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Music of the United Kingdom

Parent categories: music - UK

Related: Brian Auger - Beatles - The Clash - Jane Birkin - Nick Drake - Brian Eno - Trevor Jackson - John Martyn - Gilles Peterson - Rolling Stones - Mark Stewart - Sex Pistols - Andy Votel - Robert Wyatt - Earl Zinger

Musical genres coined in the UK: rare groove - jazz-funk - acid-jazz - speed garage - northern soul - acid house - balearic - electro funk - techno

Post-war music of the United Kingdom

The UK was, with the US, one of the two main countries in the development of rock and roll, and has provided bands including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen, Status Quo, the Sex Pistols, the Manic Street Preachers, Oasis, and Radiohead. Since then it has also pioneered in various forms of electronic dance music including acid house, drum and bass and trip hop, all of which were in whole or part developed in the United Kingdom. Acclaimed British dance acts include Underworld, Massive Attack, The Chemical Brothers and Portishead. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_the_United_Kingdom#Music [Apr 2005]

Trendy UK

"The U.K. likes discovering trends," Rushton says. "Because of the way that the media works, dance culture happens very quickly. It's not hard to hype something up." House slotted right into the mainstream English pop taste for fast, four-on-the-floor black dance music that began with Tamla in the early '60s (for many English people the first black music they heard). In the '70s, obscure mid-'60s Detroit area records had been turned into a way of life, a religion even, in the style called "Northern Soul" by dance writer Dave Godin. Other trends discovered by British music journalists are rare groove, jazz-funk, acid-jazz, speed garage, northern soul, acid house, balearic, electro funk and techno.

Guitar Solos (1993) - Fred Frith

Guitar Solos (1993) - Fred Frith [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Fred Frith (born February 17, 1949) is an English musician and composer. He is brother of Chris Frith, a psychologist working at University College London.

He primarily performs on guitar, producing an innovative series of experimental Guitar Solos albums during the 1970s. He also plays bass guitar, violin and xylophone. He was a founder member of British avant-garde progressive rock bands Henry Cow and Art Bears. While living in New York City he formed two improvising groups in the early 1980s, Massacre and Skeleton Crew. He has collaborated with Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno, Lars Hollmer, The Residents, Lol Coxhill, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Derek Bailey, Rova and others. Frith has also made two records with experimental group French Frith Kaiser Thompson (consisting of John French, Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson).

He is a professor of the Music Department at Mills College, Oakland, California. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Frith [Jan 2006]

See also: experimental music - USA - Robert Wyatt - Bill Laswell

Dedicated Follower of Fashion (1966) - The Kinks

Dedicated Follower of Fashion (1966) - The Kinks

They seek him here, they seek him there,
His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him so he's got to buy the best,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

And when he does his little rounds,
'Round the boutiques of London Town,
Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
He thinks he is a flower to be looked at,
And when he pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight,
He feels a dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
There's one thing that he loves and that is flattery.
One week he's in polka-dots, the next week he is in stripes.
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

They seek him here, they seek him there,
In Regent Street and Leicester Square.
Everywhere the Carnabetian army marches on,
Each one an dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
His world is built 'round discoteques and parties.
This pleasure-seeking individual always looks his best
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.

Oh yes he is (oh yes he is), oh yes he is (oh yes he is).
He flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly.
In matters of the cloth he is as fickle as can be,
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion.
He's a dedicated follower of fashion.

see also: cult - fashion - 1966

Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980) - The Fall

Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980) - The Fall [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In the words of K-punk:
[I]n its ambition, its linguistic inventivenss and its formal innovation, this triptych [Grotesque (1980), Slates (1981) and Hex Enduction Hour (1982)] bears comparison with the great works of twentieth century high literary modernism (Joyce, Eliot, Lewis). The Fall extend and performatively critique that mode of high modernism by reversing the impersonation of working class accent, dialect and diction that, for example, Eliot performed in The Waste Land. Smith’s strategy involved aggressively retaining accent while using - in the domain of a supposedly popular entertainment form - highly arcane literary practices. In doing so, he laid waste the notion that intelligence, literary sophistication and artistic experimentalism are the exclusive preserve of the privileged and the formally educated.

