux-yokelisms, mocking Southern country people with every word they said, with a sense that they were more sophisticated than anyone who could unironically like bluegrass without turning it into a joke.

I looked at them, with their overalls, and I remembered Del McCoury stood on stage in his immaculate suit, singing immaculate harmonies with his sons while they played the most blisteringly fast banjo and mandolin you’ve ever heard, and I knew who I thought was more sophisticated. I never listened to Hayseed Dixie again.

But anyway, those are just three examples of miniature epiphanies which have happened to me several more times over the years. And these have all had the same effect, more or less… which is that there is a *wealth* of music out there, important, wonderful music that has enriched my life, but it’s inaccessible to many people my age or younger. Without the cultural context, it sounds like a joke.

And that’s something that’s going to carry on happening. When I finish this project, assuming I get to, it’ll be 2028. When I cover, say, a song from Automatic for the People by R.E.M., it’ll be thirty-six years, give or take, since the album came out. “Blue Suede Shoes” was thirty-six years before that. Without context, will R.E.M. sound any less ridiculous to the teenagers of the late twenties and early thirties than Carl Perkins apparently did to the teenagers and lecturers at my university? I doubt it.

But I think I can provide that context, culturally and musically. I think my particular talents, in so far as I have any, are more suited to this than to anything else I could be doing with myself. I think I’m good at telling stories, I’m good at research, I’m good at picking out the telling details from a mass of information. I’m also good at making connections between seemingly disparate things, and pointing out why they’re related. I know twentieth century popular music as well as… well not as well as anyone I can think of, but I’m probably in the top ten people I can think of as far as that kind of knowledge goes. I also am a competent enough musician that I can analyse the music, but not competent enough that I’ll try to put my own music into the podcast.

I honestly think that this is the best contribution I could make to human culture, and it’s something that I’ll take very seriously indeed.

But it’s going to be a lot of work. It sounds grandiose to the point of delusion, but I’m thinking of this as my equivalent to the multi-volume big books of 18th and 19th-century gentleman scholars — my Origin of Species or Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire or Golden Bough. One of those things that goes into all the detail that’s needed to create a complete picture.

You don't have to give him money to hear the podcast of course; feel free to give it a try and see what you think. It really is a labor of love for him and while it'd be nice if it paid some bills too, the love is clearly already there.
jesse_the_k: kitty pawing the surface of Atlantic vinyl record on turntable (scratch this!)

[personal profile] jesse_the_k 2018-11-07 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
That's an impressive project!

sfred: (peanuts music)

[personal profile] sfred 2018-11-07 02:15 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't listened yet but I have subscribed and am looking forward to listening.