The Seven Ages of Rock
Empty9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17
If there is anything that has come to define the rock 'n' roll generation more than the music itself, it's the exhaustive examination of what it all meant. (Hint: It mostly meant that baby boomers spent their allowance on records and CDs.)
That said, this seven-hour look back at the music that changed everything is peppy and entertaining if not terribly profound. Scheduled for an hour each night at 9 over seven consecutive nights on VH1 Classic -- housing the stuff that's too old even for VH1 -- "The Seven Ages of Rock" eschews the 1950s roots of Chuck Berry and Little Richard to chart the dawn of rock music beginning in 1965 with the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, Cream, Dylan and of course the Beatles. It interviews such sages as Eric Burden, Keith Richards and Ray Davies in the opening hour to lay the groundwork for the musical and social revolution that was to follow.
The British import (it originally aired on BBC2 in England) is narrated, appropriately enough, by Dennis Hopper and proves an insightful enough addition to the navel-gazing rock doc pantheon.
Two of the seven hours were supplied for review: the opener, "The Birth of Rock and Roll," and Episode 5, "We Are the Champions: Stadium Rock." Both are cram-jammed with clips from the era and interview snippets featuring those who were there. The connecting tissue of the series is how the different rock styles evolve in almost a linear, preordained fashion from era to era. That progression gives rise here to individual hours focusing on art rock, punk, heavy metal, the aforementioned stadium rock, alternative rock and indie, taking us from the mid-'60s to the turn of the millennium.
The one constant as laid down in "Seven Ages" is the influence of such blues legends as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, who are given credence as rock pioneers ahead of the '50s icons like Berry. The only thing really missing from the impressively comprehensive series is an installment detailing the eighth age of rock: self-assessment. Alas, that would likely require an additional seven hours alone.