Thursday, 23 June 2011
Now the dust has settled...whither new music writing?
Now the dust has settled it's time to reflect on the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on June 5th, and Juke Box Fury, the panel of rock writers I was on with Charles Shaar Murray, Paul Morley and Simon Reynolds (more of them to come). Our esteemed host was Richard Boon (ex-manager of The Buzzcocks and founder of the New Hormones label) who smoothly steered the debate through a range of musical choices. We all had to talk about tracks that first inspired us to write and then vote on whether they were a HIT or MISS. As follows:
Charlie: The Who 'My Generation' (everyone agreed this was a seismic song, not least for the amphetamine-fuelled stutter and John Entwistle's bass solo).
Simon: Sex Pistols 'Bodies' (a song about Pauline, the unfortunate Pistols fan, and her abortion. It provoked an interesting discussion about Johnny Rotten's fear of women, and punk attitudes towards women generally. As I wrote in my chapter in Roger Sabin's Punk Rock, So What? "...while there were men wrestling with questions of masculinity and feminism, there were just as many content to leave it unreconstructed.")
Me: The B52s 'Planet Claire' (this was partly a tribute to Poly Styrene, a celebration of the 'day glo' aspect of punk. I remember her saying, "we started that whole bright colours, plasticky, whacky fashion as opposed to the black bondage stuff". With their two-foot high beehive wigs and florescent colours the B52s were a perfect embodiment of the day glo aesthetic. Also 'Planet Claire' is one of my favourite tracks because it inspired me, not just as a writer, but also as a keyboard player. As I said on the panel, it's the sound of keyboards showing off).
Paul: The Buzzcocks 'Boredom'(brilliant example of punk's gift for creatively expressing the mundane. Until that point, so much pop music had been over-ornamented and over-romanticised. This was uniquely British, and funny. Particularly like the phrase, "B'dum, b'dum."
After we debated the tracks, the key question of the day was - whither music journalism? We agreed that so much print journalism is consumer-orientated, that as a writer you tend to be subsumed within 'the brand'. Eg "Mojo says this, NME says that". There is much less room for ideas-driven writing, it's much more functional. As Charlie so aptly put it: "the music press now promotes the Culture Hut view of things. Eg, 'on the menu today at Culture Hut we have a taste of vintage Boz Scaggs, and you can also try The Vaccines, or a bit of Loudon Wainwright.'" He also went on to say that in the '70s and '80s we were "getting away with it", basically. Publishing companies like IPC didn't look too closely at the content, because sales were good and the 'weeklies' were making them a lot of money. Writing about the ideas inspired by music as well as the music itself. And exploring politics, literature and subculture in the process.
The answer, as evidenced here and a myriad of blogs, is to grow your own. Blogging is the way forward for strong, independent and more personal music writing. The only thing we have to work out now is revenue streams!
More links: www.stokenewingtonliteraryfestival.com
plus reviews: http://mccookerybook.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-06-06T22%3A40%3A00%2B01%3A00&max-results=15