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.
A 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 →
It was called Virtual Space and there was just one issue, “issue zero: place-kicks”. We made less than 20 copies, mostly by hunting round town for a photocopier with an A2 bed. It was an experiment, a mockup for a magazine, and it had no date appearing anywhere on its pages. (But it was early 1989, I’d just quit NME and wasn’t on-staff yet at The Wire.) We were serious: we went looking for funding. The other of the two being designer Paul Elliman, who’d just left The Wire. (Note to self: I haven’t seen Paul in an age and must call him up.) Continue reading →
As much as anything as an act of expiation, grief and guilt from safe exile — as if to say ‘Wish you were here’ — Adorno begins his Philosophy of Modern Music (1948) with a long crabbed mouthful of a quote from his dead friend Walter Benjamin, on the history of philosophy “viewed as the science of origins”, as being “that process which, from opposing extremes, and from the apparent excesses of development, permits the emergence of the configuration of an idea as a totality… ” The book that follows unfortunately merely juxtaposes Schoenberg and Stravinsky, only the extremes of development of “modern music” if your view is really quite intellectually parochial — certainly it’s hard to envisage Adorno writing well about (say) Jelly Roll Morton or Bessie Smith, but there you go. Still, the idea of attempting to juxtapose extremes — at least as a technique or habit — is pretty good critical practice, I think. Continue reading →