Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The 100 Most Important Moments in Rock and Roll

What makes a truly important moment in rock and roll?

The way I chose to define it in the list that follows is that it proves to be very influential to the shape of the music overall. These are not necessarily the "greatest" or the most "memorable" moments of rock and roll, but rather the ones that I believe are the most important to rock and roll, both as a genre of music and a cultural phenomenon.

In making this list, I did my best to stick with exact moments, as narrowly as I could define them, out of a frustration for lists that include such things as tours, festivals, and concerts as "moments." For me, a moment is just that -- one split instant in which change can be measured from one side to the other.

Many of these moments were obvious -- the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan, Bob Dylan "plugging in," Michael Jackson debuting "Billie Jean" (and the moonwalk) at the "Motown 25" special -- but I tried my best to balance as many facets of the music as I saw reasonable, and do my best to pinpoint each with a specific moment. The one place I gave myself leeway was in the recording or release of a song (two very different things) which I counted as a "moment," even though each process could take several hours if not days or weeks.

I also wanted to keep within the rock and roll era, which I'm defining as July 5, 1954 (the day on which Elvis Presley recorded his first record, "That's All Right") up to the present day. As important as moments by such rock and roll forefathers as Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, and Muddy Waters may have been, they fall out of this list's scope because they are not rockers themselves. To open it up to them would make the list lose its shape and become too scattershot.

All that said, this is not a definitive of the most important events, records, or artists in rock and roll, only moments. While it was impossible to bring in every significant thing that has contributed to rock and roll as a musical art form, I chose as many things as I could that brought in several players at once (such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins partaking in the "Million Dollar Quartet" session, Roger McGuinn going to see A Hard Day's Night, or Iggy Pop going to see the Doors). I also tried to think of rock and roll as a cultural event, bringing in film, television, and print media where I saw fit, although at the end of the day, my primary focus was on the music (hence the release of The Harder They Comesoundtrack is on the list, as opposed to its release as a film or a moment within the film itself).

As with my other lists, I tried to put my biases aside as best I could and focus on what I consider to be the overall most important moments. The actual ranking of the moments may get a bit arbitrary in places, as I went for the general vibe as opposed to putting one thing up against another and making a cutthroat decision. While things are ranked numerically, I could be shifting the "values" of each one forever (and I may just end up doing that); what follows is a list that, after working on for the better part of this week, "feels" right overall -- or at least, right enough to post.

