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the online library of pop writing

Rock's Backpages is 20 years old!

November 2021 saw the 20th anniversary of the night we launched Rock's Backpages. On 1st November, 2001, we gave a party just off London's Commercial Road, co-hosted with author Paul (In Their Own Write) Gorman and photographer Jill (Rock Archive) Furmanovsky. Some of our earliest contributors were present that night, along with Joe Boyd, Patti Palladin, Hugh Cornwell, Chris Heath and the late Dele Fadele.

Little did we realise we'd still be going strong two decades later, with over 800 of the very best music writers on the site, and over 45,000 of the best interviews and reviews from 60 years of music journalism digitised and added to the RBP library. Nor did we know at that point that we'd have over 700 audio interviews on the site, including mesmerising conversations with Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Bob Marley, Kate Bush and Kurt Cobain. Rock's Backpages is a deep archive and a storehouse of memory that tells the story of postwar popular music from jazz, blues & country to punk, hip hop & EDM.

Suffice to say we're rather proud of what we've achieved, which is to create a definitive library of writing from all the great popular-music publications — a library, moreover, that keeps growing and expanding like all the best libraries do. If it's your first visit here — we hope you will exploring it as much as we've loved building it.

To celebrate, we've collected a few things for you to explore. Select from the below panels.

Delve into the history of popular music with an interactive timeline

We've selected twenty articles going back to 1961 to showcase the depth and breadth that we've managed to imbue RBP with over the last twenty years.

Search for articles published on your birthday

Don't worry, your data won’t be stored. If we can’t find anything on the exact date, we'll show you articles from the same month or from other years.

Read coverage of RBP in the media through the years

From the early days of trying not to get swept away by the bursting dotcom bubble to the difficulties of making paywalls work.

Rock's Backpages

2000s

2021

Music in lockdown

Rob Hughes, Uncut, January 2021

WHILE IT'S been a highly challenging year for the music industry – particularly in terms of cancelled tours, venue closures and a disrupted retail market – there have been some positives. Online sales are on the increase, largely driven by resourceful sites keen to offer the listener an exclusive experience. Chief among them is Bandcamp, whose swift response to the financial impact of the pandemic led to them waiving their share of revenue for 24 hours on the first Friday of every month.

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2016

Where are the political pop stars?

Lisa Verrico, The Times, 11 December 2016

Where are the political pop stars?

Selfie-obsessed stars are selling out to the power of branding.

IF EVER A YEAR was a gift to songwriters in search of subject matter, it was 2016. From Brexit, terrorism and Donald Trump to the refugee crisis across Europe and police brutality in the US, there was a torrent of hot topics for pop's mightiest pens to address. Yet almost none of them did — or should I say dared?

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2012

Pussy Riot and the Politics of Grrrl Punk

Evelyn McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, 13 September 2012

Pussy Riot and the Politics of Grrrl Punk

I WONDER, as they sit in their separate cells, what songs the three jailed members of Pussy Riot sing to themselves to keep their spirits strong. My vote: 'Resist Psychic Death' by the early 1990s punk feminist band Bikini Kill. The verse offers a four-word summation of the refusal to be mentally imprisoned: "Your world, not mine." And the chorus provides a bullet-point mantra of determination and survival: "I'll resist with every inch and every breath/ I'll resist this psychic death."

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2008

The Age of X Factor

John Aizlewood, The Guardian, 4 January 2008

You can thank Simon Cowell for the results of the BBC's The Sound of 2008 poll.

IT'S THAT TIME of year again. The music industry can't be bothered to release any records, and the first week in January is a touch too early for the end-of-year round-up, so the BBC have printed its increasingly prestigious (Mika won it last year, albeit just ahead of the Twang) the Sound Of... list.

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2005

The iPod: Rise of the Machines

Edward Helmore, Q, March 2005

The iPod: Rise of the Machines

This is the untold story of Apple's iPod — the gadget that ate the world and saved the music industry. We're all pod people now.

