“Don’t Get All Historical!”: The Seaside Gothic of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’

By J.E. Anckorn and Amy Mugglestone

At 8:35 pm on Boxing Day of 1967, the people of Britain gathered around their television sets to witness the Beatles’ new film project, Magical Mystery Tour. Their first filmed project since the daffy caper Help! (1965) accidentally created the sound of the late ’60s, the project was meant to act as a replacement for the live shows they were no longer performing…

‘Top of the Pops’ Christmas Special, 1979

For the pop-minded inhabitant of the British Isles in the late ’70s, the dull edifice of the passing weeks rested upon the two mighty, glowing columns that made it all bearable: the British Top 40 countdown, broadcast from 5:00 on BBC Radio 1 every Sunday evening (cancelled only once as a result of what would prove to be an inexplicably traumatic event for the nation: the 1997 death of Lady Diana) and Top of the Pops

The Music the Machines Make: ‘Systems of Romance’ by Ultravox, 1978

By K.E. Roberts

London’s Ultravox was John Foxx’s band for three increasingly brilliant albums. Their debut, 1977’s Ultravox!, is an uneven but essential distillation of Roxy Music, art-rock-era Brian Eno (who produced, along with Steve Lillywhite), prog, minimalist electronica, and dub. The same year’s Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, on the other hand—a mere eight months separated the albums—is a focused and unsparing gnashing of teeth…

Commies, Devils, and Mind Control: How the Christian Right Invented Satanic Backmasking

By K.E. Roberts

Rock and roll was maligned as an “unholy pleasure” almost from the get-go, just as dancing was decried as the “Heritage of Hell” centuries before. After John Lennon declared the Beatles “more popular than Jesus” in 1966, Christian fundamentalists immediately condemned all music that “aroused the lower instincts,” and the smear campaign would last for more than a quarter-century…