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Sweet Saturday Night: Popular Song 1840-1920 [Hardcover]

Colin MacInnes
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: MacGibbon & K.; First Edition edition (Jun 1967)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0261616439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0261616431
  • Product Dimensions: 29.5 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,715,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life was a song 25 Oct 2002
Colin MacInnes was a perceptive observer of the changing nature of post-war English society, aspects of which he most memorably portrayed in his trilogy of London novels: City of Spades (West Indian immigrants in the Fifties), Mr. Love and Justice (the world of prostitutes and ponces and their treatment by the police), and Absolute Beginners (the emergence of a teenage culture).
In Sweet Saturday Night MacInnes steps back in time to examine the popular songs of the London Music Halls between 1840 and 1850 and shows how they tended to reflect the pre-occupations and attitudes to life of the London working class of the times, not to be found in Victorian and Edwardian literature. In doing so, he tells the stories of the character and careers of the most famous performers, half of whom were women, identifies the composers and songsmiths, and illustrates his themes with dozens of extracts from the actual songs.
MacInnes claims this is no academic study and his book is all the more enjoyable for that.
He is not uncritical and makes no claim for Music Hall art as great art, but his enthusiasm, admiration and fondness for its qualities is apparent and persuasive. He sees it as an art which bridged the gap between folk song, which was dying, and the appearance of commercialized, mechanized pop songs of the Thirties and later. The key factor in Music Hall art was the live performances of the top artistes, which at their best overcame any banal or overly sentimental elements in the lyrics, if judged by their appearance in print.
The chapters are arranged by broad themes of the songs – Love(before marriage),
London life (including marriage, food and drink), Work and holidays, Soldiers and Sailors, and Friendship.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough and sensitive presentation 14 Mar 2008
MacInnes book tries to communicate the atmosphere and meaning of music hall's songs from 1840 onward. The book is divided into chapters around the main themes dealt with by Music Hall songs, such as Soldiers and Sailors, Love, or Work.

This book is written by someone who really loves Music Hall and is packed with insights as to the reasons why certain songs, stars and themes were widely popular. MacInnes considers that, since most Music Hall songs were written by and for Working class people, we can see in them a sort of vox populi which is absent from Victorian and Edwardian literature.

The strengths of the book are the author's very wide knowledge of his subject, and his insistence in going into detail about the meaning and tone of a number of songs (whereas some studies have ignored this fundamental aspect). He is also very respectful and not at all patronizing about the working class people from a bygone age which he is writing about.

In 1967 this was a pioneering work. Since, more work has been done which highlight some of the book's weakness. Firstly there is a tendency to treat the Music Hall audience as if it were one homogeneous group. In fact it has been shown elsewhere that tone and content differed between those big luxurious halls which attracted a very socially mixed audience, with cheap and expensive seats, and the more working class halls which catered to the audience who lived near them only.

Secondly, although it is no doubt necessary to have a certain passionate attachment to Music Hall in order to study it, the nostalgic claims of the author are sometimes very marked - he suggests, for example, that the people of the time were happier and more able to enjoy themselves than people a hundred years later. This is a very risky hypothesis, impossible to prove, and worrying to close to other discourses of declien in the are of talking about popular culture.

Still, an indispensable book by a passionate expert.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gives a great, readable flavour of the era. 8 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Written in the 60s, this book gives a general overview of the Music Hall era. Not a scholarly work, but more a well-researched and eminently-readable piece of journalism, with plenty of honest, and funny, personal opinion thrown in. Recommended if you want a quick understanding of what entertainment was like at the time.
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