A ‘Social Form Of Knowledge’ in Practice: Unofficial Compiling of 1960s Pop Music on CD-R

Paul Martin


In this article I explore the ‘unofficial’ (and technically illegal) compiling of marginally known 1960s pop records on Compact Disc Recordable (CD-R). I do so by situating it within the proposition by the late Raphael Samuel, that history is ‘social knowledge’ and a practice rather than a profession. I propose that this compiling activity exemplifies this proposition. The core of the paper is centred on a 2007 survey which I conducted via three on-line 1960s music enthusiast discussion forums. I draw on the sixteen responses to demonstrate how the motivations, values and intentions of those respondents engaging in the practice of CD-R compiling are historically and socially centred. In doing so, I seek to problematise the music industry’s undifferentiated condemnation of all copying as theft. I do so by showing how, far from stealing, these CD-R compilers are adding to the musical social knowledge of 1960s pop and rock music. I further situate them within a longer lineage of ‘unofficial listening’ dating back to at least the 1930s. In using the term ‘unofficial’ in both a legal and public historical sense (eg to take issue with a received narrative), I point to wider definitions of what historically has or has not been musically ‘official’ to listen to. I seek also to point to the practice of CD-R compiling as a historical ‘moment’ in technological change, which might otherwise go unremarked upon as the CD-R itself heads towards utilitarian obsolescence. Although, the issues and concepts raised in the paper can be little more than pointed to, it is hoped it might act as one platform for the historical engagement with a subject more commonly discussed in sociological terms. As public historians we should be reflexive and inter-disciplinary and it is with this mind set that this article is written.


unofficial, official, Public History, social knowledge, social practice, problemetise

Full Text:



Out of touch and out of date: Law against copying CDs to be ditched. Daily Mail [Online]. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1388419/Out-touch-date-Law-copying-CDsditched.html [Accessed 29 July 2011].

British Pirate Party [Online]. Available: http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/ [Accessed 18 December 2011].

BELK, R. & WALLENDORF, M. 1994. Of mice and men: gender identity in collecting. In: PEACE, S. M. (ed.) Interpreting Objects and Collections. London: Routledge.

CARDEW, B. 2011. Hargreaves report: industry responds on IP recommendations. Music Week [Online]. Available: http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?storyCode=1045299&sectioncode=1 [Accessed 29 July 2011].

DUNT, I. With one stroke, Cable stops millions breaking the law. Available: http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2011/08/02/with-one-stroke-cable-stops-millionsbreaking [Accessed 3 August 2011].

FARRAM, S. 2007. Wage War Against Beatle Music!: Censorship and Music in Soekarno's Indonesia. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 41, 247-277.

HEPWORTH, D. Here's a bloke whose record collection may well be worth as much as your house [Online]. Available: http://www.wordmagazine.co.uk/content/podcast-with-a-man-whoserecords-are-worth-much-your-house-probably.

JOHNS, A. 2010. Death of a Pirate: British Radio and he Making of the Information Age, London, W.W. Noton & Co.

MARSHALL, L. 2005. Bootlegging: Romanticism and Copyright in the Music Industry, Sage.

MARTIN, P. 1999. Popular Collecting and the Everday Self: the reinvention of museums, Leichester, Leicester University Press.

MARTIN, P. 2003. Forget the spin, taping is not killing music. Sydney Morning Herald [Online]. Available: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/12/30/1072546532286.html [Accessed 29 July 2011].

MARTIN, P. 2008. Ditch the spin. It's a record-sales record! Sydney Morning Herald [Online]. Available: http://www.petermartin.com.au/2008/03/tuesday-column-ditch-spin-its-record.html [Accessed 29 July 2011].

MARTIN, P. 2010. Can You Feel The Beat?: compiling and reissuing marginal pop music of the 1960s. Hard Times.

NEAVYN, B. 2011. Bam-Caruso, Rubble & Freak Beat. Ugly Things, 36-37.

O'HARA, K. & BROWN, B. 2006. Consuming Music Together: Social and Collaborative Aspects of Music Consumption Technologies, Netherlands, Springer Books.

RYBACK, T. W. 1989. Rock Around the Bloc: A History of Rock Music in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Oxford Oxford University Press.

SAMUEL, R. 1994. Theatres of Memory: Past And Present In Contemporary Culture, London, Verso.

SHUKER, R. 2010. Wax Trash and Vinyl Treasures: Record Collecting as a Social Practice, Farnham, Surrey, Ashgate Publishing.

STYVERN, M. 2007. The Intangibility of Music in the Internet Age. Popular Music and Society, 30, 53-65.

TREMLETT, G. 2006. Spanish court rules free music downloads are legal for own use. The Guardian [Online]. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/nov/03/news.spain

WALLOP, H. 2010. Millions of iPod fans breaking law by copying CDs. The Telegraph [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/7299505/Millions-of-iPod-fans-breakinglaw-by-copying-CDs.html.

WINTER, J. 1996. Public History and Historical Scholarship. History Workshop Journal, 169-173.

WOODHEAD, L. How The Beatles Rocked the Eastern Bloc. BBC Mobile news magazine [Online]. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8232235.stm [Accessed 29 July 2011].

WOODHEAD, L. How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmusic/2009/09/how_the_beatles_rocked_the_kre.html [Accessed 29 July 2011].

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/phrj.v18i0.2249