Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists

Soft Skull Press
Free sample

Rock music has been the principal outlet of youth rebellion for more than half a century, and though rock rebels have been idolized and profiled extensively, their humor has not been at the center of attention. In Rebels Wit Attitude, music writer Iain Ellis throws a spotlight on the history of humor in rock music, and its use as a weapon of anti-establishment rebellion. The performers who are the subjects of Ellis’ study are not merely musicians or comedians—they are artists whose works exude defiance and resistance. Discussing the work of iconic figures as diverse as Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, the Beastie Boys, and Madonna, Ellis reveals how issues of politics, ethics, race, and gender, among others, have energized their expressions of rock (and) humor. Rebels Wit Attitude is an entertaining look at some of the greatest rebels in American rock culture and a fascinating history of humor and dissent.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Soft Skull Press
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Published on
Oct 29, 2008
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781593763350
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / History & Criticism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Sex Pistols. David Bowie. Pink Floyd. Rebel rockers and provokers of the public, vivid in our memories as much for their subversion of the mainstream as for their signature sounds. Yet what very few people realize is that a substantive part of the weaponry used by these rockers and their contemporaries was humor: outrageous onstage antics, coded cultural references, and clever lyrical constructs were all critical to expressions of youth rebellion that could still slip past the powers that be. Focusing on key subversive rock humorists, Brit Wits shows how and why humor has been such a powerful catalyst and expressive force in these artists’ work. Distinguishing rock humorists from rockers who are merely sometimes humorous, Iain Ellis trains his attention on those whose music and persona exude defiance—beginning with the Beatles, the Kinks, and Pink Floyd; and continuing through the Smiths, the Slits, and even the Spice Girls—to investigate the nature of rock humor and the ways in which these groups have used it to attack prevailing social structures. Politics and issues of gender, class, and race are all laid open to ridicule, as is the music industry itself—epitomized by the Sex Pistols’s scathing “EMI.” And although lyrics are foregrounded, Ellis demonstrates that a guitar solo, dissident dance move, or antisocial hairstyle may in context be every bit as subversive and humorous as a song. At once an action-packed look at some of the most notorious rebels of British rock history and a celebration of an underexplored area of humor, Brit Wits compiles essays and critical profiles that look at one of the most effective—and entertaining—means of anti-establishment expression for half a century.
Music has always been central to the cultures that young people create, follow, and embrace. In the 1960s, young hippie kids sang along about peace with the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and tried to change the world. In the 1970s, many young people ended up coming home in body bags from Vietnam, and the music scene changed, embracing punk and bands like The Sex Pistols. In Sells Like Teen Spirit, Ryan Moore tells the story of how music and youth culture have changed along with the economic, political, and cultural transformations of American society in the last four decades. By attending concerts, hanging out in dance clubs and after-hour bars, and examining the do-it-yourself music scene, Moore gives a riveting, first-hand account of the sights, sounds, and smells of “teen spirit.”
Moore traces the histories of punk, hardcore, heavy metal, glam, thrash, alternative rock, grunge, and riot grrrl music, and relates them to wider social changes that have taken place. Alongside the thirty images of concert photos, zines, flyers, and album covers in the book, Moore offers original interpretations of the music of a wide range of bands including Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Metallica, Nirvana, and Sleater-Kinney. Written in a lively, engaging, and witty style, Sells Like Teen Spirit suggests a more hopeful attitude about the ways that music can be used as a counter to an overly commercialized culture, showcasing recent musical innovations by youth that emphasize democratic participation and creative self-expression—even at the cost of potential copyright infringement.
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