Revolt into Style

December 22, 2014 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized)

He turns revolt into a style, prolongs
The impulse to a habit of the time.

–Thom Gunn

The poet Thom Gunn was talking about Elvis Presley, but I first heard the phrase as the title of a single by ex-Be-Bop Deluxe member Bill Nelson’s solo project Red Noise. I wasn’t a fan of Nelson’s prog-rock group, but  I liked the sound of this one. New wave sounding and dressed like teenage Maoists.

Later I heard of George Melly’s book Revolt into Style, and eventually after reading Dick Herbidge’s Subcultures too, I found the Gunn poem.

This is a rather long way of mentioning I’ve just finished reading Richard Weight’s book Mod: A Very British Style. I’ve been interesting in the Mod cult for a few years (the sociology and style of it, but not necessarily all of the music it entailed), but Weight’s book goes beyond the sixties scooter kids and the periodic revivals; instead, perhaps following from Jon Savage’s investigations into the birth of the teenager, Weight looks at post-war British youth who after copying American rock ‘n’ roll, invented something perhaps uniquely English (if such a thing can be said to exist in a globalized cultural economy – perhaps it exists as mod failed to trigger a reaction in the US).

Weight further examines subsequent youth cults, such as skinhead, Northern Soul, punk, the 70s Mod revival, and Two-tone up through Madchester and Britpop.

It’s a pretty interesting book, and it’s a great survey of youth subcultures from the last half century. Well worth a look if you’ve some holidays coming up over the Christmas break.

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