The temptation for Smith was always to fit into the easy role of working class spokesman, speaking from an assigned place in a given social world. Smith played with that role ('the white crap that talks back', 'Prole Art Threat', 'Hip Priest') whilst refusing to actually play it. He knew that representation was a trap; Social Realism was the enemy because in supposedly 'merely' representing the social order, it actually constituted it. Against the Social Realism of the official left, Smith developed a late twentieth century urban English version of the 'grotesque realism' Bakhtin famously described in Rabelais and his World. Crucial to this grotesque realism is a contestation of the classificatory system which deems cultures (and populations) to be either refined or vulgar. As Peter Stallybrass and Allon White argued [The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (1986)], 'the grotesque tends to operate as a critique of a dominant ideology which has already set the terms of, designating what is high and low'.

Instead of the high modernist appropriation of working class speech and culture, Smith's pulp modernism reacquaints modernism with its disavowed pulp doppelganger. --http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/007759.html [May 2006]

K-Punk is Mark Fisher is a writer and lecturer. He has a PhD in Philosophy and Literature from Warwick University and teaches Philosophy, Religious Studies and Critical Thinking at Orpington College, Kent. He was a founder member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (http://www.ccru.net) and now maintains the popular weblog k-punk (http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org).

The Fall are a British rock music group, formed in Manchester in 1976. Named after Albert Camus's novel, The Fall (1956), they have never been a chart band, but remain notable both for their music and for their subtle influence on several generations of musicians who keep an ear tuned to underground culture.

Formed during punk rock's rise, The Fall never quite fit into that movement or its post-punk/new wave offshoots. The Fall have continued for a quarter of a century in producing music which varies richly in both character and quality. The abrasive lyrics and instantly recognizable half-droned, half-ranted vocals of frontman Mark E. Smith provide the one constant note through more than two prolific decades of dizzying personnel changes. An interview with Smith in May, 2004 reported "49 (band) members, 78 albums and 41 singles," and also quoted the opinion of their longstanding fan, the legendary English DJ John Peel: "They are always different, they are always the same." [4] The Fall recorded 24 sessions for the Peel show between 1978 and 2004.

The Fall's influences are worn lightly, though The Monks, Link Wray, The Seeds, Can, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, The Residents, Van Der Graaf Generator and the more experimental work of The Velvet Underground are all evident. In the earlier part of their career they were also often compared to Henry Cow. The Fall's regular cover versions are mostly obscure songs by offbeat musicians, including a cover of Hubert Parry's 1916 setting of William Blake's 1804 poem "Jerusalem". The Fall have also covered more pop-oriented material like Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music" and The Kinks' "Victoria". A reggae influence is also evident; Smith is an avid reggae fan (especially during his teen years), and like traditional reggae, most Fall songs are composed of simple, repeating riffs that Smith rants/sings over in his rhythmic drawl that owes a debt to reggae toasting. In terms of lyrical concerns, literary touchstones such as William Blake, Arthur Machen, Wyndham Lewis and H.P. Lovecraft are as significant as musical ones. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fall_(band) [May 2006]

See also: grotesque - rock music - 1980 - British music

Trevor Horn

Video Killed the Radio Star (1979) - Buggles

Trevor Horn, born July 15, 1949 in Durham, England, is a pop music producer and musician.

After playing double bass in big bands and producing little-known artists, Horn had a breakthrough hit when he formed a band called the Buggles and released "Video Killed the Radio Star". In 1980 Horn and fellow Buggles member Geoff Downes were invited to join the rock group Yes. Horn became the lead vocalist, replacing Jon Anderson. He recorded one album with the band, Drama, on which he also plays bass on one track. However, he left after seven months, at the beginning of 1981, to concentrate on his production work. He also completed a second Buggles album, Adventures In Modern Recording, mainly alone after a falling out with Geoff Downes. Horn did work with Yes again, (co-)producing their next two studio albums. He is also known for performing on albums he produces.

He is most associated with acts like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, ABC, Grace Jones, Seal and Propaganda, but has also produced Dollar, Tina Turner, Lisa Stansfield, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Pet Shop Boys, Mike Oldfield, Marc Almond, Charlotte Church, t.A.T.u and Belle & Sebastian. He has also performed as part of the concept band The Art of Noise. Finally, he helped produce the enormous hit, Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas for hunger relief.

In 1982 he founded the musical publishing company "Perfect Songs" together with his wife, Jill Sinclair.

