From “The Rolling Stone Record Guide” published by Random House/Rolling Stone Press in 1979
A Cappella: Literally, voices singing without instrumental accompaniment. A common approach in gospel music, a capella R&B music enjoyed an East Coast vogue during 1964-66, partly as a reaction to the rise of the Beatles (whom most R&B fans didn’t like) and partly because of the discovery of some practice tapes by the Nutmegs. The Nutmegs records, issued on the Times Square label by Slim Rose, sold only a few thousand copies, but inspired many of the kids who’d been harmonizing in subways and hallways throughout the urban Northeast ("looking for an echo," in the words of the Persuasions‘ song). Some a cappella was overpolished, but some of it was grand, with pure soaring voices. Today, the genre is the almost exclusive province of one group, the Persuasions.
Acid Rock: Music of the psychedelic era often intended to mimic (or replicate) in some fashion the psychedelic drug experience. Examples of acid-rock performers include the early Grateful Dead and the early Pink Floyd. Applied to mid- to late seventies music, acid rock is almost always a sign of diminished faculties. All songs that refer to drugs are not acid rock; the term implies a specific sensibility of the late-Sixties period. No longer a particularly useful term (except in odd instances), for which one can be thankful or remorseful at whim.
Art Rock: Rock is a popular music, and notions of art didn’t enter the picture until the mid-Sixties (with the advent of Bob Dylan’s lyrics and the more baroque works of the Beatles). Art rock generally refers, however, to late Sixties and Seventies forms based upon principles derived from European classical or avant-garde forms. The implication is of high seriousness, often bordering upon or lapsing into pomposity and pretentiousness. Examples of art-rock performers include Emerson, Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Brian Eno and perhaps Roxy Music, among many others.
Art Song: Any ambitious pop song, but more usually such songs that appropriate stylistic elements or devices from European classical music. The kind of ambition is crucial: a folk- or rock-based songwriter (e.g., Jackson Browne) is less likely to find his work labeled "art song" than a pop based one (e.s., Eric Carmen).
Ballad: Originally, an ancient song that told a story, with a long succession of verses and a repeated melody; later, any narrative song. But today, in pop music at least, most slow or midtempo love songs are called "ballads," and non-narrative singers from Frank Sinatra to Billy Joel are sometimes thought of as balladeers.
Baroque: Elaborate, heavily arranged. Borrowed from classical music, where the baroque period stretched from the mid-fifteenth to early-eighteenth century, and includes, among others, the works of J. S. Bach. Used to describe any overly ornate arrangement.
Barrelhouse: Rough and unruly blues piano playing, from the New Orleans brothels (barrelhouses) where it was supposedly first performed. Usually associated with a diving beat, so that any heated piano interlude may sometimes be referred to as "barrelhousing, "
Beat: 1. Rhythm. 2. Fifties bohemians (as beatniks). 3. In English slang, the music of the northern groups who followed the Beatles out of Liverpool, etc. What was called the British Invasion in the US was called, in Britain, the Beat Era.
Big Band: A large (fourteen to twenty pieces) jazz band of the swing era (from 1935 to 1950). Prominent Big Band leaders included Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman, among a host of others. The rise of R&B coincided with the fall from grace of swing and the end of the Big Band Era.
Bluebeat: West Indian pop idiom, the precursor to reggae. In America, only one bluebeat hit enjoyed substantial success, Millie Small’s "My Boy Lollipop." But such reggae stars as Toots and the Maytals originally played bluebeat in the Sixties. See also Reggae.
Bluegrass: Traditional country music form, derived from "old-timey." Bluegrass (the name comes from the Kentucky /Virginia bluegrass region where many of the performers got their start) is string-band music in which the guitar is generally absent; the lead instrument is usually banjo, fiddle or sometimes mandolin. The best-known contemporary bluegrass performers are Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
Blues: Almost every dictionary and reference work available defines blues as a slow, melancholy musical expression. This is in fact grossly inaccurate and misleading. Blues is a basic form of black American musical expression that originated in the South among rural blacks as a twelve-bar form derived from field hollers and perhaps latent Africanisms. But since the Twenties, when the blues reached urban America, it has become an enormously diverse form, ranging from the acoustic (and admittedly I sometimes mournful) country blues of Mississippi John Hurt to the excitable Texas electric guitar and brass section blues of T-Bone Walker (primarily a Texas and Southwestern American expression) to the roaring, electrified Chicago style pioneered by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Blues can be as sophisticated as Jimmy Rushing’s singing with Count Basie, as earthy as Leadbelly or Blind Lemon Jefferson’s work, as "pop" as Bobby "Blue" Bland or B. B. King’s sessions with sophisticated uptown arrangements. In the sense that blues is a matter of emotional content, blues themes are more closely linked with the resiliency and passion of black culture than its more somber, defeatist aspects. Rock & roll is inconceivable without blues as a part of its base, as is jazz. Neither is particularly melancholy-both draw much of their exuberance from blues. Emotionally and musically, blues is a wellspring of American music, arguably the first important native style.
