The Internet has been a godsend for music junkies (if not for musicians). Recordings, videos and even basic information about artists that once were difficult or even impossible to find now are just a few clicks away on iTunes, YouTube, Wikipedia and thousands of other sites. But what's harder to find are reviews, articles and interviews from a half-century of music history. That's where Rock's Backpages comes in. The site bills itself as the "ultimate archive of music journalism" of features more than "22,000 classic articles on artists from Aaliyah to ZZ Top, on all genres from rockabilly to hip hop, by the finest music writers of the last 50 years." For example, if you go to the front page of the site you can click on a long feature article on David Bowie from Melody Maker in May 1973, or a piece on The Divinyls from Record in August 1983, or something on Pantera from Kerrang! in May 1994. Here's what the Library Journal wrote after Rock's Backpages was voted runner-up in the niche category in a poll of librarians a couple of years ago:
Rock’s Backpages combines an irresistible lineup of classic fanzines‚ Punk, Trouser Press, Bomp, and Creem‚ with more mainstream staples of the popular music press, including Spin and Rolling Stone. British publications are also included, such as New Musical Express, Uncut, and Mojo, a magazine for which several members of the Backpages team have either edited or written.
Rock's Backpages also features more than original interviews and articles. There are audio interviews, a discussion forum and writers' profiles. Now for the bad news. To access all of what Rock's Backpages has available, you need to get a subscription, and for individuals those run $200 a year (or $150 for six months and $90 for three months). Many academic institutions subscribe to Rock's Backpages, including Berklee College of Music, Columbia University, Harvard University and dozens of others. The good news is that Rock's Backpages offers a number of free articles for users here. So if you want to read a review of the New Musical Express concert in London in April 1963 -- featuring The Beatles and the night's closing act, Cliff Richard and the Shadows -- it's waiting for you. So are pieces on John Cage, Captain Beefheart, Nick Cave, Morrissey, The Pixies, Outkast and dozens of others. Now read this: