Tuesday, 14 June 2011

and like they invented disco and grunge and new wave and that

I found a copy of one of my fanzines – tucked in a file and stuffed in a cupboard. All courier new and cut up – pritt stick and photographs sitting behind words that meant something once. I laboured over those fanzines, those words – in between school then college and setting up market stalls and serving old folks in Kwik Save. Because I guess that it mattered. Like it does now I suppose.

Nowadays words come ready selected from Oxbridge journalists mining pop culture in broadsheet pages. Everybody’s clever nowadays. I say this because we take The Guardian in our house – all delivered and that – rolled up and half stuffed in the letterbox. When I was paperboy – I was told to push them all the way through – stopped them getting wet and all that.

Anyway lately I have found myself more reluctant to read the thoughts of these people. So I know how people might feel about all of this self indulgent scribing. But what seems to have offended me was the ‘free guides to music’ that appeared this week for Pop, Hip Hop, Rock and all the rest. I mean I was already having my gander put up and out by the fact that the Friday Film & Music supplement has a blurb that reads voted the UKs best Music Newspaper – I mean what other fucking newspaper exists – and it isn’t a music newspaper – it has seven reviews, an article by Bob Stanley and someone ripping off my blog and calling it Hail Hail Rock n Roll [that actually was meant without irony].

Now, don’t get me wrong I wasn’t hoping for an in depth discussion of the micro-politics of the death metal scene in Norway but I was looking for something more than the ‘clip culture’ we have come  to view as the norm. Sort of a Blue Peter for the rave age – a sound bite – a record mentioned and a touch of glo-stick – you know what I mean. Before I left this morning to get to work I managed a paragraph – well actually the journalist had only managed a paragraph – it was on Blondie – it said that Blondie was like a punk icon and that she released like an album and that it had some songs on it – and she named a few – because she could google ‘Parallel Lines’ and then it ended by explaining that she did like disco and new wave and rap.

And that was it.

And I was all huffing and puffing and thinking I was sweating blood over the words I wrote about The Impossibles, pale saints, Spaceman 3 and The Field Mice all those years ago and stuck down on card to be taken to a printers and manufactured for the masses. Which demonstrates how you don’t get a career in music journalism – although I read an interview with Danny Baker recently [okay it was in The Guardian] and he said he never gave a shit what the public thought rather he wanted to make his mates laugh in the office. Yeah cheers Dan – I think I bought The Chesterfields ‘Ask Johnny Dee’ because you made it SOTW.

This is a lie.

But part of me felt that yeah – if you’re getting a reaction somewhere from your writing then at least to see that happen where you work – well it helps. And the thing about these guides these listless lists for nothingness is the fact they reinforce the utter banality of popular culture. And whilst I fill up my head with the superficial sounds of Blondie or The Stones or the Pistols and Autechre I still want people to give it credence and write with some feeling about it – not simply serve it up as the commodity it is. Before I turned thirty I read countless biographies and auto biographies of bands and weighty tomes on the rise of bass culture and rebellion. I will be forty this week and here I am looking for some more answers in pop music.

In music.

It’s not like I’m after a great deal is it?

And sometimes the answers stare you in the face and tell you that with them everything will be alright. I used to get that feeling listening to The Impossibles. The Impossibles were Leeds’ answer to Simon and Garfunkel in mini-skirts and pea coats – they sang with harmony and finesse but could pack a punch. I fell in love with it all – and so did Kevin Shields who produced their first single – simple songs and simple strumming. All falling through the music hedge – through the forties and fifities, the sixties and seventies, even the eighties and finding parts sticking together at the end – but somehow sounding alive in the 1990s as rave raved and we looked to softer sounds in our comedown times.

Lucy and Mags were funny, unpretentious and joyful.

None of it was studied and The Impossibles have not made it into The Guardian’s Guide to the greatest pop moments in History – but being in The Duchess as the exploded into song or seeing them nervously take the stage supporting The Primitives at their all day event at Tufnell Park - you know that these are our secret histories – our own Top 50 events. It is hard to explain all of this in a few paragraphs and perhaps I should find my teenage ramblings – delve back into those feelings untainted by age.

I know there will be no paragraphs, epitaphs or half full baths to The Impossibles. They did not bring us new wave, punk, disco nor rap – but they did bring a great deal of joy. I Think they may well have been No.51 in The Guardian list and couldn’t be fitted in.

The Impossibles How Do You Do It?