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A Cultural History

of Popular Music

in the 1960s

How Belfast Got the Blues unearths the city’s largely overlooked and significant role in the broader relationship between popular music and politics in this ‘most mythologized of decades’.
In a forensic cultural history explored through popular music, the authors uncover events that have been hidden from history, with Belfast emerging as far more than another ‘provincial’ city looking on at the momentous events of the decade from the margins.

Northern Ireland’s capital comes into focus as a globally connected city, with a greater influence on the broader 60s narrative of pop and politics than has been previously countenanced.

A compelling picture emerges of a different kind of troubled city, at once a vibrant interconnected hub and source of anxiety – and on occasion of possibility – for the powers that be.

How Belfast Got the Blues front

  • Paperback : 550 pages

  • ISBN-10 : 1789382742

  • ISBN-13 : 978-1789382747

  • Product Dimensions : 17.15 x 23.5 cm

  • Publisher : Intellect Books; New edition (Oct. 2020)

  • Language: : English

By Noel McLaughlin & Joanna Braniff

Published by Intellect Books


About the authors 

Noel McLaughlin is a popular musician historian and a senior lecturer in the Department of Arts at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Joanna Braniff is an independent scholar based in Belfast. She now works as a freelance author, journalist and media consultant specializing in politics, arts and culture.

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'This is an amazing book. It takes existing knowledge on a number of topics – Belfast and the beginnings of the Troubles; popular music culture in Belfast in the 1960s; the general political and cultural context of the UK
and Ireland in that decade – and revisits that knowledge with a revisionism that is daring, innovative and certain to be seen as controversial.

This is more than just another history of Belfast and Van Morrison.
While popular music remains at the centre of the book’s focus, the concerns about music are woven into a deeper pattern of politics, religion, economics and local, national and international culture.

The scale of the achievement is really impressive and by the end, I was dazzled by
the breadth and depth of the research.'

Martin McLoone, author of Irish Film: The Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema

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‘This important book represents a paradigm shift in Irish popular music studies. It deftly explores the connections between music and politics, both local and global, national and international, addressing a significant gap in Ireland’s popular music scholarship.’

Michael Mary Murphy, co-author of Local Acts, Global Success: How Ireland Produced Popular Music
(with Jim Rogers)

‘Well-researched, accessibly written, fascinating and highly original. This book (re-)places Northern Ireland at the heart of key popular-musical, and broader popular-cultural, moments in the 1960s.

It explores an overlooked and under researched area of British and Irish popular-musical history, presenting new evidence and challenging many existing myths.’

Sean Campbell, author of ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’: Second-Generation Irish Musicians in England

‘This superbly written volume will endure as the definitive guide to the countercultural Belfast music scene in the utopian decade of the 1960s. It is, at once, full of local texture and alive to Belfast’s complex network of connectivity to international musical trends and political forces.

A rich and compelling book.’

P. J. Mathews, member of the governing board of RTÉ
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For interview requests or further information, please get in touch 

Press and Media: Jo Campbell  
T:+44 (0)7808862141


Sales enquiries: Faith Newcombe


To request a review copy: Georgia Glasspole

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