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‘Sitting in an English Garden’: Comparing Representations of ‘Britishness’ in the Songs of the Beatles and 1990s Britpop Groups

  • Andy Bennett

Abstract

A characteristic aspect of many of the songs of the Beatles, especially from 1966 onwards, is the way in which they portray particular notions of British cultural life. Tracks such as ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Penny Lane’, the collection of songs on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the ‘medley’ on the second side of Abbey Road are linked by the distinctive representations of British cultural life which they contain. Such representations were by no means restricted to later Beatles material, but were a centrally defining aspect of songs by other 1960s British groups, particularly the Kinks and the Small Faces. During the 1990s there has been a resurgence of such musical and lyrical treatments of British life in the songs of Britpop bands such as Blur, Pulp and Ocean Colour Scene. In this chapter I want to consider and compare the images of British life which are presented in the songs of the Beatles and those of contemporary Britpop bands. Without a doubt, the depictions of ‘Britishness’ portrayed in Beatles’ songs — and in the work of the Kinks and the Small Faces — has been a primary source of inspiration for the Britpop phenomenon. It may well be, however, that the meanings and intentions behind the use of such representations in 1990s Britpop are very different from those which underlay their use in the songs of the Beatles and fellow 1960s British groups.

Keywords

National Identity Common People White Youth Popular Music Small Face 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Andy Bennett 2000

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  • Andy Bennett

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