In No Machos or Pop Stars Gavin Butt tells the fascinating story of the post-punk scene in Leeds, showing how England’s state-funded education policy brought together art students from different social classes to create a fertile ground for musical experimentation.
After punk’s arrival in the UK 1976, many art students in the city traded their paintbrushes for guitars and synthesisers. In bands ranging from Gang of Four, Soft Cell, and Delta 5 to the Mekons, Scritti Politti and Fad Gadget, these artists-turned-musicians challenged the limits of what was deemed possible in rock and pop music. Taking avant-garde ideas to the record-buying public, they created Situationist anti-rock and art punk, penned deconstructed pop ditties about Jacques Derrida, and took the aesthetics of collage and shock to dark, brooding electro-dance music.
Drawing on extensive interviews with band members, their associates, and teachers, Butt details the groups who wanted to dismantle both art world and music industry hierarchies by making it possible to dance to their art. Their stories reveal the subversive influence of art school in a regional music scene of lasting international significance.
Gavin Butt is Professor of Fine Art at Northumbria University, author of Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948–1963, also published by Duke University Press, and coeditor of Post-Punk Then and Now.
Duke University Press, 312pp, 15.2cm x 22.9cm, illustrated paperback, 2022
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