  1. The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (June 1, 1967): For one bright, shining moment, all of Western culture seemingly unites as rock and roll proves itself as an artistic form.
  2. Elvis Presley breaks into "That's All Right" while on a break at Sun Records (July 5, 1954): Up until this moment, Elvis was a 17-year-old truck driver who presented himself as a ballad singer but sucked at every ballad he was given; suddenly he takes blues, country, sex, and freedom to reinvent himself as something wholly new and exciting: Rock and roll's first and definitive idol.
  3. Bob Dylan "plugs in" at the Newport Folk Festival (July 25, 1965): People boo, people cheer, people scream in outrage -- and modern rock and roll is born.
  4. Jimi Hendrix plays "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock (August 18, 1969): The greatest guitarist of all time reinvents the national anthem as a storm of love, war, and feedback, creating the peak of psychedelic rock and roll at the music's most legendary event.
  5. The Rolling Stones play "Under My Thumb" at Altamont (December 6, 1969): By the song's end, Meredith Hunter will be murdered by a Hell's Angels security guard; also killed: the 1960s and the first great era of rock and roll.
  6. The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964): A third of the nation tunes in to four young British musicians as rock and roll becomes a truly international phenomenon; meanwhile, folkies everywhere trade in their acoustic guitars for electrics and follow the Beatles into a rock and roll future that none of them could have ever imagined.
  7. A black bar appears as the number two single in England (June 4, 1977): Rod Stewart's appropriately-titled "I Don't Want to Talk about It" may have appeared in the top spot, but everyone knew that the blacked-out song was the biggest song in the country: Punk rock's shot heard 'round the world, the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen."
  8. Berry Gordy wants more royalties for Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops" (late 1958): To make sure he never gets screwed again, he uses Wilson's song as a template and builds his own empire around it: Motown Records.
  9. Michael Jackson debuts "Billie Jean" (and the moonwalk) on the Motown 25 Special (May 16, 1983): That little kid who fronted the Jackson 5 moonwalks into superstardom, on his way to becoming the most popular performer in the world.
  10. MTV launches with the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" (August 1, 1981): Within a few years, the Buggles' words would become virtual fact as wild music videos and quick editing changed the face of entertainment (perhaps the second video aired was a warning to the radio star: Pat Benatar's "You Better Run").
  11. The Velvet Underground and Nico play Andy Warhol's "Up-Tight" (January 13, 1966): The Velvets play a barrage of three-chord songs in ear-bleeding feedback while Warhol projects his minimalist films over them, and post-modern/"alternative" rock and roll is born.
  12. Nirvana's Nevermind pushes Michael Jackson's Dangerous as the best-selling album in America (January 11, 1992): The changing of the guard from rock and roll's greatest 1980s icon to rock and roll's greatest 1990s icon, while punk rock finally breaks through as alternative music becomes the mainstream.
  13. Chuck Berry plays the guitar intro to "Johnny B. Goode" (January 6, 1958): Rock and roll's foremost guitarist plays his most famous riff, kicking off his -- and possibly rock and roll's -- most famous song of all-time.
  14. Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith break down the wall between rap and rock and roll -- literally (Summer 1986): It was a cheesy music video image, to be sure, but it hit the mark -- Aerosmith's Steven Tyler using his mic stand to break a wall from his rock concert into Run-D.M.C's rap concert; the upshot was rock and roll's first taste of rap as a modern musical force: The song became rap's first Top 5 hit in the U.S., rap's first Top 10 hit in the UK, and the first rap video played on MTV.
  15. Keith Richards wakes up to find that his new tape recorder is at the end of its tape (Spring 1965): Puzzled, he rewinds it to find rock and roll's greatest guitar riff along with the words "I can't get no satisfaction," followed by forty minutes of his own snoring.
  16. Aretha Franklin records "Respect" (February 14, 1967): The Queen of Soul (and Rolling Stone's pick for the greatest rock and roll singer of all time) establishes herself with her signature performance -- and a feminist anthem.
  17. Ray Charles records "What'd I Say" (February 18, 1959): Sweet gospel music and hot sex came together to create Charles' first gold record, Atlantic Records' best-selling song at the time, and a legendary soul classic.
  18. The Kingsmen record "Louie Louie" (April 6, 1963): Recorded in one take, this primal, disorganized, and near-unintelligible recording would become one of the most influential (and covered) records in rock and roll history, while its savage rawness would spark a garage rock trend that in turn would set the stage for punk rock.
  19. James Brown breaks into "Please Please Please" after the extended slow burn of "Lost Someone" (October 24, 1962): The crowd goes wild for the most exciting moment of James Brown's legendary (and self-funded) first Live at the Apollo concert album.
