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183 Contemporary British popular music owes much to the blues. Within blues a blueprint developed for pop and rock musicians in England, that has become integrated into Western popular music in general and British pop music in particular. Musicians like Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Johnson created this blueprint. British popular music today often features a group of musicians focused around a singer and a guitarist with a drum kit and bass player playing a lesser role. Sometimes this includes a keyboard player, a brass section, and occasionally harmonica. These musicians usually learn orally from others or are self-taught by listening to other music or musicians rather than being formally trained. They play material written by the band themselves, and this material is often written by using another piece of music as a source. These are all formats for musical activity that originate in blues or rhythm & blues, and that were absorbed from blues into popular music. There are many other musical elements that migrated from blues forms. 11 THE BLUES IN THE MUSIC OF THE BEATLES, THE ROLLING STONES, AND LED ZEPPELIN —RUPERT TILL The Blues Blueprint 184 RUPERT TILL Blues-influenced popular music features dance rhythms and bluesscale -based bass lines and is sometimes focused around riffs and/or grooves, which are always important. The music often employs a scale similar to the mixolydian mode, that is usually called the blues scale, and is constructed using flattened notes (especially the third and seventh) in addition to the pitches of the major scale. It uses chords whose root notes are notes of the blues scale including these flattened pitches. Rhythmically the music features syncopation and implied multiple time signatures, with an emphasis on the offbeats as well as downbeats. This has the effect of implying compound time signatures with divisions of three, five, seven, and nine quavers and semi-quavers, which coexist with and pull against the regular pulse that normally features four beats in the bar. Bars with three or five beats are often produced by adding or dropping a beat, and there is a confusion of duple and triple time inferred by the use of triplets, of varying degrees of swing, syncopation , and rubato (varying the tempo). The music includes improvisation, and it focuses on recordings and performances. It is within these latter two elements that the text of the music is defined rather than in a notated score.1 The guitarist or guitarists play electric guitar, and often have a more important role than the other musicians accompanying the singer. They sometimes use open tunings and metal and glass slides, and regularly use glissandi and microtonal string bending. The singer also uses microtonal sliding notes, ornamentation, and complex syncopated rhythms also influenced by blues. Guitarists utilize intricate melodic structures, use irregular phrasing, jazz licks, and frequent guitar solos or fills, with an emotional approach. They sometimes play with the guitar between their legs2 or behind their heads3 and play the strings with their lips or tongue, while doing splits or spins.4 Sexual posturing is featured in the music’s performance and overt sexuality in its lyrics .5 It presents itself as oppositional to city authorities and mainstream culture by association with womanizing, substance abuse, and drinking, or with vampire-like imagery of capes or coffins,6 occult, or even demonic imagery. Blues created a template that British popular music adopted and developed. All the elements of blues discussed above became integrated into the work of British popular music groups, and have become the predominant forms or techniques within many genres of popular music. Firstly, this black musical form migrated into white culture, in the United States and then in England. It was when black blues artists were recorded, their music 185 THE BLUES IN THE BEATLES, THE ROLLING STONES, LED ZEPPELIN commodified, transmitted on the radio and sold on record, that businessmen decided that it was a form that could generate substantial incomes for themselves. In the long term, this commodification brought recognition to the original blues artists, but it would also boost the careers and fortunes of a generation of white British pop musicians, and change the face of British popular music forever: “Popular music as we have known it in the twentieth century is inconceivable without the massive injections of these black idioms which have sustained it.”7 The music industry has regularly...


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