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Pop History
June 25, 2013 9:06 AM   Subscribe

The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records is a radio series on BBC written and narrated by Stuart Maconie. Each episode focuses on one particular pop song and tells the story of the song as well as what social trends it mirrored, for instance the episode on Telstar by The Tornadoes focuses on the technological progress, especially in space travel and music, and the story of songwriter and record producer Joe Meek. 25 episodes have been broadcast, including ones on Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers and 21st Century Britain, Cornershop's Brimful of Asha and the British-Asian experience , and Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'aime and sex. There are 25 more to come. There is also a blog and profiles of the songs already discussed. [Previously on MeFi]
posted by Kattullus (14 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just reading the post got all sorts of songs stuck in my head.

Damn you, Cornershop. DAMN YOU.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:22 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers as an illustration of 21st Century Britain? Really? No, like, really?
posted by billiebee at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2013


Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers as an illustration of 21st Century Britain?

That's the beauty of analysing *pop* music - Bonkers was a massive number 1, selling over 400,000 copies in the UK at a time when (I think) you can get a number 1 with under 25k sales. This in itself makes it rewarding of serious musicological analysis, no matter what anyone might think of it artistically.

Great link. Rock Island Line is the most influential record in the first 25 IMO.
posted by colie at 10:47 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


No podcast link for this that I can see— is that because it's Radio 2 or because they play whole songs? Thanks for the link.
posted by yerfatma at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2013


Bonkers was a massive number 1, selling over 400,000 copies

Rizzle Kicks 'Mama Do the Hump' sold 559,000 so I'm not sure sales alone warrant serious musicological analysis. Just saying I think there are other songs that could have illustrated the subject better. Plan B's 'Ill Manors' for one.
posted by billiebee at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2013


I've been listening to this, it's a good alternative viewpoint of music history. I also like how they jump around in time periods based on similar themes. It was quite interesting hearing how the mainstream reaction to hippies and punks were very similar.

My main criticism would be that some of the episodes are quite repetitive with people raising the same point several times without developing it further.

Rizzle Kicks 'Mama Do the Hump' sold 559,000 so I'm not sure sales alone warrant serious musicological analysis. Just saying I think there are other songs that could have illustrated the subject better. Plan B's 'Ill Manors' for one.
posted by billiebee at 7:49 PM on June 25 [+] [!]

That episode focused a lot on 'selling out' and how his very outsider first album eventually propelled him into being a global star. Also how the eclectic nature of grime (e.g. Dizze Rascal sighted Iron Maiden as an influence) reflects modern music listening habits.
posted by Erberus at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2013


Rizzle Kicks 'Mama Do the Hump' sold 559,000 so I'm not sure sales alone warrant serious musicological analysis.

Respectfully, what is about about 'Mama Do the Hump' that doesn't warrant serious musicological analysis?

It's a tonal pop song, mixes blues references with rap, structurally intriguing, lyrically inventive, sung in a British accent (still a bit uncommon), and also demonstrates aspects of how the modern music industry works. Hipsters hate it but someone out there likes what meets their ears, for some reason. It's impossible that they were all brainwashed by Evil Music Overlords or were all idiots. I'm interested!
posted by colie at 1:37 PM on June 25, 2013


Every show will be on BBC iPlayer until December 2013, or you can download for a small fee.... Please note - the MP3 downloads will not include all of the music that you hear in the full programme, because of rights restrictions.

Bah. Where would the BBC be without us Yanks to yank around for mega$$$, once again.

Stream ... looks like Wed's at 22:00UTC, 6pm EDT, 3pm PDT. Warning: fumes may be toxic at other times.
posted by Twang at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2013


Respectfully, what is about about 'Mama Do the Hump' that doesn't warrant serious musicological analysis?

Tbh I agree, I was thinking that as soon as I posted it. I wasn't meaning to say that neither of those songs are deserving of analysis. It's more that I don't think something is worthy of analysis just because it sold a lot of copies.

I just think of all songs to reflect Britain musically now, of all Dizzee Rascal's songs even, there are better examples. I thought Wylie's "Wearing my Rolex" was so much better, and the discussion of that would possibly had covered some of the same ground.
posted by billiebee at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2013


Telstar was the first single I owned. My three-year-old self heard these amazing, other-worldly noises emanating from our huge "radiogram" and apparently I immediately informed my parents that it was absolutely necessary that I somehow own those sounds. So they bought me the record. I still have it. Decca label, if I recall correctly.
posted by Decani at 4:27 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Congrats on the Black Sabbath and Sex Pistols episodes, but if you overlook Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, you're missing a lot.
posted by Renoroc at 4:56 PM on June 25, 2013


I've been listening to these for a while now, I'm loving the overlapping of history between episodes.
Favourite so far was the Ghost Town episode, it's the bleak '80s Britain that made such an impression on my childhood.
I'm looking forward to compare-and-contrast with the Gold episode.
posted by Catch at 5:59 AM on June 26, 2013


Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers as an illustration of 21st Century Britain? Really? No, like, really?

Bonkers was also part of the Olympic Opening Ceremony and a running gag on Harry Hill's TV Burp, so like any song that merits proper analysis it has become more than something coming out of a car radio. It represents my own experience about as closely as Rio by Duran Duran does, but then I'm well old and didn't grow up in East London. Ill Manors did something similar, but your mum would never refer to 'that Plan B' and maybe that's the difference.

Congrats on the Black Sabbath and Sex Pistols episodes, but if you overlook Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, you're missing a lot.

They had what I thought was a NWOBHM episode - I caught some whilst I was in the shower when it was halfway through - which did touch on bands other than Black Sabbath.
posted by mippy at 6:48 AM on June 26, 2013


but your mum would never refer to 'that Plan B' and maybe that's the difference.

Ah, how little you know Ma Bee...
posted by billiebee at 7:11 AM on June 26, 2013


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