[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]
“The blues are beautiful because it’s simpler and because it’s real. It’s not perverted or thought about: It’s not a concept, it is a chair; not a design for a chair but the first chair. The chair is for sitting on, not for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.” (John Lennon to Jann Wenner, 21 January 1971)
When Jack Hutton quit Melody Maker in 1970, to set up what became Sounds, he told Richard Williams, who stayed behind, that it would be a “left-wing Melody Maker”. Hutton’s no longer with us, so I suppose if I get the chance I’ll have to ask Williams one day what exactly was meant by “left-wing” here. My guess — based on what Sounds actually turned out like — is that Hutton meant the new paper would be centred on rock. Even though both papers covered rock and pop and everything else, MM’s moral centre was arguably still jazz at that point. Even though the jazz fan-base always had a left-wing in the UK, with old-school communists solid among its supporters and chroniclers, it was a music (or so many seemed to feel) whose time was past. Rock was new and rock was now, the very voice of youth — but beyond this, rock had had, for a while by then, a tangled relationship with politics, radical left politics in particular. Continue reading “no longer a debate? lennon’s REVOLUTIONS 50 years on”
This was originally published in The Wire in 1999, in their EPIPHANIES section. RIP Cecil T 1929-2018
It began in 1977, at second-hand: I knew before I heard a note of it that I’d love Cecil Taylor’s music. In a jazz encyclopaedia I’d already read of a pianist “zipping and unzipping the keyboard” — but first contact came from a sideways leap out of bent chartpop. Across Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Mike Garson’s cocktail piano clichés mutate towards cancerous splinters, which rock reviewer Charles Shaar Murray approvingly compared to Taylor. I needed to know more.
“It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.”
Quite apart from anything else, the past — even the very recent past, maybe especially the very recent present — is a mass of detail that’s hard to take in and process (not least because you have to push away the immediate present to do so). My conference produced a little over 12 hours of conversation in one large (often quite hot, by the end quite airless) room, and the discussion has continued elsewhere, in nearby pubs or bars after the two days of debates; also here at ilm, here at Freaky Trigger, and here and here on tumblr. Resonance 104.4FM broadcast it nearly in full on 25 May and have put the eight extracts up on their mixcloud site here (I don’t know how long for). Continue reading “whalers on the moon: curious despatches from an old dream”
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 “you can never go back back BAACK!”
Notes on Adam Ant (the “paper” I gave at EMP in Seattle this year) and the Spice Wars (feat.Russ Meyer and Buffy and the Powerpuff girls and early ilx); a long note on Lady Di and the old weird England in the Popular thread on Elton John and Candle in the Wind ’97 — and the beginnings of a response to the various questions Frank Kogan asked in comments on the Oasis post, a response which is VERY LONG (9000+ words) and RUMINATIVE and SEMI-THOUGHT-THROUGH, and covers Burke, Keats, Wallace Stevens, the internalised bureaucracies of the institutionalised intellect (and where music fits into them); and what we mean by the words “thinking” and “clarity”.