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An analysis of british rock culture and its impact on popular culture Essay

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Since its genesis in the early 1960s, British Rock n’ Roll has been one of the most influential movements of contemporary music worldwide. Britain has successfully introduced some of the most significant rock musicians to ever grace the stage worldwide. Included in this group are bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and countless others. I chose to analyze British rock culture, not solely because of its importance in terms of musicality, but because of its profound impact on popular culture.

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Contemporary British rock began developing in the 1960s and early 1970s with the inception of bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. It derived from the skiffle and blues music of the 1950s, yet the forthcoming British artists sought to recreate the upbeat music according to their own interpretations (Perone 19). British rock culture has yielded many sub-genres of rock n’ roll including Progressive Rock, Glam Rock, Alternative, and Heavy Metal. As the movement has expanded throughout the decades, lyrics have become more complex and have become increasingly rooted in the conveyance of sociopolitical and sexual themes (Miles 1).

The geographic origins of contemporary British rock culture are mainly large urban areas in the southern half of England including Liverpool, Manchester, and London (Kallen 20). These urban locations teemed with showcase opportunities at clubs and concert halls for many of the local bands. Over three hundred bands in the 1960s made their debut in these smaller venues that the large cities had to offer. After increasing in popularity, bands like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles made a transition to America in what was coined as the British Invasion. The British Invasion came in different waves, continually promoting the new styles and sounds coming out of Britain during the second half of the twentieth century. This movement influenced the form of artistic migration that has continued today within the realm of pop music with bands like One Direction.

The British Invasion of the 1960s flourished due to the British domination of American radio stations and record industry. The vibrant fashion trends and mop-top hairstyles took the young American public by storm. In terms of demographics, the attractive members of the new Britain rock culture were extremely appealing to their American counterparts. Their enticing English accents were familiar enough to understand, yet foreign enough to be alluring and admired.  They were young enough to be relatable and helped to create the link between music and teenage identity that continues to proliferate today.

It is important to analyze the psychographics of band members associated with the British rock scene as it allows for us to better determine and understand the attitudes and opinions reflected by their lifestyle choices. While many British musicians during this time were brought up in the Christian church, in many cases they eventually began to reject religious teachings and organizations. George Harrison, for example, abandoned Western thought entirely and began to embrace Eastern ideologies during his spiritual walk with Hinduism while in India (Stark 117). John Lennon and Ringo Starr began to identify as being an agnostic or atheist, while Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher has stated that his beliefs continually oscillate and that he is too concerned with the present day to be worried about the afterlife (“Liam and Noel Gallagher” 2).  Rumors concerning satanic behavior and devilish subliminal messaging have continued to be associated with British rock stars; opponents to the messages that British musicians advocate are adamant in stating that playing songs like The Beatles’ “Revolution 9” backward wield satanic sayings and chants. This is enough for some people to firmly believe that the musicians producing these songs do worship Satan as their god.

In terms of family life and relationships, short-lived marriages and divorce have been popular amongst those in the rock scene. The pressures of being a celebrity living a high profile and publically wildlife strained marital relationships and led to many of the musicians having multiple spouses throughout their lifetime.  Adultery is common; Mick Jagger’s first wife has stated in an interview that her marriage ended on their wedding day because of this. Sexual liberation was a prominent theme that was grounded in the British rock scene and encouraged the normalization of premarital sex and, eventually, homosexuality.

Bands during the creation of the British rock movement were often considered accurate representations of the counterculture movement of the 1960s due to their youthful, rebellious behaviors and creativity. This trend continued with members of The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones.  Drug use began to run rampant in the artists’ lives as LSD, heroin, and cocaine became popular choices for artists with an experimental mindset. The common interest in recreational drugs was an attempt to explore consciousness and find inspiration for new sounds and styles to share with the eager public. The prolonged drug use inspired a branch of British rock called psychedelic rock, introducing the Grateful Dead and The Doors to the world stage (Kallen 253).  The Beatles famously became known for their bouts with LSD. Overall, the explicit use of drugs in songwriting encouraged the young public to experiment themselves as they embraced the alternative lifestyle that their stars exemplified.

The fame and exposure of British musicians have often led to very risqué behavior, commonly leading to alcoholism, drug addiction, and young deaths. The stars are most often characterized as living freely, and doing whatever it is they please, no matter how frowned upon their actions are. Many urban legends have surfaced regarding the wild antics of British musicians, including stories about bizarre sexual encounters and the destruction of both public and private properties.  It is plausible to say that many musicians associated with this culture focus on primarily living in the moment. The profitable success of record sales in conjunction with their celebrity titles provides the musicians with the funds to do virtually whatever they please with their time and their money. Drugs, therefore, become easily accessible and affordable. Drug addiction is very common in the lives of these artists and has sadly claimed many of their lives at young ages. Jim Morrison of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Keith Moon of The Who is among those whose reliance on recreational drugs like heroin, unfortunately, claimed their lives. They were all under thirty-two years of age (“The Dead Rockstars Club” 27).

The impact that the British rock scene has had on popular culture throughout the world is undeniable. The British rock culture has become so important in England that some of its stars have been awarded, and in some special cases, knighted by the Queen of England for their contributions to music. The list of those who have been knighted includes Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney of The Beatles (Kallen 246). The worldwide influence of British rock culture is even more impressive as it has become a reflection of societal changes and themes as time and the development of sub-genres have progressed.  In terms of musicality, it increased the distinction between what was considered noise and what was considered carefully constructed music; instruments are now seen as crucial to a song or band’s success. In even more important terms, it has been a form of democratic mass media that has broadcasted messages of free speech, sexuality, and even anti-war disillusionment. British rock n’ roll has influenced people beyond Britain’s sphere of political and economic influence through its ties to the world’s youth. Overall, British rock culture will continue to expand its horizons and be influential in the lives of the masses due to the band members who are willing to share their opinions and creativity through their artistic medium.

Works Cited

“The 1960s British Music Invasion.” The Official 60’s Site-British Music Invasion. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

“The Beatles and the British Invasion.” The Beatles and the British Invasion. Jerry Fielden, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

“The Dead Rock Stars Club – The 1970s.” The Dead Rock Stars Club – The 1970s. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

Kallen, Stuart A., and Bob Italia. Renaissance of Rock: The British Invasion. Bloomington, MN: Abdo & Daughters, 1989. Print.

“Liam and Noel Gallagher.” Www.atheistalliance.org. Atheist Musicians, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.

Miles, Barry. “Spirit of the Underground: The 60s Rebel.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 31 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

Perone, James E. Mods, Rockers, and the Music of the British Invasion. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009. Print.

Stark, Steven D. Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender, and the World. New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005. Print.

 

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