In this addition to the "For the Record: Lexington Studies in Rock and Popular Music" series, McParland (English, Felician Univ., and an ASCAP member) focuses on the period between 1964 (the beginning of the "British invasion") and the 1980s and joins the daunting discussion of rock’s social and artistic contexts and rock music in relation to literature as a product of rock music’s imagination. McParland focuses such classic themes as liberation, freedom, utopia/dystopia, the outsider, imaginative vision, and mystery. Including abundant references to songs and artists, discussions hinge on the author's extensive source work. He researched the standard literature on American popular music (specifically music of the 1960s), including work by all the usual suspects—Walter Everett, Susan McClary, Robert Walser. McParland discusses significant aspects of the musical imagination in reference to the blues, progressive rock, punk and new wave, the lyricist as poet, rock in literature, music as community identity/identifier, and the role of the musical imagination in the face of crisis. Part music history, part cultural analysis, The Rock Music Imagination works hard to address heady issues in American popular music.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
— Choice Reviews
The Rock Music Imagination takes on a huge and sprawling topic—and doesn’t disappoint. Robert McParland maps out the diverse and complex terrain of the rock music imagination during its height of creativity from 1964 to 1980. Drawing on multiple theories concerning the creative process, he cuts a path through blues and psychedelic rock, folk rock and prog rock, utopian and dystopian imaginings, science fiction meanderings and humanitarian appeals, and more. It is an ambitious undertaking that not only succeeds but also suggests further lines of inquiry to the serious student of rock music.
— Thomas Kitts, co-editor of Popular Music and Society and Rock Music Studies
McParland’s The Rock Music Imagination explores the roles of creativity, imagination, and emotional expression in the era of 'classic rock' in a manner that is rewarding for the indoctrinated fan and accessible for the uninitiated reader. For those familiar with the subjects, McParland presents novel readings, interpretations, and connections between the popular and less popular, the creative process (produced from within the established commercial recording industry), and literature and related arts. For the newer fan of classic rock music, The Rock Music Imagination provides a primer of introduction that eschews linear and temporal timelines, scenes, and surface relations in favor of creative and imaginative connections between otherwise disconnected artists. Far from the repetitive playlists of classic rock format radio, McParland rescues classic rock’s creative influence from the banality of one or two representative songs by nostalgia acts in favor of a web-like analysis of innovators and innovation in one of popular music’s greatest 'golden eras.'
— Colin Helb, Elizabethtown College