Music

Rock in a Hard Place

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Metal as a genre of contemporary music is still derided across the world, despite being one of the most commercially successful styles of popular music since its birth in the late 1960s.

Orlando Crowcroft details what this most demeaned style of music continues to mean to fans in six of the most war-ravaged and hostile countries: Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine, and Syria.

Roots, Radicals and Rockers

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Set between the period after the Second World War and the early 1960s in Britain, Billy Bragg’s history of skiffle music is clearly a labour of love, a work of dedicated musicological research and social history. The fact that it contains 430 pages gives an idea of the scope and depth of the work. It is replete with detail, illustrations and recollections of people involved at the time, whether directly or as close surviving relatives.

Sound System

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One thing I learnt from this book is that the military are the biggest employers of musicians in Britain.

As someone who expends a fair bit of effort supporting and promoting music, I know the struggle and sacrifice of new and exciting musicians just to get by. As a teacher, I am also well aware of the continuous fight to protect the place of music, and to defend children’s access to it, in schools. It came as a shock, then, to find that in one sector there is more than enough public money for musicians to live on.

A gift of sound and vision

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Salvador Dali is alleged to have proclaimed, when asked if he took drugs, “I am drugs!” And so, for some of us in the mid-1970s, David Bowie was music.

Bowie was a glamorous break with a music scene that had become dominated by the ponderous dinosaurs of rock music. The uniform of long hair and double denim had become stale and the music had become overblown, no longer reflecting the life of kids on the street.

Rock and Roll against racism

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Notting Hill in the 1950s

A pioneering anti-racist organisation was founded by musicians in the aftermath of the 1958 Notting Hill riots. It's time that the Stars Campaign for Interracial Friendship got its due.

In the late summer of 1958 racist violence broke out on the streets of Notting Hill, west London. At its origin were many complicated social, economic and political factors. Against a backdrop of slum housing, concerns over employment and “interracial marriage” was a nascent racism against the newly arrived African-Caribbean and Asian communities. This had been exacerbated by a renewed fascist movement around the Keep Britain White campaign orchestrated by the White Defence League and Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement.

Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany

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Krautrock is rather an offensive term. It certainly isn’t one that any of the bands that emerged out of the West German 1968 generation would use to describe themselves.

The term came from the British music press, which greeted the avant-garde groups with headlines such as “Can: They Have Ways of Making You Listen” and “Kraftwerk: The Final Solution to the Music Problem?”

But the long, slow fallout from the Nazi period is precisely the situation which generated a radical new cultural scene.

Northern Soul

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Northern Soul

Many of us grew up in a town like Burnsworth. “Burnsworth is a shithole”, says the graffiti put there by John, the main character, who moves from a no-hope school to a dead-end job with a grim inevitability.

But thanks to a chance encounter at the decidedly uncool school disco, he discovers Northern Soul and a new world of black music, dancing, record collecting and amphetamine fuelled all-nighters.

When will we be paid for the work we've done?

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A band leader reveals how musicians are exploited and kept down by capitalism and the celebrity system.

I have been a professional musician for 20 years, running bands in Perth, Sidney, Liverpool, Manchester and London. The "inner city scene" is basically the same everywhere in the UK. Musicians on the "original showcase circuit" don't get paid. The carrot is "exposure" as sold by "promoters".

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