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volume 3
april 2000

Passion, pop and self control

 





  The body politics of pop music
  by Henk Kleijer and Ger Tillekens
Previous
  "Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll": that's the self-proclaimed image of rock culture as we know it since rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues came of age in the 1950s and 1960s. Living up to this pose of excess, however, requires a certain amount of self control. In this essay Henk Kleijer and Ger Tillekens delve deeper into this relationship, exploring the absence of the feeling of guilt in pop music, the workings of the double standard of sexuality, and the communicative mechanisms of irony and banter.

White Rabbit (Slick) — Jefferson Airplane; live at the Monterey Pop Festival, 1967 © RCA (30 sec.)
1 Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane

A culture of excess. "One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small / And the ones that mother gives you, don't do anything at all / Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall." With this open reference to drugs the American folk-rock formation Jefferson Airplane made its musical donation to the "summer of love" of 1967. At that time, there was a youth revolt raging on a world-wide scale. Distancing themselves from the values of their parents, young people declared their cultural independence with pop music as its manifesto. The message of this music did seem a complete negation of all that was highly valued by an older generation. Dismissing the existing codes of decency and politeness and the constraints of physical and sexual inhibition, youth culture manifested itself as a culture of hedonistic excess. Of course, most of it was just a playful public play-act. At the core of this cultural aggregate, however, there was a real denial of the feelings of guilt and shame.

  The feeling of guilt and the idiom of pop music. The feeling of guilt and shame, as the result of the personal experience of sin, is a turmoil of close-circuited emotions. Hate and love, each a complex of emotions in their own right, fight each other to compensate for a basic sense of loss, symbolically imagined as a fall from grace out of an original state of innocence (Berger and Luckmann, 1966). Guilt is a massive feeling for those who experience it, but also a slippery notion for a sociological analysis. Nevertheless a discussion of sexuality, in particular when analysed in the context of the family system, so it seems, cannot do without the concept of guilt. Pop music on the other hand is quite able to handle the subject of sexuality without referring to guilt at all. A quick look at the charts from the 1950s till the 1980s reveals that the feeling of guilt has little or no place in the idiom of pop music. The nearest feeling pop music explores is regret, and this generally in a negative sense such as in Edith Piaf's chanson Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien or in respect to gossiping outsiders and concerned parents as in the Everly Brothers' Wake Up, Little Susie.
  In the literature on pop music this absence of guilt in the idiom of pop songs has been noticed before. Greil Marcus (1976: 173) was the first to formulate it as a general principle of pop music. According to him, the attraction of the early Rock 'n' Roll of Elvis Presley, and the trick it accomplished, was based on its capacity to translate the tense combination between the lure of forbidden sexuality and the feeling of guilt, characteristic for the earlier popular song, into a more faint contradiction between optimism and cynicism. "Elvis," he wrote in his book Mystery Train, "escaped the guilt of the blues — the guilt that is at the heart of the world the blues and country music give us — because he was able to replace the sense that men and women were trapped by fate and by their sins with a complex of emotions that was equally strong and distinctive." Simon Frith's (1978: 72-73) standard textbook on youth and pop music canonized this remark into one of the major theses of pop sociology. More recently Lawrence Grossberg (1992: 201) expanded this notion even further in a discussion on pop music in the 1980s. All these authors however are rather vague in their analysis of the process itself and its implications. Why and how did pop music got rid of the feeling of guilt? Which new emotional complex took its place? Reviewing the results of sociological research on pop music, we here try to treat this question more systematically.
The Very Thought Of You (Noble) — Al Bowlly with the Ray Noble Orchestra, 1934 © EMI (30 sec.)
2 Al Bowlly

The transformation of romance. "The very thought of you / and I forget to do / The little ordinary things / That everyone ought to do / I'm living in a kind of daydream / I'm happy as a king." These lines were recorded in 1934 by Al Bowlly, Britain's most popular vocalist during the 1930s, and the Ray Noble Orchestra. The song is representative of the idiom of prewar popular music, an idiom of longing, daydreaming and playing with frivolous, rather innocent breaks of daily routines. By applying the principle of politeness this, then new, idiom made sexual longing communicative, and thereby erotised sexuality. The ironic exploitation of forms of slight foolish behaviour — a happy excuse for such "blunt" behaviour as "singing in the rain" or "stealing a kiss" — attributed to the state of being in love, made the public display of dating behaviour allowable.