  20. Bob Dylan records "Like a Rolling Stone" (June 16, 1965): The greatest rock and roll songwriter records his finest song -- an epic, swirling masterpiece of words, guitar, and organ, which would go on to break the AM radio time barrier while becoming the anthem for a generation.
  21. Brian Wilson suffers a nervous breakdown on an airplane (December 23, 1964): Wilson resolved never to tour again and put all of his energy into writing and producing new songs; the results speak for themselves in turns that are classic pop ("California Girls"), sophisticated rock (Pet Sounds), and near-genius production ("Good Vibrations"), before descending into the weird and fascinating world of the most famous "lost" album of all-time, SMiLE.
  22. Ritchie Valens "wins" a coin toss to ride on the chartered private plane with his tourmates Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper (February 2, 1959): The coin toss seals the fate of all three men when the plane crashes early the next morning as the infamous "Day the Music Died," bringing the wild world of '50s rock and roll to a somber close.
  23. Led Zeppelin release "Stairway to Heaven" (November 8, 1971): The archetypal heavy metal band puts out their most famous song, an acoustic ballad that turns into storming hard rock, with surreal fantasy lyrics tying it all together; the song would influence thousands of guitarists and musicians and help establish Led Zeppelin as one of the finest and most influential bands of all time.
  24. Little Richard records "Tutti-Frutti" (September 14, 1955): With a cry of "A-wop-bob-a-lula, a-wop-bam-boom," one of rock and roll's most influential performers scores his signature hit, propelled by a hot band and his own thrilling shouts of "ooooo!"
  25. Phil Spector produces the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" (July-August 1963): Building upon a string of hits featuring his increasingly distinctive "Wall of Sound" ("He's a Rebel," "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)," and "Then He Kissed Me"), Spector combined his creative vision with new muse (and soon-to-be wife) Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett's voice, resulting in the most famous record producer's greatest record.
  26. Madonna performs "Like a Virgin" at the first MTV Video Music Awards (September 14, 1984): Rolling around on the stage in a bridal gown and a "Boy Toy" belt, a star is born.
  27. Elvis Presley sings the opening lines to "Trouble" at the start of his "'68 Comeback Special"(December 3, 1968): Kicking into a ferocious version of the song "Guitar Man," Elvis Presley makes rock and roll's first and greatest comeback, regaining his crown as the King of Rock and Roll one decade after the Army forced him to give it up.
  28. Bob Marley records "Get Up, Stand Up" (April 1973): The song would become one of Marley's signature anthems -- a timeless mix of funky reggae rhythms and a blunt political message -- as well as the final song he would perform onstage on September 23, 1980.
  29. The Ramones debut at CBGB (August 16, 1974): With Dee Dee Ramone's shout of "1-2-3-4!," they were off, tearing through one set of two-minute three-chord songs, with all four Ramones wearing matching leather jackets and jeans, and using the most trite rock and roll imagery to conjure up something entirely new and different.
  30. Jerry Lee Lewis insists on bringing his new bride on his English tour (May 1958): As his record label feared, the international press soon learns the details: She's 13 years old, his second-cousin, and -- as Jerry Lee himself would later proudly boast -- he still hadn't divorced his first wife! The wildest move by rock and roll's wildest performer.
  31. Bob Dylan mishears a line in the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as "I get high" (Spring 1964): Upon being corrected when meeting the group for the first time later that August (the line was actually "I can't hide"), Dylan turned the Beatles onto the magical, mystery wonders of pot; the Beatles music -- and popular culture -- would never be the same.
  32. Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" is used during the opening titles of The Blackboard Jungle (March 19, 1955): Loud music and teenage delinquency join forces as riots in the theaters help propel the song to become the first rock and roll song to top the Billboard charts on July 9, 1955, officially ushering in the rock and roll era.
  33. The Jimi Hendrix Experience releases Are You Experienced in the US (August 23, 1967): With songs like "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe," "Foxey Lady," "Fire," and "The Wind Cries Mary," Hendrix single-handedly changes the possibilities of the electric guitar on an album so solid, it plays as a virtual greatest hits LP.
  34. Rolling Stone hits the stands (November 9, 1967): With a picture of John Lennon from the film How I Won the War on its newsprint first cover, the magazine would soon become the definitive and most influential rock and roll publication, as well as a central forum for the music.
  35. John Lennon is assassinated by Mark David Chapman (December 8, 1980): The world mourns in shock and horror as one of the most brilliant and influential voices in rock and roll is one of his fans.
  36. Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" hits the top of the Billboard charts (Fall 1957): Effortlessly drawing from his recent past as a gospel singer, Sam Cooke turns the sacred into the secular with his signature hit, a beautiful record that is at once memorable, easy-going, and, in its own quiet way, revolutionary.
