Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Music Subcultures in the U.K.

Thomas Johnson (More Info)

Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Music Subcultures in the U.K.

Program Dates:

Honors Credit:

WKU Course:

Psychology , Sociology , Music

Course Description:
Mods used amphetamines to help them dance all night. Hippies glorified psychedelic music, psychedelic drugs, and free love. Raves ran on ecstasy, the “love drug.” Why are many youth subcultures defined by their music and drugs of choice? Are they trying to change the world, or just have a really good time! We will examine the music, lifestyles, and sociohistorical contexts associated with the above subcultures, as well as Punk, Goth, Hip Hop, and Heavy Metal. Field trips, including a trip to Liverpool, will let us hear music, make graffiti art, and experience both mainstream British culture and contemporary countercultures.

Students should have had one introductory course in either psychology or sociology, or a course in 20th Century History.

Physical Activity Requirements:
Expect 3 to 5 miles of walking per day.

Course Highlights:
This course takes an interdisciplinary perspective on Post World War II youth subcultures, with a focus on the music they listened to, specific drugs utilized by different subcultures, and attitudes and behaviors of the subcultures regarding gender and sexuality. While much of the course content derives from psychology and sociology, it also includes material from the disciplines of musicology, history, cultural studies, biology, and gender studies. Musical genres (and associated subcultures) we will learn about (and listen to) include psychedelic rock, heavy metal, punk, Goth, electronic dance music, and rap & hip hop. We usually create a class playlist on Spotify to help share music. Field trips will include traveling to Liverpool to visit a Beatles museum and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney to help learn how the Beatles were transformed from beer drinking teenagers into apostles of LSD and meditation. In addition, we will take a graffiti tour to explore the "street art" of London, part of Hip Hop culture, and you’ll get the chance to create some street art of your own. We will also go on a “subcultural treasure hunt” in Camden markets, where members of many different subcultures from the past 50 years still hang out and can buy clothing, music, and other necessities. Generally we also visit the Freud house and museum, do a walking or bus tour of “rock and roll London”, and take in a concert or other musical event, depending on what is currently showing in London. Past examples have included the hippie musical “Hair”, the Beatles cover band “Let it Be”, and “Motown” the musical. In addition to learning about music, drug use, gender and sexuality, for each genre we will learn a bit about the social, political, and historical context that nurtured that subculture, the clothing and lifestyles of members of the subculture, spiritual or political beliefs associated with that subculture, and reactions of the majority or mainstream culture to that subculture. Several of the subcultures we will discuss proposed what they felt were “utopian solutions” to what they saw as the evils of contemporary mainstream culture (for example, “tune in, turn on, and drop out”). To close out the course, we will discuss whether music or youth movements can change the world, and if so, how?