  This so-called Tin Pan Ally idiom, explored in countless musicals and Hollywood-movies, lost its public attraction in the postwar years. Generally the 1960s are seen as the period in which cultural change manifests itself again. The British musicologist Wilfrid Mellers (1969) signalled this change in the musical texture of a new youth-culture: Rock 'n' Roll and beat music. Rock 'n' Roll music departs from the eroticism, expressed by the swinging equilibrium between line and rhythm, of traditional jazz or even the commercialized forms of jazz, "which were the pop music of the thirties and forties," says Mellers (1969: 181). Returning to the origins of the country blues, Rock 'n' Roll slowly replaces the swinging rhythms of jazz by an accent on the beat. The music changed and with it also the lyrics became different. As Rock 'n' Roll hits climbed the charts, almost overnight sentimental love songs, in which a boy adores his girlfriend or vice versa, faded away. "A sexually more casual generation appeared to reject the tradition of chivalric amour," the American historian Hughson F. Mooney (1968: 80) concludes. The cultural forms used by boys and girls to address each other in speech situations became more direct, losing "the great daintiness or delicacy which had once characterized days of a stronger double standard and sense of sin." In new cultural forms youth expressed its eagerness for more civil autonomy and a greater openness in the expression of feelings, especially in sexual relationships.
  Prewar popular music was not as traditional as it may seem today. In many ways it can be seen as a first attack on the puritan morality that dominated the relationships between men and women at the turn of the 19th century. However, in its own favourite music the youth culture of the 1950s and 1960s took the openness in sexual matters one decisive step further. Mooney (1968) explains this change as a result not only of a cultural split between generations, but also and maybe more so, of the changing composition of that part of the public which was buying records. "The youth culture we have been describing, though it did help shape a trend away from the old ballads, was only a minority of the market. However noisily influential, it is doubtful that its outlook totally determined popular trends. It just so happened that other, larger segments of the market were also not enthusiastic middle-class devotees of the old monogamous love ballad. Perhaps one of the most potent changers of taste was the horde of highly permissive and hedonistic lower classes entering the record market" (Mooney, 1968: 81-82).
  Though still moulded in the vocabulary of the 1950s, Mooney's arguments come close to what now has become the standard explanation of the impact of pop music on sexual practices. The majority of textbooks explains the shattering impact of pop music on traditional sexuality by referring to the modern permissive society of which it is part and parcel. The permissive society, the outcome of the combined cultural forces of a new instrumentally oriented and hedonistic labour class and middle class youth-culture, appearing in the aftermath of World War II, breaks away, so they maintain, from the traditional ideology of domesticity in which daily routine is cast in the morals of duty, pleasure is suspect and sexuality is loaded with guilt.
  The ideology of domesticity grounds itself on a reciprocal segregation of the public and private spheres, coupled to a gender-specific role-segregation (Tolson, 1975). To its adherents the private sphere of the family is the opposite of the public sphere of production. It is heralded as a haven, protecting its inhabitants against the public sphere, which can be and often is devastating, brutal and violent in respect to private wishes and expectations. Subsequently this opposition is paired with gender specific qualities: the private world is mainly the world of women. The public world is the domain of men, fulfilling their obligations to their families as wage-earners. The split between both worlds, and both sexes, is redeemed in the matrimonial contract: an economic arrangement based on a code of civil obligations, mutual duty and care, embedded in a culture of homely cosiness. Because the order it constructed rests heavily on a romantic, sexually purified conception of the woman and her homely tasks, Barbara Ehrenreich and D. English (1978: 24) assign to this ideology the appropriate label of "sexual romanticism". And in Colin Campbell's analysis (1987) it appears as a form of tamed romance, directing the search of pleasure towards comfort instead of adventure.
  Though in a broad sense it is romantic in itself, from its early beginnings the ideology of domesticity had a more restricted really romantic part, which constitutes a new form of sexuality (Schnabel, 1973). This part of the arrangement lies in the rules regulating the start of the personal relationship between a particular man and a particular woman, ending in the contract of matrimony. Here personal romantic love — passion — makes its way. According to this principle, love is an universal experience. It may manifest itself in changing social-cultural forms, but at its roots lies a complex of emotions which can be shared by every human individual. Romantic love, in this restricted sense, is something that just happens to you: you fall in love. This love is personal, it is a special love for an unique individual. And though this feeling is something that sometimes befalls you, the response is of your own making: you can choose to share your love with whom you wish (Tolson, 1975). Love is the power, which gives you the strength to cross the symbolical and practical boundaries between gender, traditional peer-groups, class divisions and between traditional and new ways of expressing yourself.
  The way in which the ideology of domesticity combined itself with this specific romantic code is described by the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1973: 136-151) as the process in which the dispositive of sexuality became wrapped around the family system, and by the German sociologist Niklas Luhman (1982) as the petty bourgeois reconstruction of the principles of romantic passion developed in the literary tradition of Proust and other dandyish and bohemian writers. By this reconstruction the family system consents in sexual pleasure as leading to the acceptance of the duty to care for one's own family. However, a price has to be paid, of which the currency is silence. Feelings and certainly feelings around sexuality are not to be talked about but merely experienced. The secret of sexuality is the hidden link joining domesticity with romance. It is this silence, that was attacked by the new popular music of the 1950s.
Blueberry Hill (Lewis / Rose / Stock) — Fats Domino, 1956 © Imperial (30 sec.)
3 Fats Domino in the 1960s

Pure and vulgar sexuality. "I found my thrill / On Blueberry Hill / On Blueberry Hill / When I found you / The moon stood still / On Blueberry Hill / It lingered until / My dream came true." In the mid-1950s Fats Domino's hit song Blueberry Hill reached the European charts, anticipating the white Rock 'n' Roll revolution of singers like Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. While the Tin Pan Ally songs implied that sexual intercourse symbolized the start of a matrimonial relationship, this song depicts in romantic phrases the memory of a consummation of adolescent love which can be repeated, the walking rhythm suggesting that the story is not over yet.

