How much impact did music have on society 1955-75?
During 1955-75 music drastically changed, leading it to have a profound influence on the youth groups of the 1960s, the changes in social attitudes of the younger generation, mainstream fashion as well as the wider media. The impact of music was particularly strong on the youth, who could accept these new influences that music reflected, such as the new culture of spending on records, and the social attitude of rebellion. The most important impact that music had was arguably the youth groups, due to the fact that they were the most affected by the new music culture and led the changes in social attitudes, being the first to break away from the old attitudes of the past.
The youth groups of the 1960s were particularly affected by the new genres of music presented during 1955-1975. The youth groups of the 1960s, such as the Mods and Rockers can be reflected by the music of the era. The Beatles were an example of the Mods, and dressed in suits with neat haircuts, influencing the Mods youth group. Similarly, the influence of bands such as the Rolling Stones lead to the Rockers youth group dressing in leather clothing. Much of the new music presented a different view to traditional values of society, including sex and religion. Much of the music openly stated and encouraged sex for pleasure, undermining any traditional religious values. The Rolling Stones song ‘Satisfaction’ openly used explicit lyrics such as “I can't get no satisfaction, I can't get no girl reaction”, a contrast to the traditional value which was against sex outside of marriage. Instead, music encouraged rebellion against these traditional values and higher authority such as the government. The song ‘My Generation’ by The Who emphasises this, saying: “This is my generation, baby, Why don't you all f-fade away, And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say”, showing clear rebellion against authority and rules that people were supposed to be bound by. This influence lead to the formation of newer youth groups such as the hippie movement, which had an anti-war message and lead to protests and marches. The influences of the new genres of music also lead to violence between youth groups, one case being the violence in Brighton, where police were forced to intervene.
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The change in theme in music from 1955-75 also had a large effect on social attitudes such as the idea of sexual freedom, and new political ideas from the youth groups. The music of the 1950s such as Buddy Holly’s song ‘Everyday’, presented a lighter tone to music and began to focus on themes such as relationships: “Everyday it's a-gettin' closer, Goin' faster than a rollercoaster, Love like yours will surely come my way”, compared to the later music which incited changes in social attitudes towards substances such as drugs. The Beatles’ song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is one example, openly suggesting the use of LSD and could be seen as encouraging people to experiment with drugs, changing the negative attitude towards drugs to a more positive attitude where culture was based on drugs, which the impact of was seen in the youth groups. The change in music can be seen as a reflection of the change of social attitudes, represented by the formation of a new age group known as teenagers, which was not previously considered. In the novel ‘Absolute Beginners (1959)’ by Colin Macinness, it describes the change in attitudes towards age: “… one of the generations that grew up before teenagers existed…there just weren’t any… In those days, it seems, you were just an overgrown boy, or an undergrown man. Life didn’t seem to cater for anything in between”, until the change in social attitudes reflected by music showed how this new age group of teenagers were being accepted into mainstream society, with much of the new music being produced being aimed at teenagers.
Music also had an impact on the fashion of the era. The popularisation of genres such as rock and roll showed the artists with new fashion styles, one example being Elvis Presley. His song ‘Jailhouse Rock’ presents him as wearing tight fitting jeans, a change from the previous fashion styles. Other songs also emphasised the importance of fashion, with the song ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, suggesting that fashion was a main part of music: “Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh, Honey, lay off of my shoes, Don't you step on my blue suede shoes, You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes”. As newer music was aimed at teenagers, and music also emphasised fashion, music had a large impact on the changing fashion styles. This can be seen by the Beatles, who had a style with tidy suits and haircut which were followed by the Mods youth group who also chose to dress neatly with suits. As the fashion of music changed, an example being the Beatles changing to psychedelic themes in their album ‘ Sgt. Pepper’s ’ the fashion of society also changed, with the hippie movement promoting colourful patterned clothing and psychedelic imagery. The themes of music such as rebellion also lead to listeners changing their own fashion as a form of rebellion, such as boys deciding to grow their hair longer and girls choosing to wear new clothing such as miniskirts.
The media was also under a large influence from music. The new music culture changed the way in which people consumed media, and this was seen when teenagers began to have more money to spend. Many teenagers’ choice of media was music. A comment from a young man in Coventry in the 1960s said: “Every week I’d buy at least two or three singles… I had so much money to spend… I’d spend £10 every weekend on myself…and most of all on music”. Ownership of music records became arguably as important as fashion, becoming a form of identity for many young people, shown by comments in the book ‘The 50s & 60s: The Best of times’ by Alison Pressley: “…stereos became cult status items, especially among blokes: who had the biggest speakers, the most expensive turntable, the most records”, and “At school, there was a cachet about liking and having really obscure blues records”. Also, it was not only just the youth generation whose identity was in the form of media consumption. Every family was choosing to consume music as a form of media. Joanna Lumley described a day where the Beatles appeared live on TV: “…and instead of the rush hour an extraordinary silence and emptiness had descended on London, on England, on Britain... No one to be seen by the flower stall, the newspaper stall… that evening the four Beatles, all the Fab Four were appearing live on Juke Box Jury”, showing the popularity of music as media.
Overall, music in 1955-75 had a large impact on society, and is responsible for many of the changes that occurred during the time period. Music led the rebellion of the youth groups in changing traditional social attitudes, encouraging people to rebel against all rules and have less respect for older values, compared to the music of the early 1950s which did not contain any of these themes. Music also lead the changes in fashion throughout 1955-75, with many people especially the younger generation choosing to imitate the style of fashion worn by popular artists and bands such as the Beatles, who started with Mod-like suits and clean haircuts before changing to psychedelic fashion, which was followed by the youth who changed to hippie fashion. Music also managed to change the consumption of media, with music becoming the main choice of media by many, affected society as a whole and not just the younger generation, showing the extremely large impact that music had on society. The effect of music on society was especially strong during the 1960s, described by Aaron Copland, an American composer, as “If you want to know about the sixties, play the music of the Beatles”.