The news that larger-than-life singer George Melly has died will come as sad news to jazz fans. But it’s worth pointing out that in addition to his distinctly flamboyant persona as a performer, he was also a very well-respected writer on the arts and popular culture.
For years, I’ve been recommending his Revolt Into Style -originally published in 1970. Here, he argues that in pop music, whatever movement starts as cultural revolt usually ends up as a mere style statement. It’s a very persuasive point of view, with all sorts of implications for popular culture (and subculture) as a whole.
So, while we read the tributes and the articles celebrating his drinking, singing, dress-sense, fly fishing and even his sex life, let’s also raise a glass (if we may) to his serious work as a scholar. The two don’t have to be separate.
Dr Richard Howells