Okay, right off, if you don't know who Pete Frame is, let me drop some science on you (I feel so lame saying that!)
I first discovered Pete Frame through my love of 70's progressive rock. Frame became known for laying out elaborate family trees of musicians and bands to throughout different lineups and generations. 60's and 70's music was almost incestuous in nature. The concept of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon as it relates to film, could almost be distilled down to the Two or Three Degrees of Bill Bruford or John Wetton when it comes to progressive rock. But Frame laid out every type of pop music: folk, rock, funk, metal, etc..
The great thing about rock family trees is they told a story. If you had a favorite guitar player or drummer and wanted to find out where they came from, you could go to a family tree and track their career back to bands you'd never heard of before. Such a journey opened up the possibilities to music you never knew existed but were willing to take a chance on buying a cassette or album due to the tenuous links set out before you on paper. The ink link had become a recommendation engine that was based on career tracking of musicians.
I'll never forget when the first Asia album came out and the geek in me fell hypnotized to the Roger Dean fantasy dragon on the cover and hearing about this supergroup of musicians I had never heard of before. I had no older siblings and never was initiated into much of the music of the early 70s. My formative years were spent listening to AM radio and top 40 hits. But when that Asia album broke, and it was the biggest selling album of 1982, I fell in love with it and started to research this supergroup's origins. With no world wide web or older siblings to turn to, I happened upon Pete Frame's book of Rock Family Trees.
I learned that Asia was comprised of Steve Howe from Yes, Carl Palmer from Emerson Lake and Palmer, Geoff Downes from the Buggles [remember Video Killed the Radio Star?] and John Wetton from almost every other 70's group combined. I also learned that Yes had a ridiculous amount of lineup changes from the early to late 70s which included Bill Bruford who went on to play drums for King Crimson with John Wetton. Geoff Downes was in the Buggles with Trevor Horn (who would soon produce Frankie Goes to Hollywood), but before that they joined Steve Howe in Yes for a single album. Carl Palmer had played with crazy psychedelic outfits like The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster before joining Emerson Lake and Palmer. ELP's Greg Lake came originally from King Crimson which, after he left, counted John Wetton and Bill Bruford among its members (this surrounding a short stint Bruford did with Genesis). Lake ended up touring with Asia on a Japanese tour in 1983 for an ailing Wetton. Wetton also played with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep. Keith Emerson played with a band called The Nice before ELP and The Nice's Davy O'List joined a band called Refugee with Patrick Moraz (who also played with Yes for an album). Rick Wakeman of Yes also played with The Strawbs, and Alan White, who took over on drums for Bill Bruford, played with John Lennon, Eric Clapton and friends in the Plastic Ono Band.
Before wikipedia or the worldwide web, I had an incredible two page resource that distilled down the stories of dozens of musicians into a digestible format. I went on a spending spree buying up all the used albums I could find. Pete Frame had unwittingly become the Digg of the early 80s. If music companies want a tool that would be great to take digital music into the future, they should join together to allow users to generate their own family trees. One could track their favorite band back through time, or sideways through side projects to discover new artists. I suppose one of the biggest problems with modern music is that we'd have to eliminate the "feat." appearances from many modern recordings lest the connections become too unwieldy. And I also fear that most teenagers today have lost the ability and desire to commit to a band's infrastructure, much less an entire CD or discography. And I know that iTunes has a Genius and Amazon has a "people who've bought this have also bought" section at the bottom of every page, but these systems don't tell a story. They don't give a musician's evolution. I would always prefer discovering something on my own (or at least have the illusion of it) than buying related goods just because other people have.
Wherefore art thou Pete Frame. Music needs you again.