Dr Simon Warner

Dr Simon Warner


I am a journalist, critic and academic. I have taught and researched the culture and history of post-war Anglo-American popular music since 1994. I have a particular interest in the Beat Generation writers - Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and others - and their associations with key rock musicians - Dylan and the Beatles, David Bowie and Tom Waits, Patti Smith and Kurt Cobain and more. In 2016, I was appointed Visiting Research Fellow in Popular Music Studies. Born in Manchester, I trained as a news reporter then became arts editor of two regional evening newspapers in the 1980s. Between 1989 and 1994 I worked in media relations on arts and education projects. I was a live rock reviewer for The Guardian during the early 1990s. In 1990 I embarked on, and attained, the world's first MA in Popular Music Studies at the Institute of Popular Music, Liverpool University.

In 1994 I became Senior Lecturer in Popular Music Studies at Bretton Hall College, before joining Leeds University as Senior Teaching Fellow on merger in 2001. I was awarded my PhD in 2010 and appointed Lecturer. I was Course Leader of the BA in Popular and World Musics, 2010-2015. Between 2004 and 2008, I was Director of the PopuLUs, the Centre for the Study of the World's Popular Musics. I have also coordinated the PopuLUs Popular Music Seminar Series. In 2013, I was a member of the team which launched Louder Than Words, the UK festival of popular music writing, in Manchester.

My most recent work is the volume Kerouac on Record: A Literary Soundtrack, co-edited with Jim Sampas, the Literary Executor of the Jack Kerouac Estate, which was published by Bloomsbury in Spring 2018. This followed my earlier monograph Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture, also issued by Bloomsbury, in 2013.

I have published work on Allen Ginsberg, editing the 2005 volume Howl for Now. This book was also linked to a live performance of the same name, staged in Leeds and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first reading of Ginsberg's ‘Howl’. Ten years later, I was co-director of Still Howling, a 60th anniversary event presented in Manchester and featuring Michael Horovitz, Barry Miles and Steven Taylor.

My article on Ginsberg’s celebrated 1965 visit to Liverpool – where pop and poetry had forged a dynamic mix in the wake of Beatlemania – appeared in the collection Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant Garde, which was published in 2007 and accompanied a major Tate Liverpool exhibition.

Back On the Road, a conference and wider body of events under my co-direction, commemorating the half-centenary of the British publication of On the Road, was staged at Birmingham University in late 2008 and early 2009. The occasion was underpinned by the first UK exhibition of the novel’s Original Scroll.

My 75th birthday tribute to British Beat Michael Horovitz was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in 2010. My live rock reviews and obituaries have appeared in The Guardian and my articles have been seen in Beat Scene and Beatdom.

Teaching modules, 2001–2016

  • Music in History and Culture
  • Understanding Music
  • Popular Music and the Press: Analysing the Rock Media
  • Interpreting Music
  •  Music in Context
  • The Sixties: Music, Culture, Politics
  • Punk: A Portrait of a Musical Revolution
  • Joined at the Hip: Rock, Jazz and the Beat Generation
  • BA Dissertation
  • Analysing Music
  • MA Dissertation
  • Applied Project
  • Music and Management

Module Coordinator for

  • Music Research Skills
  • Popular Music and the Press: Analysing the Rock Media

Other teaching

  • Rock and the Written Word: Popular Music and Literature
  • The Popular Music Business
  • The History of Popular Music
  • Raised Voices: Pop, Protest, Politics
  • Programme Manager, BA Popular Music Studies, 1995–1996; 2001–2003; BA Popular and World Musics, 2010–2015
  • Environmental Coordinator 2006–2007
  • Health & Safety Officer, 2007–2012
  • Member, Research Committee 2001–2008
  • Editor, School news and student newsletter The Notes 2005–2016
  • Member, Library Committee 2008–2010

Research interests

My interests lie in the relationship between popular music and written forms, expressed through literature – the novel and short story, poetry and the lyric – and journalism – critical writing and reviewing in magazines and newspapers.

I have a particular concern with the relationship between the Beat Generation writers – Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs – and subsequent rock culture.

I also have interests in the interaction between popular music and political activity where rock becomes a symbolic gesture of rebellion, eg anti-Vietnam War strategies, the 1960s Counterculture, punk in the 1970s.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, Popular Music, University of Leeds, 2010
  • MA, Popular Music Studies, Liverpool University, 1990-1992
  • BA, Modern History, Sheffield University, 1974-1977
  • Certificate, National Council for Training Journalists, 1980

Professional memberships

  • International Association for the Study of Popular Music
  • Beat Studies Association
  • European Beats Studies Network