The first in-depth history of Skiffle––a music movement which originated in the U.K. in the mid-1950s and had its origins in American jazz, country, and R&B––from its origins in Britain’s postwar traditional jazz movement to its eventual eclipse by rock’n’roll.
Bragg, well-known in Britain as a folk-inspired, politically active singer-songwriter, aka the 'Bard of Barking,' seeks to restore skiffle to its place at the fountainhead of British pop music. During the course of more than 400 pages of deeply researched, wittily written and persuasively argued prose, he succeeds ... The book’s one flaw is not to delve into the lives of skiffle’s main players as closely as it might ... Debates about authenticity, a leitmotif of British pop, are rendered with a connoisseur’s eye for their comic value. The Bard of Barking has written a first-rate work of history.
...a hugely ambitious account of the postwar style...filling a gaping hole in the literature of 20th-century music ... Mr. Bragg works valiantly to join the disparate dots that rendered 'Rock Island Line' so vital. He devotes chapters to the Anglo-American folk and jazz scenes, American rock ’n’ roll, the Angry Young Men of British stage and screen, the effects of the coffee bar, and the trendsetting roles of both off-shore 'pirate' station Radio Luxembourg and American Forces Network radio ... Roots, Radicals and Rockers contains more detail than necessary; even the most attentive reader will likely lose track of the many players on the scene. But Mr. Bragg’s knowledge of these personalities, and of the shifting cultural tides that brought them together in skiffle, is nothing short of masterly. It would be hard to cite another historical book of such depth, quality and reasoned analysis by a working, nonacademic musician.
...[a] fantastic history of a little known though immensely influential musical form ... As far as that 'dead ground' of British music, Bragg makes good in his argument that skiffle changed the world ... Bragg’s enthusiasm for his subject shines in this definitive, if at times dense, history of skiffle music — and it’s a fascinating read.