Let's All Obsess Over This Intricate Map of Alt Music History
It started with the Sex Pistols. Specifically, with the Sex Pistols’ June 4, 1976, show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. The concert now ranks as one of the most influential performances of all time, up there with Woodstock. But the audience, not the band, made the show famous. Around 30 or 40 people showed up (although thousands would later claim to have attended), and rumour has it that the crowd included the guys who would go on to start bands like the Smiths, Joy Division, and the Buzzcocks.
Rumours are enough for the designers at Dorothy, a studio that just released a data-viz poster called “Alternative Love Blueprint—A History of Alternative Music.” The poster (£35), like punk rock, begins with the Sex Pistols. A charted history of counterculture rock music spills out from there, though not in any kind of linear, board game kind of way. “Taking that gig as a starting point, I tried to map out the bands who influenced each other in some way up to that point, from the early proto-punk and garage rockers through CBGB’s era of punk,” says James Quail, the designer. “Then I mapped out where those scenes led through punk, post-punk, 2 tone & ska, hardcore, Riot Grrrl, grunge, and so on.”
To organise these complex connections, Quail based the poster on a circuit board from a transistor radio. (Dorothy’s last music-mapping print, of electronic music, used the circuit board from a theremin as the template.) For the new print, Quail picked the The Regency TR-1—the first commercially available Transistor Radio—for symbolic reasons: It came out in 1954, the year Bill Haley & His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock”.
Like a Spotify Weekly playlist manifested into poster form and frozen in time, the “Alternative Love Blueprint” uses musical connections to identify listening recommendations. “If you like one band you might like this other band because they hang out in the same scene, or share some band members, or they influenced each other,” Quail says. Those in between bands—the ones printed in tiny typeface, sandwiched between legends like The Clash and Television—are delightfully easy to find here.