Milwaukee author David Luhrssen is at it again.
Luhrssen published what he thinks is his 11th book; when
you’ve published as many as he has, and you write and
edit daily as a journalist, it becomes difficult to keep
count. The latest Luhrssen book is “Encyclopedia of
Classic Rock” and
was written with Luhrssen’s longtime friend Michael
Larson, an attorney and instructor at Waukesha’s
Guitar for Life Studio.
a much-abused term, classic rock,”
Luhrssen said in an interview. The term describes
the “period of time where (rock music) reached this
high plateau,” he added.
by Greenwood Publishing Group Inc., the hardback
encyclopedia totals 430 pages and is available as an
eBook and via Amazon.com. It concentrates on 1965-’75,
summing up the careers of many alphabetically indexed
individual performers and groups, from the late
singer-songwriter David Ackley to the band ZZ Top.
few of the entries between Ackley and ZZ are Chicago,
Uriah Heep, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Turtles.
James Taylor is represented also, along with the Beach
Boys, the Bee Gees, Judy Collins, Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf
Islam), Janis Joplin, the Marshall Tucker Band — even
The Left Banke, whether or not the reader has ever heard
of that organized-in-New York group or its 1966 hit
“Walk Away Renee.”
of the entries are terms of the times: British Invasion,
Bubblegum, Funk and Psychedelia. A chronology
is included, too, blending the decade’s musical
milestones with its political happenings.
David Luhrssen and Michael Larson wrote
“Encyclopedia of Rock.”
longest entry is the one for David Bowie, who passed
away last year (“People kept dying as I was writing
the book,” Luhrssen said). Bowie “remains so
influential in so many different ways,” the author
explained. Almost as lengthy, at 4 1/2 pages, as the
Bowie essay is the tome’s article on the Beatles,
whose mop-haired members merit individual articles as
band,” the encyclopedia insists, “had a more
transformative effect on rock music and world culture”
than the Fab Four.
think it’s a very user-friendly book,”
the veteran author-editor assessed, one with
“a scholarly aspect to it,” yet
“accessible” in its writing. “It’s a fair-minded
yet opinionated book,” Luhrssen continued, and
“not just a dry recitation, (since) there’s a
kind of analysis.” The aforementioned 4 1/2-page
article cites the Beatles’ “contagious wit ...
sartorial style ...
boisterous lunacy ...
(and) willingness to say anything” following their
inaugural, 1964 get-together with Bob Dylan. It cites as
well “the haunting ‘Love Me Do,’”
the “major cultural event” that was the album
“Sgt. Pepper” and the Fab Four’s “mixing
Tin Pan Alley with rock and roll and rhythm and
for more than 40 years, Luhrssen and Larson, the former
countless hours in high school talking about” music
from the period the encyclopedia covers — even though
the pair graduated a few years after said period ended.
The fact is, 1965-’75 was
“a unique period in rock music,” in
Luhrssen’s words. By the dawn of the period rock music
had become “an art form,” a circumstance rockers who
were art school alumni, like Keith Richards of the
Rolling Stones and Peter Townshend of The Who, helped
albums were becoming more prominent than 45s, and albums
provided “a whole new canvas” on which rock
musicians could figuratively paint. The Beatles, noted
Luhrssen, “encouraged album cover design as an art
form.” The encyclopedia includes album recommendations
at the end of entries.
after the period ended, Luhrssen and Larson met again,
and again, and again, to discuss their beloved classic
rock (“I remember some of this music so clearly,”
Luhrssen mused in the interview). Notes were taken
during the friends’ conversations, their content
supplemented by information gleaned from Luhrssen’s
“fairly large personal library” and online sources.
Editing was the final ingredient in producing what
Luhrssen labeled a “very consistent tone. ”
was definitely a labor of love,” Luhrssen said in
summarizing the “Encyclopedia of Classic Rock.” The
veteran writer and editor who
discovered classic rock with a vengeance
when he was about 9 years old, aided by the
presence of local radio stations WZMF and WQFM, is
currently at work on a book to be published by Marquette
University Press. He’s editing the book, on rock music
in 20th-century Milwaukee, with librarian Bruce Cole and
Phil Naylor of the MU History Department. Focusing on
Milwaukee groups, this second rock book will embrace the
years 1958-’99 and is nearly completed, Luhrssen said.