the invisible dandy: scribbled
farewell notes on TOM WOLFE

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

kandy koloredYou only have to read the titles and the trend-naming — ‘Tiny Mummies’, the Tycoon of Teen, Radical Chic, From Bauhaus to Our House, the Me Generation, The Right Stuff — to see, instantly, that there was something here. Like some motormouth manager promoting the new pop group he was making famous and secretly ripping off, he had the liveliest huckster’s imagination. Here was a energy that made thing happen: Wolfe watched and listened and took notes and got inside heads — some heads — and when he got back to the page, delivered an intensely vivid cartoon sketch of a scene, sound effects in place among capitals, italics, dots, dashes and exclamation marks, the main narration often broadcast as if from behind the eyes of its participants, an inner-monologue ventriloquism that enabled the writer subtly to imply unreliability or even foolishness in a scenester. Continue reading “the invisible dandy: scribbled
farewell notes on TOM WOLFE”

other jacksons in your house

… or how when we made Morrissey we made him bad

(originally posted at my PATREON, where i’ll be posting weekly alongside the fortnightly podcasts — if you subscribe you get to read the posts a few days early, and obviously help offset podcast costs etc)

panic | hang the DJA bitter office quarrel — the so-called the ‘HipHop Wars’ — had been making life at the NME miserable from some time. At issue was the current and future direction of the paper — how to give the readers what they wanted to read, week on week, while staying abreast of music’s future trends — so when the Smiths released ‘Panic’ in late 1986, it crystallised everything. “Hang the DJ!” sang Morrissey: “Burn down the disco!” Those who cared for black music at all — future and past — were appalled: to them it was very clear who this talk of burning and hanging was aimed at. His supporters scrambled for a less ugly reading: not that kind of DJ! Not those discos! Much was made of Steve Wright following a news report about Chernobyl with a Wham! song. Concluding statement for the defence: He’s not anti black musicians, he’s anti bland music — and that goes for us all, surely? Continue reading “other jacksons in your house”

BACK MY BOOK!!

UPDATE: the book is funded, so thanks everyone that helped. It is due for delivery in a little over a year. I will keep people up to speed on developments via the kickstarter page, which has a blog.

Just over two hours as I post, and it suddenly seems extremely doable so nothing cryptic for once 🙂

Gorgeous cover and illustrations by SAVAGE PENCIL, discussions and essays by Val Wilmer, Richard Williams, Mark Williams, David Toop, Tony Stewart, Bob Stanley, Charles Shaar Murray, Jon Savage, Cynthia Rose, Edwin Pouncey, Penny Reel, Liz Naylor, Mark Pringle, Tony Palmer, Paul Morley, John (aka Jonh) Ingham, Barney Hoskyns, Jonathon Green, Beverly Glick (aka Betty Page), Simon Frith and Nigel Fountain, and others (including me!!)

coverDL

you can never go back back BAACK!

In which I take a break from organising a quasi-historical not-very-academic (but very exciting) conference (at Birkbeck, 15-16 May) and reflect on the ways your personal backpages as a hack begin to intersect with the public record etc etc.

COVER034-35A few weeks back, Marcello asked if I had any thoughts on this TPL post (about, among other things, Johnny Hates Jazz and The Wire as it was in 1986/87). Well, I did and I didn’t: I did because this era of my mentor Richard Cook’s project is very much the making of me, and I absorbed an enormous amount of his sensibility and thought a lot how to advance it best (whether or not I did is for others to judge; sadly he’s no longer with us for his perspective). But I didn’t (at least tactically, for now) because I have for most of this year been organising a conference on UK music-writing in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, trying to focus on how things had evolved from roughly 1968 (and the discussion of rock in the underground press) through to maybe 1985, when (in my judgment) Live Aid hit the inkies hard sideways, and changed their political ecology for good (Geldof’s revenge, you could call it). The serious social potential of pop began to be more and more of a topic for the tabloids and the broadsheets: the inkies began more and more to fold in into their own niche, exploring less and less. In this they were reflecting changes in the world, to be sure — but they were also amplifying and accepting these changes. Continue reading “you can never go back back BAACK!”

seven (and then there’s tiger rag)

nelsonbluescomplaining as usual that too many ppl begin (and end) their jazz quest w/kind of fkn blue, i realised i was probably required to suggest better points of entry from the same era: hence this*

i: timewise i think you can start anywhere
ii: but there are better and worse places to start!
iii: if we’re saying, what’s a start-point 1956-64, these are my suggestions

*edit 19.2.15: i hoisted the comment into a free-standing post and added some stuff

on remaining an amateur between the specialisations and the genres

the notion that disciplinary expertise is a kind of blindness is not new; nor is the idea that the blindness will be made worse by the (often hidden) interdepartmental struggles for resources; and worse still when a pre-modelled version of this struggle, including desired outcome so-called, is imposed by an unaccountable (same thing: indiscussable) management layer

also likely not new: the claim that institutionalised “critical theory” very quickly began to function as a kind of higher-level intellectual bureaucracy, busily shutting down what better sense academia — and the vanguard media — had formerly had of the value of the arts and humanities as (tacitly?) informed perspective not yet destructively invaded by the (fairly comfortable, not unpowerful) interests of those who apparently so feared or distrusted them

i guess if i’m going to crowd-source my distrust — and let’s face it, we all do this in some way, it’s what politics is — then i’d prefer to crowd-source it wide rather than narrow: not least because there are a thousand skills i don’t have, which means millions of people i can learn from

(cartoon by sam gross, originally in national lampoon in the 70s, i think: i see wikipedia says he’s drawn more than 27,590 — but this is the one i remember)

“the wood beyond the world”: or “this bus has a new destination”

Walking round the William Morris exhibition with my friend Julio earlier today, something struck me — about what isn’t in it, or rather (since it’s a smallish exhibition curated to make quite specific political links, somewhat misleadingly summarised via the word “anarchy” in the title) the element in art and sensibility in Morris’s time, and before it and after, which presents as the shadow side to the Arts and Crafts movement. The name of this aspect is of course “the Gothic” — and what actually fell in to place wasn’t so much about what this exhibition lacked; as what’s never touched on in the show currently at the British Library (which I went round last week with my friend Vick). They’re undeclared siblings; and (to be gothic about it) incestuous siblings at that. Continue reading ““the wood beyond the world”: or “this bus has a new destination””

i’ve seen lots of pretty girls

All the talking heads in the Peter Green documentary were male heads, I believe; and — for all they’ve achieved a kind of artless wondering openness towards the discussion of what must have been very tricky passages of their long-ago past — none seemed especially wise heads. Green himself, hearteningly enough, has emerged as a cheerfully plump balding hobbit of a man, a long long way from the ethereal and curly-headed yearning elf-poet of yore: he has — for someone who’s been through the extended labyrinthine haze of mental breakdown, medication and ECT and long stays on wards — a strikingly exact memory of moments, artistic or chemical or inspirational, on the cusp of his breakdown. He’s vague enough about what he wanted, what drove him — a thing that wasn’t yet there, in his music and his playing — but he’s funny and practical about everything else. Continue reading “i’ve seen lots of pretty girls”