I have been listening to rock songs for a couple of years now. I read several wiki articles, lyrics interpretation sites and so on. I have so many questions in my mind like:

  1. The 'inheritance' relation between different genres e.g 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath', as per wiki, is classified as heavy metal which in turn is rooted in psychedelic rock

  2. While I understand that only after years of dedicated listening, one can classify a song into a genre, I would really like to understand the logic behind establishing a song's genre by listening to it

What I am searching for is 'reliable'(??? - widely accepted/written by proven rock artists/connoisseurs?) material - documentaries, books and so on which track the origins and developments of the rock movement/era.

  • 4
    Look, no two people will agree on these things. There are plenty of attempts at creating maps and infographics, but don't expect a "definite" guide. This concern about fitting a song into a genre is irrelevant, anyway.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 14:02
  • 1
    @BCdotWEB "This concern about fitting a song into a genre is irrelevant, anyway" holds up giant neon sign that says "OPINION" on it Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 18:52
  • 1
    @DJAftershock Of course it's my opinion, yet that doesn't mean it isn't true. So what if you say "song x is stoner rock" when others would classify it as "sludge metal" -- does that change anything? Have you ever stopped liking a song because you discovered it belonged to a different genre, perhaps even a "wrong" genre? Sure, an understanding of the "evolution" of music can be interesting, but in the end it's all about what you hear and how that makes you feel.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 8:32

3 Answers 3


Well, here is a short list of musicologist-approved historical treatments of rock:

  1. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (still great)
  2. Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City (very 1950s-60s oriented)
  3. Deena Weinstein, Rock'N'America (more sociological, but does genre well)
  4. John Covach, What's That Sound (more analysis, technicalities, etc.)

Some of these are college-level textbooks, but they are decently written nonetheless. And all will cover genre in detail, and give cogent hypotheses about style history.

A good documentary about the roots of rock is the 1994 NPR one called "Rock and Roll".


Thirty years ago when I started reading on the subject, there were far fewer books than there are today. There are so many books on the history of rock available now that the best suggestion I can give you is to go to a major library, or the music library of a university with a music degree program, and simply browse the stacks of books on the subject of rock and pop music.

Another tip: Wikipedia articles themselves are often of questionable quality, but each article has to cite published books and print magazines if the article is to be approved by the Wikipedia editors. So find a particular band or genre you are interested in on Wikipedia, and then look at the References at the end of the article and identify books that you could find for further research.

Then there are magazines. I would look for articles published in magazines written for musicians rather than magazines aimed at fans. Articles about rock bands and rock music in fan magazines (even with Rolling Stone, the best of the lot) tend to focus on the lifestyles of the artists and not about the music itself. Remember the immortal words of Frank Zappa: "Most rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read."

Also see my answer to this question here on this site: "Why do music genres exist?" which talks about Billboard Magazine.

  • Yeah magazines I have thought of but what I need is recos. for 'beginners' - the place to start understanding about genres, the influences and impacts of the rock music and so on. Once several of these starting points are covered, I can dive into music libraries, music degree programs and so on. Yes, the wikipedia citations are a good way if you want to focus on a band but what I'm planning to start with is an overview of the rock music and progress slowly in genres etc. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 13:47
  • @WheatWilliams - Yup, just that - listen to the damn music, don't worry about whether it wears its parting on the left or the right, or whether it took a pencil with a Gonk on the end to school as a kid. Which do you prefer, tie-die or cheese-cloth... not important. :P
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 17:12
  • @Tetsujin Yes I do 'do things' - listen music, ride, hike, code and so on but I also like to 'read' stories, tales, facts etc. about the things I am doing. Classifying a song into genre is just one of the 100 things which come into my mind when I listen to a song the rest 99 I can't recall this time :P The point is when you listen and like a song, you get info about it and songs similar to that and so on. Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 8:27

Seven Ages Of Rock is an absolute must-see if you want a vision of the main genres of Rock music. Once you've seen each episode, you'll be more adept at determining which genre a song falls into. The sub-genres are a little bit more difficult, and I'm not sure there's really a good resource because many times different people will have different answers.

A prime example is Metal. Fairly easy to identify, but then you get into sub-genres like Black Metal, Doom Metal, Thrash, etc... and it just takes listening to the many bands before you can try to group them. And even then, you may think one band is Doom and someone else will think the same band is Black.

Also, there's some cross-over between genres. For instance, Thrash Metal really has its roots in Punk and it's often hard to tell the two apart.

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