The Stax/Volt Revue and Soul Music Fandom in 1960s Britain

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The chapter uses the 1967 Stax/Volt Revue to demonstrate the extent to which British soul fans interpreted soul music as a political expression during the 1960s. Recent historiography of the African American civil rights movement has indicated that soul was a powerful expression of political sentiment for activists and offered significant assistance to the movement in many ways. Nothing, however, has been written about the extent to which this political reading of soul crossed the Atlantic Ocean. This paper applies a transatlantic approach to the study of soul. It reveals that, while some soul fans were convinced of the political ramifications of the music, many were not. It suggests that soul fandom came just as much from a personal identification with a subculture of soul fans as from political identification with black peoples. Members of this subculture, which is closely related to the Mods of the early 1960s, considered themselves superior to the average pop fan of the 1960s. While soul did offer some individuals the opportunity to engage in biracial interaction, for many it was more an opportunity to align with an authentic subcultural music. Nevertheless, many soul fans reflect that their love of soul music had an impact on their developing political consciousness. The paper thus concludes that soul operated for many fans largely as a signifier of status, coolness and perhaps an ‘otherness’ that was not enacted in racial terms but which existed largely within the structures of British youth culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSubcultures, Popular Music, and Social Change
PublisherCambridge Scholars
ISBN (Print)978-1-4438-5945-5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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