Middle class music

Friday on my mind was played on the radio. David Bowie’s 1973 cover of the original 1965 version by Australian band The Easybeats.

Of course, Friday night was a moment to relish if you worked the “five day drag” of the song, and you finished at five o’clock. In 1973, the ideal Friday night did not exist for many working class people because many of them would be working on Saturday morning, (and, of course, with the expansion of the leisure and retail industries, many working people now work the whole weekend).

Only from the retrospective view of someone in his 60s have I come to realise how middle class were the assumptions of music and fashion in the 1970s.

Bowie was a suburban middle class art school student. The make up and the costumes he would don in the 1970s would have been unthinkable in the many council estates of the London of the 1970s.

But Bowie was not the only icon of music and fashion whose songs and dress were safely middle class.

The Hippies of the late-1960s were never going to subvert society. The men were a narcissistic group who claimed to represent a radical critique of society whilst living on family money. To buy an old van and drive around the country without needing to work would never have been an option for someone raised in a council house.

Similarly the punks from a decade later were similarly self-indulgent. Walking up and down Chelsea’s King’s Road with a purple Mohican hair cut and bondage clothes might have stirred the ire of readers of the Daily Mail, but did not threaten anyone.

Swearing and spitting were not radical, they were simply what someone who stood on the terraces of a football ground experienced on a weekly basis. The Sex Pistols were a joke, their anarchy was about their right to do as they wanted, provided someone else was paying for it.

Looking back on the music and fashion trends now, there is a realisation that they were overwhelmingly middle class movements. The Teddy Boys of the 1950s were working class, as would have been some of the Rockers of the mid-1960s.

The one thoroughly working class movement would have been the skinheads of the late-1960s,  but the music they favoured was ska and reggae, so the recorded music legacy that could be identified with them is limited.

Perhaps it is is to be expected, economic power does tend to lead to dominance in other aspects of society, but music trends from the past have been dominated by the middle classes, those who naturally assumed that Saturday morning was a time to lie in bed.

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