A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs


Andrew Hickey presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre.

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Recent Reviews
  • Mr. OKR
    I am completely absorbed by this podcast. I consider myself very knowledgeable in 20th century music history and I learn new and interesting things in nearly every episode. I love the way Andrew ties together the stories with the writers, musicians, producers, managers, labels and the times and places. Thank you so much for putting so much thought and research into this monumental project
  • hyland_john
    I’d give him 5 stars if all he had done was the Ink Spots episode. But there are over 200, going on 500 of these things!!! Just wonderful.
  • brooklynhistorianLars
    I really enjoy and since I’m 13 I am glad for the content warnings. Also rip archive.org 78s
  • SpongeBobbyHil589
    Woke Rock and Roll / virtue signaling disconnect
    Could easily be a 5 star podcast. Unfortunately the host has stubbordly refused take heed of any the critisms towards the show. Namely, the host will often infuse his prescribed ultra-left woke politics, skewing facts and prescribing modern sensibilities into these narratives without proper context. 80 percent interesting analysis and research vs 20 percent host's modern political slanting. This is your brain on CNN. If the listener can differentiate between the actual truth vs. the host's diatribes then you might find some enjoyment out of it. My thinking is his Pateron supporters lean left and so can't upset his applecart. Tomorrow Never Knows, Buddy Holly, 2 shows I enjoyed, caveat the politcal slanting. Good Vibrations episode the host lost the thread. Too much of the episode focused on the inventor of the therein. Some inconsistencies with quality of the episodes. Grateful Dead - Dark Star some interesting insights and storytelling coupled with terrible mischaracterizations, and woke moralizing. Anyone who does point out these issues with the show, the host will simply dismiss so I don't forsee the show every improving. Too bad.
  • cj howareya
    Hard to Express How Great This Show Is
    Don’t think I’ve ever written a podcast review before, and have never signed up for Patreon before — but I felt compelled because this is such an epic, staggering, wonderful tour through the history of music. The research is immense — but it’s the understanding and the thoughtfulness that goes into each episode. From the considerations of social and historical forces like prejudice and discrimination, world wars, union strikes, or religion; to the musical ideas passed between generations and genres; to the personal journeys of not just legendary icons but those previously lost between the pages of history. And then there’s the jaw-dropping fact-bomb in pretty much every episode — Oh, Bo Diddley wanted to beat Ed Sullivan with a guitar? Oh, Folsom Prison Blues was basically lifted from a song called Crescent City Blues? It’s endless. And fantastic. I’m apparently very late to the party and barely through episode 50 but I can.not.wait. to enjoy what’s to follow. Thanks to the host and creator.
  • Zusya
    Awesome, unique, insightful history
    As said elsewhere, this is not just about music, but how music shaped culture and was shaped by it. Hickey covers individual musicians and songwriters, including an amazing amount of “six degrees” (more often “one degree”) of who was in which group when, the numerous influences behind any and every song, etc. Where else might you hear about the evolution of popular music as America evolved from train travel to car travel? I especially appreciate his (accurate) perspective that there is no “first” anything. He is always natural and accessible for a non-musician like me. He comes not as a critic, insider, or historian, but as a simple lover of music who want to know and share more about what he loves; I’m guessing he would be doing his prodigious and detailed research even without a podcast. His concern for content is perfectly balanced with awareness for social issues, personal reactions, and the quality of the music as music. For a taste, I highly recommend the episodes on “Flying Home,” “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “How High the Moon,” Buddy Holly, “House of the Rising Sun,” and, of course, The Beatles. Or pick some favorite songs or artists. Thank you, Andrew. I am looking forward to many months of listening and learning.
  • Bonaventure Guy
    Andrew Hickey is to History what Anthony Bourdain was to Anthropology
    This podcast is not just interesting musicological history; it’s brilliant History, period. His synthesis of sources, interweaving of threads, contextualization, and use of examples (the 30-second song clips work perfectly) make for captivating unfolding stories. As a recent article written about this series said, this podcast is the absolute perfect use of this medium.
  • funnyjpb
    So interesting
    This is a fascinating history, explaining how politics, war, racism, technology, culture, and individual genius & personality all influenced the development of rock and roll.
