From “The Rolling Stone Record Guide” published by Random House/Rolling Stone Press in 1979
Even the most music interested among us can sometimes get lost in all the different labels music journalists and record companies choose to put on recordings. This glossary may help you find your way in this label jungle. As you can see from the text above here this glossary is from 1979 and as this is a retro blog that works alright for me. Besides, any music styles that has emerged since then is of little interest to me, with the possible exception of neo-classic country. I’m sorry to say that dance, trance, hip-hop, rap and the rest simply don’t do it for me – Ted
San Francisco Sound: Although it had always provided it hospitable atmosphere to jazz and other bohemian artists, San Francisco did not become a rock center until the mid-Sixties, as a result of the city’s also becoming the center of the hippie movement. In late 1966 and early 1967, the burgeoning psychedelic dances at the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms spewed out an array of talent that included Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band (featuring Boz Scaggs), Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, and half a dozen more. San Francisco rock, however, owed little to the rockabilly of Elvis Presley or the rhythm & blues of urban blacks in the East. Instead, it insisted on eclecticism and experimentalism, taking more of its form and ideology from jazz and folk music than from rock & roll. In this respect, although the bands above Were obviously influenced visually and socially by the British beat’ bands, they can hardly be said to be rock at all (with the exception of Joplin and Miller). Oddly, the Sixties San Francisco figures whose legacy has proved most substantial were not connected to the hippie Fillmore circuit: Sly Stone, a local DJ and record producer (who had worked with Grace Slick before she joined the Airplane and produced some hits for the local Autumn label), revolutionized soul music; Creedence Clearwater Revival, led by John Fogerty, represented what amounted to a rejection of hippie musical values, pounding out a series of concise, energized three minute singles very much in the rockabilly/R&B tradition. Ironically, all of the surviving San Francisco groups, the Dead and the Airplane, especially-now have abandoned eclectic experimentalism for pop-rock musicfar more formulaic than Sly’s or Creedence’s.
Scat Singing: Wordless vocalizing to the melody of a song, often in imitation of a famous jazz solo. Many jazz singers have claimed to be the originators of scat singing (or, more simply, scatting), but the most important scat singers are probably Eddie Jefferson, Louis Armstrong, King Pleasure and the vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Yoko Ono can be called a scat vocalist only at the risk of looking foolish, however.
Schlock: Literally, garbage, trash, and there is good trash and bad trash in rock (and in all pop culture). "96 Tears" is superlative schlock; "Mandy" by Barry Manilow is mere schlock.
Singer/Songwriter: A performer who both sings and writes, usually one whose musical base is closer to soft-rock pop or folk music, and who might, if performing in one of these genres, be able to do all of his or her material completely solo-with just an acoustic guitar or piano, for instance. Associated with a confessional variety of personal lyric writing, the classic singer/songwriters include Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, but not, say, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney or other similar writer/performers, because their songs are written so that rock band accompaniment and/or orchestration is implicitly necessary.
Skiffle: Craze in England, circa 1956-58, contemporaneous with rock ‘n’ roll and the folk revival movement in the U.S. Skiffle instrumentation was similar to jug-band lineups-washboards proliferated, but with a rhythm inherited from trad or Dixieland jazz. Lonnie Donegan‘s "Rock Island Line" was the best-known skiffle hit, but the ease with which skiffle bands could be formed, just a guitar, a washboard and some sort of jury-rigged bass sufficed) and the simplicity of playing it made it a performance music for amateurs as well as pros. Indeed, John Lennon’s first band, the Quarrymen, was a skiffle group.
