Cultures of Popular Music

Cultures of Popular Music

Cultures of Popular Music

Cultures of Popular Music


• What is the relationship between youth culture and popular music?

• How have they evolved since the second world war?

• What can we learn from a global perspective?

In this lively and accessible text, Andy Bennett presents a comprehensive cultural, social and historical overview of post-war popular music genres, from rock 'n' roll and psychedelic pop, through punk and heavy metal, to rap, rave and techno. Providing a chapter by chapter account, Bennett also examines the style-based youth cultures to which such genres have given rise. Drawing on key research in sociology, media studies and cultural studies, the book considers the cultural significance of respective post-war popular music genres for young audiences, with reference to issues such as space and place, ethnicity, gender, creativity, education and leisure. A key feature of the book is its departure from conventional Anglo-American perspectives. In addition to British and US examples, the book refers to studies conducted in Germany, Holland, Sweden, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Russia and Hungary, presenting the cultural relationship between youth culture and popular music as a truly global phenomenon.


We fight our way through the massed and levelled collective taste of the Top 40,
just looking for a little something we can call our own. But when we find it and
jam the radio to hear it again it isn't just ours - it is a link to thousands of
others who are sharing it with us. As a matter of a single song this might mean
very little; as culture, as a way of life, you can't beat it.

(Marcus 1977: 115)

Without a doubt, popular music is a primary, if not the primary, leisure resource in late modern society. The sound of pop permeates people's lives in a variety of different ways. From nightclubs and live gigs, through cinemas and TV commercials, to what Japanese music theorist Hosokawa (1984) refers to as the 'autonomous and mobile' form of listening facilitated through the invention of the personal stereo; for a great many people, popular music is an omnipresent aspect of their day-to-day existence (Hosokawa 1984: 166). As Frith (1987: 139) observes: 'We absorb songs into our own lives and rhythms into our own bodies; they have a looseness of reference that makes them immediately accessible'.

Equally significant about popular music is the way in which it functions at a collective level. Every week in cities around the world people gather in clubs and venues to listen and dance to their favourite musics. The summer months bring festivals where music consumption is mixed with relaxation and socializing as people forge new friendships and associations based around common tastes in music, fashion and lifestyle. Popular music has also been linked with political issues and social change. In 1969 500,000 people gathered at a rural site near the town of Woodstock in upstate New York for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, an event which, among other things, protested about the US's continuing involvement in the Vietnam war. During the 1980s, popular music became the focus for a series of globally broadcast mega-events (Garofalo 1992a), beginning with Bob Geldof's Live . . .

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