    Best Music Podcast/Pop Music History Evah
    I am not one to indulge in purple prose. Hickey is a wonderful historian and a great orator. He has uncovered historical gems that even a well read music nerd like me had overlooked, and much more, he has set the music in it's creative and historical mileiu with a rigor that blows me away. I wept during the 'Dark Star' episode, not just because it brought back wonderful memories of seeing The Dead with my sister, but because of how impressed I was at Hickey's feat of weaving of together so much information into a incredibly compelling work of narrative art in it's own right. A+.
  • Random Guy Noticing Stuff
    Truly unique
    Consistently very interesting, with facts and analysis that reflect serious research. I have recommended this to everyone I know.
  • NJinLA
    Fantastic show, but....
    ...audio levels are all screwed up. Needs normalization to be fully listenable.
  • PittsburghTom
    Andrew is a treasure
    I’m a former national journalist and nonfiction author who loves popular music and music history, and I’m here to tell you that Andrew brings top-flight research, analysis, and storytelling tools to this series. Andrew seems to take little in the record for granted, clearly checking sources against sources, acknowledging when facts are in dispute, and revising the dogma with a more rigorously researched account. I don’t think he does much primary research, but his review of the public domain is so thorough that his accounts seem as definitive as anything possible, particularly given that so many of his subjects have passed away. Now of this rigor diminishes the strength of his storytelling. The narrative structure shines clearly through the myriad characters, contexts, and themes spanning the decades. While I especially enjoy the through-line of musical influences, Andrew’s treatment of artists and works in their cultural contexts is compelling. As someone who grew up with the music, and the racial and political struggles that surrounded it, his accounts ring of authenticity to me. I guess it’s inevitable these days that Andrew’s political orientation and sensitivity to personal identity arouse some hackles. But he’s explicit and unapologetic about his views and presents them in sufficiently limited doses to enrich the podcast without interfering with the material that brings people here. I’ve just supported Andrew on Patreon and wish him the best in bringing this outrageously ambitious project to completion.
  • AmaZinginer
    A wonderful podcast narrative of some of the best songs and artists (warts and all) of the 20th century.
  • PDX Hipstar
    Fantastic Scholarship!
    I don’t always agree with Andrew’s conclusions, but his process is impeccable.
  • MacShifty
    A Masters Class in rock and music history. Bravo Andrew Hickey!
    I have now listened to 30-plus episodes and along with the Good Ol Grateful Deadcast, in my opinion, these are the two best music podcasts out there. The research is incredible and put together brilliantly. Special kudos to episodes on the Grateful Dead (165), Otis Redding (163), Mothers of Invention (140), Velvet Underground (164), Turtles (154), The Band (167), Sam Cooke (122), Kinks (155), Beach Boys (99) and Beatles (100, one of many).
  • MervAdrian
    Packed With Details and Insight
    When I was 11 years old, my family moved from Canada to the US. As we drove across the Rainbow Bridge, I was allowed to tune the car radio to a local station. And that’s when I heard Sitting in the LaLa for the first time. I’d never heard anything like it, or at least I didn’t connect it to the Fats Domino songs I sang myself in talent shows years earlier. Those kinds of connections to sources, across genres, players, writers, forming a web of culture, are the stuff of a Herculean piece of work Andrew Hickey has undertaken. Every new episode details the links we may hear, or suspect - or not - in delightful ways, helping us hear just where that sound came from and how it got there. Along the way, in the notes, there are priceless links to originators, contemporaries, collaborators and more. If you want to know more about the music you love, or hear things that will revive memories or inspire new exploration, this is the place. And along the way, you’ll get a taste of music theory, and a delightful accent to wrap it all in. My favorite podcast, and I can’t wait for the next one.
  • Scott RF
    Ridiculously Satisfying
    Thorough, clever, humble (despite evident mastery of the material) and always respectful, Andrew Hickey’s podcast is truly world class. Episodes often have jaw dropping “easter eggs”, and even if these were the only takeaways, it would surely be worth the time - but there is so much more. Details excavated from an impressive range of sources are scoured for relevance, carefully threaded together, and phrased just right. The result is a captivating journey that always lands. Hickey often goes off on (what seems like) a tangent, and then it hits with sledgehammer impact as he pulls the story together. Hickey has an obvious passion for conveying the human story of the musician(s), the historic significance of the record in the timeline(s) of Rock, the ability to convey his awe and appreciation of extraordinary circumstances without sounding hyperbolic, and the sophistication to cogently relate much of this to society’s state in that time. The combo of it all is often delightfully bewildering, and nearly always ridiculously satisfying.
