Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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The Encyclopedia of Popular Music was created in 1989 by Colin Larkin. It is the 'modern man's' equivalent of the Grove Dictionary of Music , which Larkin describes in less than flattering terms. [1] Described by The Times as "the standard against which all others must be judged". [2]


History of the encyclopedia

Larkin believed that rock music and popular music, were at least as significant historically as classical music, and as such, should be given 'definitive' treatment and properly documented. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music is the result. In 1989 Larkin sold his half of the publishing company Scorpion Books to finance his ambition to publish an Encyclopedia of Popular music. Aided by a team of initially 70 contributors, he set about compiling the data in a 'pre-internet' age, "relying instead on information gleaned from music magazines, individual expertise and a hideous amount of legwork". [1] The new company he financed and founded to publish the encyclopedia, was called Square One Books. The first edition of the encyclopedia "pushed Larkin to the brink of bankruptcy". [3] It was a 'four volume set' and went into print in 1992.

There have been three further editions of the multi-volume encyclopedia and dozens of single-volume spin-offs of five concise versions of the main encyclopedia, including four editions of Jazz. [1]

In 1995 Microsoft licensed the text for their CD-ROM, Microsoft Music Central, which sold 497,000 copies. [4]

In 1997 Larkin's company, along with the Encyclopedia, was sold to the data company Muze Inc. (the UK name was changed to Muze UK), because Larkin wanted "to guarantee its future" in the fast changing world of information and communications technology. He became full-time editor-in-chief' on the project, running a surprisingly small scale "cottage industry":

"There are now fewer than 10 contributors on the team... "People don't believe it's done on such a small scale, but in terms of words we are producing an Agatha Christie novel a month"..." [4]


The Encyclopedia of Popular Music covers popular music from the early 1900s to the present day, including folk, blues, R&B, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, electronic music and hip-hop.

"Each biography contains a thorough synopsis of the performer and their body of work, following their career from beginning to end. The 4th Edition is 10,000 pages long in 10 separate volumes with over 8 million words and 27,000 entries. The nature of popular music and jazz is such that it is ever changing, evolving and growing and therefore needs a new edition much more frequently than more static subjects." [5]

Guinness Publishing, Virgin Publishing and Omnibus Press have produced the spin-offs on each subject and Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums is produced as a companion volume. The large single volume of the Concise edition of The Encyclopedia of Popular Music is now in its 5th edition. [6]

The total sales of the EPM series since 1992 is over 650,000 copies.

In May 2011 Omnibus Press released the Amazon Kindle edition of The Encyclopedia Of Popular Music. [7] The text for this edition has not been updated and the Kindle edition has the same content as the 2007 edition.


Concise Editions

Spin offs

Related Research Articles

<i>Traffic</i> (Traffic album) 1968 studio album by Traffic

Traffic is the second studio album by the English rock band Traffic, released in 1968 on Island Records in the United Kingdom as ILPS 9081T (stereo), and United Artists in the United States, as UAS 6676 (stereo). The album peaked at number 9 in the UK albums chart and at number 17 on the Billboard 200. It was the last album recorded by the group before their initial breakup.

<i>His n Hers</i> 1994 studio album by Pulp

His 'n' Hers is the fourth studio album by English rock band Pulp, released on 18 April 1994 by Island Records. It proved to be the band's breakthrough album, reaching number nine on the UK Albums Chart, and was nominated for the 1994 Mercury Music Prize. In 1998, Q magazine readers voted it the seventieth greatest album of all time, while it was placed at number 110 in the book Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums.

Omnibus Press is the world's largest specialist publisher of music-related books. It publishes around 30 new titles a year to add to a backlist of over 250 titles currently in print.

<i>Fleetwood Mac</i> (1968 album) 1968 studio album by Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac, also known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, is the debut studio album by British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac, released on 24 February 1968. The album is a mixture of blues covers and originals penned by guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, who also share the vocal duties. It is the only album by the band not to feature keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie in any capacity.

Beryl Audley Bryden was an English jazz singer, who played with Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. Ella Fitzgerald once said of Bryden that she was "Britain's queen of the blues".

<i>Woodface</i> 1991 studio album by Crowded House

Woodface is the third studio album by New Zealand/Australian recording artists Crowded House. The album was produced by Mitchell Froom and released by Capitol in July 1991. It features five singles "Chocolate Cake", "Fall at Your Feet", "Weather with You", "Four Seasons in One Day", and "It's Only Natural". Woodface was a major hit in Australia and New Zealand as well as giving the band their first top ten hit album in the UK. It was listed at No. 3 in the book 100 Best Australian Albums in October 2010. It was voted number 80 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).

