A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

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November 18, 2019  

Episode 57: “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Billy Lee RIley

 Billy Lee Riley


Episode fifty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Flying Saucers Rock 'n' Roll" by Billy Lee Riley and the Little Green Men, and at the flying saucer craze of the fifties. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.

Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Silhouettes" by the Rays, and the power of subliminal messages.

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November 11, 2019  

Episode 56: “Bye Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers

Episode fifty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Bye Bye Love" by The Everly Brotherss, and at the history of country close harmony. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.


Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Short Fat Fannie" by Larry Williams.

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September 30, 2019  

BONUS: Question and Answer Episode 2

This week's episode of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is the second of two bonus episodes answering listener questions at the end of the first year of the podcast. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a bonus podcast, answering even more questions.

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September 23, 2019  

BONUS: Question and Answer Episode 1

This week's episode of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is the first of two bonus episodes answering listener questions at the end of the first year of the podcast.. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.

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September 15, 2019  

Brief Announcement Before Episode 50

This is just a quick note to tell people about the plans for the next couple of weeks.
Later today I'll be putting up episode fifty of the podcast, which is in a way a summary of all the episodes that came previously.
I will then be doing two episodes that aren't like the rest of the series. I've realised that if I take two weeks off every year, I can get the podcast to run to exactly ten years rather than nine years and eight months, and i can use those two weeks to catch up on research for future episodes, and to edit and publish the book based on the first fifty episodes.
But I'm not going to leave you without new episodes for that time, so next week and the week after I plan to do Q&A episodes. I'm going to invite my Patreon backers to ask me any questions they want about the podcast – whether about why I haven't covered someone yet, or my technique for making the podcast, or a detail they didn't understand, or anything else. I'm then going to answer those questions in the episodes on the twenty-second and twenty-ninth of September, before getting back to episode fifty-one proper on the sixth of October.
(If I don't get enough questions to fill up two episodes... then I'll think of something else to do for the twenty-ninth).
If you want to ask a question for these Q&A episodes, sign up for the Patreon, which starts at just a dollar a month and can be found at patreon.com/andrewhickey
February 25, 2019  

Crowdfunding Update — Patreon and Kickstarter

This is not a proper episode of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs – there is a proper episode I've uploaded along with this. This is, rather, an announcement of some new Patreon rewards, including a bonus episode, and a new Kickstarter. They actually went up a week ago, to mark the twentieth episode, but I forgot to mention them here. If you're not interested, skip this and go straight on to the proper episode. If you are interested, there are links in the blog post for this podcast.

First, there are two Patreon rewards. I've created an ebook containing revised versions of the scripts for every episode, reworked so they work as essays rather than as audio.

Secondly, I've done another Patreon bonus episode, this one on "Cry" by Johnnie Ray. I didn't think I was going to have much to say about this one, but it turns out I do, and I think this is a rather good one. Check it out.

As I've said before, I'm not going to do a regular Patreon-only podcast until the Patreon hits $500 a month, but I will do these occasional special extras as and when the mood takes me.

For non-Patreon people, I'm doing a Kickstarter to turn the ebook into a physical book, and put both on sale to the general public. This will be the same text that the Patreon people have as their ebooks, but in paperback and hardback format. I'll do this with each twenty-episode chunk as they come out. Patreon backers at the relevant levels will get the book in those formats whatever happens with the Kickstarter. The idea is that this will eventually be a twenty-five book series.

I want to stress though, given that this is a bit of a beg for money, that the podcast is, and always will be, totally free, and nobody is under any obligation to give me a penny for it. I don't want money unless you can afford it.

November 12, 2018  

The Ink Spots — “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”

The Ink Spots: Left to right -- Bill Kenny, Deke Watson, Hoppy Jones, Charlie Fuqua


Welcome to episode six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs. Today we're looking at the Ink Spots and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin"

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October 8, 2018  

“Flying Home” by the Benny Goodman Sextet

Photo of Charlie Christian

Welcome to the first episode proper of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs! As this is the first real episode, you may notice a couple of flaws in the production -- those will hopefully get ironed out in the coming weeks. In the meantime, sit back and listen to the story of "Flying Home" by the Benny Goodman Sextet!