  The interpretation of what exactly happened on Blueberry Hill is kept ambiguous and the exact details are left to the fantasy of the listener. Rock 'n' Roll went one step further, opening up sexual implications of romance, not only in its lyrics and music, but also in its dancing movements, exaggerated by the artists in their performances. By concerned critics it was judged a vulgar form of romance and condemned as well for its lower class origins as for the implicit dangers for the future developments of mass culture. Was this early pop music really only a form of vulgar sexuality, loosened from the bonds of discipline by the abundance of the consumer society? Digging at the roots of pop music, the early blues at the start of the 20th century, one can easily find concluding evidence for its vulgarity (Frith, 1987). Nevertheless, at the same time, it becomes clear that romance, in one form or another, seems to be inevitably bound to popular music and can easily be traced far back in its history.
  To explain the rise of popular music in the 20th centrury, Mooney directs attention to the survival strategies of the family system in the anonymous situation of the urban environment. For the new urban population, uprooted from their communities, the choice of a partner became more and more individualized, intensifying the problem of making the right choice. Incidental happenings with promising strangers had to be evaluated in a nick of time; words and codes were needed for dating conversations and the meaning of symbols for different kinds of relationships had to be agreed on. Popular music provided such a discourse. From its songs the listeners learned about the ways in which sexual attraction could be used as a means to explore in strangers those personality traits and characteristics which granted future happiness. With little scenario's and plots built into its story lines, the popular song informed its public on the possible pitfalls in the search for "true love". Up until the mid-1950s the mainstream of popular music holds on to this particular romantic code. For the period of 1948 till 1955, Horton (1957) and Berger (1966) both found that "over 80% of all songs fit into a conventionalized love cycle where sexual references are allegorical and social problems are unknown" (Peterson and Berger, 1975: 163).
  In the 1950s and 1960s this homogeneity is broken. Almost simultaneously on both the higher and the lower tangents of the middle class, new forms of popular music make way. Rock 'n' Roll is being adopted by the youngsters of the lower strata of the socio-economic hierarchy, while there's a revival of the Parisian bohemian tradition of the thirties, a combination of the blues, jazz and the French chanson among by the discontent younger generation of the higher middle classes (Kleijer and Tillekens, 1990). On an abstract level the resulting transformation of romantics from a liberal romanticism towards a radical-recreational type of sexual ethics (Hunt, 1974), or from domesticity towards permissiveness, the standard explanation holds, results out of the social necessity of the development of a new, mediating system of rules and regulations of social interaction in between the family and the public domain of labour and, especially, the domain of education. There also is a growing emotionalisation of family relationships, especially between mothers and their children. The rise of the educational level of women leads to a less gender-specific lifestyle in the private domain of the family on the level of sexuality and emotions (Tolson, 1975; Du Bois-Reymond, 1990).
  Caught in the middle ground between the functional prerequisites of the educational system and the emotional directives of the family system, young people had to learn to make and voice their own choices. To this end they originate and develop a new youth culture (Meijers, 1990). The clash between the functional discourse of the school and the emotional discourse of the family shatters the once self-evident alliance between adults in their roles of parents and teachers. In this space between both discourses, the expanding domain of leisure, a new autonomous youth culture unfolds, cultivating its new freedom in an expanding dating system adequate for a more anonymous culture, and with it pop music (Kleijer and Tillekens, 1990). Later on this youth culture succeeds in importing its new rules into the territories of politics, labour, school and the family, urging these systems to make room for interpersonal negotiation on a more egalitarian level.
  This explanation has become a standard in the sociological textbooks on youth and pop music. Though it seems to cover all external causes, it however fails to account for the new ethos itself, its internal, creative mechanism of romance: the pleasure principle, the private art of longing and public display of cultivated feeling (Campbell, 1987; Luhman, 1982; Schnabel, 1975).
Eight Days A Week (Lennon / McCartney) — The Beatles; on the album "Beatles For Sale", 1964 © Parlophone (30 sec.)
4 The Beatles (1964)

Dangerous places and forbidden love. "Ooh I need your love babe, guess you know it's true / Hope you need my love babe, just like I need you / Hold me, love me, hold me, love me." In a nutshell the starting lines of the famous 1964 Beatles song "Eight days a week" show the mechanism of passionate love. At first sight there seems to exist no difference with the workings of love in general. On a primary, basic level the feeling of love is a mechanism of attachment, of commencing and continuing an interpersonal dependency-relationship. Answering to its imperatives one can loosen old attachments and create new relationships. All these elements abound in the Beatles' song. Romantic love however is a social construction, and as such differs from the primary feeling of love in more than one way. The aspect of a mutual dependency, new beginnings and a two-sidedness of longing is kept in the concept of romantic love, but reconstructed and refined in a much more complex way by expanding, combining and twisting the symbols to which affection and sexual meaning are attached. This process of manipulating the stories and scenarios in which symbols get their meanings, most and for all takes place in fantasy. This element of the cultivation of longing is explicitly mentioned in the title of the Beatles-song: love being "on my mind" for no less than "eight days a week."

