Rock Encyclopedia

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Lillian Roxon’s “Rock Encyclopedia”

Lillian Roxon (1932 – 1973) wrote the “Rock Encyclopedia” in 1968 / 9, and it has entranced readers ever since.  Tons of water under the bridge, and Roxon’s book can still teach you something you didn’t know about a subject as large as “Rock Music”, guaranteed!

I just read the book again a few weeks ago; I am astonished at how much actual info is in there.  But let’s remember that it is forever time-locked in early 1969 (it’s actually dated August 1969) – at a time when a lot of stuff was about to happen, to change the rock music world forever:  the end of The Beatles, Woodstock etc.

Surprisingly, there are only a few truly ‘dead ends’ in this huge book.  Ms. Roxon actually created a lot of faux-rock language, as well – stuff I’ve never heard uttered outside of this book’s pages.  West Coast Rock – yes; Raga rock…er, no.  Yes, I enjoy Raga rock, but I can only thing of a few examples of it, and they’re mostly “easy listening” records, and not covered in Roxon’s book.

I wonder how it was decided what to include vs. what not to include.  Hank Snow is in there, but not Roger Miller (apart from him being recounted when the charts of the mid-60’s are stated).

Loads of Zappa, too.  But so many Boston-area bands that meant little outside of Boston!  And, being 1969 – lots of Al Kooper references.

I am lucky enough to actually own a 1969 Grosset & Dunlap hardcover edition of this book.  Was there ever an updated version?  What new terminology would she have invented for Amon Duul II?  What superlatives would she have accorded young David Bowie?

She seems careful to not actually mention drugs very much – apart from the over-use of LSD euphemisms (when describing the Jefferson Airplane, for instance).  Lots of reverence for ‘folk music’; no mention of Wigwam!  They would’ve seemed to be in the correct time frame for their U.S. debut album, “Tombstone Valentine” – the weak spot of this book?  No entry for “Kim Fowley”!

But I cannot fault this book.  I can look at those charts and read her descriptions and get the exact feeling of what it was to try and ;’take it all in’ as a young person.  I wanted to know everything she was writing about, but…the tiny brain can only hold so much at age 12.  And I’ve seen newer “Rock Encyclopedias” – and they all just as time locked in their respective years and orientations.

There was a biography written about Lillian Roxon, a short while ago – I never saw a copy of it for sale, but I bet it’s an interesting read.

Thanks for the idea that it was legitimate to write about rock music, Ms. Roxon.

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2 Responses to Rock Encyclopedia

  1. David Z says:

    One of my best friends in college was a woman who worked as Lillian’s intern/assistant for a year or two. Boy, did SHE have stories!
    I’d love to read the Rock Encyclopedia and/or her bio one day.

  2. ronkanefiles says:

    I have a copy of the “Rock Encyclopedia” you can borrow – a hardbound first edition. An astonishing quick read, for a 1969 book. I would love to find a copy of the Roxon biography, I bet it’s interesting…

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