Shellac and Swing! A Social History of the Gramophone in Britain

Author(s): Bruce Lindsay 

ISBN: 9781781557600
£17.50 £25.00
An illustrated exploration of the gramophone’s relationship with Britain’s music, design, social and youth cultures from 1900-1955.
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  • A unique perspective on the gramophone’s impact on British life beyond music

  • Features interviews with leading collectors, musicians, broadcasters and DJs

  • Well-illustrated, entertaining and accessible social history

  • Revealing new evidence about British society in the early 20th century

Shellac and Swing! tells the story of the gramophone’s ‘golden age’ from 1900-1955 when it helped to shape Britain’s culture from the arts to warfare. It uses primary evidence, images and interviews with DJs, fans, musicians and historians to explore this fascinating and often eccentric tale.

Each chapter ends with ‘On the Record,’ a discussion of a record that relates to the chapter’s themes. Although the gramophone and its fragile shellac discs were vital to Britain’s music scene – opera and music hall, the Jazz Age, the crooners, early rock ’n’ roll – its impact was far more extensive. Its place in British history encompasses advertising and design, fraud and piracy, phallic symbols, the threat from radio and television, the contrasting worlds of the Salvation Army and adult ‘party’ discs, the creation of a parliamentary insult, new political strategies and the seditious activity of the Mau Mau.

The gramophone’s heyday ended with the rise of rock ’n’ roll, teenagers, the 45-rpm single, the LP and the record player, but it survives today as part of a vibrant contemporary music, fashion and lifestyle scene.

BOOK ISBN 9781781557600
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 208 pages
ILLUSTRATIONS 35 colour illustrations



After a career in healthcare and university teaching, and a parallel but shorter career as a semi-professional musician, Bruce Lindsay is now a freelance music journalist specialising in jazz and blues. He holds a PhD in history and has published articles and books on late 19th and early 20th century British society. As a music journalist, he has published around 1,000 articles and reviews. He lives in Norfolk with his wife, Julie. They have two sons. Lindsay is a keen cyclist and walker, spending as much time as he can in the hills of Norfolk and Suffolk.