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Doug Stewart "douglasstewart7" (UK)

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MOD: From Bebop to Britpop, Britain's Biggest Youth Movement
MOD: From Bebop to Britpop, Britain's Biggest Youth Movement
by Richard Weight
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hopefully, some balance, 2 April 2013
When reviews of a modern history of youth culture book are as polarised as these are, I tend to get a little excited. If a book can generate such differing opinions, it usually means that the reviewers have some sort of vested interest in the outcome of their review, or, more hopefully, that the passions are roused in a constructive critique. I can't speculate on the motivations of the reviewers, so I'll stick to my own take.

Firstly, the writing style - Weight appears to realise what many modern historians forget. When writing about a period of history that the reader has most likely lived through, the narrative needs to be upbeat,exciting, and controversial. Like any decent party, and what else is youth culture if not a damn fine party, what happened matters - when,less so. Memories of a youth that has been led can cloud the observations of the reader, but can also pique the interest when the author brings some needed reflection to the history rather than simply fetishising the dry facts and chronology.

So, to the ideas. Reading that Kraftwerk tick the boxes of Weight's criteria for mod initially made me laugh out loud - then I thought about it. The "state of mind" argument for youth culture is hackneyed if not backed up with some new theory, and the notion that an amorphous and dynamic culture can have rights and wrongs as to who belongs and who doesn't because of a set of rules is more than a little ironic, particularly in the case of a culture as diverse as modernism.It's all about interpretation, and Weight backs his more "out there" interpretations with enough evidence to at least make the reader question his own views.

I'm not a Mod historian - I don't claim to be an expert on what took place where and when, but then lists aren't really my thing. What this book does, and does well, is engage the reader and remind him of what went down during the birth and growth of British youth culture(in my case the 80s) whilst provoking the mind to question the current importance or otherwise of said culture. I love British ska, I love Trojan, I love modern jazz, and have a couple of Kraftwerk albums. Am I a mod? If Weight's argument is correct, then yes. Do I have the right to define mod in my own image? I don't think so. What is refreshing about Weight's take on this is that he would appear to agree. Like folk fans screaming about the introduction of the electric guitar, those who won't at least engage in discussion are doomed to create walls around the most inclusive cultural phenomena of the twentieth century, and consign the vibrancy, inclusivity and sheer dynamism of mod to a historical cultural elite, thus destroying the very thing they profess to love.

This book is therefore a resounding success. Academics and self styled experts can debate away - good luck to them. This book engaged and stimulated this reader, and got him thinking. I got lost in my past, and thought about the future. That'll do for me.

Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000
Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000
by Richard Weight
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly "British", 29 Jun. 2004
Ironically, I disagree with Weight's notion of the death of British national identity, and would argue that his text is evidence of a new, looser and altogether more practical and less emotional "Britishness". It is, however, no surprise that royalist and conservative readers find this alarming and distasteful. The identification of Britishness with royalism is one which has had the most detrimental effect on many Scots' perception of their British nationality (and I would imagine that of many Welsh people), and given the changing balance of ethnicity in this country (Britain), it can surely be of little surprise to anyone that this most lasting symbol of imperialism is most popular with those who most identify with the Empire.
Weight has simply approached the subject from the perspective of the ordinary, the disinterested and the varied citizen of the UK. These are people whose commonality is more likely to be based around sport, music and single issue politics than a uniform identity based on a notion of British nationality. This historical Britishness, Weight argues, has been being systematically made less important by both political and cultural changes which celebrate differences rather than an Anglocentric uniformity.
There may have been Union Flags in London during the Jubilee celebrations. There were precious few on view in the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow away from Holyrood or the Royal Mile. Nor, it might be noted, in the football stadia of Portugal. Weight, correctly in my opinion, has noted that individuals are now more likely to identify primarliy with the constituent countries that make up Britain and Northern Ireland, and their own perceptions of what that country represents, than with the whole: this does not mean that people necessarily wish to abdicate its benefits at a European or global level. Weight's problem will be convincing those who perceive white, affluent England as being the rule against which "Britishness" must be measured and hence defined.

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