"England is Mine"
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 13th April 2009I don't know how long I've had this book sitting on my shelf. I think I must have started reading it once before years ago but I don't remember anything about it. I picked it this time since it seemed neat to read another book about music after finishing Ocean of Sound, although "England is Mine" is quite different both in terms of its subject matter (broading speaking, English pop music from the 60s to the 80s) and in its treatment, which is arguably much more coherent (not to take away from David Toop's book).
I suppose it's really about how the experience or qualities of "Englishness" have manifested themselves in various ways throught the medium of pop music, and how that differs from American pop music of the same eras. Michael Bracewell refers throughout the book to literature, poetry and cinema as much as to the music he's talking about, and uses these to contextualise pop, and show in his opinion it both reflected and influenced changing ideas of what England and English society was about. So for example there is the wistful longing for England as "Arcady" - the green and pleasant land that WWII propaganda talked about, but which never really existed - contrasted with rebellion as an extreme reaction to the dullness of suburbia.
Like "Ocean of Sound", it's very readable and also Bracewell doesn't always choose the obvious examples to illustrate his points (for example I felt like the Sex Pistols were barely mentioned). But at the end I wasn't really sure what the conclusion was, and the attempt to come full circle to his starting point (the Powell and Pressburger film "A Matter of Life and Death") seemed slightly contrived. I suppose I felt that my knowledge of pop and popular culture started just slightly too late to really be familiar with a lot of the music and other reference points. Still it is an interesting and engaging read, and I felt gave me some insight into how pop music of the previous decades had shaped the music and culture that interested me in the 1990s. So it was well worth reading.