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The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll: The Definitive History of the Most Important Artists and Their Music Paperback – November 10, 1992

4.1 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The ultimate illustrated history of rock & roll--comprehensive, authoritative, and fully updated with coverage of the most important new sounds and artists of the 1980s and 90s.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 3rd ed. edition (November 10, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679737286
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679737285
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.4 x 11.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This history of Rock and Roll comes from Rolling Stone, one of the biggest and longest-lasting names in Rock reporting and coverage. It is truly a mixed bag, ranging anywhere from great historical content to outright howlers.
First, the book does an excellent job of covering the entirety of rock history and drawing out its influences and evolutions. It does a wonderful job of covering the different local scenes and how they were integrated in with the whole of rock music. Whole chapters are generally rewarded to the most influential bands, and not just those that sold more album.
However, the book suffers a number of strong drawbacks. First, as many pointed out, the book is clearly slanted toward the Rolling Stone perspective. Artists such as Billy Joel, who have not had good relations with the magazine, have been omitted. Several others, such as Bob Seger, were also given no treatment. There is also a bit of redundent content, such as giving the Beatles two whole chapters and then devoting a third (British Invasion) to a primarily Beatles-related topic. Also, there are separate chapters on Motown and Stevie Wonder.
Secondly, the book is often skewed toward the "pop" scene when it comments on more current acts. Rolling Stone has been getting even worse about this in its magazine. One particular example that stands out is in the heavy metal section. My edition was published in 1991 and the writer heaps load and loads of praise upon such hair-metal acts as Motley Crue, Poison, Ratt and Warrant. Other, more talented but less popular metal acts, such as Metallica, are put down and summarily dismissed. However, we all know that if this were to have been written 5 years later, Rolling Stone would be worshipping Metallica and praising them for destroying such hair-bands. RS makes the mistake of "going with the flow" one too many times.
Overall - nice book, but with some obvious problems.
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Format: Paperback
Rolling Stone has been around reporting on rock music for nearly 35 years. That longevity only earns them stripes, but not exactly the monker of expert.
RS editors - in all fairness like most journalists - have an agenda, and accuracy and fairness in rock isn't exactly one of them. One writer (below) asked why Billy Joel was snubbed. Simple; RS and Joel have publically feuded for years so as far as RS is concerned, one of rock's greatest acts (and an inductee to the Rock Hall of Fame) doesn't exist. In the rock world according to Jann Wenner, there is no greater act in rock history than the Rolling Stones. They're certainly a bellweather act in rock history, but not "the greatest"...but that's how RS sees it, and apparently so should history.
So take what they say with a grain of salt, enjoy it for what it is (their fave-raves, as valid as the Listmania right here on Amazon) - cuz after all, it's only rock and roll.
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Format: Paperback
The good: For the bands and topics that were covered, I found interesting, enlightening and entertaining (and most of the time even factual)

The bad: My first disappointment was when I realized how old this book is. Yes, there were some updated versions, but basically coverage stops in the 80's
Secondly, I was disappointed with the pictures. While I didn't expect full page color glossy pictures, But I definitely didn't expect very poor quality black and white pictures throughout the entire book (and they have the nerve to put "Illustrated" in the title). And finally, as was already mentioned by other reviewers, this is NOT an objective "text book" history of Rock and Roll.
It's written by music critics....Rolling Stone music critics no less.

I stopped reading Rolling Stone magazine when I read a review on my all time favorite concert video "Pink Floyd: Delicate Sound of Thunder" (which still isn't out on DVD btw). This concert video (besides the fantastic concert itself) is one of the finest produced/edited music productions I've ever seen. It was shot in a way (over two nights) where you never see another camera in the shot, and everything is totally seamless, one shot flowing into the next, and every shot exactly where you want it to be within the production. I am a professional within the video production industry so I kind of know what I'm talking about. Anyway, so what does Rolling Stone have to say about this near-perfect Concert Video??? The idiot close-minded reviewer stated that "you'd be more entertained by simply putting on an old Pink Floyd album and staring at a lava lamp"! I have never in my life read a review so far off the mark, and I'm not even a huge Pink Floyd fan either, I just recognize great quality and talent when I see it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is of interest to any rock historian, or to anyone interested in history from the birth of rock and roll around 1953 through the 1960s and into the 1970s. The book is in black and white, no color, and some of the script is also black and white, that is, it does a good job of chronicling the major influences of rock from the beginning until the end of classic rock and metal, sometimes insightfully, sometimes in a Wikipedia-style of writing. This is like the meat and potatoes version of rock history.

It offers this interesting insight on The Who, "A big part of the Who's glory was its anger, its hostility," definitly true, "and a big part of that came from the utter frustation of not breaking through to a bigger audiance." Don't reall think the Who's anger came from not being able to break through to a bigger audiance. It was a part of who they were. In the section on Elton John, it more or less choronologizes his works, but does little to offer insight into who Elton John was, what drove him, his hangups, problems with drugs and alcohol, it gives you a straight glimpse of his music through the ears and eyes of music, as a history.

So, for the researcher looking for a straight, neatly organized, easy to digest history, with some quotable inisghts, it does fairly well. If you are looking to go a little deeper, there are probably other works which may give more insight into the artists, their lives, and what moved them, drove them, their loves and demons, etc.
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