  • Niño 1727
    New to this podcast but it was so good. Very thorough and informative. The first episode I listened to was on Sittin On The Dock Of The Bay - by Otis Redding. It was great. Can’t wait to start listening to the other episodes.
  • Jojo998654331
    I missed the early rock era. I became aware of music about the time the Beatles hit the scene. But as I got older I followed the folk scene more closely than rock. So I’m grateful to Andrew for bringing me up to speed, and helping me to get dishes washed, laundry folded, and baseboards painted.
  • Velezia
    Listener needs to overlook his boring personal political hot takes
  • Local Seattle Guy
    The research is superb. Contrary to popular belief even the “Dark Star” episode is accessible and captures the listener. If only this went past 1999.
  • WhiteMarkBaseHook
    THE Podcast For Rock Music Lovers
    Impeccably researched, entertainingly presented, fascinating, and thought-provoking, this podcast is a music lover’s dream.
  • Podcastledanger
    Tour de Force
    Hard to imagine a podcast more exciting and creative while at the same time being simply massive. Each episode is almost like a short book: intricately researched, beautifully written, and absolutely fascinating. Hickey has a wonderfully humane personal touch and respect for the listener, in addition to the amazing level of detail. Caution bingers: This one could really get on top of you. Friends, family and boss will be calling to find out where you went.
  • Pho. Bolo. H.
    I am late to the party but the party is going strong. This podcast is genius. Vast amounts of research went into it and you will be blown away. I would give it ten stars.
  • hook orcas
    Each Episode Beautifully Crafted
    I have listened to every episode and I always look forward to the next one. Obscure stories and bands come to life. I am now interested in bands that I could have cared less about. Andrew weaves a great story and sets you up for a thoughtful conclusion for each episode. My friends complaining that I am now a know-it-all about this subject. Thoroughly enjoying it!!! Thank you.
  • Original111
    I’m a late-comer to this show, but it is already my favorite of the many I listen to. While I’m sorry to have missed this party up until now, I’m thrilled to know that catching up with this back catalog will fill the back half of my 2023.
  • mikeyp99
    Andrew Hickey presents a fascinating and incredibly well researched history of rock music. He carefully separates fact from fiction
  • GoldenGrlzzz001
    In a sea of low-effort podcasts narrated by unqualified people reading Wikipedia pages, this podcast stands out. Well researched and respectfully conveyed music history. Subscribed!
  • Bobby492
    Great podcast
    So well researched and thorough. Great job Andrew!
  • Federico431
    Well Researched, Fascinating
    I love this podcast. Even if you think you know the band or the song Andrew makes connections you never thought about, takes you down paths you never knew existed. Indispensable.
  • J9MLR
    Well researched
    I can’t believe I just listened to a podcast that was over 3 hours. So good! I feel like I understand my own place in history better. Hoping for more.
  • amoock
    Thorough histories and on point cultural insights
    If you’re looking for a good music podcast, I’d highly recommend this one by British writer and part-time musician Andrew Hickey. I’m 60 episodes in and really digging it. To tell any history well requires telling many histories at once. This is a podcast about the development and flourishment of a musical genre but, ultimately, it’s the story of evolving cultural forces and, especially, of race in America. I was a little skeptical at first that a white Brit whose previous work includes novels about the occult and reference books on 1960s “Doctor Who” episodes was up to the task, but I’m fully sold. In his slow, slightly stilted voice, Hickey presents each show (one per song) with deep humility about what he does and doesn’t –– and can and cannot –– know. His research is thorough and his cultural insights are on point. In fact, I think his outsider-ness is a major contributing factor to the nuance of his commentary: a modern day de Tocqueville. Great listen.
  • Hoosier1966
    I love the podcas! Be well, Andrew!
    I love how you build on the various aspects of the evolution of rock. Especially happy for your acknowledgement of the essential role that Black people played, they gave us this music!
