“In the dead ground between the Second World War and the Beatles,” Billy Bragg points out, “are those everyday features that proved immune to nostalgia – conscription, cod liver oil, smog, carbolic soap, Izal medicated toilet paper, polio, the gallows.”
Not so the rise of Skiffle, the unsung engine of British Rock’N’Roll. Bragg’s enthusiasm for its bombshell impact radiates from his latest book, Roots, Radicals & Rockers and we’re thrilled that he’s coming in on Monday October 8 to expand on it. He traces its evolution from the jazz boom via a series of serendipitous accidents involving rationing, commercial TV, the Gaggia machine, cowboy serials, Blackboard Jungle and Ken Colyer’s spell in a New Orleans jail.
This wondrous racket – “like a bankrupt pier-show of black-faced minstrels” (Jazz Journal) – lit the fuse you can still see burning. As George Harrison said, “If there was no Leadbelly, there would have been no Lonnie Donegan. No Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles.”