Comprehensive List of Styles and Artists
|Music Style: Instrumental R&R||Start Date of Style: 1955|
|Duane Eddy & the Rebels|
|Dave "Baby" Cortez|
|Johnny & the Hurricanes|
The History of the Chart
“The Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music” has been praised by many scholars and fans alike as an important history lesson, a valuable research tool, and just plain fun to look at. This engaging graphic has had a long and venerable history of popping up in some very interesting places. So I decided to include it as a two-page fold-out in the current edition of my book Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the USA, 3rd Ed., and to make it available directly to you as a high resolution poster size print of the original pen and ink drawing.
I created the chart back in 1977 for Rock 'N' Roll is Here to Pay: The History and Politics of the Music Industry by Steve Chapple and Reebee Garofalo. The original version was called "Marketing Trends and Stylistic Patterns in Pop/Rock Music" and went from 1955-1974. It was included as a fold-out poster in early printings of Rock 'N' Roll is Here to Pay. In fact, if you can find the three flap fold-out from the first paperback edition, I’d buy it. The updated 1978 version you're looking at here was renamed "The Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music" and has never before been published in its original form. It includes over 700 entries representing more than 30 styles of music. The height of each style at a given point in time is a rough indicator of its market share.
As soon as the chart hit the market in Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Pay, it started generating buzz in the music community. Early on, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wanted to use it as a permanent installation. It was actually displayed in the original architect’s model for the Rock Hall that was made by the Burdick Group of San Francisco. But then there was a complete staff turnover, and a more active Board of Directors decided that it would be difficult to decide on an appropriate genealogy for this music. You can bet there was a story there.
In May 1978, Steve Chapple and I had a piece in Mother Jones magazine on “The Rise and Fall of FM Rock.” It was accompanied by a lame artist rendering of the chart that ran as a graphic over the story. It was a pretty superficial interpretation that did no justice to the original, but there it was, in the pages of Mother Jones. The following year, NBC Radio commissioned me to update the chart for a marketing campaign they were contemplating, which I did. The woman who contracted me, however, abruptly left her job and her marketing campaign sank without a trace. But this exercise led to the version of the chart that is now directly available through this website.
When WGBH-TV, Boston’s PBS television station, was first developing the idea for what became the 10 part series Rock and Roll, I was called in by the Executive Producer as a possible consultant to the project. I think I talked myself out of a potentially lucrative consulting gig when I criticized the original proposal for its overproduction of Britrock and lack of attention to black artists and particularly disco. Still, they were interested in using the chart for their marketing proposal. Since they were going after big time corporate bucks, however, they didn’t want to use the original, which they thought of as . . . I think the word they used was “primitive.” Instead they created a computer generated, high tech version of the chart with circles and arrows and curlicues all over the place. Imagine Keith Haring working in an early draw program. I guess it worked though; their proposal got mega-funding.
The last time that I was brought in as a rock ‘n’ roll consultant to a major project was when Paul Allen was building the Experience Music Project in Seattle. His team of curators was interested in creating a huge sculpture in the middle of the building that depicted the “Roots and Branches” of rock ‘n’ roll — a sort of three-dimensional version of the rock chart. Having gotten hold of a reproduction of my chart, they pulled me in to help develop the concept. Umpteen staff changes later, they still couldn’t agree on a concept, and the “Roots and Branches” idea was abandoned in favor of that gigantic guitar sculpture that now ascends dramatically to the second level. While it works well enough as an abstract sculpture, it provides little in the way of useful information.
If WGBH didn’t like primitive and EMP couldn’t figure out how to incorporate information into its central sculpture, graphic design guru Edward Tufte touted the virtues of the chart on both counts. He decided to use the original 1974 version of the chart in his seminal graphics text Visual Explanations (1997). For those of you who have seen his road show, he uses the chart as an example of an effective design for capturing lots of information in a graphically pleasing way. “Your chart brings my book to a stop,” he told me, “at least for those of us of a certain age!”
Los Angeles Artist Dave Muller was so taken by the chart that when he was asked to contribute an installation of his own choosing to the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the signature exhibition of the Whitney Museum, he blew up the reproduction in Tufte’s book and made it the centerpiece of a 30 foot wall mural. Muller’s appropriation moved the chart into the realm of fine art, but with a fitting postmodern twist. Muller moonlights ad a DJ, and it was his interest in popular music that drew his attention to the chart in the first place.
For me, creating this chart was a labor of love that drew equally from my love of popular music (for content) and my attraction to the contours of “pinstriping” on customized 1950s cars (for graphic design). Along the way, I enjoyed the company and able assistance of many friends and acquaintances. I still remember the night that Dianne Dion (then Carasik) spilled Scotch on the original while surveying my placement of artists. When my calligraphy skills were not up to the task, my friend and former college roommate, the late Damon Rarey, stepped in with a major assist in the graphics department. (Damon was an accomplished artist in his own right; check out his legacy at www.rarey.com) For the 1978 update presented here, artist Jean Nicolazzo, my girlfriend at the time, took over Damon’s graphics role. When decisions about artists and categories seemed too complicated to manage, I was fortunate to have Sam Kopper, Allan MacDougall, Beverly Mier, Rory O’Connor, Robert Plattner, and Norm Weiner to talk to. They should get some of the credit for these admittedly subjective judgments; I’ll take all of the complaints.