Most important rock music


O.K., so I’m dumb. Let’s just get that out in front now.

I am teaching summer school music to middle and elementary school kids, and am doing composer-of-the-week. That’s not the dumb part. The part where my brains are called into question is when I took the suggestion that one of those weeks should be popular music.

Yup. I have to cover the history of rock-and-roll/pop/etc in about 45 minutes per class period starting the week of July 10th.

Who to include? Why? When? How? tears hair

So this is what I’d like from you: what are some groups/LPs/songs that you think are important to the history of rock that I should include in this? Things that were influential, ground breaking, leaders of a particular movement in rock, whatever. This is going from the 50s up through yesterday. List whomever you want, whatever time period you want, why-ever youwant. Let me know why you think I should include stuff too, as I will need to tell this to the students.

Thanks so much for your help. I figure I can count on the SDMB folk to come up with some great ideas from all over the map. :slight_smile: I know the kids will really enjoy this, but it is turning out to be quite a project!


Hoo boy. This is basically impossible to answer. A few suggestions, bandwise:

Bill Haley
Jerry Lee Lewis
Elvis Presley
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones
Led Zeppelin
Deep Purple
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Frank Zappa
Leonard Cohen
Black Sabbath
Dire Straits

I’m sure there’s lots more. Let this be a good start :wink:

Ahhhh, just play 'em a whole buncha the Velvet Underground. That’ll cover 1965 through the present (if you count their followers). And be a big hit when they go home.

“What’s that tune you’re humming, Junior?”

“It’s called ‘Heroin,’ Ma!”

Or you could spend the first five minutes handing out doses and play 40 minutes of space…

To Coldfire’s list I’d add:
Woody Guthrie
Chuck Berry
John Lee Hooker
BB King
Bob Dylan
Grateful Dead
Aretha Franklin
Bruce Springsteen
Elvis Costello
The Clash

This is shaping up to be a long class.

Yes, this is shaping up to be a long class, which is part of my problem. Ya. The doses of heroin idea is looking better all the time…

Gotta appreciate Coldfire’s suggestion of Dire Straits. Now there’s some guitar. :slight_smile:

Ukelele Ike,

You can’t go mentioning the Velvet Underground at any opportunity! That’s my job! :wink:

Power Cellist,

I don’t envy you - it will probably be much easier to be very specific rather than general - maybe pick early rock records (Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, …) or look at different ways that guitar music has been written in ‘popular music’ or something - eg surf, pop, punk, progressive rock … I’m sure there’ll be plenty of dopers willing to suggest definitive examples of each.

All up, I just have to say ‘Good Luck’ :smiley:


Just give 'em all some Orange Sunshine, throw them out in the sandbox and hose 'em all down, and tell them they just learned about Woodstock. Then you’ll have to spend the rest of the semester talking them down, because man, those cats’ll be FREAKIN.

How about

You really got me - The Kinks

Has been credited, with a couple of other Kinks songs, with the creation of the heavy rock riff.

Dark side of the moon - Pink Floyd. With modern computor power this does not seem as much of a revelation nowadays but it demonstrated what could be done with huge amounts of editing and experimentation in the studio.

James Brown The most sampled artist of all time. Indirectly this material was extensively used in the formulative years of the rap phenomenon

My happiness - Elvis Who could have predicted what that original demo(with Blue moon of Kentucky) would lead to?

Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk .The forerunner of all that rave, electronic music scene that Madonna has only lately got round to but which is absolutely huge here in Europe.

I’ve tried to give you suggestions of significant milestones rather than noteworthy artists who in a large part built on the foundations laid down by these.

I think

The Stooges
Blue Cheer

need to be included, especially in regards to today’s so-called Alternative bands.

oh, the stooges, good choice. kraftwerk, well done, those and coldfires are great, so whats the actual problem?

VH-1 did it, can’t you borrow from them if you need to?

