Youth and Pop Music



How It All Began- A Cultural Revolution.


1950 no pop music The Beatles, and the most famous music and fashion scene in the world (with America). What a time!

In the mid-1950s, Britain was still feeling the pain of the war, with food and money shortages, and difficulty still part of daily life. Britain as a country was also in financial trouble, the economy was in bad shape. This was a grey time, and young British people, British ekidsf had no dreams, and could only copy the images which they saw on the big screen of life for kids in America. These young Americans would be driving cars their own cars, and wearing the latest clothes. The British youth could watch and hear the latest wild and exotic eRock 'N Rollf music sounds coming from the States. Elvis Presley of course. Many in Britain and America thought that rock en roll was the devilfs music.

During the 1950fs British children were younger versions of their parents, and the idea of a separate youth culture, or separate identity, did not exist. The transition between child and adult was not marked by anything special. The way that young people dressed was almost the same as their parents. They were not a separate group with its own values and customs.

British eteensf (teenagers) did not have the money that
the American young people had – nor did they have the vast choice of things to buy that was available to American youngsters. There was also almost no social mobility in Britain. Working class people stayed as working class people, basically poor, and middle class people stayed as middle class people. Most could not afford a car, and econsumer choicef was simply "Can I afford it?" or "Do have one in the shop? Usually the answer to both was NO.


British youth culture was small, and was totally dominated by the

American trends and styles. The British music industry in the 1950fs relied almost entirely (100%) on American products-British copies of American-style music. The music industry was controlled from London by middle-aged men (ojiisan) who were for out of touch with the needs and wants of the youth of Britain. However, even in this type of this atmosphere, a uniquely 'British' musical trend emerged in the late 1950fs. This was called 'Skiffle', (a kind of

 simple folk music played by a small group, mainly with rhythmic accompaniment, usually a washboard to a singing guitarist). The music performed was normally of traditional US origin (e.g. Rock Island Line).  

This simple style was easy for teenagers to play,
just one guitar, and someone who could vaguely keep a


rhythm on a washboard or other improvised instruments.

Skiffle was made famous by Glasgow-born Lonnie Donegan. Lonnie was hugely popular and, an inspiration to the musical youth of Britain. He is still playing and singing. There are many famous musicians and groups e.g. Eric Clapton who all say that Lonnie Donegan was a big influence on them.

Apart from Skiffle, most of the young people listened to easy listening, a kind of enka, sung by people such as Cliff Richard and Adam Faith.

Cliff Richard, who is now Sir Cliff Richard, is a favourite of the Queen, and many other mothers as well.

This was in the South of England. BUT things were different eup northf.

Liverpool and the Merseybeat.

In the cities outside of London, especially Liverpool, but also Birmingham and Manchester, Newcastle a musical revolution was happening.

In port towns such as Liverpool, a emusic culture' very different

and separate from London was happening. This was influenced by the import of rare American music into the ports. London could have been 30,000 miles away. In the North, the kids loved Rhythm 'N Blues & Rock 'N Roll, not the easy listening music of the south. By the early 1960fs in these northern cities a large and highly competitive band scene emerged in which hundreds of 'local' bands tried to find and perform the latest imported songs. Indeed it is often said that American Blues music, the music of black people,


was not famous in America at first but became famous in Britain first. It was exported to Britain, where it became popular. Then the Americans heard music from their own country and it became popular in America as well.

In Liverpool, the music they played was a mix of the American music with a touch of the eMerseyf and Liverpudlian individualism. The concept of a 'Merseybeat' was born.


The Beatles

By the 1960fs there were so many great groups in this Mersey scene, and many were better musicians than John, Paul, George and Ringo,


the efab fourf.


BUT...everyone young in Britain decided that The Beatles were number one.


The Beatles went to America, and once The Beatles had ecrackedf the American market, everything else followed. Suddenly Britain, (mainly London), was eswingingf. In the eswinging 60fsf Britain became the centre of the music and fashion world. There was a genuine energy, creativity and optimism which was totally the opposite of the mood of a few years before. This is a picture of the mini, designed by created by Sir Alec Isigonis in 1959, and which became a symbol of 1960fs British design.


1950 in Britain-no pop music, no rock music.

1960 in Britain Pop and Rock music-Britain is the biggest (or second biggest) in the world-A revolution!

Zeitgesit- The spirit of the times.

What this creativity meant was an energy which spread throughout all the youth of Britain and which meant that everyone was aware that things were changing. Class separation was changing, and women were becoming more equal. There also many many people, students and artists who wanted everything to change and wanted to change everything. They were the revolutionaries, and the effects of their changes cab still be felt today. MOST British people believe in equality and fairness (class, race and gender).

