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Rock and Roll

Core Reference Titles | Exploring Further | Some Performers of Distinction | Periodicals | Websites

Core Reference Titles

The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.
780.92 A1R754, 2001 [REFERENCE]
Once pre-eminent American counterculture tome does a decent job of compiling the highlights of fifty years of rock music. Good place to start to find information on a performer.
The Great Rock Discography. -- [5th ed.]
780.92 S923gr, 2000 [REFERENCE]
Offshoot of exhaustive British music periodical MOJO Magazine. Highly recommended when trying to track a performer's creative output.
The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music / compiled and edited by Colin Larkin.
780.92 V817, 2002 [REFERENCE]
Similar to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia, except written with a more Anglocentric slant. More obscure British bands. Loads more pictures.
All Music Guide to Rock.
781.64016 ALL, 2002 [REFERENCE]
Encyclopedia-style listings of hordes of major and minor players gathered under the umbrella of rock music. The information is brief but highly informative, and more current than other guides. Start there.
Trouble Girls : the Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock / edited by Barbara O'Dair.
781.66082 A1T859, 1998 [REFERENCE]
Rolling Stone-sponsored guide to essential women performers in rock music, all incidentally, penned by women. From Motown to punk and beyond.

Exploring Further

The Rough Guide to Rock / edited by Peter Buckley. -- 3rd edition.
781.66092 ROUGH 2003
Another decent "who's who" style overview of rock musicians and bands. Useful as a supplement to the All Music or Rolling Stone guides.
Songs in the Key of Z : the Curious Universe of Outsider Music / Irwin Chusid.
780.92 A1C563so
The fascinating thing about rock music is that, since there are no ascribed standards of technical expertise, all manner of misfits and loners feel free to take part in the spectacle. And the genre is much richer for it. Irwin Chusud looks at the lives and works of the leading lights of the outsider music (non-) movement over the last forty years.
Melody Maker History of 20th Century Popular Music / Nick Johnstone.
780.92 A1J73m
Now defunct weekly paper Melody Maker covered rock and popular music in England for most of the 20th Century. Their attempt to compress it all into one volume is somewhat underwhelming, but still useful.
Death by Rock 'n' Roll: the Untimely Deaths of the Legends of Rock / by Gary J. Katz.
780.92 A1K19de, 1995
Consider this the Hollywood Babylon of rock books. By no means essential, but still important as performers who "lived fast and died young" are always very popular.
She Bop : the Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop, and Soul / Lucy O'Brien.
780.92 A1O13she, 1995
Excellent starting point for those wanting to explore the contributions of women to popular music. After this, move on to Rolling Stone's Trouble Girls anthology.
Christgau's Consumer Guide : Albums of the 90's / Robert Christgau.
781.640266 C555ch
Robert Christgau is often called the "dean" of rock critics, and he flaunts his position in this densely packed listing of capsule reviews of pretty nearly every album released in the 1990's. Most "reviews" consist of little more than a clever comment and a letter grade.
Sound of the Beast : the Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal / Ian Christe.
781.66 CHRISTE
Heavy-metal chronicler Ian Christe attempts to pen a definitive look at the genre, with enthusiasm and humor (a staple in metal, no matter what naysayers will tell you) to spare.
Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll : Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Geniuses, Punk Pioneers, Lo-fi Mavericks & More / Richie Unterberger.
781.66092 U61un [REFERENCE]
Very similar to Songs In The Key Of Z, although Unterberger casts his thematic net wider than oddballs and savants to include innovators and iconoclasts who were too far ahead of their time.

