If you were asked to put together a rock ‘n’ roll playlist for a 14 year old, what would you include? If you think back on how far we’ve come with rock, it’s easy to forget that since it all started in the 50s, we’re about 70 years in at this point. That playlist is going to be loooooong. It’s also going to be biased and controversial. In other words, perfect for a multi-party BRP posting on this subject!
The inspiration for this series of posts comes from Aaron, and hats off to you, dude. Here’s my personal advice to you: make sure you follow this to a T and download and absorb everything – you’ll be much better off than your peers and can quietly lord your superiority over them as you go through life with this Holy Grail-equivalent knowledge. Oh, and yes, many songs are about girl trouble because that will be an ongoing theme for the rest of your life. Get used to it.
OK, back to work here. I’m not quite sure how to do this rock playlist to end all rock playlists, but I’ve given it a lot of thought, most of which happened at work while The Man thought I was doing his bidding. (Don’t we all love sticking it to The Man? Yes, we do, and that feeling crosses cultures, races, income levels, and genders. It’s one of human-kinds common attributes.) Anyway, I figured I would go about this in a thematic fashion, focusing either on time periods, movements, or genres, and give a short reason for each tune listed.
One big question is whether I limit the list to just songs without considering the bands that produced them. Most of us would agree that the truly great bands produced many truly great songs. There are many bands that, in and of themselves, deserve their very own playlists. This was one of my very first thoughts: of course the Beatles, Stones, Who, Clash, etc, need to be included, but with one tune or multiple tunes? Heck, I have playlists for bands like Wilco, Squeeze and Teenage Fanclub, and while I love each of these bands, I’m not sure any of them have climbed to the very top of Mt. Olympus.
But if it is just one song, what track would that be and why? In the end, I decided to go with the rule that there would be only one song per artist. Unless I decide differently. That’s completely capricious, but then again, it’s BRP. Efficiency is important unless it isn’t, and a broader range of artists included is important unless it isn’t.
Where do we start? At the very beginnings? Look, I’m not going back to the turn of the 20th century to talk about the blues. I’m going to define the rock era as beginning in the early 1950s. If you want to dig deeper, feel free, but I’m not a music historian working in some liberal arts college in New England. I have a real life.
And what about our teenager? Now, I know that a teenager today might be saying, “huh? Why early rock?” And I get it. While highly influential, some of it sounds so simplistic today. Why not just jump to classic rock? Ultimately, I concluded that early rock is the foundation that supports everything that came next. It needs to be covered. This will also give Aaron the chance to say, “Yes, I do like that song as it reminds me of a Chuck Berry tune. While a modern take on the subject, it is highly derivative, too.” But be careful with this, my man – smugness can ruin your cool attributes, so only do this in short bursts or around other rock savants where it will be appreciated. Or if you happen to know a music historian working at a small liberal arts college in New England.
One more big-time bias will come through: I’m picking artists and songs that I like and think are important. Sometimes that will track with the tyranny of the majority, but other times it won’t. For instance, there is no way on God’s green Earth that I’m including ass clowns like Billy Joel on this list. You may scream that this is a rock heresy, and in your mind, you may be right. But I’m not going to lose my own integrity by pushing an artist that others think are good when I know that they suck. And Einstein is with me on this. Exhibit A: Billy Joel. Exhibit B: most winners of Grammy awards.
Also, I like my rock to, well, rock. Some ballads and slow songs will appear on the list, sometimes confounding my overall theme, but most songs will share the attribute of making you want to shake your butt, strut around on the dance floor like someone set your pants on fire, and otherwise have you pumping your fists and nodding your head. If you want slow songs, there are a couple in here, but generally you’ll have to search elsewhere. The question is, why?
What else? I don’t know. I think it’s high time to start digging into the meat rather than talking about how good the steak looks, what the cow was fed, how it was aged, what spices were used on it, and the temperature in which it was grilled. Let’s get rockin’. First up, the best of the very early stuff.
Houston, we have lift off.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.