The change from no pop music in Britain, to a worldwide pop phenomenon, and the development of a eyouthf can be explained because some basic factors:  

Post War Britain-Changing Values.

1) The working class children of the war started to grow up, and they rejected the values of British society. A society which had taught them that life was hard and often short, because you might die in a war. Many young people had lost parents and family. The young people did not like the idea that a person would be a worker or a leader. A personfs life was fixed. Think of the 11+ exam and how this would contribute to dividing society into 2 streams, those who could ethinkf and those who could eworkf.

The 1950fs also saw the emergence of a radical intelligentsia, and the birth of ethe angry young menf, who rejected the values of society. Writers such as John Osbourne, and musicians such as John Lennon. These people were also known as eworking class heroesf because they were enormalf but brilliant people and.

The Economy

2) In the early 1960fs, the economy of Britain took off. Britain became a rich country, everybody had jobs and money, including the young people. (N.b. watch the film Quadrphoeneia by the Who). In particular the youth of Britain had started to get more money, and acquire spending power and became independent. This meant that they bought more clothes and records.

3) Young people became big business, and record companies and fashion companies wanted to young people to buy their products so-advertising-the message of youth.

In America

4) The US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated and this left America in a state of shock, without a sense of direction and vulnerable. The Americans looked to England for musical and artistic inspiration.

5) The British youth, had decided that The Beatles were best, and this spirit of the Beatles and the values of eLove and Peacef took the rest of the country with it, eZeitgesitf.

The Values of (e.g.) love and peace, and the norms or different behaviour, (going to concerts/parties and especially clothes.


Youth Groups (eyouth culturef or esubculturesf).

There was no eyouth culturef (values and norms) in the early 1950's. Of course young people and children played their own games but there was no-one who said "I am a punk", or eI am a rapperf. The 1950fs and the 1960fs were a period of freedom for young people, simply because everything was so new. Youth culture had not existed in Britain before 1950. It was invented in the 1950fs. There was no especial way of thinkingf before the 1950fs- there were no special values because everyone went to school and then men went to work and women got married.

In other words, the rite of passage between childhood and adult life had not been very clearly marked - The impact of imported US films and music inspired a series of spectacular - and distinctly British - youth subcultures from the mid-50fs to the late-70fs.

Some youth groups or egangsf-1950fs-1970fs. These groups decided to drop out of a society (British society, a country) which did not help them. They decided to go it alone, make their own small countries (societies in Britain). Some wanted to change the whole country as well. 


The Teddy Boys, and The Teddy Girls, or eTedsf. C. 1953.

The first youth group in Britain. eRockabillyf style with equiffsf, Elvis Presley, flick-knives, crepe sole shoes, and they were from working-class London. Not so revolutionary but rather violent like the Yankees of today in Japan.


The Hippies 1960fs-Very revolutionary.

The 'anything goes' culture of the 1960's was promoted by the hippies. The hippy values were a reaction to emoneyf and enormalityf.


These values were peace and love. The music was e.g. The Beatles, The Who, Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and American hippy music, (also my favourites). Mainly middle class.


The Mods origins about 1963, Jamaican-rudeboy/Italian-cool style, US soul. Music- The Small Faces, The Who (My Generationf) & Scooters, working-class London. Values of 'party party'. Fashion-Green army parkas, Italian suits. Not s revolutionary in the global sense.


The Punks 1976-1979.

Sex Pistols, The Clash, bondage, swastikas-Values of eanarchyf-destroy society. Another musical revolution. Large scale-revolutionary. Some great music, also with New Wave music such as The Stranglers (Blondie, Television from America) New sounds new thinking.


Can you imagine living through such a period of change, I did.

1. Are there any separate youth groups in Japan? (Yankees/Gangori/Channella/)? Why?

2. Do all young people in Japan, agree with the values of Japan (work hard/make money/get married) or do some groups have different ideas? Who? What?

3. What are the most popular music styles in Japan?


The Death of a Single Youth Culture.

By the late 70s and early 80s, youth subculture began to change. There were fewer new groups, and the first major period of revivals began. The age of eretrof fashions had begun. The clothing of the 1960fs and especially the 1970fs became the enewf fashion of the 90fs and in to 2000. This retro look is and was, fashion without philosophy. Today people wear Indian skirts which were a hippy fashion, but they do not want to reject or change society.

Now everyone can behave like a teenager. People in Britain of all ages, 20fs, 30fs, 40fs and 50fs can now buy a lifestyle which is sold to them, they do not have to make a separate group and their values are not different from main stream society, but the same. David Beckham is an example of a style icon who defines a lifestyle which is non-revolutionary.

What will happen next?