Some Performers of Distinction

Beatles Anthology.
780.92 B369b [NONFICTION]
The Fab Three (Harrisson, Starr, McCartney) tell all, alongside scores of archival images. Suits both the Beatles obsessive and neophyte.
Heavier Than Heaven : a Biography of Kurt Cobain / Charles R. Cross.
780.92 C652Cr [NONFICTION]
With Cobain's life quickly becoming the rock and roll "Rashomon," Charles Cross undertakes the delicate balancing act of separating the man from the myriad myths.
Depeche Mode : Some Great Reward / Dave Thompson.
780.92 D419Tho, 1994 [NONFICTION]
Though synth pop is often treated as rock and roll's red-headed stepchild, Depeche Mode were able to bridge the gap effortlessly between Led Zeppelin and Kraftwerk, selling out stadiums all over America and nary a guitar in sight.
A Simple Twist of Fate : Bob Dylan and the making of Blood On The Tracks / Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard.
782.42164092 GILL [NONFICTION]
MOJO writer Andy Gill expands an earlier piece written on the creative and personal drama surrounding "Blood On The Tracks," often given the nod as Dylan's best and most personal work.
Crosstown Traffic : Jimmy Hendrix and the Post-war Rock'n'Roll Revolution / Charles Shaar Murray.
780.92 h398M [NONFICTION]
Charles Shaar Murray's account of Hendrix's turbulent life and times is universally acknowledged as head and shoulders above the rest.
Scars of Sweet Paradise : the Life and Times of Janis Joplin / Alice Echols.
780.92 J81E [NONFICTION]
Alice Echols looks at the life of firebrand singer Joplin through the lens of the various "revolutions" of the Sixties and attempts to deconstruct her stage persona.
Bob Marley, Spirit Dancer / Bruce W. Talamon ; text by Roger Steffens.
If images are indeed more powerful than words, then this compendium of black-and-white photographs of Bob Marley, onstage and off, just might be the definitive non-musical document of the artist.
According to the Rolling Stones / Mick Jagger ... [et al.]
Very similar to the Beatles Anthology. Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood tell their version of events, alongside scores of high-quality photos.
Bruce Springsteen : the Rolling Stone Files : the ultimate compendium of interviews, articles, facts, and opinions from the files of Rolling stone.
780.92 S7969Rol, 1996 [NONFICTION]
The editors of Rolling Stone packaged together two decades worth of the best writing on New Jersey rock icon Springsteen from their venerable publication. A diverse package that should satisfy all levels of Springsteen fandom.
Wild Years : the music and myth of Tom Waits / Jay S. Jacobs.
780.92 W145Jac [NONFICTION]
The chameleonic Tom Waits is profiled lovingly by Jacobs; he follows the restless Waits' every twist and turn from bohemian singer-songwriter to uncompromising experimenter.
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: the complete chronicle of the Who, 1958-1978 / Andy Neill & Matt Kent.
Andy Neill undertakes this mammoth chronology of a nearly day-by-day breakdown of the activity of this pioneering British rock band over two decades with incredible enthusiasm. Add to that an avalanche of photos and other memorabilia, and you have a winner on your hands.
Shakey : Neil Young's Biography / Jimmy McDonough.
780.92 Y74McD [NONFICTION]
This is THE definitive biography of rock music's foremost lone wolf. Young even cooperated with the author, to a point.


Rolling Stone
In spite of itself, Rolling Stone is still the foremost rock publication going today. Although you will have to dig through all sorts of celebrity gossip to find music commentary.
The somewhat anemic contender to Rolling Stone's throne. Their long-form music articles and interviews are the best thing going today in terms of mainstream magazines, however their style pieces and overly-fawning profiles of the "next big thing(s)" usually ends up hurting their credibility.


All Music Guide
Best of the best, at the moment in terms of tracking down performers both famous and obscure, and eyeballing their discographies. Related artists links demonstrate how this format is perfectly suited for the web.
Recommended for ease of use in looking up particular recordings and their availability, but also for the DIY populism of the customer reviews and thematic recommendation lists.
Interesting experiment in trying to gather as much rock writing as possible, by both experts and enthusiasts, in one place. The links section is superb and the daily weblog has a lot of potential.
Ultimate Band List
An attempt to compile pretty much every band with a website in an easy-to-use alphabetical list. The final listing is spotty at best, and hopefully will improve, but the section on music meta-sites is much better.