Rock 'n' Roll Front Cover

Record Collector magazine’s September 2016 review of Rock’n’Roll Unravelled.

Pulling at the thread on the 20th Century’s jumper

Want to know when Elvis wore a jumpsuit on stage for the first time? Or how about the date ads were placed for “4 insane boys”, resulting in the formation of The Monkees? You’ll find it all (as well as countless facts you never knew you needed to know) in this endlessly distracting and weighty labour of love.

That’s not to say that this is full of trivia, in fact it’s clear that Shelmerdine has made a painstaking effort to document pretty much every event that would prove significant in shaping popular music, from Jimmie Rodgers’ first recording session (4 August 1927, since you asked) to the final Sex Pistols gig, which Shelmerdine uses as a logical end point in the evolution of R’n’R. After that, entries are more sparing; focusing on artists whose careers were developed during those formative years.

For ease of use, the book is split into three parts – a straight chronological list of significant events, a more in-depth “on this day” section detailing everything from release dates to foolhardy antics, and a indexed set of “pocket histories” listing events by artist. Shelmerdine has produced a comprehensive guide that’ll prove invaluable to anybody with an unhealthy interest in music’s minutiae. That’ll be the RC reader then. By the way, if you happen to be reading this on the day this issue hits the shops, you’ll be interested to know that on this day in 1957 Jackie Wilson released Reet Petite in the States, but you already knew that, right?

Review by Jamie Atkins