Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Secret History of Rock'n'Roll - Christopher Knowles

Christopher Knowles has a theory: that the various forms & traditions of rock music can draw their heritage, aesthetics, and concepts back to the mystery cults of antiquity. After 4,000 years of human existence mankind is rocking out in the same way that the Bacchanalian, Korybante, Isis,Puritan, and Orpheus cults (to name but a few) have been and that distinctions like thrash, punk, glam, or AOR are less useful than the intent & style of the performance. This is a highly intriguing theory that mixes history with anthropology and rocking out. Potentially pure gold, however the execution ranges from never getting beyond intriguing to frustratingly underdeveloped. The first section sets the scene for a fall with a 94 page, amazingly readable, romp through the various mystery cults (secret religious organisations with exclusive memberships & spooky rites) of history. The Jungian archetypes come thick and fast, laying down a template of "nothing new under the sun" and setting the stage for an exploration of modern music. Sadly the second section fails to cash in on the promise as rather than going into any detailed exploration of the premise you get a brief overview of a cult, a quick link to some of the bands from 1960 to 2005 that tie into it and then a potted history of their career. It's far too brief, highly scatter-shot, and under-develops the concept beyond "I have a neat idea". It's not clear as to the reason of this shortfall, as Mr Knowles clear knows his stuff. Maybe it was an over-zealous editor wanting to keep it under a word-count or maybe the net was cast too widely to be able to cover all the potential topics in time. Whatever the reason it just falls short and leaves the reader wanting more. This is not to say that it isn't worth giving it a read as it is honestly enjoyable, just that you'll have to fill in half the content for yourselves.