This book explores how, and why, the blues became a central
component of English popular music in the 1960s. It is commonly
known that many 'British invasion' rock bands were heavily
influenced by Chicago and Delta blues styles. But how, exactly, did
Britain get the blues? Blues records by African American artists
were released in the United States in substantial numbers between
1920 and the late 1930s, but were sold primarily to black consumers
in large urban centres and the rural south. How, then, in an era
before globalization, when multinational record releases were rare,
did English teenagers in the early 1960s encounter the music of
Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, and Barbecue Bob?
Roberta Schwartz analyses the transmission of blues records to
England, from the first recordings to hit English shores to the end
of the sixties. How did the blues, largely banned from the BBC
until the mid 1960s, become popular enough to create a demand for
re-released material by American artists? When did the British
blues subculture begin, and how did it develop? Most significantly,
how did the music become a part of the popular consciousness, and
how did it change music and expectations? The way that the blues,
and various blues styles, were received by critics is a central
concern of the book, as their writings greatly affected which
artists and recordings were distributed and reified, particularly
in the early years of the revival. 'Hot' cultural issues such as
authenticity, assimilation, appropriation, and cultural
transgression were also part of the revival; these topics and more
were interrogated in music periodicals by critics and fans alike,
even as English musicians began incorporating elements of the blues
into their common musical language. The vinyl record itself,
under-represented in previous studies, plays a major part in the
story of the blues in Britain. Not only did recordings shape
perceptions and listening habits, but which artists were available
at any given time also had an enormous impact on the British blues.
Schwartz maps the influences on British blues and blues-rock
performers and thereby illuminates the stylistic evolution of many
genres of British popular music.
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