I recently watched the ten-part documentary The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll. It should more accurately be titled ‘The History of Pop Music’, but is an entertaining watch nonetheless.
The first few episodes start off strong and focus on the roots of rock, including blues, gospel, and ‘race music’. Profiled are obvious choices such as Chuck Berry and lesser-knowns such as jump-blues legend Louis Jordan. The series also does a good job of chronicling bands who made an impact at the time but have fallen to the wayside over time (most notably during The Beatles’ rise to fame).
Organized semi-chronologically, the episodes later become more topical based – for example, focusing on “guitar heroes” as opposed to a specific decade.
The series features both new and old interviews with artists and those related to the industry as well as archival footage, much of which I haven’t seen (and I’ve seen a lot). Some of the interview commentary is poorly picked; at points I had no idea what the person speaking was referring to, and sometimes literally couldn’t understand the words coming out of their mouths (this mostly happened with Keith Richards). For the most part, though, it was quite interesting hearing artists give their observations about the scene they were instrumental in building as opposed to hearing the history from someone who didn’t live it.
The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll debuted in 1995, so things leave off at a somewhat turbulent point in music – rap was still on the edge of being considered a fad, Green Day was riding high on the release of Dookie, and Kurt Cobain & Nirvana were given the briefest of acknowledgments in a passing montage. As things wrap up and people give their vague wrap-ups on the history and future of rock, the series goes out with The Goats’ “Rumblefish” – a rap/rock hybrid that gained critical acclaim in the early nineties but failed to hold up in the grand scheme of things.
For a list of songs and artists featured in the documentary, check out the customer reviews.