  37. Bo Diddley records "Bo Diddley" (March 2, 1955): Using an old children's song, Bo Diddley lends his name to his signature rhythm that would go on to become one of the building blocks of rock and roll.
  38. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release "The Message" (May 1982): Over the course of one seven-minute 12-inch record, rap went from party music to something that could critique -- and ultimately change -- society at large.
  39. Elvis Presley is shown from the waist up on The Ed Sullivan Show (September 9, 1956): After Sullivan initially refused to have Elvis on his show, he compromised with this famous use of censorship to combat Elvis's leg gyrations; perhaps more than anything else, Elvis's appearance catapulted him to superstardom, as some 60 million people -- a record 82.6% of the television-watching audience -- tuned in.
  40. Marvin Gaye refuses to release anything in the place of "What's Going On" (June 1970): Motown CEO Berry Gordy finally relented and put it out; the song became so successful that Gordy asked for an album to go with it...
  41. Chubby Checker performs "The Twist" on Dick Clark's American Bandstand (Summer 1960): The mix of Checker's record and Bandstand's visuals caused the record to become rock's first and most famous dance craze, as well as one of the best-selling singles in rock history; everyone who has name-checked the Twist from the Beatles ("Twist and Shout") and Sam Cooke ("Twisting the Night Away") down through Nirvana ("Aneurysm") can be traced back to this event.
  42. Bruce Springsteen appears on the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week (October 27, 1975): Delivering good on the hype machine that powered his recent Born to Run album up the charts, Springsteen not only proved that he was rock and roll's future, but that rock and roll could be worthy of front-page international news.
  43. The Grateful Dead play their first Acid Test (December 4, 1965): Music and LSD went hand-in-hand as the Dead found their perfect gig -- a place where their music could fuel (and be fueled) by the countless trips going on all around them.
  44. Fats Domino records "Ain't It a Shame" (March 15, 1955): The veteran New Orleans R&B singer would finally have his pop breakthrough when this song became his first Billboard Top Ten hit.
  45. Pat Boone records "Ain't That a Shame" (Spring 1955): The new white pop singer would have his own pop breakthrough, when his (inferior) version of the song passes the original and becomes his first number one record (he would soon apply this formula to Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally," both of which also outsold the original R&B versions).
  46. Pete Townshend breaks his first guitar at the Railway Hotel (September 1964): Years later Townshend would claim it was the accidental result of the ceiling being too low while he jumped, but by that point, his move had become so iconic that he would play shows with his main guitar before switching to a cheaper one at the end of the set just so he could destroy it.
  47. Tom Verlane tells CBGB's manager Hilly Kristal that Television is a bluegrass band (mid-1974): They weren't, but their raw sound helped kickstart the 1970s New York punk rock scene around CBGB's, a club originally named for "Country, BlueGrass, & Blues."
  48. The Clash release London Calling (December 14, 1979): The only band that mattered puts out punk rock's finest (double) LP -- redefining the genre as they blended rock, pop, reggae, and rockabilly, without ever straying too far from their punk roots.
  49. The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" hits the Billboard Top 40 (late 1979): A new era dawns with rap music's "Rock Around the Clock."
  50. Otis Redding performs "Shake" at the Monterey Pop Festival (June 17, 1967): The gritty soul singer electrifies rock and roll's first (and arguably best) festival, turning the hippies on their ear and establishing his own legend as a mainstream artist, some six months before his untimely death.
  51. The Monkees debuts on NBC-TV (September 12, 1966): Rock and roll's first prepackaged (and greatest) group -- at least until the Frankenstein monster turned on its creator in a grasp at artistic freedom and cultural respect; oh yeah, and their show also arguably invented the modern music video too.
  52. The Soundtrack to The Harder They Come is released (July 7, 1972): With its hit title track, the album would eventually make #140 on the North American charts, becoming a rock and roll classic that helped to introduce reggae music to the American world at large.
  53. Elton John records and releases "Candle in the Wind 1997" (September 1997): The tribute to the late Princess Diana would go on to sell over 37 million copies, making it the best-selling song in recording history.
  54. Kraftwerk releases "Autobahn" (November 1974): Building the 22-minute song around a electronic beat, Kraftwerk changed the face of pop music by pioneering the use of computers and synthesizers to create the template of what would become dance and techno music.