  • Jeff987654321
    Buckle your seat belt!
    Prepare to have your assumptions challenged and your world shaken. But that’s ok! The WORST thing that could happen is you’ll hear some great stories and learn things you never knew about the music we love!
  • Paul C. Wohnk
    Exceptional! Informative and Entertaining
    Andrew Hickey squeezes a master's thesis worth of information into each of these podcast episodes, with a breadth of coverage from music theory to Amazonian explorers to microbiology, but it's all fascinating. If you liked James Burke's "Connections" TV series, you'll love this. Or if you're just a fan of rock music and want to go into deep dives on the greatest music of the past century, check this out!
  • Mickeleh
    Blown away. A great story-teller explores great music
    I just discovered Andrew Hickey’s pod on the history of Rock when he published the episode on “Dark Star” (no. 165 in a planned series of 500). I immediately scrolled to the first episode and I’m bingeing my way through. The episodes are a meticulously and deeply researched, covering the history (and prehistory) of Rock music from about 1938 through 1999. It’s a podcast, but it's also a blog, book series, Twitter feed (TMBG and Doc Searls follow him there), RSS Feed, MixCloud (supplementing the podcasts with complete playlists of the songs excerpted in the podcast.), and, of course, a Patreon that unlocks bonus content. The story Hickey tells centers on the musicians—and what they took from and gave to each other in creating new music. The story can't be told fully without bringing in the impresarios, agents, managers, deejays, producers, and and rogue exploiters. ("Men who have the power to take some spotty teenager with a guitar and turn him into a god, at least for the course of a three minute pop song.”) Everything we learn about that music is set into the context of social, economic, racial, technical, business and gender turmoil. I've never found anything with the scope, depth, and joy of Andrew Hickey's work. Most of the episodes are a concise 25-minutes or so. But on rare occasions, they stretch out longer. Sometimes much longer. The one on Grateful Dead's "Dark Star," is four hours and thirty-nine minutes, The one before that on Velvet Underground runs three-hours, twenty. Every episodes contains unexpected nuggets of revelation.
  • wholly carter
    Came for VU, stayed for the whole thing
    Amazing podcast, esp. the VU episode which demonstrates a deep understanding of the band’s queer and avant roots. The Dead episode that immediately follows is a great intro for non-Deadheads as it does not spare judgement of the bands flaws or their fans’ excesses. Started listening from the beginning and have learned a lot, esp about early British rock, of which I knew almost nada. Laughing at the reviewers who complain about the host’s politics, these are the same people who think CNN is “radical-left.” Welcome to 21st century public discourse, y’all can go home alone now to your panic rooms and polish your Pat Buchanan and Ayn Rand busts while waiting forever for your self-invented woke-ocolypse.
  • Winterland Lives
    Here we go, the San Francisco scene, at last to Zac a
    First of all, Andrew, great podcast ! I have been enjoying being able to binge listen (perfect for listening at the gym), but now I am unfortunately caught up :-(, but at least it is about one of my favorite eras in California Rock music. While not born in CA, I have been here since 1961, so I definitely remember The Summer Of Love, although I didn’t really understand it, being ten years old at the time. Both from afar (grew up in LA) and later from up close (college in the greater Bay Area), this was always one of my favorite musical eras. However, you are right, my best friend is from Detroit, and while he is very into music, it is only in his sixties that he is hearing a lot of this music, as I guess that this music didn’t travel as well as I would have expected. Keep up the good work, Andrew, it is appreciated, not only by me, but everyone else that I have told about this podcast. And take care of yourself ! While I would like a new episode every day, I am happy to wait as long as it takes. I want you there with us for the 500th song (although I wonder if I will be :-) ). It gives us both something to live for, and that is a very good thing. Finally, I have been listening to Jefferson Airplane from their beginning and I have always heard Marty Balin’s name pronounced the way that you do in the episode. So, if it is incorrect, don’t feel too bad, most of us are right there with you.
    Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead
    As a big time life long fan of these two bands I thought both episodes were exceptional . The background on the band’s influences was well done though I think the California ideology was a John Barlow view not a Grateful Dead template. I also feel that it should be the full expression - and so it goes , to get the full impact of the phrase. Overall I think these long podcasts are time well spent in understanding these two American treasures of twenty century music and social culture.
  • Budrocket1
    Stop Making It About YOU
    Moralistic woke nonsense delivered with all the excitement of an undertaker reviewing one’s burial options. The research is good but like too many people of his generation Hickey makes it about himself and HIS discomfort with events. If I wanted to be judged I’d go to church. He reminds me of Albert Goldman - it’s clear actually resents his subjects. Probably because he’s a failed musician himself. Hickey is exactly the “suede and denim police” purity patrol the Dead Kennedys were talking about in California Uber Alles. Stick to train spotting and leave the hypocritical moralizing to the right wing, junior.
  • screaming parrot
    You might think there is nothing more to say about many classic rock songs yet this podcast consistently dives deep, finds musical antecedents, brings the listener back to the era of each song and makes the analysis of each song a real story that transports the listener back to the world in which the song first was heard. Accessible for the casual listener but with enough musical details to hold the attention of a musician who may know how to play many of these songs but doesn’t know their origins story. Highly recommended for music lovers
  • thesunsetter
    My GOAT
    This podcast is the best. Well researched and just the right length for me who wants to know all there is about this music but doesn’t have time to read these days. Andrew is a reliable narrator and takes us on a fantastic voyage through a history of great songwriting and the artists behind these songs. One feels that he toils and suffers to get it right which is what anyone should do to accomplish anything great, which he has. Highest recommendation
  • tonyhackett28
    Never less than 5 stars
    I look forward to Andrew’s podcast more than any other show that I follow. His research is well done. His presentation is without pretense and always first serves the history just as Charlie Watts’ drumming always first served the song. I’m particularly impressed with this Dark Star episode. I’m no great fan of the Dead, but the way he brought humanity to the tragic keyboardist situation of the band and simply refused to play along with the running joke that many have allowed it to become. Bravo! I hope he finds 500 more songs after this show gets done!
  • Slashdog
    Generally Good
    This podcast provides a deep dive into music history and is generally thorough and informative. The host mostly does a great job of telling the stories and is clear and, from what is can tell, very accurate. He tends to paint a complete picture and capture great context. The only drawback is that the host sneaks in his political believes which seem to be driven by extreme Leftist propaganda prevalent in todays media rather than the liberal leanings that used to be common for musicians and this in turn impacts his credibility just a bit. Overall it is well worth a listen if you are interested in the topic of a particular episode.
  • ReedyBoyyyy
    Best podcast on the planet
    #1 podcast, dude is a treasure!!!!
  • WaltMcQ
    It’s truly amazing how he ties it Al together from the very beginning.
  • bigthemat
    Loving this!! But one request
    Andrew, I’ve learned soooo much already and I love listening. I appreciate your thoroughness, and how you approach sensitive topics. My one request is the levels between voice and the music excerpts. At least for me in the car, I’m constantly having to turn the volume up and down to hear each part. I dunno if it’s an EQ setting or something I can fix on my end, but yeah that’s it. My only complaint haha. Can’t wait to keep learning more over the next 400ish songs
  • Punk Roper
    Simply brilliant
    Andrew Hickey has created an insightful, provocative, and illuminating series about the history of rock ‘n’ roll through his unique lens which rivals that of the best Leica ever made. On occasion I’m a rock ‘n’ roll DJ and by listening to Hickey’s podcast (I’m only up to episode 50) I’ve learned more in the past year about rock, blues, country, and rockabilly than I had in the previous 61! If you become a Patreon supporter you’ll gain access to lots of bonus material. For fans of rock this podcast is essential listening.
  • ClubNed
    A Real Work of Art
    This podcast is truly amazing — highly informative yet extremely entertaining, incredibly well-researched but lovingly recounted. It’s an amazing feat to so expertly structure, word, and edit a deep-diving, wide-ranging topic such as this. I was first told about it a few months ago, and started at episode 1, while the podcast itself was up to episode 160. I’m proud to say that I’m not on episode 162 out of 164. Start now at episode 1 and meet your new obsession.
  • Granted27
    Fabulous in every way
    Andrew Hickey is a gift! His knowledge of this topic is unparalleled and he has a lovely way of delivering the story, connecting the dots and leading us through an amazing period of music history. Thank you for the passion and energy!
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