The New European: The age of Anglo-whimsy

Sophia Deboick looks back at a brief period in musical history when English eccentricity and experimentalism combined to spectacular effect.

Between 1966 and 1969, English pop was populated by some peculiar figures: gnomes, spacemen, Edwardian bandleaders and washing line thieves among them. The British Invasion had shifted the centre of gravity and by 1966 London was the place to be and Englishness became both a theme and a fashion.

English singers suddenly sounded like where they came from and facets of British life appeared in their lyrics. But in these years, there was a run of records by the most important acts of the era – from the Beatles to the Kinks – that displayed a very specific set of characteristics: English-accented, strongly narrative pop songs featuring music hall-style character sketches, quirky vignettes, nursery rhyme atmospheres, idiosyncratic instrumentation, Edwardiana, quotidian detail, suburbia, the surreal, the sinister, and a definite feyness.

This was a cultural moment that might be called ‘Anglo-whimsy’ (rock historian Clinton Heylin applied the term to Pink Floyd’s seminal Arnold Layne single in particular). Occurring as the Beat breakthrough and Mod aesthetic segued into the era of acid, psychedelia and Eastern religion, this was a fleeting moment, but it produced some of the most experimental records of the modern pop era…

The New European, 31 October 2019, pp. 31-34.

Visit The New European