Music History

Here’s a thought experiment for would-be musical time travelers

Remember this scene from Back to the Future where a disguised Marty visits his father and torments him with some shredding? It’s uncredited, but that’s actually Edde Van Halen.

I’ve always been fascinated by this scene because it illustrates how our musical tastes have evolved over the decades. Back in 1955, that shredding and distortion was horrible noise. Thirty years later, in Marty’s time, that same sort of noise was considered beautify and cool.

Here’s the thought experiment. You’re a free-and-easy time traveler. You and your smartphone full of songs go back to 1922 to play future music for the young people of that era. What five rock songs would you play for them to show what music will become?

Leave your lists in the comments.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37441 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

6 thoughts on “Here’s a thought experiment for would-be musical time travelers

  • How Soon Is Now? Smiths
    Smells Like Teen Spirit Nirvana
    More Than A Feeling Boston
    Nautical Disaster Hip
    A Day in the Life Beatles

  • Metallica – Enter Sandman
    Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
    Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
    Adele – Hello

  • Smells like teen spirit-Nirvana
    Kickstart my heart-Motley Crüe
    While my guitar gently weeps-The Beatles
    Stairway to Heaven-Led Zeppelin

  • Maybe I read wrong, but I would do a slow evolution of artists:

    Hendrix: Anything
    Beatles: Anything
    Metallica: Battery
    Michael Jackson: Billy Jean
    NWA: **** the Police

  • Charlie Parker Anthropology
    Elvis Jail House Rock
    Beatles Strawberry Fields
    Devo Whip It

  • Beatles: In My Life
    Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven
    Van Halen: Runnin’ with the Devil
    Michael Jackson: Smooth Criminal
    Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit


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