Everyone keeps forgetting one VERY influential band in their posts. I’m talking about the one… the only… the hottest band in the world!!! KISS!! KISS was an innovative band. Nothing else around when they hit the scene. They don’t get nearly the recognition or credit they deserve.

I think you need to concentrate on those artists who did something “different”. Black Sabbath came around when everyone was listening to songs about wearing flowers in your hair if you’re going to San Francisco. Sabbath was fresh. Something new. KISS was similar in that, at the time, everyone was listening to Bob Seager, B.O.C., B.T.O., E.L.O., etc. KISS was something new. The same can be said for Nirvana. The latest cropping up of something new and shocking, has to be Marilyn Manson. Maybe Rob Zombie too…

I think your lesson will be more interesting if you can show how certain groups “changed” rock and roll. There have been WAY too many artists in rock history to possible name them all. I’d just make a point of showing how certain people or groups, changed rock and roll forever.

Hope that helps… :slight_smile:

How about giving yourself some sort of guideline to help you figure it out? Like…music/groups/etc. that is associated with certain important events? Or specific music that changed the face of pop/rock? The big trek to the East by the Beatles, Clapton et al had some effects on Western music. Or maybe make the whole segment personal by showing the kids music that shaped you as you grew up, then have them go home and ask their parents/guardians for the names of songs/groups that had some impact on their lives growing up? Pop/rock is unique in that it touched a younger crowd…certainly gave them a brand of music to call their own.
There certainly have been musicians who have impacted the world of music, but it might be interesting to show how they did this using other music that is obviously inspired by them. What do you want these kids to really learn about this genre? That it became a tool for self-expression? That it utilized instruments in new ways?
Good luck,

I can’t believe in all these great lists, nobody mentioned Jimi Hendrix.

Disagree if you will about him being the greatest guitarist, but speaking of rock/blues composers and innovators, he’s the man.

Well, hey, I was looking for evidence of the decline of western civilization. When JH is forgotten…

I suppose one of the things I should mention is that the students have also been told to bring in music that means something to them (although I’m afraid that opens me up to such hideousness as the Titanic soundtrack and Brittany Spears). I have already suggested that they ask their parents, although since this is mainly middle school aged kids that set up a big groan. And, yes, I did think of Hendrix. :slight_smile: Great ideas so far! Thanks!

I’d spend one entire class with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. For another, I’d take two Dylan songs, Mr. Tambourine Man and All Along the Watchtower, and then play various cover versions of them to show how many different ways there are to interpret the same thing.

Forget “Sgt. Pepper.” It isn’t even the best Beatles album, let alone the best rock album. Play them selections from “Help!” followed by selections from “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” (heck, you can claim “Tomorrow Never Knows” is early techno) to show what kind of musical progress can be made in six months to a year.

Definitely include the early stuff: Fats, Jerry Lee, Elvis, Chuck and all the other stuff that grew from straight R&B.

The Beach Boys are absolutely essential in the evolution of pop music. Anything from “Summer Days (and Summer Nights!)” and “Pet Sounds” will be useful.

Bob Dylan
Eric Clapton
Guns N’ Roses
Van Halen

i suggest you take a few classes to go over this subject since its very wide…

you should probably include a short bio and tell about some of their albums and songs and why they were influential or important. including some good stories will also help them remember what they learned…

good luck

Whoa… how long do you have to cover this?

My suggestion would be to predate what everyone else has tried to tell you.

Start with Jelly Roll Morton.

His musical style included damn near everything seen to date in rock and roll, and it was a rollicking affirmation of everything rock and roll has been so far.

Explore the timing, and MOST ESPECIALLY include a discourse of 1-3-4 chord progressions from which most modern rock is born–it’s all just a riff on the blues anyway.

You might want to get into exactly why BB King’s riffs are so damn --SEX–y (has more to do with Lucille than with women) and why every man sings about how women done him wrong (has more to do with men’s perceptions than with women’s realities).

