Rock & Roll Gifts
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has established the idea that rock and roll can be fun and educational at the same time. Maybe it was the Rock Hall that got the ball rolling, or maybe it just hitched a ride on the ball, but extravagant projects relating to the music's history are cropping up everywhere. Now that rock music is taken seriously enough to be taught in schools (and institutionalized in a museum), its history has given rise to artifacts worthy of gift-giving, combining information about rock music history with the entertaining glitz rock music is known for.The Rock Hall itself has generated one of the most amusing and colorful of these. It's a record album-sized hardcover book called "The Rock Pack."Its blue jean-patterned cover features an actual pocket holding a CD (which due to the setup will be quickly scratched). Compiled by Rock Hall curator Jim Henke and collaborator Ron Van Der Meer, this is a pop-up style, 3-D book featuring six two-page spreads: one for each decade of rock and roll, one devoted to its roots and the Rock Hall itself and one to the psychedelic era currently celebrated by the Rock Hall's "I Want To Take You Higher" exhibit (itself the subject of another book). Okay, the book is pretty superficial and probably will mostly appeal to kids, but it's a lot of fun. You open to the first spread and a tiny cardboard Rock Hall pops up. A slot contains a fistful of classic guitars. A diagram of a guitar contains an actual piece of elastic representing a string. There are doors, flaps and little booklets everywhere. And yes, there's a pocket with a teeny "Rolling Stone" magazine."The Rock Pack " will remind you of those books you had as a toddler that snapped, tied and buttoned, but there actually is a surprising amount of info tucked into all the nooks and crannies. The CD stuck in the front cover pocket features interviews with rock pioneers and inductees. The"Ultimate Rock Collection" and the"Ultimate Rock Album Guide" (both from Time-Life Music) are like having your own commercial rock radio station right at home. The six-CD, 112-tune "Collection" features the hits and nothing but, starting with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles on disc one, and winding up with Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" on disc six. Each disc features 16-20 of the absolutely best-known songs by artists like Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Chicago, Elton John, Steely Dan, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Tom Petty, Heart, Queen, the Cars, Jimmy Buffett, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, the Pretenders, Blondie, REO Speedwagon, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, U2, the Grateful Dead, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Genesis, Madonna, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins and, yes, Hootie and the Blowfish. Most glaring omission: the Rolling Stones. Unless you've been locked in a closet for over thirty years, you'll probably know every single song. Heck, even kids will known these songs, so often have they been aired. The accompanying soft-cover book features a page for each artist with a full-color reproduction of the cover of the album that the included song came from with its label, year of release and charting information.Two publishers have put together series of comprehensive guides to music that are like having a musical Britannica around the house: both invaluable for reference and fun to just peruse. "The Rough Guides," published in England, are especially amusing due to their blatantly anglophile slant. The initial "Rough Guide to Music" covered world music, an offshoot of the publishers' main business which is publishing alternative, adventure-oriented travel guides. They've since added Rough Guides to rock, classical music on CD, opera, jazz and (the latest) reggae. They're all small, thick paperbacks with prices ranging from about $18-27. Then there are the "All-Music Guides" from Miller Freeman books. These are also small, fat paperbacks, available for rock, blues, jazz and country. There's also an overall music guide that features those genres and 16 others, including new age, folk, reggae, 20th-century avant garde, soundtrack, Celtic, Cajun and gay music. These guides range from $18-$28. If you're feeling generous, give someone a whole library.Two pioneers of rock are represented by especially gift-worthy video collections. There's the $150 "Beatles Anthology," a companion piece to a CD-package released in the last couple of years, features eight volumes and ten hours of never-before-officially-released footage (though we're willing to bet they were bootlegged!) And there's "Elvis: The Concert Collection" with three videos in a handsome black, gold-stamped box: "1968 Comeback Concert," "Aloha From Hawaii," and "One Night With You."The former two are widely considered to be his last hurrah before he sank into overweight, jump-suited Vegasdom.