BONO CALLS it "the most interesting art object since the electric guitar". Moby says it has an "insidious revolutionary quality". Will Smith describes it as the "gadget of the century". It could only be the iPod: the tiny white box which has changed our relationship with music forever and shocked everyone with its sudden ubiquity.

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2003

I Shall Be Free: The Blacklisting of Dixie Chicks

Dave Marsh, Harp, June 2003

IN CHRIS BUHALIS'S 'Talkin' Sounds Just Like Joe McCarthy Blues', John Ashcroft declares questioning him un-American, to which the singer replies, "It's called a democracy. You ever hear of give me liberty or give me death?

"Don't tempt me," says the Attorney General.

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1990s

1997

Radiohead: Radio Daze

Pete Paphides, Time Out, 5 November 1997

It's hard to believe, but only four years ago no one really knew who Radiohead were. Now, with OK Computer lodged firmly in the Top 20 and virtually no serious rivals, fame is something this extraordinary Oxford quintet are having to get used to. So what happened? And are they happy?

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1994

Snoop Doggy Dog and Dr Dre: Every Dogg Has His Dre

Dele Fadele, New Musical Express, 14 May 1994

Snoop Doggy Dog and Dr Dre: Every Dogg Has His Dre

They called him an "evil bastard", said he shouldn't be allowed in the country, that there would be riots outside his hotel and gigs. But is it because SNOOP DOGGY DOGG is up for murder… or simply because he's black and successful? In an exclusive interview with Snoop and partner/mentor, DR DRE, DELE FADELE finds two young Afro-Americans railing against an unfair world, prepared to defend their views and lives, warts and all. 

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1990

Nirvana: Take the Money and Run

Keith Cameron, Sounds, 27 October 1990

If any of the US underground bands are likely to break through into the mainstream, then it's got to be NIRVANA. Currently being courted by eight major labels, they'll probably take the money and flee their Sub Pop nest but they'll be taking their dignity and powerful pop with them. KEITH CAMERON visits them at home in Seattle.

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1980s

1986

Whitney Houston: The Long Road to Overnight Stardom

Bud Scoppa, Billboard, December 1986

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, a new artist emerges who simply takes over, in utterly decisive and undeniable fashion. So it was with Whitney Houston – signed at nineteen, unleashed at twenty-one, a superstar at twenty-two. She has it all – artistry, presence, beauty, style, substance, naturalness - and you can't miss it. Whitney Houston is huge, and she can back it up for miles.

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1983

Prince: Someday Your Prince Will Come

Carol Cooper, The Face, June 1983

THE THING TO BEAR IN MIND is that Prince does not do interviews. He certainly didn't do this one, nor any of a dozen others when tabloids and magazines were dangling cover stories as bait.

In the States this aversion to the press has reached astonishing proportions with the 1999 tour. His management now supports a PR firm solely to explain to frustrated paparazzi why they can't have interviews, and to warn photographers that their equipment might be confiscated if caught snapping during a show.

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1981

Soft Cell: Sweet Cell Music

Betty Page, Sounds, 21 March 1981

MARC ALMOND has never quite been able to live down our scathing pic caption which accompanied the review of the landmark Some Bizzare Album.

'What a little pervert' it said – an observation closer to the shameful truth than even our sturdy Reviews Ed could possibly have known! Not only does the vivid 'Girl With The Patent Leather Face' hint at bondage-oriented fantasies...the giggling, energetic Marc's wildest dreams are fulfilled through the wry humour of the majority of Soft Cell's lyrics.

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1970s

1979

The Sugarhill Gang: Freak of the Week

Davitt Sigerson, Melody Maker, 15 December 1979

DESPITE A rhythm track that mangles Chic's 'Good Times' (they settled out of court), 'Rapper's Delight' by the Sugarhill Gang has been the season's biggest-selling 12-inch single.

