Nygaard, Bertel, Mediating Rock and Roll: Tommy Steele in Denmark. (2022) [PDF]

Nygaard, Bertel, Mediating Rock and Roll: Tommy Steele in Denmark, 1957–8, Cultural History, 11.1 (2022), 27–48

Though rarely acknowledged in later historiography, British singer Tommy Steele was a key figure in the early European negotiations of rock and roll in 1957–58. As an accommodating British working-class youth with an energetic, yet non-sexual mode of performance, he was favourably compared with the image of American rock and roll with its associations of juvenile delinquency, cultural ‘blackness’ and illegitimately sexuality as personified by Elvis Presley in particular. Yet, Tommy Steele’s version of rock and roll provided not simply an alternative to the ‘hard’, more rebellious strands of American youth culture. Rather, it allowed him and his fans to negotiate the dominant adult conceptions of rock and roll and its cultural associations of place, race, gender, class and age, thus inadvertently creating a pattern for a rapid succession of new youth idols, including the relaunching of Presley and other American rock and roll artists to European youth though a complex pattern of locating counterparts to individual celebrities. In that sense, Tommy Steele functioned as a ‘vanishing mediator’ of rock and roll culture in Europe. This article is a particular case study of such developments of celebrity and fan culture as they occurred in 1950s Denmark.

PDF: https://doi.org/10.3366/cult.2022.0253