He co-founded record label ZTT in 1983 and received a Grammy in 1996 for Seal's second album. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevor_Horn [Jan 2006]

See also: 1979 - music video - 1980s

Drum 'n bass

Now a complex mixture of influences and genres, drum 'n bass began from humble roots in the UK. Though many debate the original drum & bass record, it was a combination of Lenny De Ice's "We are ie" and the late 1989 Perfecto release 'Baz De Conga' which pioneered the movement. The cut was an amalgamation of ideas and sounds, combining the sax drop from "Monkey Say, Monkey Do" with Steel City bleeps and a gospel vocal lift. What producer Steve Bicknell brought to the cut however was attitude - the whole mix powered by a tumbling sub roll, clattering breakbeats and an unrelenting synth strike.

Northern soul

During the latter part of the 60’s and into the 70’s British dancers were more used to letting their hair down to Northern Soul, a peculiarly British phenomenon. It was basically a collection of uptempo soul songs (usually over 125 bpm), a popular example of which was Edwin Starr’s “Agent Double O Soul” and Skull Snaps “My Hang up Is You ”. It developed out of the clubs in the North of England (hence the name Northern Soul) and caught on in a big way across the country. The lack of availability of new material inevitably spelt an end to the popularity of Northern Soul (although there is a bit of an underground revival today) and soon the clubbers were looking for a substitute frenetic dance sound. Although this was available as early disco music the fact that this had spread from the gay clubs prejudiced many British DJs from playing this type of music in their clubs for fear of getting a “reputation”. [...]

Jazz funk

Mastercuts has released seven timeless Jazz-Funk CD compilations, which are hard to find these daysAt around the same definitive point, circa 1976, when Northern Soul was pulling in the punters at venues such as Va Va's (Sheffield), The Casino (Wigan), The Winter Gardens (Cleethorpes) and The Mecca Highland Room (Blackpool), Jazz Funk was accounting for a major parallel underground following in the South East of England, at clubs like Frenchies (Camberley, Surrey), The Goldmine (Canvey Island, Essex), The Lacy Lady (Ilford, Essex).

The DJs who championed this sound included such luminaries as Chris Hill , Tom Holland, Greg Edwards and Chris Brown.

I suppose that the real explosion in Jazz Funk occurred with the onset of the Soul all dayers - periodical events held at large dance venues. The original all dayer in the south of England was at the Top Rank Suite in Reading, first held in August 1976 - a joint venture which involved Northern Soul being played in a main room, and Jazz Funk in a smaller room, but which by August 1977 saw Jazz Funk enjoying the main billing. http://web.ukonline.co.uk/soulies/jazz_fusion.htm [...]

Soul Mafia

[...] The reason the electro scene took so long to fully establish itself in the capital was down to the stranglehold the all-powerful Soul Mafia DJ’s held on the Southern scene. The Soul Mafia, with big names like Chris Hill, Robbie Vincent, Froggy, Jeff Young and Pete Tong, continued to play jazz-funk and Soul grooves (later referred to as ‘80’s Groove’). It wouldn’t be until 84 that their virtual monopoly of the clubs, radio, and the black music press began to erode as a new order of music replaced the old, laying the foundations not only for Hip-Hop, but also the subsequent UK techno and house scenes. - Greg Wilson [...]

Rare groove

Musical genres are hard to define. Take rare groove for example. In English, 'rare' stands for 'hard-to-find'. And groove is a bassline. This, of course, is a loose foundation to base a genre upon. I bought my first tape with rare grooves in the UK on my first visit in the early nineties. However, in the case of rare groove, it was Norman Jay's who coined the genre in his late 1985 show 'The Original Rare Groove Show' on Kiss FM - then still a pirate station that reintroduced seventies funk tracks and plenty of obscure rarities, coining the term rare groove.

Electro funk

Electro-Funk is undoubtedly the most misunderstood of all UK Dance genres, yet probably the most vital with regards to its overall influence. Central to the confusion is the term itself, which during 82/83 (before it was shortened to electro) was specific to the UK. From a US perspective this music would come under a variety of headings (including Hip-Hop, Dance, Disco, Electric Boogie and Freestyle), arriving on import here in the UK, mainly on New York labels like West End, Prelude, Sugarhill, Emergency, Profile, Tommy Boy, Streetwise, plus numerous others. Just as Northern Soul was a British term for a style (or group of styles) of American black music, so was electro funk, and, like Northern, the roots of the scene are planted firmly in the North-West of England. [...]


