Well, It’s Friday – This One Is Just for Fun
[Perhaps during a recent fever dream] it seemed to me that the history of Rock’n’Roll more or less paralleled that of the family tree of the Reptilia. Let’s see if you agree.
Early Carboniferous = Robert Johnson in the 30s
Robert Johnson in the 30s, was credited by Eric Clapton as “the most important blues singer that ever lived,” and, as everyone knows, the immediate roots of rock and roll lay in the rhythm and blues. In this analogy Johnson represents Gephyrostegus along with the origin of the amniote egg, the basic trait common to all reptiles. For tens of millions of years there wasn’t much more evolution in reptiles, convergent with the lack of progress over the next few decades in the prehistory of rock’n’roll.
A Basal Split?
There’s no real analogy to the basal split in the reptile family tree in the history of rock’n’roll because rock was performed and enjoyed by both genders, AM and FM, tape and disc, all races, electric and unplugged, greasers, long hairs, tough guys, transgenders, squeeky-clean bubblegummers and dark disturbed spirits. So given that lack, we move on…
Late Carboniferous = the early 50s
Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Lloyd Price, Big Mama Thornton all represent the bluesy rumblings of Rock in the early 50s, distinct from the sounds of Jazz (Armstrong) and Swing (Sinatra) that preceded the Rock Era. In the reptile family tree these artists were analogous to the early synapsids, millerettids, romeriids, diadectids and captorhinids at the base of the reptile tree. They, too, had their day.
Permian = the late 50s
Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis lit a fire under Rock, just as Coelurosauravus, Eudibamus, Lanthanosuchus took reptiles to new levels of bizarreness, gaudiness and speed. These were only hints at what was to come.
The Great Permian/Triassic Extinction Event
Some experts say that the era of Pat Boone and James Darren (1960-1963) almost killed rock, paralleling the Permian/Triassic extinction event. Luckily there were survivors in the form of the Kingsmen, Del Shannon and the Ventures and in the realm of reptiles, Prolacerta, Proterosuchus, Paliguana, Macrocnemus and Thrinaxodon.
Triassic = the 60s
The greatest flowering of Rock was paralleled by the greatest flowering of reptiles, replacing the earlier artists. The British Invasion (archosaurs) led by the Beatles (the dinosaurs) overtook the established American artists like Elvis (therapsids). Early archosauriforms, like Proterosuchus, were notable for the Kinks in their snouts. [groan] Cosesaurus opened new Doors. Longisquama was the psychedelic one, a Triassic Jimi Hendrix. Some Triassic reptiles, like Icarosaurus and pterosaurs, took to the air. Parallels in rock include such lofty artists as the Moody Blues and Jefferson Airplane. Others, the Enaliosauria, took to the sea. These are best represented in the Rock world by the surf music of the Beach Boys, the Surfaris and the Chantays.
Jurassic = the 70s
Rock took a darker turn in the 70s with Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Their monstrous chords were echoed by the footfalls of giant sauropods. Rock expanded into various clades, Glam Rock (Bowie), Blues Rock (Led Zeppelin) and others, mostly continuations of clades we had seen before (T-rex (the band) and the Yardbirds respectively) as in the theropods and sauropods of the Jurassic. Rock stars filled auditoriums as these giant dinos fill museums.
Cretaceous = the 80s
The 80s gave us Journey, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, U2, Queen and Billy Idol. The Cretaceous gave us ankylosaurids, hadrosaurids, ceratopsians and giant pterosaurs (make your own analogies). Flock of Seagulls (= Ichthyrornis?) had the weirdest hairstyles. Cretaceous tapejarids had the weirdest skull crests. Birds were widespread in the Cretaceous (Chrissie Hynde, Madonna and Debbie Harry come to mind), but by the 80s the Byrds themselves had evolved into other bands and was pretty much extinct. So the analogy is not perfect.
The K-T Extinction Event
65 million years ago, most of the dinosaurs, all of the sea reptiles, pterosaurs and other clades became extinct. In Rock that happened in 1990 when very few decent albums were produced – just prior to the appearance of Nirvana.
Tertiary = the 90s to the Present Day
Traditional rock (the reptiles) faded with the rise in hip-hop (mammals expand), the pop music of the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears (modern birds). Some living fossils (the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, the Beach Boys) continued to tour. Lots of new mammal species appeared (Pearl Jam, Green Day, No Doubt, Coldplay), but bird divas (Adele, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry seem to rule the day.
The Ice Age
With the replacement of vinyl with CDs and the replacement of CDs with digital downloads to IPods, rockers and record sales plummeted, just like the temperatures. Several times the death of rock was announced, but new bands and singers kept popping up. Nowadays just a few artists make it to the top and their songs stay on the charts for weeks – unlike the ’60s when fantastic songs got knocked off the list every week by others outcompeting them.
Really, how far can this analogy stretch? Had enough? Me too. Crazy.
Since we’re on the topic of “Fun”
Just uploaded: a FREE online children’s book I wrote and illustrated called “Don’t Spank Hank.” You can access this 60-page, rhyming, easy-reader here or by clicking the image to the left. No pop-ups. No banners. Just the book. Once you’re on the double-page spread, move your mouse cursor to the right corners to flip the pages.
Learn more about the book here. If you like it, tell your friends and show your children.