Boogie: This term descended to rock from the jazz form "boogie-woogie," through such recordings as John Lee Hooker’s "Boogie Chillen." Hooker’s relaxed, insistent groove is seemingly the source point for the dozens of rock groups (so-called boogie bands) that play debased forms of blues and rhythm and blues. As a verb, "to boogie" means a sedate swinging of the hips while standing in place, usually in front of a bandstand. Only white people boogie any more, and then only outdated Caucasians-everyone else is at the discotheque doing real dancing. In any event, thinking of what "boogie" has come to represent as a form of dancing is like thinking of a weekend pickup game in the park as the World Series.
Boogie-Woogie: In jazz, music (most often piano music) played eight to the bar, with left-hand bass supporting right-hand improvisation. The style was shaped in clubs and dance halls, emerging in 1928 with "Pine Top’s Boogie-Woogie" by Pine Top Smith and enjoying a substantial national vogue in the late Thirties when Pete Johnson and Joe Turner brought it to New York City. Other notable boogie-woogie performers include pianists Meade Lux Lewis, Cripple Clarence Lofton and Albert Ammons. Boogie-woogie was transferred to guitar by Albert Smith with "’Guitar Boogie" after World War II and was even adapted to country music by the Delmore Brothers, among others. It was this incarnation of the form that was picked up by rock bands.
Bop: Originally be-bop. The style of jazz founded post-World War II by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. The form is characterized by triadal chords with the first and third notes played an octave below the second. In general, bop features soloing based around melodies (many taken from pop songs). It is generally performed by small groups, reflective of the club atmosphere in which it was born, and its period development as a reaction to the big swing bands of the Forties.
Brass Pop: Pop songs centered around brass instruments (most often, trumpets). Pioneered by so-called jazz-rock groups like Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears, brass pop lacks the essential warmth of rock and R&B horn music, which balances the shrillness of trumpets with the mellower tones of saxophones. As a result, brass pop has never been a genre much admired among rock aficionados.
British Blues Revival: A phenomenon of the middle Sixties, when a variety of English performers began to explore the American form, some (John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, the early Fleetwood Mac) with almost slavish devotion, others extrapolating rock excesses to blues form (Cream was the most prominent in this regard). In general, blues in this context meant twelve-bar country or Chicago blues, but how far afield the British interpretations ranged depended on the performer’s imagination, drug-use pattern, good taste (or lack of it) and depth of knowledge of the Real Thing. While it wasn’t always emotionally satisfying, the British Blues Revival did provide an opening for young white Americans to learn about blues, and some of the artists who emerged from British blues-most notably Eric Clapton went on to achieve stylistic identity of their own.
British Invasion: The period, beginning in 1964 with the arrival of the Beatles, during which British rock dominated the charts. The era can be considered to have ended by about 1966, when there was a momentary lull in U.K. new arrivals in the States. Those few months produced, however, a carload lot of bands, including the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who, Kinks, Manfred Mann, Animals, Yardbirds, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddy and the Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits and even lesser lights. This is arguably the golden age of the Sixties, although even nostalgists would have to admit that the attendant hysteria and commerical trappings mark the British Invasion movement as a marketing phenomenon at least as much as a pop or rock renaissance.
Bubblegum: Bubblegum (nasal vocal, heavy beat, moronic lyrics) was the commerical trend of 1968-69. Pioneered by the production team Kastenatz-Katz, and performed by such groups as 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express, who never performed outside the studio and were in fact merely aggregations of studio musicians pulled together for specific record sessions. Geared as it was to the least common denominator of the pop market, Bubblegum earned the quick derision of the "progressive" rock faction, and soon anything insufficiently hip in manner or sound was likely to be tagged "bubblegum." It is this meaning that survives today, although the form is now recognized as a breeding ground for production talent and recording experimentation.