The Original Rock Band Made Music by Banging Actual Rocks Together

In Depth

Join me in a slow clap for olden time literality—according to a new report from Atlas Obscura, in 1846, an entire century before rock and roll was even a twinkle in Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s eye—The Original Monstre Rock Band made headlines in England for their musicianship crafted with actual rocks “hewn from a volcanic mountain called Skiddaw.” You can’t make this stuff up, folks, because it’s actual history.

The Atlas Obscura piece reveals that The Original Monstre Rock Band was helmed by a guy named Joseph Richardson, a stonemason from Keswick, England, who invented a “rock harmonicon”—think of it as a giant xylophone made of metamorphic stone called hornfels. He started the process in 1827 and spent 13 years crafting the instrument, which, in its final form, was “composed of 61 stones, 12 feet long, with a five-octave range.”

To play this giant harmonicon, Richardson and his sons would strike the aforementioned hornfels with mallets possessing heads “the size of baseballs.” Their spectacle grew in popularity (can you think of anything cooler in 19th century musical entertainment?) and by 1845, AO reports, the Original Monstre Rock Band headlined London’s Egyptian Hall, rocked the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens and played for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace twice. The best bit of that little news nugget: when Richardson and crew added steel bars to their device, the Queen, being a rock purist, was bit bummed out.

The original instrument is on display at the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery in Keswick, England (see the video above.) They even let you play the dang thing!

Read the full piece from Atlas Obscura here.


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