Welcome to Spontaneous Lunacy, a website designed to tell the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll music from its birth in 1947 to the present day, one song at a time.

 
The Concept
For all of its enduring popularity rock ‘n’ roll music has been woefully under served in the accurate telling of its history through the years.  Of the thousands of books on the subject, countless reissues of material, most with some form of historical annotation included, and millions upon millions of pages of reflections on the music that have been printed in magazines, newspapers and online, the results of all that work by all those people isn’t always informative, is hardly inspiring and oftentimes it’s largely wrong.

Or at least massively incomplete.

The story of rock by this point has really just gotten TOO big for it to be told in more traditional formats and so over time broad generalization has replaced nuance, hyperbole has swept aside objectivity and what remains is now often more folklore than fact.   The constant focus on just the bold print headlines gradually reduces the font size of the rest of the story until the entire vast history of rock music becomes just a handful of towering monuments easily recognizable from a distance as everything else becomes shrouded in darkness and at risk of being eternally forgotten.

But rock ‘n’ roll is every bit as much about the obscure artists releasing records that virtually nobody ever heard as it is about the chart topping successes of those who toured the world in front of screaming audiences. Each of them, the stars and the also-rans alike, once were no different.  They all entered the studio for the first time as unknowns hoping the record they came up with would change their fortunes while the music they collectively contributed to the idiom would help to shape rock’s ever-changing landscape.

So in that spirit this is an admittedly (over)ambitious attempt to create a living history by presenting them all again, the hits and misses side by side, putting them back into the context they emerged from to try and document rock ‘n’ roll’s evolution song by song as it unfolded over what is now going on seventy years and counting.
 

The Method
Until recently this type of endeavor wouldn’t have been remotely possible due to the sheer enormity of the topic alone, never mind finding a way to coherently present it all in accessible fashion. But the internet offers opportunities that books and documentaries never could and within the online community there were those, one in particular, who came up with a format that was brilliantly suited to a project of this scope.

Anyone familiar with the website Motown Junkies, where this approach was first used and perfected (and from whom I shamelessly swiped the idea with the gracious blessing of its founder), will know pretty much what to expect here.  Every song covered – in chronological order – will get its own stand-alone review examining the music itself… what it sounded like, how it was made and by who.  Because all records ultimately had the same goal – to win over a listener – each one will get equal footing here to do just that, as the most insignificant release will have the same platform as the most enduring hits, a level playing field in opportunity if nothing else.

Along the way the entire context of the times will be presented showing the evolution of the music as a whole, the response in the marketplace, the frequent resistance of society and the ongoing adjustments and experiments by its creators to keep it viable in the face of such obstacles, until hopefully the bigger picture of rock emerges.

To keep it from becoming just a dry history lesson the plan is to have the songs themselves embedded into each review via Spotify (when available) so you can actually hear the music that’s being written about to judge for yourself.  Then at the end of every review there will be a score (explained here) ranging from 1-10 which is simply a concise way to sum up my own impressions of the relative merits of each record, NOT in any way meant to suggest what anyone else’s opinion on it should be. In music everyone’s individual opinion is worth no more or less than anybody else’s, myself included, so dissent is not only encouraged but expected.

So explore the site, look into the various scene-setting pages via the Monthly Overviews documenting what else was going on in the world at the time, listen to the songs, comment on the reviews and have your say about all of this. If you’re interested in owning any of the music that’s covered, the links for the tracks themselves will be near the bottom of the reviews so you can buy it on iTunes, and occasionally we’ll link to other items (mostly CD’s or books) in the reviews, usually through album covers that contain the song in question, that will take you Amazon. In both instances if you buy anything from clicking those links this site gets a small commission which will go towards buying a tropical island where I can hold loud and decadent concerts for all my friends and fellow lunatics. No pressure on you though, buy only what really interests you.

 
A Final Word From The Asylum
In 1957 when rock was already nearing ten years old and approaching its third year of creating such a clamor in mainstream middle-America, The New York Times published a front page article on the phenomenon that they surely hoped was about to run its course.

Their focus was on a concert held by radio dee-jay Alan Freed at Broadway’s Paramount Theater, the first such event on the prestigious “Great White Way”.  In it they decried the lowering morals in society which allowed for such tawdry displays and to drive their point home that all of this music was detrimental to humanity they had in the article sensationalistic pictures of the teenage crowds being driven into a frenzy.

Among those interviewed for the story was a psychologist who had observed the show for research purposes and when he emerged from the howling, frantic scene he’d just witnessed he stated incredulously, “It’s like a medieval type of spontaneous lunacy!”.

Yes it is… and that’s a good thing.

Enjoy it!