<i>Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band Volume 2: Live from Montreux</i> 1993 live album by Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band

Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band Volume 2: Live from Montreux is Ringo Starr's second official live album and was released in September 1993.

Lionrock was a British big beat group, comprising record producer Justin Robertson, MC Buzz B, and producer, engineer, programmer and synthesist Roger Lyons. Lyons replaced recording engineer Mark Stagg in 1995. Their biggest chart success came in 1998, when "Rude Boy Rock" reached the Top 20 in the UK Singles Chart.

<i>Grand Prix</i> (album) 1995 studio album by Teenage Fanclub

Grand Prix is the fifth album by Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub, released in May 1995 via Creation Records.

BBM is the name of the short-lived power trio, formed in 1993 by long-established artists, bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Gary Moore and drummer Ginger Baker. They released just one studio album, entitled Around the Next Dream, which was released on the Virgin record label. It reached Number 9 in the UK Albums Chart in the summer of 1994, but spent only four weeks in the listings. The track, "Where in the World" was issued as a single, reaching Number 57 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1994. Much of the work was written by Moore with contributions by Bruce and Baker. The album cover featured a picture of Baker.

<i>Offramp</i> (album) 1982 studio album by Pat Metheny Group

Offramp is the third album by the Pat Metheny Group, released in 1982. It won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance. It contains the popular ballad "Are You Going with Me?".

<i>Tim Hardin 2</i> 1967 studio album by Tim Hardin

Tim Hardin 2 is the second album by folk artist Tim Hardin, released in 1967.

<i>Daydream</i> (The Lovin Spoonful album) 1966 studio album by The Lovin Spoonful

Daydream is the second album by The Lovin' Spoonful, released in 1966. It features two hits, "Daydream", which reached No. 2 in the U.S. Billboard Top 40 charts, and "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice".

<i>Sailor</i> (album) 1968 studio album by The Steve Miller Band

Sailor is the second album by American rock group The Steve Miller Band, released in October 1968 by Capitol Records. Like the band's previous album, Children of the Future, Sailor was produced by Glyn Johns. Unlike its predecessor which was recorded in London, England, Sailor was recorded in Los Angeles, California. It was the last Steve Miller Band album to feature contributions by original members Boz Scaggs and Jim Peterman. Scaggs went on to a successful solo career.

David James "Dave" McAleer is the main contributor for the Virgin Book of British Hit Singles, The Virgin Book of British Hit Albums and the Virgin Book of Top 40 Charts and was the sole Music Consultant for the Guinness World Records between 1998 and 2011. Is currently the OCC to the Official Charts Company. He was the Chief Consultant/Contributor for the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums for nine years, and has written or co-written over forty published music books.

<i>Travels</i> (Pat Metheny Group album) 1983 live album by Pat Metheny Group

Travels is the Pat Metheny Group's first live album, released in 1983. It won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance.

<i>Music in a Dolls House</i> 1968 studio album by Family

Music in a Doll's House is the debut album by English progressive rock group Family, released on 19 July 1968. The album, co-produced by Dave Mason of Traffic, features a number of complex musical arrangements contributing to its ambitious psychedelic sound.

<i>Genius + Soul = Jazz</i> 1961 studio album by Ray Charles

Genius + Soul = Jazz is a 1961 album by Ray Charles featuring big band arrangements by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Charles is accompanied by two groups drawn from members of The Count Basie Band and from the ranks of top New York session players. It was recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio in two sessions on December 26 and 27, 1960 and originally released on the Impulse! label as Impulse! A–2.

Colin Larkin British writer

Colin Larkin is a British writer and entrepreneur. He founded, and was the editor in chief of, the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, described by The Times as "the standard against which all others must be judged".

<i>All Time Top 1000 Albums</i> book by Colin Larkin

All Time Top 1000 Albums is a book by Colin Larkin, creator and editor of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music. The book was first published by Guinness Publishing in 1994. The list presented is the result of over 200,000 votes cast from the public in record shops, Universities, Schools and MIDEM - and ranked in order. Each album is annotated with a 100 word review, details of its creation and notes about the band or artist who recorded it.


  1. 1 2 3 The Times, The Knowledge, Christmas edition, 22 December 2007- 4 January 2008.
  2. This information was obtained from Hi-Arts.co.uk Archived 15 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. '"Who'd put the Everly Brothers above Elvis", Evening Standard, 20 December 2006.
  4. 1 2 The Collector, No. 20 COLIN LARKIN, Record Collector, Issue 314, Sept 2005.
  5. OUP online
  6. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, concise 5th edition, pub. Omnibus Press July 2007.
  7. "The Encyclopedia of Popular Music eBook: Colin Larkin: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 28 December 2019.