  The main principle of romantic love thus can be based on a theory of pleasure: romantic love takes place in fantasy and day-dreaming. Its support is the cultivated use of desire and longing (Campbell, 1987). According to Campbell, this use of fantasy is the product of long-time historical developments in which fantasy, day-dreaming and longing became legitimate and recognized sources of pleasure, producing an exalted state of consciousness. This modern hedonism which fosters day-dreaming as an experiment with love and longing in fantasy, differs from primary love by breaking the intimate association between feeling and overt behaviour and by making the cultivation of a permanent unfocused dissatisfaction a source of reflection. This element however still does not discriminate the pop music of the period of the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s from the earlier idiom. So what exactly are the differences?
  The beginnings of rock music in the mid-1950s, as Peterson and Berger (1975: 167) describe Rock 'n' Roll, "show that the standard love themes were dealt with in more candid and personal terms. Moreover numerous songs cited the conflict of youth with their parents at home, in school, at work and over love," filling, they add, "a previously unsated demand." The indignation these songs widely evoked can be traced down to the way in which a new generation of popular music violated the silence on sexuality by its open exploration of the "earlier strong double standard" (Mooney, 1968: 80). How did pop music realize this effect?
  The ideology of domesticity, by recognizing and accentuating symbolically the great divide between the private and public spheres, creates a field of production of deviant sexual symbols. Sexual practices not bound by duty, but by pleasure are exported to the domain between the house and labour place: the street, public houses, bordello's and nightclubs. In this space images and practices are formed of a deviant sexuality, which depicts the fate of those who fail to conform to normality: the images of whores, pimps and gays. Around those images the silence on sexuality produces a form of sexuality which can be bought and had just for its immanent pleasure. In this way the double standard can be regarded as an additional product of the ideology of domesticity. Crane Brinton (1959) for instance defines it as an inevitable dialectic of a "holy", pure and normal and a dark, deviant, guilty sexuality. This dialectic of two types of sexuality not only defines the practices, but also the identity project of the participants. It obliges each individual to define her/himself at least in fantasy on both sides of his/her sexuality and to come to terms with the resulting conflicts.
  The streets — which play such an important role in the idiom of popular music — are the places where the actors meet. Because of this these places are not only attractive to, but also highly dangerous for the reputation and self-definition of the actors. As the street is the meeting place for both "normal" and deviant sexuality it poses to its inhabitants the problem to define themselves almost constantly on the side of "good" or "bad" sexuality. New forms of romance, as presented by the idiom of the popular song, seem to solve this problem by adding new mediating types of masculinity and femininity to the two images of women which form the basis of the ideology of domesticity: the prostitute and the mother.
  In the romance of the 1930s and 1950s already new forms were added: the image of the American working woman, adroit in the art of flirting, combining a childish innocence with the appearance and techniques of their "bad" sisters. Bruce Babbington and Peter Williams Evans (1985: 61) note for the Hollywood-musicals of this period: "(...) though one tendency of all the films is to mark a moral division between what good girls are forced to do and what bad girls go too far in doing, between acceptable and unacceptable methods of keeping afloat, another antithetical tendency (...) is to blur such distinctions, since the behaviour of the less sympathetic figures is only an extension of the battle waged by more sympathetic ones, and their breach-of-promise settlements, can be read as a parodic version of the heroines quest for the economic haven of marriage. In fact the film really wishes to have it both ways: using the amoral characters to criticize the conventional ones, but also invoking "true love" to criticize amorality."
  With this blurring of accepted and forbidden sexuality, innocence and guilt lose their impersonated, absolute and universal meanings. Rather than a state or an ordeal which befalls on those who stray into the domain of forbidden sexuality, guilt becomes translated into falsehood: a form of deceit and dishonesty not towards the ordinance of pure sexuality, but towards the search of "true love". As falsehood banishes one from this quest, the idiom of romantic love recasts guilt in the secular feeling of personal regret for what could have been. In the same way innocence is transformed into naivety, a not yet knowing of the symbolical meanings of dark sexuality which facilitates the explorations of its pleasures without falling to its verdicts.
5 George Harrison and John Lennon

A new code of romantic love. This longing between forbidden and accepted sexuality is explored again in the pop music of the 1950s. New forms of male and female sexuality arise, intermediating between symbols of forbidden and accepted sexuality, and above all playing with gender stereotypes. Prototypes of this new discourse are James Dean, representing the young version of the anti-hero of the beat-generation, and rockers like Presley. New female stereotypes are to be found in the petticoated Rock 'n' Roll girls and the dark-eyed, so called "exi"-girls. The seriousness of life and the dangers of dark sexuality which still surround these new forms of romance are confronted by means of irony and banter.

