Category Archives: EVERYTHING ELSE

From The Bogtrotters to The Beatles: Ed Ward’s “History Of Rock & Roll, Volume One”

It’s a truism that technology can (and should) liberate. The history of rock music demonstrates this axiom quite well, as shown in Ed Ward’s new book “The History of Rock and Roll, Volume One –1920 to 1963” (Flatiron Books, 390 pages, $35). Beginning with folk music and what was called race music, first recorded on phonographic discs in the 1920s, to the birth of the radio and the electric guitar, through the electrifying of the blues, to jukeboxes, early TV broadcasts, and Hollywood films,  the book is packed with info about the personalities that created rock and roll, and the technologies that made the genre possible.

Decades ago, long before techno-pop artists adopted popular music forms, filling stadiums with shows featuring banks of electronics,  laser lights and towers of amplified speakers, a rip-roaring night on the town may have consisted of heading down the road to hear a simple unamplified guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a vocalist. Folk, country and western, blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, pop and rock all come into play, across the decades in Ward’s detail-rich book. It’s a page turner, ideally next to your computer, smartphone or tablet (YouTube has pretty much all the tracks he mentions), so you can follow along while listening. All the characters that transformed a diverse array of genres into the world’s (arguably) most influential music genre are presented, and Ward doesn’t disappoint those who prefer their music history served with a side dish of gossip (Colonel Parker was an illegal immigrant, Chuck Berry went to jail for violating the Mann Act, John Lennon was a popper of pep pills, etc.). Oh My! 

Decades ago, long before techno-pop artists adopted popular music forms, filling stadiums with shows featuring banks of electronics, laser lights and towers of amplified speakers, a rip-roaring night on the town may have consisted of heading down the road to hear a simple unamplified guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a vocalist.

As the resident rock and roll historian for NPR’s Fresh Air, Ward’s encyclopedic knowledge serves him well here, and offers up more than mere gossip. Along the way he covers the clubs, the rise of the labels, the record stores, the DJs, the managers, and the stars they created, along with Billboard stats of hundreds of songs making it convenient to listen as you read. There’s an emphasis on the United States, with a few chapters devoted to Britain, which reacted to this uniquely American creation in a variety of interesting ways.

It starts with the music presented in traveling medicine shows, which allowed new sounds to spread from town to town, and eventually, when radio caught on, it spread even faster. When things really start to take off in the ’50s, the book goes deeply into vocal groups, the beginning of Motown, pop groups and rock groups, as well as the role of the electric guitar, mentioning the Fender Stratocaster at least four times (Fullerton shout out!) as well as continuing to follow the second and third careers of those who started out in the ’30s and ’40s. Lots of background info here, along with the wonderful songs that are still staples on oldies stations today (and many others that should be).

Ward’s book ends in January of 1964, just as the Beatles are set to take the United States by storm. Ward spends more than 50 pages on the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and a good number of pages to the beginning of Elvis’ career as well, but only after setting up these pop/rock phenomena in the context of the decades of blues, gospel, and folk artists and others who started it all. Highly recommended.

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Tom Cridland: How Rock And Roll Inspired Me To Create The World’s Leading Sustainable Fashion Brand

By Tom Cridland

I’ve always loved rock ’n’ roll music since I can remember. The first song I ever recall listening to was “My Blue Heaven” by Fats Domino. My Dad worked all week and, when my brother and I were little, we always used to really look forward to him being at home on Saturdays, so on that morning we always used to interrupt his lie in and wake him up so he could cook us breakfast. I have memories of us jumping around in the living room to that tune after our bacon, Coco Pops or pain au chocolat! Listening to music on family car journeys from when I was very young also had a huge effect on me. My brother and I used to love The Beach Boys (though he’s become more of a Drake fan these days), which my Dad put on for us on the school run.

Then came my obsession with The Beatles and that was when my love of rock ’n’ roll extended to more than just the music but also the back story, the culture, the liner notes of the records, the attitude and, of course the look. It started with their two greatest hits records that are divided into a first with the “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” hits and then a second with their later, more experimental and groundbreaking classics such as “I Am The Walrus” and “Revolution”. My knowledge grew and grew, helped hugely by the wonderful anthology documentary series that was released in the 90s, which I watched again and again. I distinctly remember my Mum buying me “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” as a special treat for doing well at school and being delighted! At one stage one of my best school friends used to take the piss out of me for knowing the year every Beatles record was released and the order of every single track on each of them.

