Alwyn Turner

Pop Will Eat Itself

Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the iPhone – 125 Years of Pop Music


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The postwar British cult of revivalist jazz was a curiously paradoxical affair. The initial intention was to resist the rise of bebop and other deviations from the true path by reasserting the roots of the music – ‘to unearth the principles which distinguished the early jazz forms, which had become almost obscured beneath an accumulation of decadent influences’, as the Old Etonian trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton put it in 1949. The result was a fiercely conservative movement in which much energy was expended debating whether, for example, a string bass was an appropriate rhythm instrument or whether the sousaphone was more authentic. When, a few years later, Lyttelton had the temerity to introduce a saxophonist to his own band, the unfortunate musician’s first solo was greeted with catcalls from traditionalists in the audience and the unfurling of a banner that read, ‘Go home, dirty bopper.’

And yet, for all its retrophilia, revivalist jazz was also a ground-breaking innovation. It was, as Peter Doggett points out

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