A record can chart well have little influence, or moderately well (or even poorly) have a
lot of influence.
broad sense, still best instruments available to judge listeners’ changing tastes, even if measurements are
Ideally access to comprehensive radio playlists of various eras, or actual number of records sold of any song or
playlist data not plentiful , record companies often manipulate sales numbers (frequent complaint of
Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards gold records = sales of 500,000 units and
platinum records = one million units, helpful measuring success of album or single.
RIAA website (www.riaa.com) allows you to look up any hit record and track its award
Google Books provides access to extensive collection of Billboard magazines, allowing
us to consider aspects of advertising and industry news at particular date.
The Four Themes
following chapters take a three to tenyear period of history , organize music along stylistic lines.
Some chapters cover same years from different angles.
For example, mid1960s covered in three chapters: Ch 4, devoted to the British
invasion; Ch5, discusses American response to it; Ch 6, focuses on black pop.
Each chapter raises set of interpretive issues providing insight into scholarly + critical debates four
important themes throughout the book: social, political, and cultural issues; race, class, gender; development of
music business; and development of technology.
Each play an important role in development of rock music as musical style and force in popular culture. music
business changed dramatically since early 1950s,
realm of technology, rise of radio in the 1920s, emergence of TV after World War II central factors
in rock’s explosion into mainstream American culture in mid1950s.
development of cable television facilitated introduction of MTV in early 1980s.
race, class, and gender essential to understanding origins of rock,
constant challenge of stereotypes in this music, ever present struggle for authenticity in form that
blends downhome vernacular sensibilities with public adoration and extreme wealth.
Tracking the Popularity Arc.
studying rock’s history and progress from 1950s through the 1990s may notice pattern of styles and their
many cases, a specific style will appear within a relatively restricted geographic region and remain
unknown to most fans of popular music.
ex, few rock fans were aware of punk scene in New York during mid1970s,
bands like: Television, the Ramones, and Blondie played to small, local audiences.
American punk style, morph into new wave by end of decade, developed within small subculture before
breaking into national spotlight in 1978.
early 1980s, some artists formerly associated w/ punk embraced styles and commercial strategies of rock
mainstream; more diehard, aggressive groups retreated back into the underground.
rise of punk from small, regional underground scene to mainstream pop culture,
and subsequent retreat, follows pattern we might think of as a “popularity arc.”
stories of specific styles in rock music follow this template.
Typically, histories of rock music account for time each style spends in pop
limelight— peak of popularity arc—creating a chronology without examining a style’s pre
mainstream roots or existence after commercial boom years.
difficult to avoid such a historical account, similar problems arise in histories of other
musical styles (ex jazz and classical music).
To keep popularity arc in mind for any given style, ask following questions:
How did the style arise? When did it peak in popularity? Does it still exist in a subculture
somewhere? How are elements of this style incorporated into current mainstream pop?