TODAY is the birthday of Mick Jagger (he's 40), Brenton Wood (42) and Roger Taylor of Queen (34). Says so right there in "The Pages of Rock History," a labor of love for two local record industry mavens.
Tomorrow, you might sing a quiet happy birthday to Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio, Kim Fowley, Bobby Gentry, Peggy Fleming, David Muse of Firefall, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, Homer of Homer and Jethro and Leo Durocher. Leo Durocher?
"Our whole premise is that there is a rock 'n' roll spirit that transcends the strict definition of rock musicians and the rock business," says Rich Rothschild, regional merchandising and marketing director for CBS Records. "That's why you don't see Wayne Newton or Liberace, but you do see Frank Sinatra and Paul Revere . . . actually, both Paul Reveres" (Jan. 1, 1735, for the Colonial messenger; March 9, 1944, for the Raiders' colonially garbed lead singer, Mark Lindsay).
The book is a jolly compendium of birth dates, deaths, major record release dates, chart debuts and events "relative to the spirit and history of rock." Like the birth of Stonewall Jackson, who died a century before rock was born, but who, according to the book's introduction, is included because he "had the spirit of rock: a direct, fast, determined life style with a driven cause. He died young pursuing his dream, advancing toward it full-boogie."
Rothschild and his cowriter, Sean Bricknell, are classic rock 'n' roll fans (their bios at the back of the book point out they both live at home with their record collections, though Rothschild also has a wife, Lynda). They first met as promo men, Bricknell working for Elektra/Atlantic and Rothschild for Columbia (he'd been the label's college rep while a senior at American University, where he was also music director at WAMU).
Rothschild first started collecting information in high school as a hobby. "My original goal in life was to be a rock 'n' roll disc jockey," he says, and so he started accumulating record company bios, newspaper clippings, magazines and rock books. "And I started keeping a notebook on anything I thought would mean something to somebody in the future. I figured someday to use it as shtick for my radio program." The deejay dream didn't come true, but "since I had the stuff in the notebook, I used it for fun--on my telephone answering machine, in reports and newsletters."
The two authors first came together when they were both posted to Virginia Beach, Bricknell for Elektra, Rothschild for CBS. "We were competitors, but also allies because we were the only two record industry people that lived in that market." Bricknell was also the music critic for the Virginia Pilot.
In September 1982, the duo started to transform the "sloppy notebook into a real book." There have been other books with birth date-style information, but Rothschild thinks they have been filled with "piecemeal information. They're certainly not as complete or as diversified." "The Pages of Rock History" (there are 284 of them) has more than 5,000 entries and 215 photographs. Fortunately, there is an index at the back.
The writers did extensive research, getting at least two sources for every date. Bricknell went through the Billboard charts to verify chart events "and both of us worked on putting the index together," says Rothschild. The book, published by the Downing Company, is currently being marketed in record stores only. "It's the natural market," says Rothschild. "Eventually our publisher will be soliciting the bookstores, but we're both experienced in the record business and we felt it would get most attention where people buy records. After all, they're already interested in the music and they're in there."
At $6.95, the book is priced comparably with a record (or at least with the price of records a few years ago). There are other music flourishes, as well: a reader's questionnaire that may provide the gist of a future rock book (and will hopefully plug up holes for an updated edition) and a T-shirt offer featuring a full-color reproduction of the cover. The book has been out for a couple of weeks now, but there has yet to be a signing party a la rock ("though I did sign some for my mom," Rothschild points out).
"There are some events in the book we wish we were at," says Rothschild. Like the one that closes the book and is a fan's dream come true. "We are rock 'n' roll fans and that's why we did the book."
The entry reads: "Miami Steve Van Zandt weds Maureen Santoro in New York City's Harkness House. Little Richard performs the ceremony with Bruce Springsteen as best man. Little Milton and Gary U.S. Bonds perform at the reception." That's rock 'n' roll.