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Rock 'n' Roll Inventions

Rock 'n' Roll Inventions

  • Premiered: 
    January 16, 2017
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: Smithsonian
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Musical
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Plot Synopsis

ROCK 'N' ROLL INVENTIONS is a six-episode series that chronicles the technology and innovations that have provided the soundtrack for music throughout the modern era. From the birth of the electric guitar, the first synthesizers, and the gramophone, to multi-track recording studios, digital downloads and laser shows, electronic icon Moby joins other legends like Martha Reeves, The Kinks' Dave Davies and Graham Nash and experts Annie Nightingale, Paul Gambaccini, Bob Harris and Greg Milnerand, as they reveal the extraordinary way technology has revolutionized the music business. The series opener, "This Damn Music," reveals how wind-up gramophones, 78rpm shellac records, vinyl singles, the transistor radio, the jukebox, cassettes, stereo sound, music videos, CDs, and digital downloads changed rock 'n' roll forever. Then, the second episode, "Going Electric," features insight from top guitarists -- The Police's Andy Summers, Graham Nash and The Kinks' Dave Davies -- as they take a unique visit to the Rickenbacker factory to reveal how some of the best guitars in the world are made, and then journey to Marshall Amplification. Episode three, "Sultans of Sound," takes viewers inside some of the most famous recording studios of the world, including the famed Abbey Road in London and the Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles. Additionally, this episode covers the arrival of the world's super-producers, including the maverick talents of Joe Meek, who was known for his homemade electronic devices designed to create unique sounds. The fourth episode, "Rise of Keyboards," focuses one of the biggest revolutions in rock 'n' roll history, as iconic musicians like Moby, Rick Wakeman, Andy Summers and Martyn Ware tell their personal journeys from Mellotron to Minimoog. When the mighty breakthrough of synthesizers gave performers the chance to play any instrument on one set of keyboards, a whole new world of sounds was introduced. The penultimate episode, "EFX," documents the way rock 'n' roll has been enhanced by special effects. From echo chambers to delay, and reverb to the wah-wah pedal -- rock 'n' rollers would do anything to make their music sound different, including Kinks' guitarist Dave Davies slashing his speakers to make it sound "dirty" to bedroom record producers sampling records from 50 years ago. The finale, "Stage to Spectacle," takes viewers on stage to see how technology has radically altered the rock 'n' roll concert. What used to be a couple of guitars and a small drum kit on a local town hall stage has transformed into a packed stadium filled with armies of dancers, laser shows, video screens, and a bewildering array of costume changes meant to entertain the masses. Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman tells viewers how he created an ice rink just to perform one of his shows.
On Monday, February 20, 2017 at 8pm ET/PT, Smithsonian Channel premiered the season finale of ROCK 'N' ROLL INVENTIONS. The season ender, "Stage to Spectacle," documents how today's concerts aren't just about live music. They are visual extravaganzas, driven by innovation and teams of technicians. But half a century ago, performances happened on town bandstands, without light shows, choreography, and speaker towers. Witness the evolution of the rock concert and see how the music industry continues to push technology to its limits to wow audiences in amazing ways. Footage of pioneering concerts, festivals, and tours, plus interviews with legendary artists and producers, give you front row seats and backstage access.