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Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle…

Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World (2017)

by Billy Bragg

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5214319,054 (4.5)12



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This is a vivid history of skiffle, which most of us know from The Beatles origin story (they began as a skiffle band "The Quarrymen"). The focus is on Lonnie Donegan, who kicked it all off with his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line". Bragg actually traces back the roots of that classic, as was written by railroad worker Clarence Biddle in 1930. There's tons of research and engaging narrative here, as regards Brits' discovery of American blues and how it all mutated into Teddy Boys, rock and roll, washboards and tub basses, and jazz. Many familiar names dart off the pages - Peggy Seger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Harry Belafonte, Big Bill Broonzy - and tensions between black performers and white appropriators is not ignored. A rich, rambling, rewarding read. ( )
  froxgirl | Feb 27, 2018 |
Exactly the wonderful book I'd expect BB to produce. A wide-ranging, astute, historically grounded peek into a brief (but influential) moment of cultural collision (between post-war British teenagers and American roots music). ( )
1 vote melmore | Oct 12, 2017 |
Four and a half stars because this book cries out for a discography but there is none. Bragg relates the history of British popular music in the twentieth century, with a focus on the trad jazz and skiffle movements. As he shows, the musicians and bands we think of as the British Invasion of the 1960s had their origins in skiffle, which had its origins in acoustic blues recordings by African-American musicians. Bragg turns out to be as deft a prose writer s he is a lyricist, and this book is a joy to read. ( )
1 vote nmele | Oct 3, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's very good--a little better than I thought it would be. I'm kind of a mild fan of Bragg's music and the idea of reading this on the roots of British rock music seemed like it could be good which is why I requested an early reviewers copy from LT. I also knew that John Lennon had started out playing skiffle music and had vague memories of reading about some of his influences like Lonnie Donegan and Tony Sheridan. Bragg goes back a lot further than that--all these itinerant 40's and 50's British jazzmen--merchant seamen etc. whose mecca was New Orleans borrowing from all these black bluesmen and trying to make something of their own--later on melding in old timey American roots folk music.

Bragg keeps on top of his material--doesn't clutter or back reference more than necessary. He breathes life into it--always keeps it interesting. I liked it quite a lot. ( )
3 vote lriley | Aug 31, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was quite a good read for a subject I'm only partly interested in. I never had much exposure to skiffle, but music history tends to be interesting and blues music has had SUCH wide ripples but doesn't get its due as often as it should. It's well written, and there are some really fascinating details regarding musician relations between the USA and UK that I was unaware (like a pretty long period where the US just wouldn't grant visas to UK acts so the UK did the same thing in return}.

My only real criticism would be the wish for a few more chapters to take us more thoroughly into skiffle's legacy in terms of punk, etc... ( )
  mabith | Aug 19, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571327745, Hardcover)

Skiffle ― a “do-it-yourself” music craze with American jazz, blues, folk, and roots influences ― is a story of jazz pilgrims and blues blowers, Teddy Boys and beatnik girls, coffee-bar bohemians and refugees from the McCarthyite witch hunts. Skiffle is reason 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 the trad-jazz clubs of the early ’50s, skiffle was adopted by the first generation of British “teenagers” ― working class kids who grew up during the dreary, post-war rationing years. Before Skiffle, the pop culture was dominated by crooners and mediated by a stuffy BBC. Lonnie Donegan hit the charts in 1956 with a version of Lead Belly’s “Rock Island Line” and soon sales of guitars rocketed from 5,000 to 250,000 a year.

Like punk rock that would flourish two decades later, skiffle was home grown: all you needed were three guitar chords and you could form a group, with mates playing tea-chest bass and washboard as a rhythm section.

ROOTS, RADICALS AND ROCKERS is the first book to explore the Skiffle phenomenon in depth ― Billy Bragg’s meticulously researched and joyous account shows how Skiffle sparked a revolution that shaped pop music as we have come to know it.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Mar 2017 19:02:13 -0500)

"Emerging from the jazz clubs of the early 1950s, skiffle -- a uniquely British take on American folk and blues -- caused a sensation among a generation of kids who had grown up during the dreary post-war years. These were Britain's first teenagers, looking for a music of their own in a culture dominated by crooners and mediated by a stuffy BBC. Sales of guitars rocketed from 5,000 to 250,000 a year, and -- as with the punk rock that would flourish two decades later -- all you needed to know were three guitar chords to form your own group, with your mates accompanying on tea-chest bass and washboard. Against a backdrop of Cold War politics, rock and roll riots and a newly assertive working-class youth, Billy Bragg charts -- for the first time in depth -- the history, impact and legacy of Britain's original pop movement. It's a story of jazz pilgrims and blues blowers, Teddy Boys and beatnik girls, coffee-bar bohemians and refugees from the McCarthyite witch-hunts, who between them sparked a revolution that shaped pop culture as we have come to know it"--Page 2 of dust jacket.… (more)

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