Welcome to The International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland Branch

Popular Music and Automobile Culture

Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

A One Day Symposium: Friday 22nd June 2012
Binks Building
University of Chester, England

From Cadillacs to tour buses, motor vehicles and popular music have developed in parallel as symbiotic commodities. Their intimate and intertwined relationship evokes issues and feelings that characterize life in modern society. The conference aims to outline and discuss this relationship between these two culturally charged commodities. Motor transport is a dominant feature of the modern world.  Cars, buses, trucks and everything in between have their followers and dissenters.  Vehicles offer the functions of mobility, freedom, speed and comfort, but they are not just physical machines. Contemporary and historic brands offer consumers opportunities to display status, belonging, style and choice. Social and utilitarian elements combine within a motor aesthetic that provides individuals with entry into particular imagined communities. A multiplicity of brands and logos symbolizes the various styles, designs and attitudes that are now a global currency. Advertising and marketing have elevated the social place of particular vehicles to objects of fantasy, desire, status and play. Just as motor vehicles are referenced in popular music, so music is a part of automobile culture and design.

From the 1950s onwards drivers and passengers have been able to enjoy a choice of music styles, genres and artists as in-car audio technology has became a feature of most vehicles. Linking the two commodities has allowed auto-manufacturers to stylize mass-produced lines as emblems of social and personal identity. Whether one discusses Motown, the Oldsmobile 88 or Route 66, motor vehicles and roads have been at the centre of popular music cultures that have defined the attitudes of whole sections of modern society. We therefore suggest the following themes for consideration:

  • The role of vehicles in the music or images of key artists.
  • Music stars as celebrity endorsers for motoring.
  • Glittering prizes: vehicles as commodities (eg. Elvis, Beach Boys).
  • Vehicles, gender, youth and courtship (eg. Grease, surf sounds, Beatles).
  • Vehicles and particular music genres, places or scenes (eg. hip-hop, surf music, Detroit).
  • Dimensions of identity: place, class, vehicles, music.
  • Alienation / twisted celebrations (e. Gary Numan, Kraftwerk).
  • Metaphorical critiques: crashes and traffic jams (Jan & Dean, Hendrix, The Normal).
  • Popular music and racing cars.
  • “Driving” and “the road” as themes and metaphors in music.
  • Vehicles as vehicles for listening (eg. in-car audio culture).
  • Drive time: music formats, radio and the experience of driving.
  • Retro culture:  vehicle collecting, music and nostalgia.
  • Low-riding: race and music, vehicles and the urban landscape.
  • Futurism, vehicles, speed and music (eg. Kylie, Electronic music).
  • Motor companies use of music for branding (eg. David Guetta / Transformers).
  • Use of vehicles in music videos.

The event will not charge a registration fee, but we will expect those attending to register and fill in a  photography clearance form.


At this stage we invite submission of abstracts for proposed papers of 300 words or less with the addition of a 50 word biography by 31st January 2012.

Please send abstracts or enquiries to [email protected].

About the organisers:

Dr Chris Hart is Senior Lecturer in Advertising at Chester.  He recently co-managed the largest study done to date into the economics and social impact of historic vehicles in Europe.

Dr Mark Duffett is Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Chester. He is known as a popular music scholar whose central interests include fandom and Elvis Presley.

Dr Beate Peter is Lecturer in German at Manchester Metropolitan University with research interests in music psychology and popular culture. Her comparative study of techno in

Leave a Reply