  55. Dr. Dre's "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" hits Number 2 on the Billboard pop charts (February 1993): With this song -- and the album it appeared on, The Chronic, which made Number 3 on the Billboard album charts -- gangsta rap went from a West Coast sound to a national phenomenon; almost overnight, rap got harder, nastier, more violent, and ultimately more popular.
  56. Album sales outnumber single sales for the first time (1967): Powered by instant classics like the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced?, and The Doors' self-titled debut, rock and roll makes the next logical step from a teenage format to an adult one.
  57. Elvis Presley swings by Sun Studio to say hello to his friends (December 4, 1956): He finds Carl Perkins in the middle of a recording session with Jerry Lee Lewis on piano; when Johnny Cash pops in to pick up his paycheck, the four men begin jamming on old gospel music and the legend of the Million Dollar Quartet is born.
  58. Johnny Rotten asks the crowd at the San Francisco Ballroom, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" (January 14, 1978): The Sex Pistols then quickly imploded after their aborted two-week tour of the United States, signaling punk rock's first -- and rock and roll's second -- "death."
  59. Bob Geldof watches a BBC report on the famine in Ethiopia (Mid-1984): Appalled, he writes "Do They Know It's Christmas?," calls together his fellow UK rock star friends, and creates the first rock and roll benefit project; the song would go on to become the best-selling British single of all time, providing a template for all rock benefits that would follow, from U.S.A. for Africa to Live Aid and Farm Aid.
  60. The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" hits the top of the US pop charts (August 22, 1964): The Motown sound reaches its peak with the label's signature group, who will go on to have a record-breaking string of 12 number one songs by the end of the decade.
  61. Lester Bangs writes a negative review of the MC5's Kick out the Jams: He sends it to Rolling Stone, where it becomes his first published piece (which he later regrets after he comes around to the MC5); Bangs would go on to become the most influential critic in rock history and a rock and roll legend in his own right.
  62. Joni Mitchell releases Blue (June 1971): A musically stark and deeply introspective masterpiece, the album established Mitchell as one of rock and roll's most sophisticated songwriters, while providing a pinnacle for the early-'70s singer-songwriter movement.
  63. James Brown instructs his band to "give the drummer some" (November 29, 1969): Drummer Clyde Stubblefield obliges with a funky 8-bar drum solo that leads to the song being named "Funky Drummer," which in turn would become the most sampled beat of all-time.
  64. David Bowie mimes fellatio on his lead guitarist Mick Ronson while singing "Starman" on Top of the Pops (July 1972): David Bowie unveils rock and roll's greatest concept art project -- An androgynous alien named Ziggy Stardust who comes to Earth and becomes the biggest rock and roll star in the world -- as well as setting the standard for chameleon-like image changing with each new project (as later exemplified by superstars like Michael Jackson and Madonna).
  65. Bob Dylan is called "Judas" at his "Royal Albert Hall" concert (May 17, 1966): "I don't believe you..." he says in response, "You're a liar!"; Dylan then turns to the band (or rather, the Band), instructs them to "Play fucking loud," and tears into a vicious finale of "Like a Rolling Stone." Two months later, the strain would take its toll and Dylan would be seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, causing him to temporarily pull out from the rock and roll scene altogether.
  66. Elvis Presley is inducted into the Army (March 24, 1958): After two years in the limelight teasing audiences with whether he was a good boy or a bad boy, the good boy won out -- and when the Army shaved off Elvis's hair, his danger went along with it.
  67. Eminem releases "Lose Yourself" (October 22, 2002): The song would become Eminem's signature, eventually becoming the longest-running Number 1 rap single and winning him an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  68. Eric Clapton performs "Crossroads" with Cream at the Winterland Ballroom (March 10, 1968): Channeling his idol, Delta blues king Robert Johnson, with a cutting-edge psychedelic ascetic, Clapton gives the finest performance of his long career.
  69. An interview with John Lennon is published in which he states that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus (March 4, 1966): For the first time, the seemingly flawless Beatles falter, resulting in one of the biggest controversies in rock history and contributing to the Beatles' decision to stop touring later that year.
  70. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon spends its 741st consecutive week on the Billboard Top 200 chart (1988): Although it was only in the top position for one of those weeks, the classic album, originally released in 1973, spent almost a decade and a half on the charts, seeing four presidential administrations and selling an estimated 45 million copies to date.
  71. President Ronald Reagan invokes Bruce Springsteen's alleged "message of hope" in a New Jersey reelection campaign speech (September 19, 1984): Reagan (or more likely, Reagan's people) had misunderstood Springsteen's raging protest song "Born in the U.S.A." as an unabashedly pro-American statement; when Springsteen referred to the incident at a concert two days later, he suggested that the president was probably unfamiliar with Nebraska, his 1982 album of working-class protest songs that chronicled the blue-collar dark side of Reaganomics.
