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Popular Music

Popular Music

Culture, Ideology and MusicHow do we examine how music is used to transmit culture? Why is classical music considered high culture and popular music as low culture?How are ideas communicated through music in the lyrics, the genre of music?How do music videos help this process?How does popular music help us to acquire identity? Looking at the history of popular music will help us to see how music became separated into popular and classical, what social trends are associated with which musical styles and how young people and fashion became involved.


Before the nineteenth century, folk music was most common musical form for all classes of people, with the exception of religious music. After that folk tradition declined as people moved from the countryside to the cities Music making still popular at home also brass bands and music hall Regional music began to disappear as London became centre of musical activity

Influence of America1920s Traditional jazz and ragtime music arrived from USA

Dances accompanied this music played at British hotels and restaurants as well as broadcast by the BBC

Rise of popular music Gramophones and records were expensive and popular music mainly adult pastimeNew technology production costs fell, radios became smaller Sony transistor radios in 1955. Lots more radio stations top twenty singles charts began

American lead in popular culture1955 America Free, consumer culture, following from full employment and affluent teenagers.Independence expressed in clothes, music and heroesPolitical tension between American and Russia youth felt contemptuous of world created by parents.Music style rock n roll arose to express this.

British rock n rollEarly fans called New Edwardians or Teddy Boys. The Teds disliked conformity, austerity and authority (ideology). Media says them as a threat to society their tastes in music, clothes and behaviour was a challenge to dominant ideologySingers of time Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly. British singers Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Marty Wilde

SkiffleEmerged in 1950s an acoustic style of music amplified music and electrical instruments still rareFast, rhythmical music not much expertise required. Origins were black and American like rock nroll.By 1958 this form dying out

The BeatlesStarted off as skiffle band called The QuarrymenShort, attractive songs about everyday life, using popular slang in lyricsLater music more sophisticated pioneered concept albumBroke up in 1970

British Rhythm BluesBlack American music very attractive to British musiciansPrincipal British exponent, Alexis Korner. Others included Kinks,Yardbirds, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones.Rolling Stones style contrasted with Beatles wild, sexy and bohemianWore long hair and exotic clothes.

The Rolling Stones Made no effort to be polite. Rejected traditional means of achieving commercial success hard work and sacrifice.Shocked older generation but appealed to younger audienceSince 70s spectacular concerts in sports stadiums central part of career.Colourful private lives, problems with drugs begin cult of pop stars

ModsSoul and Jamaican ska popular in America when Beatles and Stones popular in Britain.Strong beat, perfect for dancing popular in clubsNew clothing fashion developed continental suit, short hair and parkas and for girls mini skirt, short straight hair and thick make up.Consumerism central to mod style possession to have was Vespa or Lambretta scooter.

RockersIn opposition to Mods confrontations in Brighton particularly. Film Quadrophenia shows this.Rockers more traditionally working class motorcyles, leather jackets, denim jeans and long hair.The Who band smashed up guitars famous song My Generation about not being able to communicate with older generation.

Soul and ReggaeLate 1960s black dance music from Jamaica and USA grew in popularity. Artists Bob Marley, Peter Tosh. Songs reflected Rastafarian beliefs and supported poor and underprivileged Ironically ska and reggae grew popular with violent subculture called skinheads known for racism attacked blacks, Asians, hippies and gays.

Progressive musicMid 1960s popular music changed musicians wanted to write longer songs and experiment with musical soundsBeatles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Genesis particularly known for this sort of music know as concept albums. These bands popular with hippies who rejected conventional ideas and lifestyles experimented with alternative ways of living based on peace and love communes etc.

Progressive music continuedFolk music also appealed to hippies as alternative to commercial modern rock.In USA Bob Dylan and Joan Baez combined political protest with folk musicBritish groups included Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span. However, never appealed to a mass audience.

1970sCombined elements of folk music and electric pop.Early exponents Marc Bolan and David Bowie. Wore glitter and make up.

Poetic vocals expressing hedonism and sexualityTheatrical style became know as glam rock

Rebellion in 1970sReaction to big bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis etc as seen as very commercial and safe.Punk arrived D.I.Y feel to these bands energy, enthusiasm.Deepening social and economic crisis with high unemployment, young people felt ignored.Malcolm Maclaren created The Sex Pistols.

The Sex PistolsDesigned to attract attention wore leather jackets, torn clothing, safety pins, swastikas, zips, chains and studs with spiked, dyed hair connotations of eccentricity and perversionMusic was loud, primal and hostile. Simple guitar solos, repeated chords, distorted sound and abrupt endings.Notorious behaviour swearing, vomiting, drug taking and assaultsSongs included Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen

PunkOther punk bands in mid to late 70s included The Damned, The Clash, The Jam, The Stranglers and The Buzzocks. Most groups were male some had female singers Siouxie and the Banshees, X-Ray Spex. One all-girl band The Slits. Not openly feminist but had intimidating stage presence and changed traditional views of women in pop as just background vocalists.

Record IndustrySmall independent record companies began to spring up. Supported music that commercial mainstream would notAs punk declined reggae music grew expressed symbolic challenge to politics of Conservative government and right wing racism Several mixed race bands grew up in early 1980s The Specials, UB40, The Beat, Selecter. Expressed left wing ideas.

Club and Street MixIn mid 70s popular dance music by Bee Gees. Traditional dance music started to sound uniform and anonymousNew technology gave ability to produce clean,hard, repetitive drum beats ideal for dancing Donna Summer. In Britain, in 1980s Gary Numan, Heaven 17, Spandau Ballet, Human League used synthesisers and tapes to make futuristic pop and dance music

America and Britain in the 80sIn America rap came up from streets of New York and Chicago performers shouted lyrics over music often taken from other records.Technique known as scratching was incorporated, followed later by sampling.House music established in Britain during mid to late 80s gospel style vocals, heavy bass and drumsAcid House evolved around Ibiza and non-stop dancing en mass.

Acid House and RaveClothing was baggy, dungarees, beach wearTechno music intense, hypnotic and ear splittingDance music dominated up to early 90sRaves became popular government tried to stop them dancing became a political act.Growing interest in Asian dance music

Theoretical perspectivesFeminist how are women represented in the pop music industry, what jobs do they do, how are they represented in lyrics, in videos. What sort of ideology does this express?Marxist how is class represented in different genres of music, in different eras? How is class represented in music industry? What kind of ideology in lyrics would reflect class views of society?Post-colonialist how are different ethnic groups represented in lyrics, in bands and genres, in management?Postmodernist how are different cultures, genres and eras combined within popular music and pop videos?