We picked up from a blog site that many North American fans first came across Pete’s work from The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, edited by Mike Clifford. So naturally we had to send off for a copy, which can still be picked up cheap second hand. We have the 1992 Seventh Edition. It has a handful of very distinctive trees, such as the above. These are family trees in the family historian’s sense, simply setting out lineage, and containing almost none of Pete’s unique commentary. Understandable, as the Encyclopedia itself is meant to give you the information you need.
It will be no surprise to readers that the first thing one has to do with such a book is start at the beginning and work through until you find an entry of someone not represented in your music collection. It didn’t take long. On the bottom corner of the second page is Oleta Adams, apparently discovered in a Kansas City lounge by Tears for Fears. We didn’t know the name, but her one hit Get Here
will be familiar to you even if you don’t recognize the title. ‘
You can reach me by railway, you can reach me by trailway
You can reach me on an airplane, you can reach me with your mind
You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man
I don’t care how you get here, just- get here if you can
So of course we had to add it to our iTunes collection, alongside the earlier version by the song’s writer Brenda Russell.
The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia is a nice timeslice of what was hot in 1992. But it reveals certain anxieties about musical standards. The Clash are dealt with approvingly as ‘a genuinely talented punk outfit’ whereas the Pistols ‘ironically influenced the entire rock industry [but] accomplished little musically’.
Here is Pete’s more measured account from the Flowers of Romance Tree, a few years later: