The Rock Canon

Rocket2RussiaRocket2Russia Road Warrior
edited September 2012 in History of Rock
How do you feel about the existence of a so-called "Rock Canon?" Do you think there is more than one? Do you think of it as an ideal or a detraction? Do you create your own individual canon, or do you just listen to things you like whenever you feel like? If you support a canon, do you find yourself liking most selections from the canon?

Lots of questions to ask honestly, so I'll just turn it over to you guys after dropping my two cents to get the ball rolling:

I think the existence of a Rock Canon is a very real thing if we're discussing music from ~1964 - 1991. Thankfully, imo, from there, things got a lot more confused, and by 2001 or maybe even earlier I think the idea of canonizing rock was well and dead in American culture, and the new mainstream pop and hip hop music had no desire to have itself canonized by any sort of "visionaries" like Christgau or the Rolling Stone crowd. If my adverb didn't tip you off, I find the existence of the canon to be a bad thing. The fact that most everyone with any more than topical interest in music will be approaching the same pieces in rock music is destructive to its long-lastingness, because I feel like there are too many different directions rock aims that would be completely lost on new listeners past a certain age. Impressionable fifteen year olds can be sold on The Beatles; Albert Ayler fans at 30 years old can't necessarily be swayed.

I find the existence of sites like Rate Your Music and to be a very strong 21st century force in the way of demolishing the canon (though the former unfortunately revels in creating its own for reasons unknown) and I hope this positive development allows for a gradual removal of the Jack Black-esque rockist antics of yester-century and open up the floodgates for a mass Toopian de-territorialization.


  • instantdeath999instantdeath999 Washed Up
    edited July 2012
    Music is the only artform in which I dislike the existence of a canon, or at least, the principles behind it. Particularly when individuals such as Christgau are behind its conceptualization.
  • Rocket2RussiaRocket2Russia Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    I feel like the biggest problem after reflecting on it and chatting with Gowie a bit is twofold: 1. Music has split into far too many sub-cultures for a canon to be a true end-all be-all and 2. Faced with this dilemma Christgau and Co. insert their own tastes and ignore several genres of music in the process instead of allowing for a canon built around principles of being non-hierarchal lists of 10-20 albums per genre that are essential (like /mu/'s system but not dumb). In the status quo, Rolling Stone, NME, and Pitchfork set the tone for various eras and you get a resultant rock general fanbase listening to a handful of jazz artists, handful of hip hop artists (always from the same eras) and being put off by classical and various kinds of subversive popular and avant-music.

    Essentially, the canon as it is now inspires close-mindedness from the beginning, as we are still stuck in a twentieth century mentality of "buyer's guides" instead of "lists of good music."
  • afterstasisafterstasis Washed Up
    edited July 2012
    The internet will surely fix more things than it breaks, but in the meantime...

    Personal rankings = good
    Compilations of groupthink = bad
  • RunesmithRunesmith Headliner
    edited July 2012
    There are some artists who are (almost) unquestionably important to rock music, like Chuck Berry and The Beatles, so there's a loose universal canon that can be applied to a more personal one.

    However, Johnette Napolitano is far more likely to be my Athena than Janis Joplin or Grace Slick. It all comes down to personal values, personal importance. To quote Chuck D, "The Beatles meant a lot of things to a lot of different people, but they never meant **** to me." (I like The Beatles quite a bit, but Chuck's implication still stands.)
  • darkwinterbeast8darkwinterbeast8 Headliner
    edited September 2012
    So we aren't going to shoot Rock Stars out of a Cannon?
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