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Roots, Radicals and Rockers

Billy Bragg

Against a backdrop of Cold War politics, rock and roll riots and a newly assertive generation of working-class youth, the songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg charts the history, impact and legacy of skiffle – Britain’s first indigenous pop movement.

Date Published
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Emerging from the jazz clubs of the early ’50s, skiffle – a uniquely British take on American folk and blues – caused a sensation among a generation of kids who had grown up during the dreary post-war years. These were Britain’s first teenagers, looking for a music of their own in a culture dominated by crooners and mediated by a stuffy BBC. Sales of guitars rocketed from 5,000 to 250,000 a year, and – as with the punk rock that would flourish two decades later – all you needed to know were three chords to form your own group, with your mates accompanying on tea-chest bass and washboard.

Against a backdrop of Cold War politics, rock and roll riots and a newly assertive working-class youth, Billy Bragg charts – for the first time in depth – the history, impact and legacy of Britain’s original pop movement. It’s a story of jazz pilgrims and blues blowers, Teddy Boys and beatnik girls, coffee-bar bohemians and refugees from the McCarthyite witch-hunts, who between them sparked a revolution that shaped pop culture as we have come to know it.

Critic Reviews

Roots, Radicals and Rockers is full of fascinating digressions but it also traces the grand sweep of an unfurling counterculture, from its politics to its music. With an archivist’s sense of mission, a musician’s knowledge and a fan’s joy, Bragg performs a real national service: illuminating a moment all too easily lost.

Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

With music acting as a centrepiece, Bragg adroitly links the changes in films, politics, television and teenage life as he proceeds [...] Impressive and puts one 'in-the-room' throughout

Critic Reviews

Essential library addition for anybody interested in the roots of where we are today,
and a brilliant read to boot.

Critic Reviews

This is a riveting book, written by a fan who sees the links and mutations between musics. Bragg’s acute vision helps him paint a vivid history.

New Internationalist
Critic Reviews

The bard of Barking has written a first-rate work of history

Financial Times
Critic Reviews

An impressive work of popular scholarship [...] Roots, Radicals and Rockers is an admirably detailed and contextualised pre-Beatles history and it is long overdue.

The Arts Desk
Billy Bragg

Stephen William ‘Billy’ Bragg is an English singer-songwriter and left-wing activist. His music blends elements of folk music, punk rock and protest songs, with lyrics that span political or romantic themes. His music is heavily centred on bringing about change and getting the younger generation involved in grass-roots activist causes. His book Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World was…

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Billy Bragg