Subject Advice

Classic Rock and Pop music

Contact the Adviser

My name is Martin Hellawell and I am in the Lichfield u3a.


I first became aware of music when playing my parents old 78s. As children, we took great delight in smashing them as well. I suppose I encountered pop music in the late 1950s with Adam Faith. Since that early time (and I still have some very old Adam Faith 45s). Like many youngsters, I developed a love of music and looking back, the advent of the Beatles changed music, for me, forever. There is always the debate of did the Beatles change society or did the change in society allow the nurturing of Beatles pop. I have my own ideas on that one!
In my youth, I had the pleasure of singing in a rock group for a while (although singing is an absolute exaggeration compared to the screaming and shouting that emanated from my mouth).

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One of the problems with the title of ‘Classic Rock and Pop’ is what is exactly meant by it and what is included and what is excluded? According to Bill Lamb in his webpage ‘What is pop music’, he defines pop music as ‘a phrase with the shortened first word, has primarily come into usage to describe the music that evolved out of the rock and roll revolution of the mid-1950s and continues on a definable path today.’ Also, according to the Classic Rockers Network, 'Classic rock is a genre of music that combines a particular guitar-driven rock sound with a particular era of time. The classic rock era began in the early 1960's with rock n' roll based bands like The Beatles and Rolling Stones, diversifying into bands like Led Zeppelin and The Doors. The classic rock era ended in the early 80s, with the rise of modern pop music. ‘

For me, nothing is excluded, well perhaps The Birdie Song. My own taste is eclectic and includes Pop. Rock and its variations (Psychedelic, Prog, Glam etc), Motown, Soul, Reggae, New Romantics, Disco, Electronic etc. It was only into the 1990s that my own love of ‘new’ music began to wane. An eclectic group like the above has always been controversial. At secondary school where there were distinct factions in musical taste, I never seemed to fit into one faction or the other, and some of my tastes I kept closely guarded. (I once bought an Anita Harris LP because I thought she was singing Just Loving You just to me!).

 Setting Up A Group

And so to Classic Rock and Pop interest groups. When I looked at setting a group up in Lichfield there wasn’t a subject advisor available within the u3a so I had to ask and answer my own questions:-

  • Genre – the choice of this both opens up and closes down the number of prospective participants. For instance, rock and roll will interest a certain group but put off others. I chose the music of the fifties, sixties and seventies which covered a whole range of possibilities, (although in reality, some choices have crept into the eighties).
  • Format of meeting – are the meetings going to be purely educational or just a vehicle for playing music. For an educational meeting, a stream of willing participants is needed to ‘give the talk’. I decided on a hybrid – see below.
  • Member participation – I wanted to be inclusive as far as possible. In this, the members would, on a monthly rotational basis, choose the theme for the next meeting and at the meeting, each member would choose two songs within the topic and present them with interesting snippets of information such as information about the performer, the song, the genre etc.
  • Technology – there is a definite pre and post COVID-19 answer to this. Pre COVID-19, each participant would let me know their choices a week before a meeting and I would load them into a Spotify playlist which I would play on the day through my Sonos system. However, using a CD player or vinyl player would work equally well as long as. the participants have their choices in the appropriate format. By using Spotify, this has meant that music choices have not been limited to an individual’s collection. Post COVID-19, I have been running the group using Zoom and playing the choices using YouTube clips. This has so far been working well.
  • Number of participants – to a certain degree, the format of the meeting will dictate the optimum size of a group. An education group would give the opportunity for a wider audience compared to a participation group. With giving two choices of music per participant, I have found that a two-hour meeting can cater for approximately eight members.
  • Meeting themes – as mentioned above, this has been left to member choice on a rotational basis and this has produced with some very interesting and diverse themes e.g. The Beatles, singer/songwriters, 70s songs, Christmas songs, Female vocalists, male vocalists, instrumentals, favourite albums etc. In reality. the list is almost endless and what has emerged is that, with investigation, it is surprising what can be found that is pleasing to the ear. For instance, one of the monthly topics was Bob Dylan covers. Initially as someone who did not appreciate Dylan, I thought I would struggle. But on investigation, I found ‘The Wheels On Fire’ by Brian Auger and The Trinity with Jules Driscoll and ‘All Along The Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix. The result, a happy host. And of course, by taking the topic choice in turn, everyone has a chance of indulging in their own particular specific interest.


Even with such a wide possibility of themes and topics, the World Wide Web has an extraordinary amount of information and music available to research and listen to. I can waste so much time following recommended links on YouTube. And of course, there is also a wide variety of music programs available on TV – Classic Albums on Sky Arts is still available on catch up and would make an interesting series of meeting topics.

 How can I Help?

So how can I help you? I am an expert in some genres of music but not all. However, outside of any specific musical questions, I think I can help in providing you with advice on setting up and maintaining a vibrant Classic Rock and Pop group. If you have any questions or just want to contact me, please get in contact and I will do my best to help.

Easy listening

Martin Hellawell

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