Here at Paste Music, we spend each day sorting through new albums to review, interviewing musicians, making compelling lists, and telling our readers about the songs they need to hear on any given day. But our first love has always been live music—the magic that happens when great artists create something spontaneous out of thin air and move people with it. That’s why, together with our sister sites Concert Vault, Wolfgangs and Daytrotter, we’ve spent so much time and effort acquiring and digitizing the world’s largest archive of live recordings—hundreds of thousands of concerts going back more than 50 years, including the archives of legendary promoter Bill Graham, the Newport Jazz and Newport Folk festivals, the old King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show, and our ongoing daily recording projects at Paste Studio in New York and Daytrotter Studios in Davenport, Iowa.
The entire vault, with exclusive audio and video recordings stretching from 1959 all the way to 2017, is available for free streaming here at Paste.com, and our mission is to make sure our music-loving readers explore every corner of it. We do it every day with peeks at exclusive live recordings by, say, Bob Dylan in 1974, or James Brown in 1986, or Wilco in 2011. But there’s so much more to watch and hear! So this week, we’re taking a genre-by-genre deep dive into the archive and pulling out some of our most precious gems for your enjoyment.
Over the past week, we’ve explored our blues, jazz, hip-hop and country collections. Today we’re tying them all together with the most inescapable of all Western art forms: rock ‘n’ roll. Invented by Americans, refined by the Brits, and passed around to just about every culture in every corner of the globe, rock music encompasses so many demographics and styles that it’s impossible to know where to begin any summation of it. We have Jerry Lee Lewis in the vault. We have The Who. We have The Stones. We have Hendrix. We don’t have The Beatles, but we have John Lennon and Paul McCartney. We have R.E.M. and U2. We have Vampire Weekend and Tame Impala.
We have so much more. Let’s go back to the start. Anyone attempting to trace the history of rock ‘n’ roll has to begin with Chuck Berry, without whom there would be no Stones, no Beatles—none of it. It was Berry, more than any other blues or R&B star of the 1950s, who took the structures of those forms and amped them up with pop songwriting flair, unheard-of guitar riffs and a spit-shined showmanship that would become as integral to rock music as the music itself. “Maybellene,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Rock and Roll Music” form the bedrock on which 70 years’ worth of popular music have been built. He is the messiah. Here’s Berry performing “Carol” (which would become a staple for the Stones) in 1972.
Berry’s innovations made their way overseas in the early 1960s, putting ideas in the minds of impressionable young Brits like John Lennon, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton. As the decade drew to a close, much of the best rock ‘n’ roll was streaming out of England. At the time, many considered Clapton’s shortlived supergroup, Cream, to be the finest of the bunch. On Oct. 4, 1968, barely a month before the band’s much ballyhooed farewell performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker played a show at the Oakland Coliseum that helped solidify their colossal impact on popular music not just with their virtuosity, but with their mastery of the extended jam and upending of the conventionally structured formula of verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus. Here’s Cream playing their most famous riff, “Sunshine of Your Love.”
When it comes to punk, are you a Ramones person or a Sex Pistols person? Doesn’t matter, because we have both in the archive.
In 1978, The Ramones were coming off the release of their successful 1977 release, Road to Ruin, and were looking ahead to the premiere of Rock N Roll High School, a Roger Corman-produced feature film starring the band. They were also in the studio with Wall of Sound mastermind and future murderer Phil Spector, working on the album that would become End of the Century. This exclusive recording, from Dec. 28, 1978, captures The Ramones in what many feel was their strongest musical period. The lineup featured is: vocalist Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone and drummer Marky Ramone (Marc Bell), who had recently replaced original drummer Tommy Ramone. Here’s “I Want to Be Sedated.”
Following a brief run of controversial concerts in the Netherlands and Britain during the latter months of 1977, The Sex Pistols embarked on their first and only tour of America. The two-week assault on the U.S., which was plagued by poor planning, violence and drug-addled insanity from bassist Sid Vicious, culminated in a high-profile gig at San Francisco’s Winterland, dwarfing any performance the band had previously attempted. This now legendary concert would also turn out to be the Sex Pistols’ last. Headlining a triple bill that included local punk bands the Nuns (featuring a young Alejandro Escovedo) and the Avengers (featuring a young Penelope Houston), the Pistols puked out an extraordinary theatrical event and a benchmark in the history of punk music. Here’s “Anarchy in the U.K.”
Let’s skip ahead two decades to the third British invasion of rock. In 1995, Radiohead were emerging from the margins of Britpop as the band with the most staying power—the most power in general. On June 1, they made a tour stop at Tramps in New York, where they played their new album, The Bends, from start to finish. This high-quality recording reminds you how compelling Radiohead was onstage from the start, even when they were still generally working within a framework of guitar-dominated rock. Here’s one of The Bends’ best songs, “Street Spirit.” (And here’s “Creep,” from Pablo Honey, if that’s what you’re after.)
Since 2007, Daytrotter has recorded more than 31,000 songs by some 7,000 artists in every possible genre, including countless baby bands and indie legends like Death Cab for Cutie and Wilco. On June 16, 2008, Texas garage-soul heroes Spoon visited the studio in support of their breakthrough record from the previous year, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The session included “The Ghost of You Lingers,” from Ga, and Kill the Moonlight track “Back to the Life,” but most interesting was their rocked-up cover of “Peace Like a River,” a deep cut from Paul Simon’s self-titled debut album of 1972.
Finally, Paste Studio in New York is busy recording upward of a dozen bands every single week, all steamed live and available here on Paste.com. We do it all in the Studio, from blues to country to folk, hip-hop, pop and rock. One of our favorite recent sessions belonged to indie darlings Drums, who returned in 2017 following a hiatus with Abysmal Thoughts, a painfully intimate record that chases the torment with honeyed guitar hooks and new-wavy melodies. Frontman Johnny Pierce led us through three gorgeous songs including “Head of the Horse,” a haunting family tale of hope and betrayal. Watch below.