Another Girl (Lennon / McCartney) — The Beatles; on the album "Help!", 1965 © Parlophone (30 sec.)
  "I don't wanna say that I've been unhappy with you / But as from today, well I've seen somebody that's new / I ain't no fool and I don't take what I don't want / For I've got another girl." In the ending lines of the Beatles song Another Girl the right is voiced to leave old relationships behind, just because of their implicit commanding character and to initiate new ones. The song exemplifies the change in tone and vocabulary of the 1960s pop idiom. Measured against the standards of the period the tone is light-hearted and loud. The spell of love, its binding power of attachment, is attacked in its common-sensual meanings. The expression of love and tenderness is contrasted by the articulation of jealousy and revenge. The economics of love, resulting out of this balancing of the sister emotions of love and hate, lead towards concepts referring to more temporary kind of relationships. The relations between the sexes become a game of giving and taking. In a candid way deep feelings are expressed without any restriction, but counterbalanced by a "cool" attitude.
  As the beat music of British groups like the Beatles, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Rolling Stones replaces Rock 'n' Roll, it again reaches back to roots of American popular music, reviving the urban blues, but in a more undemanding way (Kleijer and Tillekens, 1990). The idiom of the blues, originally developed to express the feelings of the uprooted, black lower-class population of the big cities, is adjusted to the dating practices of secondary school pupils. Originally the whole array of blues-feelings was meant as a means to cope with romance in a situation where men and women seemed doomed to fail, women often earning more money than their male counterparts, unemployment making it inevitable for men to migrate and leave their relationships behind, the destituteness of the situation frustrating the perspective of a comfortable family life. But in the idiom of pop music, the transient character of blues love relationships becomes an ideal for its own sake. As the blues, the beat music treats love in a laconic, casual way but it parts with its immanent feeling of self pity, making just fun of it (Mellers, 1969).
  Remarkable too is the way in which the sister feeling of romantic love, jealousy, is explored in the early Beatles songs like Baby's In Black, For No One, Girl, If I Fell, I'm Looking Through You, Run For Your Life, This Boy, and You Can't Do That. In the song If I Fell for instance the consent to falling in love is made conditional to the possible consequences: "Oh please don't hurt my pride like her." At the same time this new love is used as a means of revenge, as a way to transplant the singers own feeling of jealousy over to his former girl friend: "So I hope you see that I would love to love you / And that she will cry when she learns we are two / If I fell in love with you." The fun, speaking out of the accompanying music and rhythm, is used as a method of taming the binding power of love as well as the destructive power of jealousy.
  The new code of romantic love no longer forbids to communicate the financial, physical and emotional price of love relationships. As the Beatles song A Hard Day's Night expresses openly the price of day's work paid by men for the expectation of homely happiness, so the way women keep silent about this deal, seemingly taking this toil for granted, is complained about in the song Girl: "Did she understand it when they said / that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure? / Will she still believe it when he's dead?" This violation of the rules of an earlier romantic code blurs the distinction between sacred and forbidden sexuality, where only the last one had his price, but at the same time the song make these forbidden thought communicable. Moreover, the main rule of the previous romantic code, its thesis that real love has no price, is mobilized against itself: if real love does not depend on material things then it can be consummated without a ring, its main symbol, as testified in lyrics to the Beatles' song Can't Buy Me Love.
6 Beatles playing Help! in the studio

Learning the game. The right to personal freedom in relationships, however is countered by new obligations and fears. The apparent superficial posture, the "I don't care" attitude in the relationship between boys and girls, expressed in the song's lyrics, directs the attention to the main imperative of the new romantic code of beat music, the directive that feelings — all of them — have to be expressed and communicated, not only within the borders of the single sex peer group, but directly to the object of one's love. By this opening up of the silence of sexuality the fear to personally get hurt by a relationship itself becomes the main topic of the songs. In fantasy, as in temporary relationships, the emotional effects of different scenario's are being explored. This exploration furnishes the experts in the new idiom a vantage point for emotional control, by varying the images of the beloved ones in possible scenario's. Or as the Beatles sing it: "I've learned the game / I'm looking through you."

I'm Looking Through You (Lennon / McCartney) — The Beatles; on the album "Rubber Soul", 1965 © Parlophone (30 sec.)
