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Simon Frith

Related: rock - music criticism - UK - music theory


Simon Frith is a former rock critic and a sociologist who specializes in popular music culture. He read PPE at Oxford and did a doctorate in Sociology at UC Berkeley. He taught in the Sociology Department at Warwick University and the English Studies Department at Strathclyde University before coming to Stirling University as Professor of Film and Media in August 1999. He is the author of many books including his first, The Sociology of Rock, ISBN 0094602204. More recently he has acted as the chairman of the judges of the Mercury Music Prize. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Frith [Jan 2006]

Interview by Jason Gross (May 2002)

Depending on how you see music journalism, Simon Frith is either a sinner or a saint. After the late '60's, rock criticism began to show signs of intellectualism but when a multi-degree threat like Frith came along, academia truly became part of the equation. In his columns for publications on both sides of the Atlantic and in books such as Sound Effects and The Sociology of Rock, there was on display an accelerated level of thoughtfulness and discovery (especially displayed in his genre-defining 'think pieces') of what was really under the veneer of popular music: not the grimy little secrets and dirty lies but what was the true mechanismof the system. To some, this was manna and to others, this was totally against what the spirit of rock and pop was all about. Either way, the writing game had changed and with it, the landscape of its discussion was altered.

As always, Frith is straddling the realms of education and journalism. He has spent the last three years as a professor at Stirling University in Scotland's Department of Film and Media Studies. At the same time, he has recently edited The Cambridge Companion to Rock and Pop. This interview was done focusing on his essays on the pop music industry and the question of 'what is pop?'--http://www.furious.com/perfect/simonfrith.html


  1. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music - Simon Frith [Amazon US]
    For some it's not only rock and roll, it's art. And being art, there simply must be some way--an aesthetic of rock--of judging and evaluating it. Buy into this theory, and you will want to wallow through rock critic-semiotician extraordinaire Frith's latest look at popular music and what it all means. Distinguishing between what's low and what's high--artwise, that is--Frith treads a narrow line between startling, cogent analysis and indulgent overexamination. As usual, his arguments are incredibly well footnoted, and the extensive index makes the book a useful reference as well as an engaging exploration of the meanings, overt and hidden, of popular music. Of course, while Frith's contentions and conclusions are thought provoking and insightful to those who share his fascination with pop culture, casual readers often find that his prose just gets in the way of the beat. After all, how much fun--how meaningful--is "Louie Louie" or "Peaches" if you have to be concerned with its cultural subtext? Although good for comprehensive pop culture collections, this may be a circulation underachiever for other libraries. Mike Tribby

The Sociology of Rock (1978) - Simon Frith

The Sociology of Rock (1978) - Simon Frith [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In The Sociology of Rock (1978) Frith examines the consumption, production, and ideology of rock. He explores rock as leisure, as youth culture, as a force for liberation or oppression, and as background music. He argues that rock music is a mass cultural form which derives its meaning and relevance from being a mass medium. He discusses the differences in perception and use of rock between the music industry and music consumers, as well as differences within those groups: "The industry may or may not keep control of rock's use, but it will not be able to determine all its meanings - the problems of capitalist community and leisure are not so easily resolved." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Frith [Jan 2006]

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