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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
Music in England and Britain

Please note: We have mainly written about England, as that is the country within the UK where our students live. We would be very happy for schools and visitors to send us information we can add to our website on Wales and Scotland.

Britain is more famous for pop music than it is for classical composers or jazz musicians. Names such as The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elton John, George Michael and The Spice Girls are known world wide but little do people know of our other musicians not in the pop world.

Music we listen to today

In Britain, most youths listen to punk, garage, house, rock, pop and R&B. (such as McFly, JLo, Xtina, Beyonce, Pink, Britney, Justin Timberlake, Mis-teeq).

Popular Artists in Britain

Two good places to find out what music is popular today especially among the young people in Britain are:


The origins of music in Britain lie in the songs sung and dance music played by ordinary people. Passed from village to village and handed down in the unwritten form from generation to generation.

Different trends

Over the last thirty or so years British pop music has led the world in its range and quality, starting several new trends. Britain, along with the US, was the main contributor in the development of rock and roll, and Britain has provided some of the most famous bands, including The Beatles and many others.

Britain was at the forefront of punk music (see below) in the 1970s with bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and the subsequent rebirth of heavy metal with bands such as Motorhead and Iron Maiden.

Music in Britain from 1920s to the Present Day

1920s - Young people listened to ragtime and jazz.

1930s - Swing became popular. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra were the 'King of the Swing', as were Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw. The music was fast and frantically paced and led to dances being banned from dance halls, as the young women being flung into the air by their partners showed their stocking tops and underwear. Jazz continued to be popular.

1940s - The Second World War brought fast, frantic (and often American) dance music - boogie-woogie or jitterbug. Dances were held in church halls, village halls, clubs, Air Force bases - everywhere! But slower, romantic songs were also popular as loved ones went away to fight, such as Vera Lynn's 'We'll Meet Again' and the song about coming home again, 'The 'White Cliffs of Dover'.

After the war 'skiffle' bands became popular. These bands used household items, such as washboards and tea chests, as part of their set of instruments! Tommy Steele, who later became very famous, first played in a skiffle band.

1950s - Rock and Roll became very popular.

1960's - The Beatles began their career. They leapt to fame in 1963 with 'Please, Please Me'.

The Beatles moved through the late 1960s as favourites of the 'flower power' generation - many young people enjoyed 'hippie' music. Other teenagers preferred the music of the 'Mods' - ska music and The Who.

1970s - The first big new sound of the 1970s was “Glam Rock”, the main figures of this were David Bowie, Elton John and of course Gary Glitter. In the bleak political backdrop, these larger that life British bands and characters brought a welcome relief with their platform boots, sequins, nail varnish and colourful hair.

The punk movement of the late 1970s began in England. Great British bands of this scene were The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The Punk style was Mohicans, bondage clothes, safety pins, piercings and bovver boots.

1980s - The 1980s saw the rise of hip hop and rap music, with American influences powerful once again in the form of such groups as Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It also saw the rise and fall of the 'New Romantics', typified by groups like Adam and the Ants, who dressed as pirates and highway men and wore huge amounts of makeup.

1990s - Britpop This was the general name given in the 1990s to a new wave of successful British bands who made a big impact in the United States and Europe, as well as in England. The most successful have been Radiohead, Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Massive Attack and The Spice Girls.


Famous British Musicians and Composers


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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2014

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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