If I were to teach a class like this, I think I’d want to stretch it out over a few semesters…

Rock history is something of a hobby of mine, so I have a few suggestions to hit some vitally important moments in the history or Rock and Roll. Not necessarily the most popular, but certainly vital musical moments. Here they are, influential artists, albums and songs throughout history, trying to keep it to one or two bands per genre.

  1. Chuck Berry “Maybeline”-- Some Chuck Berry should be included, as much for his guitar work as anything else. You may want to cover even earlier work (Jelly Roll Morton, Robert Johnson) but you may not have enough time given constraints)

  2. Little Richard Penniman “Tutti-Frutti”-- Ok, it’s a veiled homage to sex (the original lyrics were "Tutti-Frutti good bootie) but it’s still a great song, and vital to history of Rock and Roll. Old enough and innocuous enough to be useful to a young class.

  3. Elvis Presley “Jail House Rock”-- Elvis reprents “rockabilly” as opposed to “rock and roll.” Sort of an evolutionary dead-end, IMHO, but still a VERY important performer. Some of his stuff should be included.

  4. Buddy Holly “That’ll Be The Day”-- Buddy Holly WAS the original punk artist: simple melodies, basic instrumentation (the Crickets were an oddity as a 1950’s three piece), simple lyrics. He, like Elvis, brought rock and roll to a white audience (unlike Elvis, Buddy Holly played the Apollo), but he was more influential musically to later artists than Elvis.

  5. Beach Boys “Surfin’ USA”-- Between 1958 and 1964, rock and roll went largely dormant (this was the time period of teen hearthrob acts liek Ricky Nelson, Fabio, etc.) but the Beach Boys started making surf music. Jan and Dean might be appropriate for this time period as well.

  6. The Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Yesterday”, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road You could make the Beatles a whole class, and this picks some highlights of the stages of their career. Seargent Peppers bears highlighting as the first major concept album (though the Beach Boys album Pet Sounds was earlier, and Lennon himself admits largely influenced Sgt. Peppers). If you only pick one song, pick Yesterday.

  7. The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction”, “Sympathy for the Devil”-- The 60’s was largely about the Stones vs. The Beatles. The Beatles got better press, but people who found them alternatingly “bubblegum” or later “pretentious” helped also make the Stones huge. The Beatles fans were white collar; the Stones were decidedly working class.

  8. The Kinks “You Really Got Me”-- Cited by many as the start of Heavy Metal. The Kinks were a decidedly “Stones” type of band.

  9. The Who “Baba O’Reilly”-- The Who cannot be discounted (first real Stadium Rock band) and this is quintessential Who.

  10. The Byrds “Eight Miles High”-- The start of psychedelia. A key band.

  11. Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth”-- Everyone knows this song. It MUST be included, especially as a great intro to protest rock. Band featured both Neil Young and Steven Stills.

  12. Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited– This is Dylan’s transition from acoustic folky to electric rocker. Also include “Tangled Up In Blue” from * Blonde on Blonde * You may want to do several Bob Dylan songs from other bands to emphasize his HUGE influence as a songwriter. If you do this, include Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower,” The Animals “House of the Rising Sun,” Joan Baez “The Times Are a Changin’”

  13. Cream “Strange Brew” – Fusion at it’s finest. Plus, turned Clapton into a Superstar.

  14. Creedence Clearwater Revival “Looking Out My Back Door” Country Rock. Just good tunes.

  15. Greatful Dead * Working Man’s Dead , * American Beauty– The Dead, for all of their great live history, made only two really great studio albums, but they WERE amazing. These two are them, and feature nearly ALL of the great Dead songs, like “Truckin’”, “Uncle John’s Band” and “Casey Jones.”

  16. Jefferson Airplane “White Rabbit”-- Influence of women in rock. Grace Slick wrote and sung this song, which was as gritty and biting as anything done by men at the time. If you’ve got the time, * Surrealistic Pillow * would be the prototypical acid rock album.

