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Seminar: Redefining celebrity and fandom in the 1970s

Speakers: - Mark Duffett (University of Chester) - Mathias Häussler (Universität Regensburg) - Rasmus Rosenørn (Ragnarock - Museum for Pop - Rock and Youth Culture) - Claus Toft-Nielsen og Bertel Nygaard (Aarhus University) - Commentators: Matthias Stephan (Aarhus University) og Line Nybroe Petersen (University of Southern Denmark)

2019.09.17 | Hanne Ahlers

Date Thu 19 Dec
Time 14:00 17:30
Location Aarhus University, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 5, 8000 Aarhus C. Building 1461, room 516

In an age of rock star politics, social media idols and burgeoning fan cultures, the questions of the causes, effects and varying forms of celebrity and fandom become as urgent as ever. Starting from recent debates on how to historicize celebrity and fandom studies, this seminar considers the shifting forms of such phenomena in Western popular culture during the 1970s – an era of social and cultural crises, but also of a solidly established and, arguably, increasingly powerful sphere of popular culture, yet also well before the present-day predominance of digital, internet-based media.

Join us for discussions of early computer game culture, popular music fandom – and Elvis.


Claus Toft-Nielsen (Aarhus University)

Gaming cultures of the 1970s – geek gaming and toxic technocultures.

In this presentation I will be taking a historical look at today’s online game culture and the fandoms embedded herein by tracing these back to the beginning of the 1970s through a shared cultural history of the fantasy genre and early game culture. This cultural history marked the beginning of a nascent game community and computer network culture, but it also had deep implications for the design of games and the audiences they later attract. As such, game culture in the 1970s gave birth to both a sprawling geek fandom and created a highly gendered space, which paved the way for some of the toxic technocultures apparent in game culture today. 


Rasmus Rosenørn (Ragnarock – Museum for Pop, Rock and Youth Culture)

“Pop by whenever you feel. I’m home at 5…” - Gasolin: Rock stars and teen idols in 1970’s Denmark

During their existence from 1969 till 1978 Gasolin’ became the most popular band on the Danish rock scene in the 1970’s. Gasolin’ emerged as an epitome Danish blues-rock influenced flower-power band of the late 1960s, but soon broke out of obscurity and exceed popularity and sales figures achieved by any Danish rock band and build a massive fan base consisting of generations  from young teenagers to adults. Gasolin’ united fans across generations, different musical and (youth) cultural and social divisions.

Contested by peers from the rock scene and the developing Danish rock critique and hailed by teenage fans, Gasolin’ often found themselves caught between the ideals of the underground scene from which they originated and their status as teen fans. Despite their commercial and artistic success Gasolin’ tried to keep and live up to an image of being four down-to-earth lads living in condemned apartments in slummed areas of Copenhagen and wearing clothes scavenged from charity stores. In this paper I will discuss how Gasolin’ fans used and made meaning of the public image of Gasolin’ created in music, media, visual culture and the imagined personal relationships expressed by their fans in mail addressed to the official fan club. 


Mark Duffett (University of Chester)

Popular Music Fandom in the 1970s: Towards an Analysis

Histories of Western popular music in the postwar period have been shaped by the baby boomer generation. From this perspective, the rock’n’roll era of the 1950s was an inspirational moment leading to an immense cultural revolution that came of age in the 1960s. The 1970s, however, are framed as an intermediate decade: the lull between intellectual experimentation and political idealism in the hippy era, and the shrewd, but morally bankrupt pragmatic self-interest in the neoliberal 1980s. Compared to such periodizations, at face value, popular music fandom appears to be an unchanging object. However, perhaps neither this historical periodization, nor any assumption of an unchanging object, is quite correct. This piece attempts to paint a different picture of the 1970s, seeing it as a period of high modernity where pop fandom became something new. It addresses the question of whether there was anything about the phenomenon of fandom at the time that made it different from what came before.


Mathias Häußler (Universität Regensburg)

Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away? How 1950s Nostalgia shaped Elvis Presley’s 1970s comeback 

In the late 1960s, Elvis Presley emerged out of the ashes, a comeback that was crucial in securing his status as America’s biggest pop-cultural icon of the twentieth century. And yet, it was a comeback built primarily on an imagined past. Although 1970 Elvis tried hard to re-invent himself as a modern and contemporary artist, his reception nonetheless became deeply interwoven with the wider ‘nostalgia wave’ that swept the United States at the time. At a time of profound political crisis and economic uncertainty, many Americans sought refuge in idealized imaginations of the past, and the 1950s in particular became a key reference point through which much bigger questions of US history and identity were negotiated. It was also a process that deeply re-framed Elvis’s legacy in the public imagination: whereas the young Elvis had emerged as a major threat to the social, racial, and moral order of the 1950s, he was now transfigured into almost the opposite – as the very incarnation of an idealized, bygone era of prosperity, affluence and innocence that many Americans were desperate to recapture. This 're-interpretation' of Elvis  in the public imagination had a profound impact not only on his career at the time - it also shapes how we see Elvis Presley today.


Bertel Nygaard (Aarhus University)

Senses of an ending: Meanings, temporalities and emotions in Danish reactions to the death of Elvis Presley in 1977

The death of Elvis Presley in August 1977 provoked a wide range of responses, instantly creating a field of contested interpretative and emotional positions regarding his public persona and wider cultural implications. Studying the particular repercussions of such contestations in Denmark in the immediate aftermath of his death, we may gain a sense of historicity of the phenomena of celebrity, their deaths and their relations to fans and anti-fans. At the same time, this micro-perspective on the popular culture of the mid-to-late 1970s may add to ongoing attempts at defining the cultural parameters of that era in more general terms.

Within this overall framework, the paper will focus on two interrelated thematic questions: 1) Elvis as an emblem of a seemingly widely shared sense of a shift of basic senses of temporality – from futurist to presentist or past-oriented modes of historicity (or from modernity proper to late modernity or postmodernity); 2) Elvis’s death as a site of contested emotions and emotional regimes.

Historie og Klassiske Studier