It was a revolution. It changed the lives of a generation. By extension, it changed the lives of their children. It spread across the world. It altered the course of history…Rock & roll changed everything.
Jeremy Paschall begins his book The Illustrated History of Rock Music with this exciting refrain. Full of bold (and sometimes grainy) photos of musicians and influencers, this book divides the history of rock into categories based on years. Considering the copyright date is 1978, the reach of the book only extends into the seventies. Despite the limitations, Paschall recounts the blistering speed of rock music’s ascent with clarity and passion.
From The Ed Sullivan show, to Chuck Berry, to Elvis Presley, to Cher, to David Bowie: this book has it all. Paschall also talks about the different cultures that inspired classic rock as we know it today. Much like the literary canon, the popular music canon builds off of the innovators who came before them, and, in turn, paves the way for a generation of new musicians.
Be forewarned, though: Paschall writes in perhaps a too-personal way, speaking for waves of people about how they reacted to say, the punk movement or Jimi Hendrix. The tone is exciting- it’s as if Paschall was right up there in the frontlines at every major concert- but I think it can also be misleading.
For example, take these paragraphs on The Beatles:
Before [The Beatles] pop had been sung by wooden little Pinocchios; after them Pinnochio had cut his strings and danced to his own, self-written tune. Before them pop films had been exploitative crap; after them they could be considered cinema.
Make of that what you will. Just know that you’re getting Paschall’s personal take on cultural phenomena and not a bare bones, more objective take on music history.
*Another version of this article will appear on The Logos Library Blog.