Soft Rock: If this seems a contradiction in terms, you’re on the right track. Soft rock is a Seventies creation, some sort of merger between rock and pop that encompasses singer/songwriter music like Jackson Browne‘s, creative pop writing like Randy Newman‘s, and pop with a vague rock beat, such as the songs of Elton John or the Bee Gees. But this doesn’t mean just ballad singing, Elvis Presley wasn’t doing soft rock with "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" although Buddy Holly may have predicted the genre with fluff like "Raining in My Heart,"
Soul: In black slang, soul is a quality of heart, of funkiness, an ineffable feeling that some have and others don’t, a matter of spirit and sensibility. Musically it is possible to be much more precise, soul developed in the late Fifties out of what had been known as rhythm & blues. The principal differences were ones of technical sophistication, although the original transformation had to do with a willingness to break the taboo against adapting gospel songs to secular contexts. This wasn’t merely a matter of reworking elements of religious style into a pop form-which jazz and blues and R&B in particular had always done. In soul, many hits were simply rewritten gospel numbers, Ray Charles’ "What’d I Say," "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and "Lonely Avenue" were erotic rewrites of hymns of praise to God. Also Ben E. King‘s "Stand By Me," which didn’t change even the title of its source song. After Charles’ initial adaptations of gospel. a number of gospel singers converted their music to more carnal imagery-most notably Sam Cooke, though nearly every famous soul singer of the Sixties had some church music in his background. Equally important, however, was the additional sophistication of soul arrangements. The most revolutionary moment, perhaps, came in 1959 with the Drifters‘ "There Goes My Baby," to which producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller added strings. The result was closer to pop, at least on the surface, than R&B had ever been, but it was really neither. The new sound quickly became "soul," which was adopted from the black jargon. In the studios of Atlantic, Stax and Motown records, among others, the genre became an art form, setting a style for Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and dozens more. In Chicago, Curtis Mayfield‘s Impressions and former Impression Jerry Butler were the major artists. Shortly soul was everywhere, although as the list of artists associated with it implies, it was a very elastic term. Not until first Sly Stone, and then Jimi Hendrix, appeared to challenge its conventions did the genre show any sign of flagging, and even then, what has replaced it has done so only slowly.
Surf Music: A basically Southern California trend, surf music began with such hits as the 1961 "Stick Shift" by the Duals (there was an overlapping with hot-rod subject matter), which had what later came to be identified as the surf sound, strong, trebly guitar lines and firm rock rhythms. Dick Dale‘s staccato guitar was actually program music for surfers, designed to simulate the feel of riding the waves. But Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys made the local phenomenon a national craze. The earlier bands above were instrumental, Wilson grafted their sound to the vocal ideas of Jan and Dean ("Baby Talk," 1959), the other major group of the genre, for a series of classic hits in the pre- and post- Beatle early Sixties. The songs were a tribute to California youth and sun worship, with lyrics that depicted in detail a life of cars, girls, the beach and irresponsibility. There was an utter absence of rebellion, which has led some to claim that surf music made rock & roll safe for middleclass ears. The trend died out in 1966, just as psychedelia, which made older concepts of fun seem frivolous, was about to burst in. History may judge, however, that the earlier frivolity was more substantial than the drug-induced naiveté that succeeded it.
Swamp Rock: Somewhat artificial term applied (notably by producer Jerry Wexler) to rock records such as those of John Fogerty’s Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Louisiana country-rock singer Tony Joe White, which sounded down-home in the late Sixties, whether they authentically emerged from the Louisiana bayous (the source of the term) or not. White did, Fogerty didn’t, but history will surely judge Fogerty’s "artificial" work superior.
Swing: Jazz style evolved by the big bands of the late Twenties and throughout the Thirties, and which became a national dance craze, particularly among teens, in the early Forties. Usually played by very large groups. Trumpets, saxophones, drums and piano are featured quite prominently (other instruments are used mostly for rhythm and ensemble passages). The groups often improvised upon standards, although such composers as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Fletcher Henderson created a considerable body of original swing tunes (many of which now qualify as standards). The fad died out after World War II, and the advent of be-bop did much to further erode swing’s base. But the term survives as an ultimate accolade for playing that is free, natural and rhythmically soulful, as in "Charlie Watts makes the Rolling Stones swing," or "Led Zeppelin’s problem is that it just doesn’t swing."