The Rock Annuals: Popular Music of the Rock Era, Year by Year:
The Landmark Albums, Singles, Deep Cuts, and More...
Archive Fever? No. Ready Reference Setpoint
For more than a decade, I intermittingly created, and more frequently revised, a list of albums and, to a lesser extent, songs that embody, perhaps epitomize, Rock and related genres. The items listed were those that I either considered to be favorites or decided that I wanted to listen to, based on what I read or the direct recommendations of persons I know. As the list grew, the number of albums that I had not listened to grew larger (one could say at that point that I hoped to get around to them) no matter how much listening I did. More exactly, we all have difficulty finding the time to listen closely, that is, without any distractions; and extensively, that is, repeated listens. I thus pointed the list in certain directions, making connections between artists that were "new to me" and artists that I already knew, striving to learn about musics that were foreign to me and which few of my peers appreciate. This approach is especially important for me since I have a contrary tendency to delve deeply into the work of a smaller number of artists. I knew the list would continue to grow, both as my knowledge of past music expanded and as new music was created, but I hoped to shorten the list when possible, for example removing albums and adding singles in their place. The albums and tracks listed for each artist are supposed to convey that artist's contribution to music of the Rock era and the broader culture shaped and reflected by that music, precisely so if possible, not being afraid to set aside a significant portion of the artist's work.
Given that I could never seriously study, and certainly could never write about, all of the published recorded music (let alone informal recordings) that any respectable (and respectful) critic would need to listen to in order to make reasoned judgments about the quality of entire genres, eras, or cultures of music, the list that resulted, as documented here, pointedly does not claim to offer the best, or canonical, albums of any year or artist or of Rock and related genres. It does claim, however, to attempt a listing of sound recordings with which a novice listener could begin to understand the history and cultural heritage of popular music during the years of Rock's artistic and commercial dominance. The Rock era, I would set, in half-decade increments, as such: 1955-1994, the peak being 1965-1985. This era has become my primary interest, intellectually. Besides Jazz music, the popular music of this era has also come to be what I listen to regularly. Varied classical musics, much experimental/ avant-garde music, and most folk musics do not comparably command my attention, though at times in the past they have.
That said, any other person so inclined to make lists, reference guides, and databases and with similar listening habits could craft their own "canon," so to speak, considerably different from mine. Indeed, in the end this list is little more than a means of organizing my own listening. I want to continue finding new music to listen to throughout my life. This project helps ensure that happens, since it will continue to be edited and expanded; and, even when I do cease to work on it, it is extensive enough to suggest to any given reader that more listening needs to be done.
Each year lists albums followed, first, by singles and deep cuts and, second, archival and compilation albums. The section of singles and deep cuts for each year does not include tracks included on the albums listed for that year or any other year. However, the singles-deep cuts section does overlap with the compilations section. More accurately, we would say it can overlap, because for the most part, while making these lists, if a good compilation for a certain artist had been selected, I did not bother to pick a noteworthy track to include. Eventually (ideally!) these two sections will come to overlap to a greater extent than the currently do. Indeed, each compilation should be accompanied by a list of noteworthy singles and deep cuts included on the compilation, especially as some of the compilations are boxed sets and thus very extensive.
A few notes about perusing the lists: first, formats. A 12-inch record, played at 33-and-1/3 R P M, is a Long Play (L P), or album, even if it is called an Extended Play (E P) by the artist or label. An E P of course is not "extended" relative to an album; it is a extended single. It is 12-inch-45 R P M, but can also be 7-inch-33-and-1/3 RPM. Second, in some cases, a single is released the year prior to the album on which it is featured, often when the album is released early in a year. You may look for a certain song, knowing the year in which the album on which it is included was released, and initially not find it for that reason. Third, if the artist name is included in an album title, the artist name is not provided separately in the annual lists if the artist name comes first in the title: for example, The James Gang Rides Again, as compared to Otis Redding - Complete and Unabridged: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul.
If both the A-side and B-side track of a single are included, they are listed separately, except in the cases of singles/ E P's which feature a single recording split into two. These are listed as if the recordings were a single entity, as indeed they tend to be when featured on L Ps. Numerous singles by James Brown fit into this category. A rarer kind of exception is Excepter's 'Vacation'/ '"Forget Me"'; being a 12-inch 45, it can be considered an E P, which like other E P's is included in its entirety. So far, there is only one example of both the A side and B side of a single, when the two tracks are separate compositions, being included: Patti Smith's 'Hey Joe (Version)' b/w 'Piss Factory'.
The James Brown examples bring up another matter: an album is provided for a single if that album (even if it is a compilation) came out within a three years of the single. The version of the track included on the album, however, may not be exactly the same as that included on the single. This is especially in the case of longer tracks spread across two sides of a 45 but edited together to form a different form on the album. It is also a common concern with Funk and Disco tracks of the late Seventies and early Eighties, as D J's and critics may consider a particular mix to be the superior version. Generally, 45 versions of tracks, even if they are ostensibly the same as the album version, are assumed to have been mastered slightly different, even given a "hot" mix to make the track sound better on the radio, especially in the days of popular music being prevalent on A M radio. This mix might only be different in minor ways, but different enough to entice collectors, fans, and recording engineers.
