ALL IN THE FAMILY Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees Books

 

Even More Rock Family Trees
is the latest in the veteran rock journalist’s collection of award-winning,
rock-geek bibles.

 

By REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

Music
Journalist Pete Frame has enjoyed the sort of career that any music fan would
give his or her eye teeth to experience. Frame was the founder of the British
music magazine ZigZag, acting as the
publication’s editor from 1969 through 1973, and again later from 1976 through
1978. He managed the English cult band Starry Eyed & Laughing, worked as an
A&R man for the Charisma Records label and as press officer (publicist) for
the legendary Stiff Records label.

 

Since
1979, Frame has made his living directly as a writer, contributing to
publications like New Music Express, Melody Maker, Rolling Stone, and others. He has also been a producer on several
documentaries for BBC radio, including tributes to Buddy Holly, Leonard Cohen,
Elvis Presley, and Frank Zappa. Frame is best-known, however, not for his pen
but rather for his penmanship, as the creator of intricate, detailed, and
fascinating “rock family trees” that provide a genealogical history
of various bands, right down to the names of individual members and what
instrument they play.

 

Frame
first began creating his rock family trees for ZigZag, putting together a chart on the Byrds for an issue in 1970,
following it with a chart for British blues pioneer John Mayall a couple of
issues later. By the magazine’s 21st issue, published in July 1971, Frame
landed on the “family tree” format that he’s followed ever since,
putting together a complex Al Kooper genealogy. These rock family trees have
been used in the packaging of recordings by folks like Eric Clapton, Iron Maiden, Talking Heads, and many more, and
were the basis for two six-part BBC television series during the 1990s that
were narrated by the late John Peel.

 

(Below: Frame, left, with journalist Kris
Needs and BBC TV presenter Magenta DeVine circa the late ‘70s or early ‘80s)

 

 

 

 

Frame’s
work has also been published in a number of books. The first Rock Family Trees collection was
published in 1979, and a second book, Rock
Family Trees, Vol. 2
, in 1983; the two volumes later combined in 1993 as a
single book, The Complete Rock Family
Trees
. Frame took the series in a different direction with 1997’s The Beatles & Some Other Guys, which
covered in no little detail the British rock music scene of the 1960s, and
followed it up a year later with the More
Rock Family Trees
collection.

 

After
taking some time to put together the exhausting and entertaining The Restless Generation, a 500-page
history of British rock in the 1950s, a decade of Frame’s work has culminated
in the recently-published Even More Rock
Family Trees
. Since that first chart in ZigZag,
Frame has created some 140 family trees tying together over 2,000 bands and
artists. Today, as they were 40 years ago, Frame’s rock family trees are
hand-drawn and notated on large 4′ x 3′ sheets of paper that are then scanned
and reduced in size for publication. Sometimes a particular family tree is so crammed
with details that a reader has to reach for a magnifying glass (or, for us old
geezers, magnified reading glasses) to take it all in.

 

 

 

 

Even More Rock Family Trees features 33 absurdly-annotated
genealogical charts of various bands that were created by Frame from the 1980s
through the 2000s, and while there is some overlap with previous collections,
there really is precious little duplication between volumes. The over-sized
book begins with a bare-bones history of England’s famed Creation Records
label, outlining the connections between bands like My Bloody Valentine,
Teenage Fan Club, the Boo Radleys, and Oasis, among others. Another quite
detailed tree examines the 15 different Jesus & Mary Chain line-ups,
including information on the band’s recordings during the 1980s and ’90s.

 

Frame
doesn’t restrict his work to just British rock history. His “Grunge: The
Sound of Seattle” digs deep into the roots of popular bands like Pearl
Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden, outlining the evolution of grunge from the early
1980s through the current superstardom of the Foo Fighters. Frame reaches back
to his own youth for a chart on American R&B legends the Drifters,
following the troubled band from its formation by singer Clyde McPhatter in
1953 to the hit-making, late-1950s Ben E. King years, through the final shadow
of the band that gave up the ghost during the mid-1980s.

 

While
Frame has a taste for the classic rock of the 1960s and 1970s, he’s not afraid
to jump in and chronicle more recent bands like Suede or the Lyres. He’s at his
most comfortable with the oldies, though, and his four-page extended Allman
Brothers Band family tree is a thing of beauty for the hardcore fan. “Surf
City Here We Come!” outlines the history of the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, the
Surfaris, and other like-minded bands while his detailed outline of Fleetwood
Mac ties together John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Rod Stewart, Chicken Shack, and
Savoy Brown in a tree of many branches.

 

The
careers of Elton John, Steve Winwood, Roger McGuinn, and Eric Clapton benefit from Frame’s keen eye and steady hand;
ditto for Roxy Music, Rainbow, Fairport Convention, and Emerson, Lake &
Palmer, while Frame’s history of the Boston folk scene, augmented by quotes
from artists like Geoff Muldaur and Amos Garrett, shines a light on a wealth of
often overlooked musical talent. Only one chart in Even More Rock Family Trees wasn’t created by Frame, his acolyte Paul
Barber putting together a fantastic timeline of jazz great Miles Davis’s live
bands from 1955 to 1975.     

 

Admittedly,
Frame’s rock family trees books are for the diehard rock ‘n’ roll geek or OCD-inflicted
music historian, but they’re also a heck of a lot of fun. For those of us who
have spent untold hours peering through the cryptic
credits of the albums and CDs that we’ve spent a lifetime collecting, trying to
piece together the minutiae of our favorite bands and artists, Frame’s efforts
seem downright Herculean.

 

Even More Rock Family Trees carries on the
tradition of excellence begun by artist Pete Frame – and these rock family
trees are, indeed, works of art – over 40 years ago. Be careful, though, ’cause
once you dig into one of these books, you’re going to lose hours at a time
peering through the pages.

 

Pictured below: detail from one of Frame’s classic
punk family trees. Visit Mr. Frame online at the Family Of Rock blog:: http://blog.familyofrock.com/

   

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