  These lessons are learned at the moments forming the starting point for most of the story tales of the songs themselves: the moments between affairs, at the end of an old or the start of a new relationship. These moments seemingly result in loneliness. But this loneliness now becomes something that can be used in a positive way, as an escape for longing and exploring the new rules for communication in the practices of pop music itself, dancing and listening to its music. All in all the ultimate outcome of the beat music is a positive reinterpretation of the "blues", the feeling and experience of being alone (Kleijer and Tillekens, 1990: 262). In this way, the rise of rock music not only did alter the face of the symbolical landscape of fantasy, it also changed the rules of the earlier romantic code.
  Conventions of earlier romantic love are expanded, but as Campbell argues, counteracted by growing kind of self-control which does not inhibit, suppress or constraints but steers its subject around a varying symbolical landscape. It requires and helps to develop a form of self-regulative control which lies in an ability to decide nature and strength of one's own feelings (Campbell, 1987: 70-71). In the musical idiom of popular music this insight seems to be grasped tentatively. Personal goals get directed towards a knowledge of the self and commitments are given a temporary character. Turning the principle of romantic love in favour of forbidden sexuality pop music questions the rationality of earlier symbolic divisions. The dark side of sexuality becomes public, but is made harmless in youthful innocence and most of all fun, as can be illustrated by Dutch pop magazines like Aloha in which one speaks overtly about sexuality and sexual relations and illustrated by almost pornographic cartoons, mainly making fun out of sexuality and playing with the seriousness of adult sexual behaviour.
  Having come to this conclusion, we encounter the possible critique that the pop music of this period not only holds to the classical images of gender differences, but even more brutalize them. At first glance the majority of pop songs does not show much regard for the female sex. The typical rock macho attitude displayed by boys in "chatting a bird" barely seems to add to the impression of changing attitudes towards girls in the domain of leisure. Moreover in the songs voice is given mainly to boys who take the initiative, urging their girls to keep a passive role.
  Authors like Marion Meade build their thesis on this interpretation of pop music. In her article "The degradation of women," she summons to attention the explicit defaming of women and sexual relationships. The majority of pop-songs of this period, Meade (1972: 174-175), treats the female as if she was only a sexual object. Almost each woman is considered a "Stupid Girl," who must be kept "Under My Thumb," or as a "Honky Tonk Woman," only there to give a man "Satisfaction" (The Stones) or to "Light My Fire" (Jim Morrison) or even to consent in Ringo Starr's vulgar suggestion: "Why Don't We Do It In The Road." In a similar way Alan Beckett (1969: 109) in his analysis of the songs of the Stones arrives at the conclusion, that measured with the yardstick of an open, egalitarian sexuality, this famous rock group was not very innovative.
  Of course, as the Stones were very popular, these conclusions did not remain unquestioned. Remarkable in this respect is the defensive approach of Richard Merton (1969: 116). Answering Beckett's critique, he suggests that the songs of the Stones violate at least three taboos, prevailing in this period. According to Merton the main theme of songs like Under My Thumb, Stupid Girl, Back Street Girl, and Yesterday Papers, is sexual exploitation. "The songs explicitly mention sexual inequality." The Stones have done this, Merton says, "in the most radical and unacceptable way possible: by celebrating it." A second, less important taboo regards mental illness. "Again this is a tabooed topic as a normal social experience." See for example the lyrics of songs like Mother's Little Helper and Paint It Black. The third taboo is the experience of eroticism itself, as expressed in songs like Satisfaction and Going Home.
  At first sight Merton's argument admittedly is not a very persuasive one. On a semantic level, and this is the level on which most content analyses are based, Meade unmistakably is right. The question however is if, and this is were Merton is pointing at, pop songs can be adequately analysed on this level alone. The poetry of pop does not reside, as Frith (1987) argues, in its power to reflect social reality or to express authenticity, but in its conversational force. As pop songs are mainly public monologues or dialogues, they are conversational and require in this respect not only a semantic analysis but also an analysis of their illocutionary force (Leech, 1983). On this pragmatic level the question is raised what the listener has to make out of the message which is send to her. The principles steering the illocution are of the utmost importance and are implicit in phrasing and tone which show the intention of the speaker.
Under My Thumb (Jagger / Richards) — The Rolling Stones; on the album "Aftermath", 1966 © London Records (30 sec.)
7 The Rolling Stones

