The Sons and Heirs of Something Particular

Atkinson, Peter James orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8638-9808 (2015) The Sons and Heirs of Something Particular. In: Regional Aesthetics : mapping UK media cultures. Media and Culture . Palgrave Macmillan, London. ISBN 9781137532824

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This chapter highlights continuities between the aesthetic evident in the songs and related material of the popular music group, The Smiths, in the 1980s and a Left-wing aesthetic found in a range of creative work produced in Manchester in the 1930s and up until the late 1950s. The Smiths brought unique properties to popular music in the wake of the emergence of a regional punk music scene in Manchester from 1976, and represent an ideal case study for the discursive and mythic construction of what I term the ‘implied’ place – Manchester – that has emerged through a series of representations of the city in popular culture. I engage Raymond Williams’s concept of ‘structure of feeling’ as a theoretical way of understanding practices, experience and feelings that may be common in a specific community, such as in Manchester, or the Greater Manchester conurbation. I demonstrate that The Smiths’ music was antithetical to the cosmetic ‘New Pop’ of 1983 and articu-
lated an oppositional discourse to Thatcherism in which ‘Manchester’ was portrayed as a dystopian consequence of political oppression. The discursive agenda and the Manchester aesthetic in The Smiths’ work is examined, and I demonstrate that their approach is a legacy of the political work in the agit-prop theatre of Ewan MacColl and Joan Littlewood. I then continue to observe a similar commitment to political expression of issues facing the working class in the work of BBC North Region radio under the directorship of E. A. (‘Archie’) Harding and the contributions Littlewood, MacColl and the documentarist Denis Mitchell made to this commitment. I conclude by noting textual continuities of this legacy in The Smiths’ work.

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