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Dave Laing


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Dave Laing has been researching and writing about popular music, its business, and its politics for over forty years. His books include The Sound of Our Time (1969), One Chord Wonders (1985), and Buddy Holly (2010). He was a coeditor of The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music (1990) and the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (2003). He has contributed to several edited collections including Global Pop, Local Language (2003), The Popular Music Studies Reader, (2006) and The Cambridge Companion to The Beatles (2009). He is associate editor of the journal Popular Music History and an honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool.

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One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock
Author: Dave Laing • Foreword by TV Smith
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-033-5
Published: 03/01/2015
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 224
Subjects: Music-Punk/Business-Entertainment
$17.95


Originally published in 1985, One Chord Wonders was the first full-length study of the glory years of British punk rock. The book argues that one of punk’s most significant political achievements was to expose the operations of power in the British entertainment industries as they were thrown into confusion by the sound and the fury of musicians and fans.

Through a detailed examination of the conditions under which punk emerged and then declined, Dave Laing develops a view of the music as both complex and contradictory. Special attention is paid to the relationship between punk and the music industry of the late 1970s, in particular the political economy of the independent record companies through which much of punk was distributed. The rise of punk is also linked to the febrile political atmosphere of Britain in the mid-1970s.

Using examples from a wide range of bands, individual chapters use the techniques of semiology to consider the radical approach to naming in punk (from Johnny Rotten to Poly Styrene), the instrumental and vocal sound of the music, and its visual images. Another section analyses the influence of British punk in Europe prior to the music’s division into “real punk” and “post-punk” genres.

The concluding chapter critically examines various theoretical explanations of the punk phenomenon, including the class origins of its protagonists and the influential view that punk represented the latest in a line of British youth “subcultures.” There is also a chronology of the punk era, plus discographies and a bibliography.

Praise:

“A clear, unprejudiced account of a difficult subject.”
—Jon Savage, author of England's Dreaming

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onechordOne Chord Wonders: A Review
Scanner Zine
January 31st, 2016

"Taking up six chapters, Laing analyses Punk from its Formation and continues through Naming, Listening, Looking, Framing and the Aftermath before a Conclusion rounds the main book out. He uses what are considered to be the first of the UK Punk albums as templates (‘The Clash’, ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, ‘Damned Damned Damned’, ‘Rattus Norvegicus IV’ and ‘Pure Mania’) along with a smattering of the early UK Punk singles and places them against what was happening in the charts of the era. All aspects of Punk are analysed in those chapters, from the bands that acted as precursors, through to the names of bands and individuals, the acts of Pogoing and gobbing, fashion, politics and lyrical origins, mainstream music press and fanzines, major labels and the advent of independents and the removal of the breakdown between band and audience. There is also a look at what was coming in the wake of ‘77 Punk with mentions of CRASS, PUBLIC IMAGE LTD, EXPLOITED, SOUTHERN DEATH CULT and AU PAIRS. It’s a well researched narrative and, while definitely written from a deeply analytical perspective, it rarely becomes ponderous, pretentious or overtly highbrow."

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onechordOne Chord Wonders: A Review
By Adrian Bloxham
Louder than War

October 2nd, 2015

"...There’s a very informative section on how the music industry worked at the time and how Punk moved away from that and the independent sector was created. It talks about where the names for the bands came from, their image and the wider influences of Punk. One section that intrigued me was when the author compared the subjects tackled in the songs on the first few punk records with the subjects sung about in the top 40 of the time.

It makes you think about where it all came from and what it meant at the time and that I feel is the reason for the book. Well worth reading if you are interested and intrigued by those days of anarchic one chord wonders..."

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onechordOne Chord Wonders: A Review
By John L Murphy
Spectrum Culture

May 2015

"How punk was deployed as a reaction against what Dave Laing calls the “gigantism” of AOR, pop and progressive rock is a familiar tale. Laing, an English researcher, retells this story through an academic approach. He scrutinizes how late-1970s British punk applies to cultural critique. He incorporates insights from Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Julia Kristeva. This reprint of Laing’s 1985 semiological analysis precedes Jon Savage’s first-hand account, England’s Dreaming (1991).

Introduced briefly by the Adverts’ guitarist-singer, T.V. Smith, One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock takes its title from that band’s song, a tribute to DIY spunk..."

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