The band’s name came from a famous theory on how social class and language can impact academic performance and the life chances of young people. Developed by British Sociologist Basil Bernstein, it is known as the theory of Elaborated and Restricted Code.
Bernstein suggests that individuals from different social classes are exposed to different codes of language. Individuals from higher social classes may access formal education, have a wide vocabulary, form complex sentence structures, and use precise grammar. This is the Elaborated code. Individuals from lower social classes, with little access to formal education, may have simpler vocabulary, use shorter sentence structures and less precise grammar. This is the Restricted code.
The band was formed by Tom and Frank, who grew up in Easterhouse, a notorious Glasgow housing scheme with a reputation for violence and deprivation. It seemed like the perfect environment for kids to be raised under the Restricted Code, yet Tom was about to graduate from the Glasgow School of Art and Frank was completing his English Literature Degree at the University of Glasgow. All the while they were writing poetry, short stories and songs, and discussing Wittgenstein*. The Restricted Code name was ironic.
* That last bit may not necessarily be true.
In 2003 we were contacted by Dr. Shane Blackman, Professor of Cultural Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University. We were astonished to learn that Basil Bernstein was aware of the band. Shane says: “In the early 1980s I bought a couple of Restricted Code 7’ singles, I still have them. At the time Professor Basil Bernstein was my PhD supervisor. We discussed the singles at the time. He said it was great. He was impressed and noted a band could never work with the name Elaborated Code.”
Who’d have thought it?