Against a backdrop of Cold War politics, rock and roll riots and a newly assertive generation of working-class youth, the songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg charts the history, impact and legacy of skiffle - Britain’s first indigenous pop movement.
Roots, Radicals & Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World is the first book to explore this phenomenon in depth – a meticulously researched and joyous account that explains how skiffle sparked a revolution that shaped pop music as we have come to know it.
It’s a story of jazz pilgrims and blues blowers, Teddy Boys and beatnik girls, coffeebar bohemians and refugees from the McCarthyite witch-hunts. Billy traces how the guitar came to the forefront of music in the UK and led directly to the British Invasion of the US charts in the 1960s.
Emerging from Soho jazz clubs in the early ’50s, skiffle was adopted by kids who grew up during the dreary years of post-war rationing. These were Britain’s first teenagers, looking for a music of their own in a pop culture dominated by crooners and mediated by a stuffy BBC. Lonnie Donegan hit the charts in 1956 with a version of ‘Rock Island Line’ and soon sales of guitars rocketed from 5,000 to 250,000 a year.
Like the punk rock scene that would flourish two decades later, skiffle was a do-it-yourself music. All you needed was the ability to play three chords on a cheap guitar and you could form a group, with mates playing tea-chest bass and washboard as a rhythm section.
This is the story of how the first generation of British teenagers changed our pop music from being jazz-based to guitar-led.
If you've not already seen it, I hope you enjoy this a clip from Bill Murray's latest film, St Vincent. It's from the closing credits to the film - don't worry, there's no spoilers - which feature Murray's character, Vincent, lounging in his yard, listening to an old Sony Walkman and singing along to Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm”. Bill sings Bob, indeed.
A campaign led by Billy Bragg has successfully seen prisoners in British jails allowed to use steel stringed guitars.
Musicians including Radiohead's Ed O'Brien and Philip Selway, Elbow's Guy Garvey, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Johnny Marr also supported the campaign to overturn the ban on steel-strung guitars in British prisons. The campaign was also led by Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, who has commented:
Billy Talbot, bassist with Neil Young & Crazy Horse, has suffered a mild stroke, according to a report on Rolling Stone.
The story reports that Talbot will sit out the band's forthcoming European tour dates.
"Talbot's doctors expect him to make a full recovery," the group said in a statement. "They have advised Talbot to sit this tour out and recover his strength."
Talbot's place will be filled by Neil Young's longtime bassist Rick Rosas.
Billy Corgan is to release an album of experimental recordings made in 2007 for a price of $59.95 (approximately £36).
Titled AEGEA, the album comes in an edition of 250, each hand-numbered and annotated by Corgan. It will be released in the next six to eight weeks, reports Pitchfork.
The annual Green Man Festival has announced a host of line-up additions.
Real Estate, Bill Callahan, Caribou, former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser and Simian Mobile Disco have been confirmed for the festival, alongside Angel Olsen, Boy & Bear, Nick Mulvey, Francois & The Atlas Mountain, Teleman and East India Youth.
Bill Callahan plays London’s Royal Festival Hall tonight (February 7), in support of his Dream River album (and its recent dub remix, Have Fun With God) – so it seems a good time to skip back to our 197th issue, in which Uncut spends an intimate evening at Callahan’s house in Austin, unpicking the mysteries of the Artist Formerly Known As Smog... “I left clues?” Words: Jaan Uhelszki________________
Sometimes, with Bill Callahan, the focus on his records is so unwaveringly on his lyrics, it is tempting to treat them as recited poetry rather than actual music. On an old Smog record like “The Doctor Came At Dawn”, say, the music seems barely there; just a little shading to point up the melodic undertow of a baritone that often wanders closer to speech than song.