  72. Tupac Shakur is shot in a drive-by shooting (September 7, 1996): One of rap music's finest MCs is silenced, with his death further deepening the rivalry between East Coast and West Coast gangsta rap that would result in the killing of Notorious B.I.G. the following year.
  73. Patti Smith releases Horses (November 1975): From the opening line of "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine" through to the epic title track towards the end, Smith reinvented rock and roll as a mix of downtown punk and uptown poetry, all while staking her claim as the foremost poet in rock and roll.
  74. Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track hits Number 1 on the Billboard Charts(January 21, 1978): The disco movement hits its peak as its signature album goes on to sell 15 million copies, building off of the funk music that came before it and setting the stage for the rap music that came right after.
  75. The Band plays "Don't Do It" at the Last Waltz (November 26, 1976): The final number of their epic final gig, the song marked the last time the original members of the Band would ever perform on stage; the performance was then used as the opening to Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz film, which is generally considered the finest rock and roll film ever made.
  76. The Shirrelles become the first all-girl group to have a Number 1 single when "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" hits the top of the charts (January 30, 1961): The group helps to ignite the girl group sound, not to mention the credentials of the song's musical composer, a young songwriter named Carole King.
  77. Ricky Nelson decides to impress his girlfriend (Early 1957): Jealous of her current obsession with Elvis, he told her that he was going to make a rock and roll record too and then made good on his promise, eventually singing it on his parents' squeaky-clean television show and making rock and roll "safe" to a greater audience who is wary of it.
  78. Radiohead releases OK Computer (June 16, 1997): The group goes from US one-hit wonders (for "Creep") to international superstars at the forefront of rock and roll as this album provides a rare instance of seemingly unlimited critical acclaim and huge popular success.
  79. The Grateful Dead play their "best" set of concerts (February 13 - 14, 1970): While Deadheads may choose different shows as favorites, most can agree that these concerts at the Fillmore East in New York City were probably their finest performances, playing electric and acoustic sets of their most classic material, including then-new songs like "Casey Jones" and "Dire Wolf" and perennial favorites like "Dancing in the Street" and "Turn on Your Love Light."
  80. The Who perform "A Quick One While He's Away" at The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus (December 11, 1968): The Who reinvent rock and roll's first rock opera in a performance so amazing that it overshadowed the headlining Stones' performance, causing the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World to shelve their project for almost 30 years.
  81. Allan Freed is confronted by the press about the Payola scandal (November 28, 1959): The archetypal rock and roll DJ (who claimed to coin the phrase "rock and roll") remained cool and non-challant -- claiming that Payola "may stink but it's here and I didn't start it" -- about the scandal that would soon end his career and reshape the business of rock and roll.
  82. Nine Inch Nails release The Downward Spiral (March 8, 1994): Propelled by the epic "Closer" (and its controversial video), the album becomes Nine Inch Nails' biggest-seller, establishing industrial rock as an influential force unto itself.
  83. Ian Curtis hangs himself (May 18, 1980): His band Joy Division's final single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" becomes the group's first charting hit; in the aftermath of his death, Joy Division regroups to form New Order, who will go on to record alternative dance music like "Blue Monday," which will become the best-selling 12" record in UK history.
  84. Blondie releases "Heart of Glass" (January 3, 1979): The group takes what had been a slower blues and reggae inspired song and consciously mixes in elements of Kraftwerk and the Bee Gees; combined with their New York punk rock roots and classic '60s-style sound, Blondie blends together seemingly all of the disparate elements of rock and roll circa 1978 and join the canon that they so effortlessly borrow from.
  85. Dennis Wilson arrives home at 3 A.M. to find Charles Manson standing in his driveway (Mid-1968): Manson was a friend of a few female hitchhikers Wilson had picked up earlier that day; Wilson soon became friends with Manson, letting him crash at his house, record in his brother Brian's studio, and introducing him to some of his friends in the music industry -- including Terry Melcher, who Manson and his Family was looking for when they committed the infamous Sharon Tate murders in August 1969.
  86. The Eagles release Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) (February 17, 1976): A perfect summation of the initial phase of their career, this record provided the backbone of classic rock radio and (depending on who you ask) went on to become the biggest-selling album in U.S. history; but for many fans, this was just a warm-up for the main event: The release of Hotel California later in the year.
