A HIstory of Rock Music in 500 Songs vol 1
A book documenting the prehistory of rock and roll, from "Flying Home" in 1938 to "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954, based on my podcast.
I'm a writer and podcaster. I have written over twenty books, including books on the Monkees, the Kinks, the Beach Boys, and the California music scene of the 1960s, as well as fiction and cultural history, especially relating to the middle decades of the twentieth century.
For the last five months I have been doing a weekly half-hour podcast, A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, which you can find at 500songs.com . That podcast is going to be my magnum opus, and will take about ten years to complete. When it's completed, it will tell the story of rock and roll from 1938 through to 1999, by focussing on five hundred songs that were important to the development of the genre.
I think this is a genuinely important thing for me to do. But it's a big task. Each podcast script is roughly four thousand words. That means that by the end of the project, I will have written about two million words of podcast script -- not counting things like podcast blog post, extra Patreon podcasts, and so on. To put it into perspective, at the end of the project, assuming I live to complete it, I will have written roughly as many words for the project as The Lord of the Rings, Infinite Jest, War and Peace and Alan Moore's Jerusalem, combined.
But I think this is important. There is a wealth of music out there, important, wonderful music that has enriched my life, but it’s inaccessible to many people my age or younger. Without the cultural context, it sounds like a joke to many.
And that’s something that’s going to carry on happening. When I finish this project, assuming I get to, it’ll be 2028. When I cover, say, a song by R.E.M. or Nirvana, it’ll be thirty-six years, give or take, since it came out. “Blue Suede Shoes” was thirty-six years before that. Without context, will those bands sound any less ridiculous to the teenagers of the late twenties and early thirties than Carl Perkins apparently did to the teenagers and lecturers at my university? I doubt it.
But I think I can provide that context, culturally and musically. I think my particular talents, in so far as I have any, are more suited to this than to anything else I could be doing with myself. I think I’m good at telling stories, I’m good at research, I’m good at picking out the telling details from a mass of information. I’m also good at making connections between seemingly disparate things, and pointing out why they’re related. I know twentieth century popular music, extremely well, and am putting in the work to learn those areas I don't know. I also am a competent enough musician that I can analyse the music, but not good enough that I’ll try to put my own music into the podcast or make it all about me.
I honestly think that this is the best contribution I could make to human culture, and it’s something that I’ll take very seriously indeed.
But it’s going to be a lot of work. It sounds grandiose, but I’m thinking of this as my equivalent to the multi-volume big books of 18th and 19th-century gentleman scholars — my Origin of Species or Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire or Golden Bough. One of those things that goes into all the detail that’s needed to create a complete picture.
I think that's worth doing. And I want your help doing it.
But I am not asking for you to fund a project which may not see completion. Rather, I am asking for you to fund the small part of it that is already done.
I plan to release a series of books chronicling the music, as the series goes on. Each book will be about eighty thousand words, the length of a normal book, and will cover twenty songs. They will be based on the scripts for the podcasts, but will be reworked to work as prose, and will be updated and edited to take account of any new facts I discover. The first of these books has already been written, and my Patreon backers have it as an ebook. All that needs to be done now is formatting for print and creating an index, and it can be available in print. You're not betting that I'll do something good in a decade, but paying for some good work that's already been done.
This is volume one of a projected twenty-five, but the book will stand on its own. You can read this and get a complete story, telling you about the infancy of the rock and roll genre. The chapters are:
1) "Flying Home" by the Benny Goodman Sextet
2) "Roll 'Em Pete" by Big Joe Turner
3) "Ida Red" by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys
4) "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
5) "This Train" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
6) "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" by the Ink Spots
7) "Good Rockin' Tonight" by Wynonie Harris
8) "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino
9) "How High The Moon" by Les Paul and Mary Ford
10) "Double-Crossin' Blues" by Johnny Otis, Little Esther, and the Robins
11) "Rocket '88" by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats
12) "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price
13) "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean" by Ruth Brown
14) "Jambalaya" by Hank Williams
15) "Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton
16) "Crazy Man Crazy" by Bill Haley and the Comets
17) "Money Honey" by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters
18) "Sh'Boom" by the Chords
19) "That's All Right Mama" by Elvis Presley
20) "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets
Risks and challenges
Other than Acts of God or Government, there should be no problem with this at all. The book is already written, it only needs formatting for print, and I have written twenty books (and self-published the majority of those) so I am utterly familiar with the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)