At first glance, this image looks like an electrical circuitboard diagram, or an architect's plan. However, look a little closer and you will see that it is in actual fact a diagram of recent music history: who influenced whom, who played with whom, and so on. Painstakingly compiled, this map of music history draws some startling comparisons and clearly shows which were the most influential bands of the twentieth century.


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Nirvana, The Sex Pistols, The Smiths

As you can see, these are just three of the bands that loom especially large on the diagram. This is because they were highly influential, encouraging the emergence of other bands such as The Clash and Radiohead. Some people might argue, in fact, that this whole map of music history can pretty much be traced back to The Sex Pistols' iconic concert of 1976.

How Was The Map Constructed?

Everyone has their favourite bands, and some people might say that a map of influential bands is likely to be highly subjective. Working on entirely subjective principles regarding decisions about which were the 'best' bands of the century, rock lover would make an entirely different map to a folk music fan. But, what makes this map of music history special is its attempt at objectivity. Its creator, James Quail, tried to think only about which bands were most influential - not which were the 'best'. Which bands are known to have influenced others? Who has had the most influence? Quail took the Sex Pistols' 1976 concert as his starting point and he roughly grouped bands into scenes, such as post-punk, Grunge and Riot Grrrl.

The Design of the Map

This map's design is indeed based on a circuit board so if, as mentioned above, you thought at first that this is what it was you would not be far wrong. In particular, it is based on the circuit board of a transistor radio: the Regency TR-1 to be precise. And why the TR-1? Well, this is a highly symbolic circuit board according to Quail. Quail chose it because it was not only the very first commercially available transistor radio - it also came out in the same year that 'Rock Around The Clock' was recorded by Bill Haley and his Comets. That year was 1954, a great year for music.

Starting Points and Where Will It End?

This does beg the question, though, why did Quail decide to take 1976 as his starting point rather than 1954? How different would the map look if we decided to start it at 1954 so that we could trace common, earlier, influences between (say) The Sex Pistols and The Smiths rather than simply saying that the former influenced the latter? Moreover, this map is probably already in need of updating. Which new bands and music scenes would you add to Quail's map if you had the opportunity to alter it?