A touch of irony. "Under my thumb, the girl / Who once held me down / Under my thump, the girl / Who once pushed me around / It's down to me." The vindictive lyrics of this typical Rolling Stones' song of the 1960s sound still more revengeful by the expressive performance of Mick Jagger. As this song makes clear, it is the phrasing and tone which in pop songs seems to overrate the content of what is said. Answering the question, why songs do have words, Frith (1987: 97) for instance remarks that the words not only bear semantic meaning, but also function "as structures of sound that are direct signs of emotion and marks of character."

  The voice is an apparently transparent reflection of feeling, speaking out of shifts of emphasis, sighs and changes of tone. This is also what gives pop music its transnational character. It is this voicing of feelings that gives lyrics and music its meanings, "which is why singers like the Beatles and Bob Dylan in Europe in the 1960s would have profound significance for listeners who didn't understand a word they were singing," Frith (1987: 97) adds between brackets. As far as the words expressed new conglomerates of meanings, they were memorized and used. According to Horton (1957: 7) this even is the main reason for its popularity: "The popular song provides a conventional language for use in dating." Frith adds to this: "If music gives lyrics their linguistic vitality, lyrics give songs their social use."
  Deena Weinstein (1991: 106) comments on this observation by saying that clearly a distinction has to be made between the "semantic use" of lyrics and the "emotional meaning" of vocalist sounds. Although most pop songs do not have a direct and overt sexual message, they represent an emotion, a mentality as a comment on an emotional state, which has to be decoded as a personal message. A pop song offers its listeners one out of many possible orderings of emotions in a structured complex of feelings. Emotions, transformed in this way into an expression of a personal intention or state, become a comment which can be answered rather than a declaration of facts. In this context one has to understand the remarks of Marcus (1972: 129) on his first encounter with the blues: "I didn't interpret the words to Memphis Blues, they did interpret my situation. (...) but the words don't exist as statements, they exist as part of a song as a moment on that journey I was trying to get through."
  In short, as conversations (Leech, 1983), pop songs have to be analysed on the level of linguistic pragmatics. The conversational character explains the stress in popular music on cooperation and politeness, as these two principles are the main rules of each civil communication. According to Grice's Cooperation Principle without the shown intent of cooperation a conversation can be taken as insincere and therefore its content may be useless to its participants. Cooperation therefore is important, but as Leech (1983) argues, stressing his willingness to cooperate a speaker always risks becoming insincere when he has to comment on things that are very important to a listener. Being sincere and saying the "truth", politeness, the second principle of conversation, comes at risk.
  According to Leech, irony and banter form two principles which can break a stagnating balance of cooperation and politeness. By creating an in-group of listeners who understand its exaggerations and understatements, the use of irony opens to a speaker the possibility of being polite to a particular group of listeners, while at the same time no offense is given to the rule of cooperation, the plight of being sincere, towards another particular group. By understanding the ironic implications of a conversational remark a listener can decide on his own stance in the conversation. On the one hand he can question the remark for its impoliteness, or he can, agreeing with its implications become a member of the ironic in-group. It is this use of irony in dating behaviour which seems characteristic for the prewar Tin Pan Alley Idiom.
  The banter principle, which as Leech argues is characteristic for the adolescent life world, adds some further conversational possibilities to uphold sincerity to the principle of irony. Its foothold is the membership of a peer group. Being a member of such a group the banter principle allows one to breach the rule of politeness and for instance insult another member of he same group. The message then is that listener can take the phrasing to be irony, while at the same time his belonging to the in-group is assented. Banter can just be a way of confirming group-membership, but also a manner of opening up a more private conversation on its possible implications. This ambiguity of banter seems to be the main characteristic of the idiom of beat music.
Stupid Girl (Jagger / Richards) — The Rolling Stones; on the album "Aftermath", 1966 © London Records (30 sec.)
8 Smuggling new meanings across the borders of understanding. "I'm not talkin' about the kind of clothes she wears / Look at that stupid girl / I'm not talkin' about the way she combs her hair / Look at that stupid girl." At first sight the Stones' song Stupid Girl seems a chain of insults. For a better understanding of the Beatles and the Stones idiom, however, one has to realize that the peer group vocabulary, until pop music gave it a wider reading, just was restricted to a closed discourse within the boundaries of the single sex male peer group. Pop music voiced its insulting banter to a larger audience, including — and most of the times on purpose — a female audience. So these songs, though voiced in the language of the single sex male peer group, by directing itself to the female listener, crossed the borders of the single sex male and female peer group, including girls as full members of the new youth culture. Of course the irony and banter were there only for those who understood it, as the secret of its irony lied in its being heard by the listener only as far as she defined herself as member of the now mixed in-group.
  As irony is conveyed mainly by tone of voice and choice of words, Frith (1987: 91) concludes: "Irony, rather than direct description, is the essence of blues realism." Using an illocutionary, rather than a perlocutionary, persuasive argument pop music created its own in-group, thriving on the we-feeling of those understood its irony and banter: the members of the overarching new autonomous youth culture. The use of irony as well as the not-ideological character of pop-music return in many contemporary interviews of stars like the Beatles, the Stones and, maybe most of all, Bob Dylan, who notoriously evaded all questions if he was singing out of idealism or a wish to change the world but kept on to its communicative power: "No I 'm not just singing to be singing. There's a much deeper reason for it than that" (Aronowitz, 1969: 194).
  In beat music, passion as forbidden love, bridges the borders and divisions erected in earlier forms of the romantic code and at the same time redefines what is forbidden and allowed. By making public hidden forms of forbidden male and female sexual display, by converting the values of social and individual realization of intentions and by twisting codes of active and passive role-taking pop music transformed the main dimensions of communicative space (Harré, 1983). By becoming more reflexive pop music however did not choose for a more stoic stance on sexual matters, the mark of an older heroic ideal (Featherstone, 1992). Rather than exercising the control of mind over body and sublimating love in a spiritual, cognitive curiosity and losing interest in its physical aspects, the idiom of pop music strengthened the identity of body and mind. Here again the instrument of the voice, the main characteristic of popular music (Frith, 1987), played a most important role.
  Giving priority to voice and conversation the meaning of clothing becomes flexible. It is just there to express the role one wishes to play in the gathering of people around the musical market place, as mutual, communicative consent becomes the main criterium for a sexual relationship, forms of clothing denoting forbidden sexuality, like the mini skirt, can be used to express the fun of the body. Where clothing no longer has any meaning in sexual communication without the personal, verbal message of consent, the body is set free to denote the true personality: the identity project of its owner.
  Most important, all in all, is the stress pop music laid on the conversational character of sexual meanings. The meaning of sexual tokens as for instance clothing, as we can see in the lyrics of pop songs, becomes dependent on the meaning given to it by the one who wears it. The mini skirt, for instance, itself was not a sign of readiness to sexual offers, but made sexuality dependent on verbal initiative and consent. The self controls these kind of clothing required from males segregated the older from the younger generation. The coupling of sexuality to verbal consent conversation, anticipated the later practices of nude performances at the pop festivals. There, to walk in the nude referred to a new meanings of sexuality created by the new romantic code. Nakedness, the body in and by itself, referred to the central core of the new sexuality; it formed the expression of honesty.
The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) (Skjellyfetti) — The Grateful Dead; on the album "The Grateful Dead", 1967 © Warner Brothers (30 sec.)
9 Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead

Singing the body electric. "See that girl, barefootin' along / Whistlin' and singin' / She's a-carryin' on / There's laughin' in her eyes, dancin' in her feet / She's a neon-light diamond / And she can live on the street." In these lines from their song "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)" — the first song on their first, untitled album (1967) — the hippy band The Grateful Dead describes the prototype of a new girl not only capable to live on the street without falling to the verdicts of forbidden sexuality, but also able to express her emotional state clearly on a physical level, ready to share her pleasures but also adept in enjoying her own sexuality for its own sake.

