5 things Steve Morse learned about rock history

For 30 years, first as a freelancer and later as the Globe’s senior rock critic, Steve Morse has been on a first-name basis with the likes of Mick Jagger and Jimmy Buffett. Since leaving the paper in 2005, Morse has remained a man about town - and usually the last one standing at last call.

His latest endeavor was a labor of love suited to his expertise. A year and a half in the making, Morse’s “Rock History’’ is a new course for Berklee Music, Berklee College of Music’s online extension school that’s open to the public. In addition to teaching the class, Morse developed the syllabus and interviewed some of rock’s key players (Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir).

To preview the course’s launch on April 2, we recently quizzed Morse on five things he learned from working on the project.


1. “Bob Dylan’s famous protest song ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ was adapted from a traditional slave melody.’’

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2. “The Ramones helped ignite the punk scene in England, rather than the other way around, as often believed. When the Ramones played London in 1976, Paul Simonon of the Clash told Johnny Ramone that the Clash weren’t ready yet. Johnny said, ‘Wait until you see us. We stink, we’re lousy, we can’t play. Just get out there and do it.’ ’’

3. “The Beatles, before signing with EMI, were turned down by Decca Records. Decca boss Dick Rowe told Beatles manager Brian Epstein: ‘Guitar bands are on the way out, Mr. Epstein.’ Decca then got lucky when George Harrison suggested they sign the Rolling Stones, which they did.’’

4. “Jimi Hendrix lived and performed with the Isley Brothers for a couple of years in New Jersey. Then known as Jimmy James, he created his intro riff for ‘Voodoo Chile’ while listening to one of the brothers try to start a sputtering lawn mover on the front lawn. Jimi was in the window with his guitar and copied the sound.’’

5. “When Tipper Gore started her rock-censorship campaign with the Parents Music Resource Center (PRMC) in the mid-’80s, she and her team devised the ‘Filthy Fifteen,’ meaning priority songs that should be censored. Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’ was on the list. Seriously?’’