Slick-talking has been the staple of black radio jocks for many years; it was by exploiting their hep doggerel that Murray the K, Wolfman Jack and Cousin Brucie changed the nature of AM radio. What George Clinton did with P-Funk was to transfer the raps to record, in the best Rufus Thomas tradition. Now you walk down a street in Philly or DC, and an LBK (Little Black Kid) runs up, jumps, taps you on the shoulders and hollers, "Freak of the week!"

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1976

A Question of Survival: Rock’n’Roll Women

Penny Valentine, Street Life, 6 March 1976

THE NUMBER of women working in British music is pitifully small. You can count them on one hand. Why?

In America the field is vast. Easily equivalent to the number of important male artists. Raitt, Muldaur, Harris, Ronstadt, Ian, Previn, Nyro, Smith, Parton, Wynette, Reddy, Coolidge, Simon, King, Mitchell, Collins, Baez – latest additions the McGarrigles and Scarlet Rivera.

Here the story is depressingly reversed and the numbers of girls pushing out for individual recognition is limited to a few survivors.

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1975

Disco Kids in Gay L.A.

Richard Cromelin, Rolling Stone, 28 August 1975

Disco Kids in Gay L.A.

Where cycle sluts, tanktoppers and dedicated bumpers dance, dance, dance, stick poppers up adversity's nose and dodge surging roachers...

LOS ANGELES — You reach the ultra baroque interior of the Cabaret through a kaleidoscopic entrance hall lined with beveled mirrors. Inside, the first sensation is as stunning as it is indistinct. The light is low, the loudness of the relentless music disorienting and the odor of sweat, tobacco smoke and, more and more frequently, amyl nitrate overpowering. To eyes unacclimated to the dimness, the scene is an undifferentiated, seething mass, but soon the components can be distinguished.

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1973

Bob Marley: The First Genius of Reggae?

Richard Williams, Melody Maker, 24 February 1973

Bob Marley: The First Genius of Reggae?

BOB MARLEY, slightly-built and quiet to the point of diffidence, is a leader. He's the master of Reggae, the man who's about to give it that big shove out of its normal cultural confinement and into the rest of the world.

The consequences of this action may be drastic for the health of the music. It could be the making of Reggae, or could sap its vitality beyond repair. But that won't affect Marley, because for the past seven years he's been making the best music to be heard in Jamaica, and his potential is limitless.

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1960s

1969

Woodstock: Peace Mecca

Danny Goldberg, Billboard, 30 August 1969

BETHEL, N.Y. – About 400,000 rock fans gave peace a chance Aug. 15-18, and it worked. For them and the overwhelmed residents of this Catskills resort community, things will never be quite the same. Overcoming problems of traffic, shortages of food, water and bathrooms, and two rainfalls which reduced everyone to the same muddy level, the amorphous crowd achieved a happy and peaceful revival unprecedented in this history of human gatherings.

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1965

What causes Beatlemania?

Eden, KRLA Beat, 9 October 1965

What causes Beatlemania?

YOU'VE SEEN it hundreds of times before — in mob scenes at airports, in screaming crowds of fans at concerts, even in one's and two's sitting 'round the television set when "they" were on.

Yes, you've seen it all before. The girls who scream, the girls who faint — the girls who cry.

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1963

The Rollin' Stones: Genuine R&B!

Norman Jopling, Record Mirror, 11 May 1963

The Rollin' Stones: Genuine R&B!

AS THE TRAD scene gradually subsides, promoters of all kinds of teen-beat entertainment heave a long sigh of relief that they have found something to take its place. It's Rhythm and Blues, of course – the number of R&B clubs that have sprung up is nothing short of fantastic.

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1961

The Greenbriar Boys, Bob Dylan: Gerde's Folk City, New York NY

Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 29 September 1961

The Greenbriar Boys, Bob Dylan: Gerde's Folk City, New York NY

Bob Dylan: A Distinctive Folk-Song Stylist

20-Year-Old Singer Is Bright New Face at Gerde's Club

A BRIGHT NEW face in folk music is appearing at Gerde's Folk City. Although only 20 years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.

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