  87. David Geffen sues Neil Young for making albums that were too "musically uncharacteristic" of Young's previous work (November 1983): The lawsuit came as a response to Young's recent albums Trans, an experimental electronic album, and Everybody's Rockin', a '50s throwback rockabilly record, both of which had frustrated Geffen; Young countersued and threatened to only make country music; although the charges were eventually dropped, rock and roll's most uncomprised legend would refer the incident like a badge of honor: "To get sued for being noncommercial after 20 years of making records, I thought that was better than a Grammy."
  88. Jim Morrison sings the original lyrics to "Light My Fire" on The Ed Sullivan Show after saying he would not (September 1967): Sullivan got furious and told the band they would never play his show; Morrison reportedly replied that he didn't care because they just did.
  89. Elvis Costello stops his band from playing "Less Than Zero" on Saturday Night Live(December 17, 1977): Announcing that there was no reason to do that song, he then breaks into "Radio Radio," which the producers had asked him not to sing; establishing his legend as the angry young man of rock and roll, Costello would not be invited back to the show for over a decade.
  90. The Beastie Boys release Paul's Boutique (July 25, 1989): Collaborating with the Dust Brothers, the Beasties break the mold with rap sampling, using dozens upon dozens of borrowed beats and samples; along the way, they prove themselves as serious rappers in their own right, and set the course in being one of the most innovative and influential groups of their time.
  91. Gram Parsons plays "Hickory Wind" with the Byrds at the Grand Ole Opry (March 15, 1968): Although they had promised to play Merle Haggard's "Life in Prison," Parsons performed his own song instead, inciting the wrath of the Opry (who would never invite them back) while establishing his own credentials as country rock's most influential pioneer.
  92. Curtis Mayfield releases the Super Fly soundtrack (July 1972): The album becomes an instant classic, with some hailing it as "the black Sgt. Pepper"; propelled by hit singles with "Pusherman," "Freddie's Dead," and the title track, the blaxploitation period gets its finest soundtrack -- a funky, danceable record rooted in cool street talk and an eye on inner-city social issues.
  93. Jonathan Richman crashes on the Velvet Underground's manager's couch (Mid-1969): Providing himself as the quintessential example of Brian Eno's famous quote that the Velvets may not have sold a lot of records, but every person who bought one started a band, Richman hangs around the Velvets as much as he can, before returning to Boston to form his own proto-punk group, the Modern Lovers (with future members of Talking Heads and the Cars), and churning out classics like "Roadrunner" and "Pablo Picasso."
  94. Iggy Pop sees the Doors play live at the University of Michigan (October 20, 1967): Thrilled by how awful they sounded and the negative response they seemed to thrive on from the audience, Pop decided to start making his own savage and confrontational rock and roll by putting together his own band, the Stooges.
  95. Beck's "Loser" makes the Billboard Top 10 (April 1994): Mixing alternative rock with folk, pop, and rap, Beck predicts the rock and rap crossovers that will occur later in the decade, all while putting the stamp of "loser" on the '90s generation.
  96. Roger McGuinn goes to see the Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night (Summer 1964): Mystified by George Harrison's shimmering 12-string electric guitar, McGuinn buys one for himself, which he goes on to use as the basis of the Byrds' classic "jingle-jangle" folk rock sound.
  97. Sly Stone tells an interviewer that his forthcoming album will be "The most optimistic of all"(Early 1970): It wasn't; when he finally released There's a Riot Goin' On! in late 1971, Sly and the Family Stone's formally joyous sound had turned into a thick mud of anger, drugs, and confusion, marking a turning point from the optimism of the '60s to the distress of the '70s.
  98. Jethro Tull wins the first Grammy for Best Hard/Rock Heavy Metal Performance (February 22, 1989): Just when the Grammys think they have it, they fuck it up, giving the award to Tull for the flute-centered Crest of a Knave over insider favorite Metallica's ...And Justice for All; perhaps an even better moment was when Metallica finally won the award in 1992 and drummer Lars Ulrich thanked Jethro Tull for not putting out an album that year.
  99. R.E.M.'s first single beats out Michael Bolton's first single on American Bandstand's Rate-a-Record (April 13, 1983): The future of pop music beats out the past, with at least one of the teenage dancers choosing R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe" because they think it's a better dance record.
  100. Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time" video debutes on MTV (October 1998): Dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit and armed with a beautiful face and puppy-dog eyes, Spears becomes the most durable (and, at least with this song, the best) of the teen-pop bubblegum craze of the late '90s and early '00s.