When British producer Adrian Sherwood started his On-U-Sound label in 1980 as an outlet for scruffy punks and righteous rastas infatuated with reggae and its experimental spectrum of dub, he just wanted to make good records. In the process, he influenced a legion of producers, decimated the boundaries of funk, noise, and reggae, and as a member of Tackhead, made the position of the live mixing engineer a viable band member in terms of creative input.

House music

Like many others, Neil Rushton was galvanized by the electronic music coming out of Chicago mid-decade, which was successfully codified in the English market under the trade name "house." A similar thing happened in Chicago as in Detroit: away from the musical mainstream on both coasts, DJs like Frankie Knuckles and Marshall Jefferson had revived a forgotten musical form, disco, and adapted it to the environment of gay clubs like the Warehouse. The result was a spacey, electronic sound, released on local labels like Trax and DJ International: funkier and more soulful than techno, but futuristic. As soon as it was marketed in the U.K. as house in early 1987, it because a national obsession with No. 1 hits like "Love Can't Turn Around" and "Jack Your Body."

Acid Jazz/Gilles Peterson

A friend of mine [Nicky Holloway?] had just come back from Spain and had brought some acid house records with him which he announced were the latest thing. But the dancefloor stayed empty. Then it was my turn and I put on a few jazz pieces. The dancefloor was full. To take the piss out of him I called my music Acid Jazz -- Gilles Peterson


"At the time, everything was house, house house. We thought of Motor City House Music, that kind of thing, but Derrick, Kevin, and Juan kept on using the word techno. They had it in their heads without articulating it; it was already part of their language." Rushton's team returned to England with 12 tracks, which were released on an album called Techno! The New Dance School of Detroit, with a picture of the Detroit waterfront at night. At the time, it seemed like just another hype, but within a couple of months Kevin Saunderson had a huge U.K. hit with Inner City's pop oriented "Big Fun," and techno entered the language. - Neil Rushton, Jon Savage [...]

The Who Sell Out (1967) - The Who

The Who Sell Out (1967) - The Who [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Who Sell Out is The Who's third album. It is a concept album, formatted as a collection of unrelated songs interspersed with faux commercials and public service announcements. The album purports to be a broadcast by pirate radio station Radio London. Part of the intended irony of the title was that The Who was actually making commercials during that period of their career, some of which are included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Who_Sell_Out [Mar 2006]

See also: concept album - commercial - UK music - rock - advertising - 1967

Faze Action

Could the producers, arrangers and song-doctors of Philly and Salsoul have ever, in their wildest, most self-aggrandising dreams, imagined that one day there would be such a thing as "classicist disco"? That's what Faze Action's Robin & Simon Lee (brothers, not a typo) are. Like Brian Jones and Keith Richards poring over their blues records, Faze Action are purist scholars of the form -- for them the Salsoul Orchestra is Howlin' Wolf and Walter Gibbons is Muddy Waters. [...]


Nuphonic The label was set up by David Hill and Savash Remzi in 1995, with the objective of releasing contemporary jazz-music, in the broadest sense of the word. Both David and Savash are known for their activities elsewhere. David is a part of the Ballistic Brothers and Savash manages the Blue Note club. [...]

Rude Movements

  • Rude Movements (Sun Palace, 1983) "England produced some classic disco jazz/funk tracks - and this is probably the best. We used to play this at Delirium as acid house! It was sampled by Kenny Dope - a gem."

    Andy Sojka

    Journey/Double Journey Powerline's track, originally on Elite Records, is a timeless live-instrument jazz-funk masterpiece with vibrant piano rolls, funky rhythm guitars, snappy percussive highlights and hypnotic beats, anchored by some incredibly groovy bass work. The A-side Journey" is backed with the B-side dub "Double Journey," which features some haunting synth melodies that are oh-so-early-'80's!

    Martin Hannett

    Martin Hannett:
    Mixing a solid combination of dub, chant and beat, ESG--simply drums, bass and vocals--virtually stole the cosmic show with their first release, a six-song EP with a live side and a phenomenal studio side recorded under the hand of British producer Martin Hannett.

