Were we that restless?

I have just finished reading a very entertaining book, The Restless Generation by Pete Frame (see my 5 April post). The sub-title is How rock music changed the face of 1950s Britain. It’s definitely worth a read if you get chance – I left the important book information in the other post, at the end.

Pete Frame discusses the roots of rock music in Britain during the mid- to late-1950s, the personalities involved, and the development of the various music genres – and the opposition to and lack of understanding of this music by the powers that be in the BBC and the music recording industry. It’s also interesting to know how few (of the thousands) of young men (and just a handful of women) who took up the guitar actually ever made a success in show business. And to a certain extent the book relates how they were exploited by the industry.

The traditional jazz revival, spear-headed by Ken Colyer and Chris Barber really lies at the roots of skiffle music in Britain, and its further evolution into rock ‘n’ roll. Barber in particular has to be credited with bringing over to the UK many American black musicians who had a rhythm and blues background, especially from delta blues as they developed into southern Chicago blues. Rock music (and the recording of music) was way ahead in the USA. Early rock musicians in the USA had access to recording studios and instruments (such as the Fender Stratocaster, for example) which were just not available in the UK. And, more importantly, record producers who understood the music.

Skiffle (headed by Lonnie Donegan) led to rock ‘n’ roll, to folk, to the blues, alongside the continuation of jazz of course. In the USA the evolution moved towards bluegrass as well.

Famous rock singers in the UK were Tommy Steele (featured on the book cover), Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and Billy Fury.

But what’s also interesting is how the various musicians moved back and forth between groups, constantly falling out, making up, moving on – and sometimes achieving fame. And another thing – how young many of them were when they started, only 15 or 16 in some cases.

But don’t take my word for it. Go and find a copy of The Restless Generation, and have yourself a good read. You won’t be disappointed.

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