  17. Simon and Garfunkel “The Boxer”-- Their influence of the “singer/songwriter” movement is incalculable, and this song, or perhaps “America” are as good as any.

  18. Don McLean “American Pie”-- Rock and Roll history in a song. A great way to end an instructional unit on the 60’s. Fun to try to interpret all of the lyrics.

  19. Led Zeppelin “Good Times, Bad Times”, “Dyer Maker”, “Battle of Evermore”-- It is vital to include Zep, and these songs cover much of their different styles.

  20. Eric Clapton “Layla”-- Quintesstial 70’s Clapton. Interesting note: written about George Harrison’s wife, who later divorced Harrison to marry Clapton. The Patty Harrison story is one of rock’s great love stories (AFter she later left CLapton, He and Harrison used to call each other “Ex-Husbands-in-Law” and remained friends through it all)

  21. Neil Young “Southern Man”-- Follow this one up with the following:

  22. Lynyrd Skynyrd “Sweet Home Alabama”-- A protest to protest songs. Very post-modern. Quintessential SOuthern Rock.

  23. Allman Bros Band “Jessica”, “Ramblin’ Man” Jazz meets SOuthern Rock. Think cross between Miles Davis and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

  24. Marvin Gaye What’s Going On. 70’s R’n’B gets political. One of the top ten most inluential albums of all time, IMHO.

  25. Bruce Springsteen “Thunder Road”, “Born to Run”-- Dylan for the 70’s and 80’s. A must include.

  26. The Bee Gees “Night Fever”-- If you must include DIsco, this is as good as any.

  27. The Clash London Calling This was the Sgt Peppers of Punk. This album is about the best punk album in existance. The Sex Pistols might be good, but the class is prolly a little too young for the material in their songs.

  28. Bob Marley “No Woman, No Cry” Reggae, like Rockabilly, was largely an evolutionary dead end, but it’s influence cannot be discounted. A great song by a great songwriter and performer.

  29. Talking Heads Stop Making Sense– The best example I can think of for New Wave. A superb work of music.

  30. Parliament/Funkadelic “Give Up The Funk.”-- Considering it’s influence on later forms (especially Hip-hop and L.A. Funk-rock bands like Janes Addiction and RHCP) Funk cannot be discounted, and this song absolutely brings the house down. If you cover funk, you MUST use P-Funk.

  31. New Order “Bizzare Love Triangle”-- New Wave meets Electronica. Think The Cure crossed with Kraftwerk.

  32. Sugar Hill Gang “Rappers Delight”-- First major hip-hop tune. ALso include here Grandmaster Flash and possibly Afrikka Buumbataa.

  33. Guns and Roses “Paradise City”-- The late 80’s had very little revolutionary music, IMHO, but this song is a great song for 80’s hard rock.

  34. Nirvana Nevermind– Many poo-poo grunge, but Nirvana really changed the musical scene, and it WAS an exciting time musically, especially when compared to the late 80’s, or the late 90’s. Sure, lots of BAD grunge was out there, but this is a truly classic album. Its influence cannot be discounted.

  35. Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet Hip-hop gets political. Well, it had always been political, but this brought major issues facing black america into the spotlight in a serious manner.

  36. Phish “Bouncing Around The Room”-- The heirs to the Greatful Dead, they bring Jazz into the psychedelic scene and breathe new life into it.

  37. Moby “Porcelain”-- The most interesting and influential stuff happening right now is in Electronica, and Moby is bringing a lot of that to a wider audience. His entire album Play is easily one of the best of the year, and might make a nice way to close the class, a sort of “where Rock is now” end to it.

There it is. If you asked me tomorrow, I could name 35 different songs and albums I’m sure, but all of these in some way had a HUGE influence on Rock music. I would probably decide which eras/genres you are going to emphasize, and then pick from the above list for examples of each.

wow, i think that post pretty much summarizes everything that you need to know!
kudos to jayron 32 for typing all of that out!!