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October 1, 2018  


Welcome to A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs! Episode 1, the first episode proper, is coming next week, but for now here's an introduction, laying out my plans for the series. As I say in the tag at the end of every episode, please, if you like this episode, tell someone about it -- word of mouth is important, especially with these early episodes.
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast
My book, California Dreaming: The LA Pop Music Scene and the 60s, available here.
Rock and roll as a cultural force is, it is safe to say, dead.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, and nor does it mean that good rock and roll music isn't being made any more. Rather, rock, like jazz, has become a niche musical interest. It's a large niche, and it will be so long as there are people around who grew up in the last half of the last century, but the cultural influence it once had has declined precipitously in the last decade or so. These days, various flavours of hip-hop, electronic dance music, manufactured pop, and half a dozen genres that a middle-aged man like myself couldn't even name are having the cultural and commercial impact that in previous decades was mostly made by guitar bands.
And this means that for the first time, it's possible to assess rock music (or rock and roll -- the two terms are not quite interchangeable, but this is not the place for a discussion of the terminology, which will come later) in a historical context. In fact this may be the best time for it, when it's still interesting to a wide audience, and still fresh in the memory, but it's not still an ongoing story that will necessarily change. Almost all of the original generation of rock and roll musicians are now dead (the only prominent exceptions at the moment being Jerry Lee Lewis, Don Everly, and Little Richard, although numerous lesser-known musicians from the time are still working occasionally), but their legacy is still having an impact.
So in this podcast series I will look at the history of rock and roll music, starting with a few pre-rock songs that clearly influenced the burgeoning rock and roll genre, and ending up in 1999 -- it makes sense to cut the story off there, in multiple ways. I'll talk about the musicians, and about the music. About how the musicians influenced each other, and about the cultural forces that shaped them. In early episodes, you'll hear me talk about the impact the Communist Party, a series of strikes, and a future governor of Texas would all have on rock and roll's prehistory. But more importantly you'll hear me talk about the songs and the singers, the instrumentalists and the record producers.
I shall be using a somewhat expansive definition of rock or rock and roll here, including genres like soul and disco, because those genres grew up alongside rock, were prominent at the same time as it, and both influenced and were influenced by the rock music of the time. I'm sure we'll look, when the time comes, at the way the words "rock and roll" were slowly redefined, from originally meaning a form of music made almost entirely by black people to later pretty much explicitly excluding all black musicians from their definition.
But the most important thing I'll be doing is looking at the history of rock in terms of the music. I'll be looking at the records, and at the songs. How they were made and by whom.
I've chosen five hundred songs in total, roughly a hundred per decade from the fifties through the nineties. Some of these songs are obvious choices, which have been written about many times before, but which need to be dealt with in any history of rock music. Others are more obscure tracks which nonetheless point to interesting things about how the music world was developing at the time they were recorded. I say "I've chosen", but this is going to be a project that takes nearly ten years, and no doubt my list will change. I'll be interested to see what suggestions listeners have, once I get them.
Each podcast will be accompanied by a blog post, with a transcript of the episode (actually the script from which I'm working -- I won't be transcribing any of my mistakes) and links to sources, along with any notes -- for example, I've already noticed a mistake in episode two which I'll put in that episode's notes. I'll also be compiling an accompanying mixcloud post for each podcast. Those mixclouds will have the full versions of every song I excerpt in these podcasts, and I encourage you to listen to them.
The podcasts are planned to be about twenty-five minutes on average, with the occasional shorter one, like this, as a bit of housecleaning.
I'll also, every two years, be publishing a book based on these scripts, which will eventually become a five-volume work.
Anyone who backs me on patreon, at patreon.com/andrewhickey -- that's a n d r e w h i c k e y -- will get free access to those books, as well as backing my blog and my other podcast.
Those of you who have read my earlier work California Dreaming: The LA Pop Music Scene and the 60s will be familiar with this narrative technique I'm using here, and this series is in many ways an expansion of that book's approach, but it's important to note that the two works aren't looking at precisely the same thing -- that book was dealing with a particular scene, and with people who all knew each other, in a limited geographic and temporal space. Here, on the other hand, the threads we'll be following are more cultural than social -- there isn't a direct connection between Little Richard and Talking Heads, for example, but hopefully over the course of this series we will find a narrative thread that still connects them.
Obviously, just as there's no definitive end to the time when rock had cultural prominence, there's no definitive beginning either. The quest for a "first rock and roll record" is a futile one -- rock and roll didn't spring fully formed into existence in Sam Phillips' studio in 1951 (when he recorded "Rocket 88") or 1954 (when he recorded "That's All Right") -- music evolved, and so we'll look at R&B and country, at Merseybeat and punk, and try to find the throughlines. But to start with, we want to take a trip back to the swing era...