The Rock Canon: Canonical Values in the Reception of Rock Albums, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Rock Canon

Canonical Values in the Reception of Rock Albums, 1st Edition

By Carys Wyn Jones


182 pages

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Canons are central to our understanding of our culture, and yet in the last thirty years there has been much conflict and uncertainty created by the idea of the canon. In essence, the canon comprises the works and artists that are widely accepted to be the greatest in their field. Yet such an apparently simple construct embodies a complicated web of values and mechanisms. Canons are also inherently elitist; however, Carys Wyn Jones here explores the emerging reflections of values, terms and mechanisms from the canons of Western literature and classical music in the reception of rock music. Jones examines the concept of the canon as theorized by scholars in the fields of literary criticism and musicology, before moving on to search for these canonical facets in the reception of rock music, as represented by ten albums: Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, The Beatles' Revolver, The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St., Patti Smith's Horses, The Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols, and Nirvana's Nevermind. Jones concludes that in the reception of rock music we are not only trying to organize the past but also mediate the present, and any canon of rock music must now negotiate a far more pluralized culture and possibly accept a greater degree of change than has been evident in the canons of literature and classical music in the last two centuries.


'… the role of canons within popular music is certainly worth exploring further and this book surely provides some incentives'. International Association for the Study of Popular Music ’Carys Wyn Jones succeeds in bringing debates over a rock canon and its making into popular music studies. Insofar as canon formation remains an understudied and undertheorised issue within the field, this is a welcome addition.’ Popular Music ’The Rock Canon should prove useful both for courses limited to popular music, and for courses in musicology that aim to take a broad or long view; it is also a subject of intrinsic and general interest.’ Music and Letters

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Defining the canon; Aesthetic criteria and the work of art in the reception of rock albums; Canonical narratives, structure and the test of time in the reception of rock albums; The canonical values of rock; Canonical discourse and the question of authority in rock; The rock canon and the future of canons in our culture; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General