Harmony and discord within the English ‘counter-culture’, 1965-1975, with particular reference to the ‘rock operas’ Hair, Godspell, Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar
This thesis considers the discrete, historically-specific theatrical and musical sub-genre of ‘Rock Opera’ as a lens through which to examine the cultural, political and social changes that are widely assumed to have characterised ‘The Sixties’ in Britain. The musical and dramatic texts, creation and production of Hair (1967), Tommy (1969), Godspell (1971), Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and other neglected ‘Rock Operas’ of the period are analysed. Their great popularity with ‘mainstream’ audiences is considered and contrasted with the overwhelmingly negative and often internally contradictory reaction towards them from the English ‘counter-culture’. This examination offers new insights into both the ‘counter-culture’ and the ‘mainstream’ against which it claimed to define and differentiate itself. The four ‘Rock Operas’, two of which are based upon Christian scriptures, are considered as narratives of spiritual quest. The relationship between the often controversial quests for re-defined forms of faith and the apparently precipitous ‘secularization’ and ‘de-Christianization’ of British society during the 1960s and 1970s is considered. The thesis therefore analyses the ‘Rock Operas’ as significant, enlightening prisms through which to view many of the profound societal debates – over ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ in the widest senses, sexuality, the Vietnam war, generational conflict, drugs and ‘spiritual enlightenment’, and race – which were, to some considerable extent, elevated onto the national, political agenda by the activities of the broadly-defined ‘counter-culture’. It considers subsequent representations of the ‘counter-culture’ as the root of a contested but enduring popular legacy of ‘The Sixties' as a period of profound cultural change.
AuthorsMcGowan, Christopher John
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