The History of Rock 'N' Roll (1995)

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Released 10-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 578:53
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (5)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By None Given
Time Life Video & TV
Warner Home Video
Starring Gary Busey
Case ?
RPI $89.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I am a great lover of music of most types, flavours and genres. I was keen to review this series, which comes with an excellent reputation.

    This series was produced in 1995 by Time Life and the basic format is a combination of archival performance footage, contemporary interviews with a huge selection of major music industry figures, especially the artists themselves, and some voiceover by narrator Gary Busey. The star is undoubtedly the archival footage which is excellent and includes a significant amount of well known and not so well known footage. It includes footage from concerts, television appearances and music videos. To my mind, the series lacks a little in terms of any detailed analysis but, considering the scope of the series in covering popular music for the mid-1950s to mid-1990s, that is probably not unexpected. The series is made up of 10 episodes each of vaguely an hour running time, however they do vary from sub-50 minutes to nearly 70 minutes. Each episode is written, produced and directed by different people, however, they are all done with a similar style. The show comes from an American point of view so only groups which made it in America are included. Also, the show ends with the rise of rap, so everything that has happened since then is not covered.

    Interview subjects include (amongst many others): Bruce Springsteen, Bono, David Bowie, Sam Phillips (founder of Elvis's first record label, Sun Records), B B King, Little Richard, Brian May, Hank Ballard, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Jerry Garcia, Solomon Burke, Smokey Robinson, Steve Tyler, Eddie Van Halen, John Lydon, Dick Clark, Brian Wilson and The Everly Brothers. The interviews are interspersed with the musical footage and each section is generally only of soundbite length.

    The series includes 10 episodes which are not strictly chronological and cover different facets of the history of rock music.. The episodes are:

  1. Rock'n'Roll Explodes (54:25) - Covers the forerunners of rock'n'roll and the various musical styles to which rock'n'roll owes a debt such as country, gospel, jazz, blues and rhythm & blues. Also discusses the nature of the early record industry, racism, early controversies and the rise of small record labels. Artists covered with footage include Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bill Haley & Elvis Presley.
  2. Good Rockin' Tonight (66:47) - Covers the late 1950s, especially the rise of the white teen idols covering black songs and the gap left by the death of Buddy Holly, Elvis' joining the army, and so on. Also follows the rise of more pop style song writing by writers from the Brill Building, the payola scandal and novelty dance hits such as The Twist. Artists covered include Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Ben E King & Chubby Checker.
  3. Britain Invades, America Fights Back (56:29) - Covers Beatlemania and other British groups' invasion of America and the American Bands such as The Beach Boys which fought for their turf. Artists covered include The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Kinks, The Supremes, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Rascals, the Byrds, Mamas & the Papas, The Who, The Hollies, Spencer Davis Group & The Small Faces.
  4. The Sounds of Soul (56:02) - Covers the rise of independent labels for black music such as soul. The labels include Atlantic, Stax, Motown & Philadelphia International. Artists covered include Arthur Conley, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, The Miracles, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye & Jackson 5. Rudely, Michael Bolton gets more coverage than Al Green!
  5. Plugging In (50:34) - Includes the popularity of folk music and the acoustic blues revival in the early 1960s and the controversial electric appearance by Bob Dylan in 1965. Discusses Folk's effect on popular music especially in terms of song topics and lyrics. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Lightnin' Hopkins, Phil Ochs, The Byrds and more. Shows how major groups like The Beatles and Beach Boys were affected.
  6. My Generation (58:59) - This show covers the late 1960s including psychedelia, the San Francisco Scene, hippies, Woodstock and the festival era, the civil rights movement, Vietnam and the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and others and the effects that all these things had on popular music. Artists covered include Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Band, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young), Joni Mitchell and more.
  7. Guitar Heroes (48:12) - Covers the obsessive nature of rock guitarists and their personal views about their instrument and its importance. Includes details of the development of the electric guitar by people like Leo Fender & Les Paul and the music which most influenced rock guitar, the blues. Artists covered include Pete Townshend, Carlos Santana, Brian May, Eddie Van Halen, B B King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Garcia, Spinal Tap, Keith Richards, James Burton, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Allman Brothers Band, T-Bone Walker, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Slash & The Edge.
  8. The 70's : Have a Nice Decade (68:28) - Covers the rise of music as a big business with merchandising, promotion, huge concert tours and the rise of heavy metal and Disco. Also the start of widespread synthesiser usage, the general self indulgence of a lot of music from the period and the huge fame which musicians of this period could attract. Artists covered include Elton John, Alice Cooper, Steely Dan, Doobie Bros, ELO, Earth, Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Funkadelic, Bob Marley, Sly & The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Queen, Kiss, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, Village People & Bruce Springsteen.
  9. Punk (62:44) - This is probably the episode with the most documentary style and has more to say than the other episodes. Covers the rise of punk as a reaction to the 1970s, coming out of England initially and then through a club called CBGB in New York. Also covered is how punk affected later styles like New Wave and Grunge. Artists covered include The Clash, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, MC5, Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Richard Hell, The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Billy Idol, X, U2, The Police & Nirvana.
  10. Up From the Underground (56:13) - The last episode tries to cover everything between punk and the mid 1990s but really only shows the rise of MTV and music videos in general, the emergence of rap and hip hop and briefly touches on alternate rock. Also includes a discussion with various artists about whether or not music can change the world. Artists covered include Devo, The Cars, The Go-Go's, Culture Club, Grandmaster Flash, Run D.M.C., Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Ice-T, N.W.A, Salt & Pepa, U2, R.E.M, Green Day.

    Overall, this is a good quality series featuring excellent archival footage but which suffers from being out of date and lacking in any serious analysis except for one or two episodes.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is good.

    The feature is presented in a 1.29:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is most likely the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise, although this tended to vary, especially during the archival footage. The contemporary interviews included some grain. Its mid-1990s television origins mean that the clarity does not approach the sharpness of contemporary movies or even more modern television.

    The colour was generally good during the interviews although I did notice some rainbow effects here and there. Obviously, much of the archival footage is in black and white. The archival footage is as clean as possible and comes across quite well.

    From an artefact perspective, the interviews contained some minor macro-blocking and an occasional speck of white. The archival footage contains a bit of everything including tape tracking (especially during Elvis Costello's first television appearance), specks and flecks, edge enhancement, white lines and microphony. Considering the age of some of this footage, the artefacts are kept to a minimum.

    There are subtitles in 20 languages including English plus English, Italian & German for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read.

    The layer changes occur between the episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is very good, especially considering the age of some of the material.

    This DVDs contain an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s. To be fair, this is more of a 3.1 track as the surrounds are virtually not used. Generally speaking the sound is of good quality with all the music (even the very old material) coming across well. To my ears, the sound has not really been remixed for surround, so most of the music is stereo with bass added by the subwoofer and the dialogue comes from the centre speaker.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The surround speakers were not used to any great effect.

    The subwoofer was nicely integrated and added bass to the music as required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The menu included stills, music and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This set is the same in all regions. Buy whichever you can get cheaper.


    A good quality series of shows on the history of rock'n'roll which are now ten years out of date but do include some fantastic archival footage.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is very good but very front focused.

    The disc has no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, January 24, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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