Growing up in a house full of music was a joy. My Mum especially loves the wonderful pop music of the 70s, such as The Bee Gees, James Taylor, Paul Simon, The Eagles and Carole King, and, being in the car with my dad, you could hear something by Van Morrison followed by The Stones or Led Zeppelin followed by the new Groove Armada record he’d decided to check out and then maybe some soul by Marvin Gaye.

Throughout my teens I got into habits I still have today. I organise my iTunes music library in a regimented fashion, with everything neatly labelled and with the album artwork in high res on every record. All my CDs are always in alphabetical order and, a few years ago, I got my parents’ old 70s vinyl collection out, re-ordered it, bought a couple of record players and have been adding some classic contemporary releases to the library, such as Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” or John Grant’s “Pale Green Ghosts.” I use Shazam every day, listen to Beats1, SiriusXM and FM radio and read Rolling Stone and Q, noting down any song I like or record I need to check out in my music notebook.

I listen to all genres regularly: electronic, dance, reggae and hip hop often feature in my playlists, classical less so, but you can be certain that I’ll always be into some rock, pop, soul and blues records. I think it’s important not to be a snob and to admit that, as well as enjoying Muddy Waters, I do occasionally find myself dancing to “High” by Lighthouse Family when I’m doing the dishes.

Since The Beatles, I’ve become a massive fan, in phases, of, first, Eminem, then Nine Inch Nails, Michael Jackson, Metallica, The Eagles and, finally Elton John, the latter becoming my favourite music act of all time, along with the Fab Four (not that I ever refer to them as that unless I’m writing articles). I firmly believe Elton and his band are the best rock ’n’ roll act left on the road today and his drummer, Nigel Olsson, has such a great sound that I felt inspired to finally bother to learn a musical instrument and join a band. He taught himself listening to records in his teens and, hearing that, I realised that it’s never too late and you don’t even need to read!

As part of my “day” job, I run the world’s leading sustainable fashion brand, Tom Cridland, and we are best known for our groundbreaking project, The 30 Year Sweatshirt, an anti-fast fashion campaign in the form of a luxury jumper that is so durably made that we guarantee it to last for three decades.Rock ’n’ roll has influenced me at every turn and we even have a collage of some of my vinyl as the backdrop for our product shots!

Rock ’n’ roll has influenced me at every turn…the rock musicians that I so admire have inspired me to follow my dream to be an entrepreneur and a designer.

The rock musicians that I so admire have inspired me to follow my dream to be an entrepreneur and a designer. Though many of the great rock stars happen to be rich, it is not money that informed their choice of career, it was a genuine love for what they do. That’s why, against the advice of many, I applied for a £6,000 government start-up loan and, with no major business or fashion experience, threw myself head first into creating the Tom Cridland brand.

I couldn’t be happier that I did. We started off trying to create the perfect pair of chinos. We ended up making navy ones for Daniel Craig and Ben Stiller, beige ones for Leonardo DiCaprio and Frankie Valli, pink ones for Rod Stewart and Nile Rodgers, and red ones for Brandon Flowers. Most excitingly though, Nigel Olsson turned out to be our biggest fan and the trousers fit him perfectly. I’m pleased to say he has now become a friend, has a lot of Tom Cridland clothing and we meet up with him a few times every year to go backstage at Elton John shows and for dinner.

Rock ’n’ roll is, in many ways a dying art. There is so much great new music coming out from young artists, such as Sturgill Simpson, Tobias Jesso Jr. and Tame Impala, but one has to wade through layers of excrement to find it. The days of groups of young people picking up actual instruments and travelling around the country in a van playing small pubs and clubs to hone their craft feel like they’re almost over. We may never see the likes of Aretha Franklin or Elvis Presley again. Luckily for me, however, I was born at the tail end of rock’s golden era and I’ve had the privilege of seeing The Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Paul Simon, Sting, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, Santana, Electric Light Orchestra, Elton John and even The Beach Boys live in concert. And they’ve inspired me to spend the rest of my life doing what I love.

Tom Cridland is founder and CEO of the globally-renowned sustainable fashion brand that bears his name, and more recently, with Deborah Marx, founder of Tom Cridland Public Relations.

www.tomcridland.com
www.twitter.com/thetomcridland