  1. Interesting that at least five out of the hundred involve people singing what they weren't supposed to sing: Doors on Ed Sullivan; Gram Parsons and Byrds at Grand Ole Opry and Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live; Television at CBGB's and arguably Elvis at Sun Studios

  2. Folk rock followers around the world are celebrating the arrival of their favorite musical genius from the 70's into the digital arena. Shep Cooke has just released the digital versions of his first two solo music albums. The two albums, entitled 'Shep Cooke' and 'Concert Tour of Mars', are now available at, iTunes, and all other popular online music shops. The CDs of these two albums can also be purchased from Shep Cooke's official website . This website has recently been revamped with the addition of several music videos, photographs, and information covering the four decade long musical career of Shep Cooke.

  3. What about Grace Slick causing an uproar on the Ed Sullivan show when she appeared in Blackface?

  4. Dont trust this article. 65 claims Dylan was called "Judas" at the Royal Albert Hall.....fucking amateurs.

  5. Hank Williams, and Muddy Waters may have been, they fall out of this list's scope because they are not rockers themselves. alternative music

  6. Solid list. Others who have left comments feel you omitted some important moments, but hey, rock and roll isn't perfect, so why should this list be. A great Monday morning read. Thanks!

  7. Nothing noting the band Chicago who should be acknowledged for presenting the first "real" jazz/rock fusion to the world in 1968. It was ground breaking history.