Working Class Heroes: Rock Music and British Society in the 1960s and 1970s

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In Working Class Heroes, David Simonelli explores the influence of rock and roll on British society in the 1960s and '70s. At a time when social distinctions were becoming harder to measure, rock musicians appeared to embody the mythical qualities of the idealized working class by perpetuating the image of rebellious, irreverent, and authentic musicians.

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About the Author:

David Simonelli is a professor of history at Youngstown State University.

Review:

Too often the history of rock music is written for fans, and the result is that such accounts tend to be chatty and superficial. In contrast, this book contextualizes British rock in a wider context, at a pivotal moment in postwar British history. Working Class Heroes is a thoroughly enjoyable, clearly written, and nicely researched account of British rock, which situated it within a larger narrative of British social and cultural transformation, while at the same time discussing a transatlantic context, which is an absolutely indispensable dimension of any history of rock during this period. (Dennis Dworkin, University of Nevada, Reno)

Working Class Heroes takes an interesting direction, looking at the disintegration of the British class structure through the prism of rock and roll. Unlike the U.S. which has more of a distinction based upon race, British society saw the downfall of the traditional class structure and its left-over aristocracy through the introduction of mass consumption, including the mass commoditization of its music through rock and roll. The author does an excellent job showing how rock and roll reflects this significant cultural change in British society and offers a unique perspective. (David P. Szatmary, University of Washington)

In British society's transformation since 1945 from one defined in socioeconomic terms to those of culture, from working-class roots expanded to educated and multicultural ones, and from transatlantic exchanges to global interactions, the author's focus on the role of rock and roll in all its changing forms provides valuable historical analysis. Well-written individual chapters delineate the culture and counterculture of Beatlemania, psychedelic and folk rock, progressive and heavy metal rock, and glam rock to punk. Simonelli (Youngstown State Univ.) provides profiles of individual artists, groups, and the public receptions. His conclusion that 'yesterday's rebels are today's establishment' sums up the evolution of artists and groups in a sociohistorical process and the reshaping of British society. The impact on the British economy and on individual artists and groups is an important aspect of this perceptive study, which also places the different phases within the context of and in comparison to the continuing influence of 19th-century Romanticism. Using underutilized BBC newspapers found in Edinburgh and an array of printed materials, this expanded dissertation provides informative footnotes and a select bibliography, and is a scholarly addition to contemporary social history. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

For anyone coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, Working Class Heroes will evoke the rock soundtrack of youthful rebellion. But unlike the many memoirs by musicians which tend to dominate rock music literature, awash with accounts of sex and drugs, David Simonelli, associate professor of history at Youngstown State University, employs the British rock scene from the Beatles to the Sex Pistols to make important observations on the politics, economics, and social class attitudes of Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. (History News Network)

Working Class Heroes objective is to explore the ways in which popular music mediated and transformed the values of the British society over the 1960s and 1970s. . . . The book works as a useful overview of British pop’s trajectory. . . . Simonelli’s book serves as a primer or a ‘way in’ to the history of rock and pop’s interaction with the British society and British history. (Twentieth Century British History)

If you want to learn about the many facets of the beginning of the British rock circus, this book is just for you. I could hardly put it down. And I still learned new facts about the Mods, the beginning of the counterculture, the British Folk scene, the roots of progressive rock and the birth a complex cultural style solid enough to become a powerful British export good. This title comes as close to my personal 'recommended reading' as it gets. (Popcultureshelf.com)

Working Class Heroes is a useful introduction to a thorough, historically minded consideration of British popular music. . . .Overall, Simonelli's book is a useful addition to the literature on British popular music. The book provides a helpful grounding in the key protagonists and events for newcomers to British popular music history. Those who are interested in teaching modules on British cultural change, popular music, and rock would be well served by including this text on reading lists. It is well positioned for first- and second-year undergraduates, with its straightforward but entertaining prose and relative brevity. . . .Simonelli has laid the foundations for a deeper study of rock music and class that truly comes to grips with those individuals and groups that took rock's messages seriously. (H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online)

Working Class Heroes is a useful introduction to a thorough, historically minded consideration of British popular music. While established scholars, such as Matthew Worley and Marcus Collins, have started to write about British popular music historically, Simonelli, like Adrian Horn, has proved that the topic is worthy of full-length monographs. . . .Simonelli adeptly explains British rock’s domestic antecedents within the surrounding consumer and mass culture in an extremely useful and eclectic chapter for those who want to place rock music within its historical context. . . .[T]he most enlightening aspects of the book involve Simonelli’s explanations of the culture industry and consumption. . . .Overall, Simonelli’s book is a useful addition to the literature on British popular music. The book provides a helpful grounding in the key protagonists and events for newcomers to British popular music history. Those who are interested in teaching modules on British cultural change, popular music, and rock would be well served by including this text on reading lists. It is well positioned for first- and second-year undergraduates, with its straightforward but entertaining prose and relative brevity. (H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online)

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