  Within the we-feeling of the overarching youth-culture these new forms of female and male gender identity — the "beautiful people" of the flower power generation — were explored at the height of the 1960s. This "we-feeling" however did not result in programmed uniformity, but acted as a protection for individuality. The first step towards this development already was taken by the practice of dance of the 1960s beat music. "The fact that young people dance alone, not with partners, to beat music is interesting in itself," notes Mellers (1969: 180-181). "They evade the togetherness of relationship with another person (a love relationship, however joyful, will also inevitably hurt) in order to enter into a collective unconsciousness." Tuning in, participating, also for girls, became the key words of the new youth culture, but also individuality — "doing your own thing" — thereby making social equality, essential for conversation, a crucial demand (Landau, 1972: 239). The feeling that pop musicians were not imposed from above but came from their own ranks added to this essentially egalitarian feeling.
  With the first great rock festival of Woodstock, this egalitarianism expanded and the principle of love was made into an almost universal ethic: a love for the world (Kleijer and Tillekens, 1992). In the years between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s this ethic of love, heralded by the Beatles in their famous song All You Need Is Love, even became a means to criticize old forms of heroism and ideology. It is not easy to analyse in depth the logic behind these aspects of changing gender identities, of growing individualism and egalitarianism and of the increasing sensitivity for sexuality, out of the contents of 1960s and 1970s pop music. For the mid-1960s up to the mid-1970s, at least up to 1973, we don't find any systematic content analyses of pop lyrics. Though there is a return towards the market concentration of the pre-1955 period, according to Peterson and Berger (1975: 169), "a brief inspection of the hit song lyrics from 1973, however, does not suggest a return to pre-55 homogeneity. There were songs about sexual intercourse, homosexuality, interracial dating, drugs, filicide, abortion and the folly of being a war hero." Lance and Berry (1981) who restrict their research to "human sexual messages" in the period of 1968 to 1977, conclude: "From 1968 to 1977 there has been an increase of Rock and Roll hits pertaining to sexual activities." After 1973 there even is an increasing use of slang, a growing proportion of songs which depict women initiating erotic and sexual activity; an increase in male objections to sexual activities, and a drastic growth in references to extramarital sex. The seemingly sexual casualness however is based on a particular kind of self control, the grain of pop musics body politics. This form of self control lies imbedded in the texture of pop music itself.
  In the popular style typical for this century, three elements merge (Van der Merwe, 1989). To its critics the first and foremost seems to the element of rhythm. For them this element makes popular music heir of "jungle music", the music of the untamed body and uncontrolled emotionality. Its black roots add to it the image of untamed country and dark sexuality, both threatening to civilization. By its opponents the blues was mostly characterized by a lusty vulgarity and sensuality. To its white adherents the rhythm spoke of an exuberance for life, love and sex (Miller and Skipper, 1972: 31).
  The second element is the chromatic system of the classical style itself. Using the tonality of chromatic scale, this system facilitates the expression of harmony and drama. It furnishes its listener with a kind of mind-music for the intellect, where the listener is just watching the metamorphoses of his surroundings and learns to bring his own feelings in harmony with the cycles of its movements. The third element is the voice with its peculiar syncopation and blues accentuation, where the former seems to escape the power of rhythm and the latter suggest the possibility of leaving harmony itself. The blues-effect of the voice is the landmark of the popular style (Van der Merwe, 1989). It "depends largely on the fact that the "primitive" elements in vocal inflection and rhythmic displacement are at odds with the hymn-derived harmony of the blues guitar; the age-old monodic melancholy off the voice seems the more searing against the harmonic prison of "civilization"" (Mellers, 1969: 181). In this way the voice combines the harmony, sought by the mind and the emotional expression of the body in a kind of "soul-music." This effect of the interior monologue of the blues is further strengthened by the counteracting, "talking" guitar or "blues harp", which gives the rock song the form of a inner dialogue.
  Mediating between mind and body the voice seems to regulate both, the story it tells and the way it does this forming the centre for self control. Sometimes soothing primary emotions and seeking spiritual harmony, sometimes destroying harmony and opening up the emotions, the voice of the singer seeks his own way in the labyrinth of love. The workings of this mechanism was illuminated in the Beatles' song Hey Jude in the lines: "Hey Jude, don't make it bad / Take a sad song and make it better."
  Beat music surpassed Rock 'n' Roll by moving this new form of self control into the core of public and civil interaction. "Rock 'n' Roll music incorporated folk elements into conventions deriving from Tin Pan Ally, whereas the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic texture of the Beatles' songs is itself primitive; at least it has more in common with conventions of late medieval and early renaissance music than it has with the harmonic conventions of the eighteenth century and after" (Mellers, 1969: 182). This music does not suggest a departing or coming together of individuals, like the blues, but celebrates the togetherness of the medieval urban marketplace: the "lonesomeness merges into a corporate act, and belonging to the group asserts one's livingness, such as it is" (Mellers, 1969: 181). The blues element of self-pity is replaced by a being out on the look for new opportunities. The range of this feeling of an open conversational market place is then further explored and modernized in Dylan's electric "busy city-sound" and the surf-beat of the Beach Boys. These forms of beat music — like Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man — try to restore the atmosphere of the medieval market place into a modern urban environment by depicting the experience of city life as a permanent carnival, created by the realized daydreaming of its participants.
Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) — Bob Dylan; on the album "Bringing It All Back Home", 1965 © Columbia (30 sec.)
10 Bob Dylan (1966)

A loss of innocence. Looking back to their youth nowadays many grown-ups tend to interpret the sexual liberation of the 1960s, brought about by the mediatized culture of pop music, as a loss of innocence (Schnabel, 1990; Tillekens, ed., 1990). At first sight this is slightly strange. Of course, because of Aids, sexuality has become more dangerous. But at same time sexuality has become less associated with guilt. Set aside from the impact of Aids, one explanation can be that this generation which grew up during the 1960s, having become sadder and wiser, now reinterpret their past as a nostalgic time where love and sexuality were full of unspoken promises and, most and for all, seemed to have had more hidden, deeper meanings.

  But there is also another explanation, that's more in line with our reasoning here. The new sexuality not only liberates but also exerts new demands on its users in terms of autenticity and sincerity. The new romantic code expects emotions and emotional states, which are never clear by themselves, to be motivated, justified and warranted, to the self and the others in a more open conversation. And to this demand innocence is highly vulnerable. Examining the workings of emotions and their effects on the body, pop music encounters the paradox that a growth in emotional consciousness and emotional involvement also aggravates the chance to emotionally get hurt.
   
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  The short sound fragments on this page are copyrighted. They are used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. This contribution to Soundscapes is a slightly adapted version of an article with the same title that appeared earlier on in: Zeitschrift für Sozialisationsforschung und Erziehungssoziologie, 1994, 1, 58-75.
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