What Influence did Black American Music have on the British Working Class Youth in the Sixties? 1960’s Britain was a time of great cultural change. A huge change of the time was the birth of the teenager; children no longer dressed like their parents, opening a huge gap in the market for young people’s fashion. Music also saw huge changes, pop music rose up becoming a dominant force with black people playing a major part. Working class youngsters took great influence from this in their lifestyles in particular fashion they called it modernism.
Modernism can be dated back as far as early-fifties Soho where black American influenced jazz musicians would take great pride in the way they dressed. They would always go to extreme lengths to ensure they were looking as a cool as possible. They would perform in live venues around the city attracting a large following of working-class youths who would always enjoy having a place where they go out dressed up, meet people and dance till late. This continued to the late fifties when Rock ‘N’ Roll music took over, the craze died down and would only return in the early sixties.
The Sixties saw a time when the first people born after the Second World War would become teenagers. Also the fifties was said to be a time of gloom still in the aftermath of the war, rationing on certain goods and constraints on imports of such items like cloths. In the sixties things were changing the economy was picking up, rationing was over and tariffs on exports were being relaxed meaning a lot of fashion items from abroad were becoming available. It was the teenagers of the time that took advantage of this. The teenagers were well equipped to do so because of the “comprehensive welfare state” (Marwick) and full employment at the time.
Many people would leave school at fifteen and walk straight into a job. During the early sixties there were great changes in America also in particular the civil rights movements. This meant black popular music became a lot more accepted. Soul and Motown were the main musical styles providing good fast music with a catchy beat which people could easily dance to. These artists who sang for these labels such as Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson performed in good suits and always appeared very stylish carrying on the tradition of the jazz musicians of the decade before.
Clubs in London picked up on the popularity of this music and started to provide venues where young working class people could go to and dance. The youngsters who were attracted to this style of music would naturally imitate their idols kicking off a trend of always dressing very stylish, fashion was of most importance to these working class people who were known as the Mods. Black soul groups in America were forming almost everyday and their records were being imported into the UK. The sound was unbelievable to British youngsters it was new and exciting to the extreme as it moved away from the soft over-sentimental love songs of the past.
Black Music was the soundtrack of the Mod. Mods were never into bands they were into records and they would always hunt out record nights at clubs where they would play good R&B and Soul. That is why the scooter became popular it provided a good means of getting around to these clubs. Music and fashion were an obsession for the Mods; they were recurring topics for many Mod discussion and debate. They were very much attracted by the obscurity of certain soul songs or the individuality that wearing original items of clothing brought with them.