How A Teenage Rebel Rose To The Summit Of British Literary Life

N. S. Thompson at The American Scholar:

A social anthropologist may already have asked this question, but what was it in the 1960s that caused so many young British men to become dedicated fans of American blues? Usually what went with it was a radical rejection of all they had been brought up to believe in. If you were lucky to live in the London area, you formed a band and could thump out some Muddy Waters. And if you were born in Glasgow? Interests there were more acoustic. A flourishing folk scene accommodated accomplished guitar pickers like Bert Jansch and even spawned psychedelic groups such as the Incredible String Band. Along with all this music, a vibrant poetry scene thrived in the city’s pubs and clubs.

Born in Glasgow in 1951, James Campbell was plunged into this eruption of words and music, even if he was slightly behind the curve, since the ’60s Underground was fashioned by those born a decade earlier. Two elder sisters, however, along with their friends and boyfriends, educated him in the Underground’s particular strain of cultural rebellion, passing on the paperbacks and vinyl by which it was transmitted.

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