"Sex and drugs and rock'n'roll": Urban legends and popular music

Ian Inglis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Urban legends are tales circulated widely in modern societies. They are generally transmitted orally (although some are discovered and disseminated by the mass media) and are told as "true stories" that contain astounding, sensational or bizarre details. Many achieve an enviable longevity...there are very few people in the Western world who have not heard of the vanishing hitch-hiker, the alligators lurking in the sewers, the funeral ashes mistakenly used as spices, the babysitter terrorized by the madman upstairs, etc. Popular music has proved to be an especially fertile ground for the propagation of such stories; whether by word of mouth, through fanzines, or across the Internet, the (often dramatic) urban legends of popular music have been, and continue to be, generated to ever wider audiences. By examining some of the more familiar urban legends of popular music, I hope to illustrate the roles that their persistent repetition perform, and to assess the social and cultural functions they fulfil. In addition, it is important to focus attention not only on the substantive details of the tales themselves, but also on the ambitions of those who relate them, and I will suggest that there are a number of motivational categories into which the story-tellers may be placed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-603
JournalPopular Music and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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