    Music Criticism

  • Music Journalists: there a lot of music writing going on in England, and the English are true connoisseurs of music. Favorites writers include David Toop for his intellectuality, Ian Dewhirst for his sponteanity (I'm sure I have got that spelt wrong, ahem)

    Jazz Funk

  • Jazzfunk "It was because the most danceable of these Jazz Fusion recordings contained funk rhythms, that the music became known within the UK as jazz-funk. This term is generally used in the UK, to describe all the different styles of what is really jazz/fusion music."

    Mastercuts Records

    Mastercuts released its first compilation in 1991: Classic Mix. It was compiled by Ian Dewhirst and it set the scene for the many hi-quality compilations that were to follow. There have been more than 50 Mastercuts releases and not all of them are still in print.

    BBE Records

    The Barely Breaking Even movement began in the mid nineities when Peter Adarkwah and his partner Ben were discussing music and discovered a shared interest in diverse, eclectic sounds covering all genres - from old scratchy Brazilian grooves, through 70's funk, via jazz fusion, hip - hop and soul to newer garage, disco and techno music. [...]

    Deep Beats, Castle Communications

    This was one of the first labels that started the compilation craze of the nineties. [...]


  • Cymande 'Bra', 'The Message' Cymande was a good UK group [...]

    Dave Lee/Joey Negro

    Dave Lee started his musical life as an avid record collector in the late 1970s and early 80s working in a variety of record shops. He moved to London in 1986 where he began working for DEMIX in conjunction with Rough Trade Records. In 1988 he established the record label Republic and began releasing both his earlier productions and also a selection of American garage tunes including Turntable Orchestra "You're Gonna Me" and the ever popular Phase II "Reaching". The compilation "Garage Sounds of Deepest New York" was also released on the Republic label and for the first time introduced Londoners to the rising garage scene. [...]

    Jazz Dance

    DJs were forced into playing Jazz on the dancefloor even though they didn’t want to. In the end the Jazz got so fast, a lot of DJs found it anti-social because a lot of the dancefloors started clearing, leaving just 20 or 30 dancers. So it was inevitable that Straight-Ahead Jazz dance sessions would start. One of the most barrier-breaking DJs was Paul Murphy. He owns a house label now called ‘Afro Art’. He was the saviour and the hero of Jazz-dancing. You can say he was anti-social but he knew his crowd. There was a great Jazz explosion around the country of the most fastest and furious footwork known to man.

    The Wire Magazine

    The Wire Magazine first appeared on news stands in 1982 and over the last 20 years it has developed from a quarterly fanzine specializing in avant garde jazz and modern composition into an award-winning and widely influential monthly that covers a vast array of underground, experimental and alternative music and culture. [...]

    Mute Records

    Mute Records is a record label formed in 1978 by Daniel Miller primarily to release his own single, "Warm Leatherette", under the moniker The Normal.

    Mute Records made a name for itself as the label that was willing to sign post-punk artists like Frank Tovey's Fad Gadget, Throbbing Gristle, and Cabaret Voltaire. Once electronic music hit the British charts in the early 1980s, Mute signed artists like Depeche Mode and Erasure that utilised new technology which would eventually redefine the sound of the dancefloor in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Mute redefined itself again to encompass modern indie-rock, with bands such as Sonic Youth on their Blast First imprint.

    Mute Records was famous for being the home of Depeche Mode despite the lack of what is normally considered a contract. Moby is also a Mute mainstay.

    Mute Records was the first British record label to have a Web site.

    On May 10, 2002, EMI Recorded Music acquired Mute Records, extending an existing licensing relationship that Mute had with EMI’s Virgin Records for over 15 years. Daniel Miller, Executive Chairman, is responsible for all of the company’s global activities. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mute_Records, Apr 2004


    1. Motion (1999) - Cinematic Orchestra [Amazon.com]
      Motion, the debut album from DJ Jason Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra, is a future jazz classic. Each track perfectly marries mood and substance, mixing shuffling percussion and galloping drum breaks with chilled pianos, melancholy strings and live jazz horns. Heavy acoustic basslines mingle with samples of old blues singers and twinkly electric piano solos. It's a dark, late night brew that conjures up images of smoke-filled jazz clubs and dimly lit concert halls. But this is no exercise in jazz pastiche-­Swinscoe genuinely loves the genre, and it shows. On Motion, he never slips into pointless jazz noodling opting instead for rolling breakbeats, moody soundtrack sounds and deft horn touches. Consequently, Motion is a brilliant album of dark, soundtrack jazz that'll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.--Matt Anniss

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