For the time being, very few deep cuts are included, except of course insofar as albums are included and most album tracks are deep cuts. I mean, deep cuts distinct from the album on which they are included. As with the "details" version of the 1965 list, the prospect—the ideal—of a thorough list of exemplary deep cuts being included for each year, in addition to exemplary singles and exemplary albums (included in their entirety, no exceptions), remains a distant one. One may argue that a single should only be listed if both the A side and B side are included, with individual tracks in contrast placed in the "deep cuts" section. I considered this option, but it seems to me to stray too far from the common practice of referring to a single (as a particular release, whether it be a 45, cassette, or C D) as the A-side song (or, if D J's chose to play the B side instead and made it a hit) the B-side song. That is, "The new single by the Byrds is 'Mr. Tambourine Man'"‐the song, not a single entitled Mr. Tambourine Man. An important distinction between singles and E P's, at least before the rise of 12-inch 45s in the Seventies, was the distinct title given to an E P. Many bands in the Punk-Indie era, especially in the U K and New Zealand, used this approach, but for E P's that consisted entirely of otherwise-unreleased material instead of the album samplers that had been common in the Sixties.
A Different Kind of Yearbook
Part of the process of making additions and revisions to the Rock Annuals list is checking old album guides and other reference books. While I take into account any critical insight that these books may offer, they are also helpful simply to let me know of artists that I have missed. As I check the artists listed in each book against my list, I will note here which artists listed in each book have been excluded (if because they fall outside the purview of the project, their basic genre is provided in brackets; if they are included in some way, that is also noted in brackets) like so:
Rock Movers and Shakers: An A to Z of the People Who Made Rock Happen [Second edition, 1991]
Herb Alpert [Jazz]
George Benson [Jazz]
The Black Crowes
Jimmy Cliff [included on The Harder They Come soundtrack compilation]
Andy Gibb [included as part of The Bee Gees]
Haircut One Hundred
M C Hammer
The Little River Band
Michael McDonald [included as part of The Doobie Brothers]
New Kids on the Block
Ray Parker Jr.
Peter and Gordon
Robert Plant [included as part of Led Zeppelin]
Brian Poole and the Tremeloes
P J Proby
Jimmy Sommerville [included as part of Bronski Beat]
Sting [included as part of The Police]
The Style Council
The Swinging Blue Jeans
U S A for Africa
Wet Wet Wet
The Spin Alternative Record Guide 
Some of the entries in this book are not artist names, but compilations or genres:
American Music Club
Albert Ayler [Jazz]
Babes in Toyland
Derek Bailey [Jazz; Experimental]
Bongwater [Kramer, one of two principal members of this band, is included as part of Shockabilly]
Glenn Branca [Experimental]
Ornette Coleman [Jazz]
Dead Can Dance
The Disco Years
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
Electronic music/ musique conrète
Freestyle['s Greatest Beats]
Kip Hanrahan [Jazz; Experimental]
House Music All Night Long
Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits
The Kronos Quartet [Classical; Experimental]
K D Lang
M C Lyte
Meat Beat Manifesto
M T V Party to Go
Arvo Pärt [Classical]
Pimps, Players & Private Eyes: Blaxploitation Soundtracks
P M Dawn
Reggae Dancehall Classics ["World"]
Henry Rollins [included as part of Black Flag]
Sonny Sharrock [Jazz]
Squirrel Bait [the other bands covered in this entry, Slint and the Palace Brothers, are included]
Carl Stalling [Classical]
Stone Temple Pilots
Sugar [Bob Mould, leader of this band, is included himself and as part of Hüsker Dü]
Sun Ra [Jazz]
Best of Techno
This Are 2-Tone
Henry Threadgill [Jazz]
Maureen Tucker [included as part of the Velvet Underground]
Ultimate Breaks and Beats
Hal Willner [most of his projects are beyond the purview of this site]
La Monte Young [Experimental]
John Zorn [Experimental]
Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time , published by the Zagat Survey company, truly ranks as one of the strangest books I've come across. For now, only artists included in this book and who would fit within the genres covered in the Rock Annual lists or in the annex but have been excluded are noted here. Many Classical recordings and a small selection of Jazz artists are included in the book, as are several "New Age" artists.
The Afro-Celt Sound System
Burt Bacharach [indirectly included via several artists who performed songs composed by him]
Best of Schoolhouse Rock
Brooks and Dunn
Buena Vista Social Club
Mary Chapin Carpenter
K D Lang
Annie Lennox [included as part of Eurythmics]
Aimee Mann [included as part of Til Tuesday]
The Dave Matthews Band
Natalie Merchant [part of 10,000 Maniacs]
Jo Dee Messina
Stone Temple Pilots
System of a Down
Short introductory essays about other aspects of the site are in progress. For now, I should note that the review essays do not necessarily cover music items that are included in the list, as is already apparent from the review of Frank Zappa's The Crux of the Biscuit.