Elvis Costello and Thatcherism: A Psycho-Social Exploration, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Elvis Costello and Thatcherism

A Psycho-Social Exploration, 1st Edition

By David Pilgrim, Richard Ormrod


222 pages

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The emergence of Thatcherism around 1980, which ushered in a period of neo-liberalism in British politics that still resonates today, led musicians, like other artists, to respond to their context of production. This book uses the early work of one of these musicians, Elvis Costello, to explore the relationship between popular music and politics in one historical period. It is not a biography but an exploration of the interaction between a creative musician's works and their context of constraint and opportunity. Pilgrim and Ormrod unpack the political meaning of Thatcherism and deal with matters arising in that political context about Costello's life but which had resonance for many others at the time (and still do). These topics include the politics of race, class, gender and ageing, emphasising the recurring theme of nostalgia in modern and post-modern life. Throughout the book examples are provided of Costello's songs and how they work musically to illustrate or stimulate the contextual discussion. The book will be of significant interest to musicologists, sociologists and social psychologists.


’This is a book full of rich and original arguments … and it provides insightful perspectives on popular culture’s relationship to Thatcherism in the 1980s as well as its continuing legacy.’ Popular Music

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Thatcher and Costello: setting the scene; Interpreting Costello’s early music; Nostalgia denied; Race and nation; The special relationship with the USA; The post-feminist context; The music industry; Costello and postmodernism; Macbeth at the foam party; References; Index.

About the Authors

David Pilgrim has a mixed academic background in clinical psychology and medical sociology and has a particular interest in linking biographies and social contexts, using interdisciplinary resources in social science. He is widely published, with over 60 journal articles to his name. His recent books include Key Concepts in Mental Health, Second Edition (2009) and, with Anne Rogers, A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness, Fourth Edition (2009). The third edition of the latter won the BMA's Medical Book of the Year for 2006. He is Professor of Health and Social Policy at the University of Liverpool. Richard Ormrod is a musician, educator, composer and writer. He performs on several instruments in a wide variety of styles and enjoys devising new performance/recording projects, such as Home of the Brave and A Dread Supreme, which investigate, respectively, the soundtrack to Western movies and influences on Jamaican popular music. As an educator he directs several community orchestras, with particular emphasis on aural learning and improvisation. In 2012 he was awarded Jazz Yorkshire ’Musician of the Year’ and lives and works in Leeds.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Rock