Jamie Stewart was born in 1978 in Los Angeles. He began Xiu Xiu in 2002 and began to waste his life.
The whitest thing on Earth a person who doesn’t vote Republican can do is recommend a podcast. Sadly, I was born white, and will probably always have to be white, and because I would rather drown myself than be a Republican, there is no other manner in which to honestly express my deep and inescapable whiteness than to state the following: The podcast, A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, is superb. To quietly excuse myself from being so excited about a podcast, I like to refer to it as a “documentary.” Being so excited about a documentary is also insanely white, but this fantasy allows me to pretend my Best of 2022 didn’t have anything to do with looking at my phone.
When I describe this “documentary” to you, bear in mind that because I am a HUGE nerd; I know full well that it is, by its very design, proudly, deeply, and profoundly nerdy.
“HURRAY HURRAY HURRAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” said Jamie’s heart.
A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is just what it sounds like. Each week, or every two weeks, there is a roughly hour-and-a-half-long episode that takes a wonderfully thoughtful and deep plunge into the aesthetic, cultural, historic, and social significance of a single piece of rock & roll music. The host, Andrew Hickey, has a naturally melodious voice and goes to great lengths to explore and illuminate interesting and curious musical details and tangents while being insightful and sensitive to the gender, race, queer, and class politics within its past and present contexts. He does not overlook or shy away from the fact that a lot of ASTONISHING assholes put out some ASTONISHINGLY great music in what were ASTONISHINGLY sexist and bigoted eras, but he does so in a way that is relevant to the stated task at hand.
It begins in the 1930s with Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Big Joe Turner, Pete Johnson, and Bob Wills and goes forward in time from there. As of this writing, it is in 1967-68 and Hickey is sorting out Stevie Wonder, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, and The Incredible String Band. There are just shy of 350 episodes to go to reach 500. I wait and wait and wait for the next one to come out and always say “Yes!” quietly to myself when it’s posted.
If you are a musician and/or a music fan of any stripe, the episodes will expand your understanding of rock & roll for certain, but also the wonder of music generally. Connections are drawn that you would never have expected. Even if the episode is about a song you should like by Aretha Franklin but have been made to hear 10,000 times, or a song you shouldn’t like by the Beach Boys because they fucking suck (sorry Mx. Hickey, I know you love them), you will be exposed to something new within them and be inspired for having listened. Better yet, of course, is learning about a song that had a significant impact, but that you may not have heard much or maybe anything about before. Having been exposed to songs such as “This Train” by Sister Rosetta Tharpe or “Black Denim Jacket and Motorcycle Boots” by the Cheers opened new and beautiful doors for me.
As a white nerd for whom the list of things I love begins and ends with music, now more than ever, having something that enhances that love even more is a reason to live. A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, my 2022 thanks you!!!!!!!!
(Photo Credit: left, Julia Brokaw)