The politics of hope

On the basis of a body of reggae songs from the 1970s and late 1990s, this book offers a sociological analysis of memory, hope and redemption in reggae music. From Dennis Brown to Sizzla, the way in which reggae music constructs a musical, religious and socio-political memory in rupture with dominant models is illustrated by the lyrics themselves. How is the past remembered in the present? How does remembering the past allow for imagining the future? How does collective memory participate in the historical grounding of collective identity? What is the relationship between tradition and revolution, between the recollection of the past and the imagination of the future, between passivity and action? Ultimately, this case study of ‘memory at work’ opens up on a theoretical problem: the conceptualisation of time and its relationship with memory.

Essays on The Smiths

This book seeks to offer a rather wider frame of analysis than is typically adopted in accounts of the nature and significance of The Smiths. It focuses on the Catholic and broader religious dimensions of The Smiths. The book explores the theme of suicide in the songs of The Smiths. It also seeks to examine how the kitchen-sink dramas of the early 1960s influenced Morrissey's writing. The book proposes that beyond the literal references in his lyrics there lies a sensibility at the heart of these films akin to the one found in his poetic impulse. The book expands the argument with some concluding thoughts on how cinema has 'returned the favour' by employing The Smiths' songs in various ways. It examines the particular forms of national identity that are imagined in the work of The Smiths. The book ranges from class, sexuality, Catholicism, and Thatcherism to musical poetics and fandom. It then focuses on lyrics, interviews, the city of Manchester, cultural iconography, and the cult of Morrissey. The distinctive sense of Englishness that pervades the lyrics, interviews, and cover art of the band is located within a specific tradition of popular culture from which they have drawn and to which they have contributed a great deal. The book breaches the standard confines of music history, rock biography, and pop culture studies to give a sustained critical analysis of the band that is timely and illuminating.

Art worlds and cultural production

This book explores the interface between musicological and sociological approaches to the analysis of music, and in doing so reveals the differing foundations of cultural studies and sociological perspectives more generally. Building on the arguments of his earlier book Sounds and society, the author initially contrasts text-based attempts to develop a ‘social’ analysis of music with sociological studies of musical activities in real cultural and institutional contexts. It is argued that the difficulties encountered by some of the ‘new’ musicologists in their efforts to introduce a social dimension to their work are often a result of their unfamiliarity with contemporary sociological discourse. Just as linguistic studies have moved from a concern with the meaning of words to a focus on how they are used, a sociological perspective directs our attention towards the ways in which the production and reception of music inevitably involve the collaborative activities of real people in particular times and places. The social meanings and significance of music, therefore, cannot be disclosed by analysis of the ‘texts’ alone, but only through the examination of the ways in which music is a constituent part of real social settings. This theme is developed through discussions of music in relation to processes of social stratification, the collaborative activities of improvising musicians, music as language, music as a ‘cultural object’ and music in everyday social situations.

The punk and post-punk worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield, 1975–80

This book argues that punk and post-punk, whatever their respective internal stylistic heterogeneity, enjoyed 'sociological reality' in Samuel Gilmore's and Howard Becker's sense. It elaborates the concept of 'music worlds', contrasting it with alternatives from the sociological literature. In particular it contrasts it with the concepts 'subculture', 'scene' and 'field'. The book then outlines a number of concepts which allow us to explore the localised process in which punk took shape in a sociologically rigorous manner. In particular it discusses the concepts of 'critical mass' and 'social networks'. The book also applies these concepts to the London punk world of 1976. It considers how talk about punk migrated from face-to-face networks to mass media networks and the effects of that shift. Continuing the discussion of punk's diffusion and growth, the book considers how punk worlds took shape in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. In addition, however, the book offers a more technical analysis of the network structures of the post-punk worlds of the three cities. Furthermore, extending this analysis, and combining qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis, the book considers how activities in different local post-punk worlds were themselves linked in a network, constituting a national post-punk world.

How rare groove, acid house and jungle remapped the city

This book discusses the emergence in London of three specific dance music multicultures in the context of the racialised city. Focusing on rare groove, acid house and jungle it places the emergence of these multi-racial music cultures in the context of theories of space and the historical forces which racialised the city in the late 20th century. Based on a wide range of original interviews with cultural producers – DJs, promoters, producers and dancers - undertaken over 20 years, read alongside cultural theory and contemporary accounts, it argues that music and the practices of space around music have been a crucial way in which racial segregation has been challenged and multiculture has emerged in London.