Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keep reading the tabloids!

Uh, the British music tabloids, that is. I'm sure some of them must still B out there, probly replaced by others I've never even Cn. I'm thinking mainly of NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, MELODY MAKER, SOUNDS, RECORD MIRROR, MUSIC WEEK (more a dry business/retailers' paper, like a British version of BILLBOARD).
I tripped over these & learned there was a British "music press" in the summer of 1978, when the record store I later Nded-up working in GAVE AWAY a HUGE stack of these weekly newspapers after they'd bn unable 2 sell them over the previous yr.
& I dug thru this huge pile & took home a copy of every issue I could carry, then sank in2 them 4 the next few wks. & the store's Mployees, who I later Nded up working w/, thot I was crazy.
I'd just discovered ROLLING STONE a coupla yrs earlier, knew them by reputation B4 I ever actually saw an issue on-sale NEwhere (this was Boise, Idaho, in the 1970's), & did my historical research by buying a copy of their paperback ROLLING STONE RECORD REVIEW VOLUME II, full of classic reviews & brilliant writing. The 1st copy of RS I ever read I found at my local library, & was immediately hooked when I found reviews of Yes's YESTERDAYS & RELAYER in the same issue (if I'm remembering correctly). This made up 4 the fact that the guy on the cover was some1 I'd never heard-of -- some long-haired reggae singer named Bob Marley....
(Little did I realize that by the time I started reading RS "seriously" in the summer of '77, they were already on the downhill slide 2 the sorta flashy mainstreamized out-of-touch joke they'd Bcome in the '80s & '90s. Tho I've subscribed a few x & 1nce upon a time some of my fave writers were included in its pgs, I got VERY little outta my last subscription a few yrs back & I haven't looked at a copy of RS since Syd Barrett died.)
But the British tabloids were something diffrent. They weren't above the scene, commenting on it -- they were IN it, involved, Xcited, passionate, sometimes angry. They were wide-awake & alive, trying 2 Xpress their Xcitement. This translated loud&clear 2 me in Idaho, 10,000 miles & a yr away from when the papers were published.
The papers I took home ran from summer '77 2 summer '78, & mosta the weeklies were Xcited about the rise of Punk Rock -- which I Didn't Get 4 a long time. (Possibly not until I read Jon Savage's ENGLAND'S DREAMING a yr or so ago.) But not ALL of them were Xcited. While following the Sex Pistols & the Clash, the Jam, Buzzcocks, Stranglers & others -- & practically worshipping the Ramones & Lou Reed -- there were other things going on 2: Kate Bush appeared & topped the British charts w/ her 1st single & album (the Brits either loved her or hated her; nobody was unDcided); Pink Floyd released their angry ANIMALS; & the tabs got very worked-up over Foreigner's DOUBLE VISION (I know Foreigner had their uses, but I Xpected this more from American critics & fans; 1 writer gave DV 5 stars & called it "GREATEST ALBUM EVER!!!!!" in a headline), & AC/DC, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath....
Tho summa my British faves were still kickin around -- Genesis, Camel, Caravan, Gentle Giant, the Floyd, Hawkwind, Gong, National Health, Illusion, etc. -- they didn't get much space in the papers cos of the new musical revolution that was just starting over there, & 4 awhile I couldn't C why. Why bother w/ this punk crap when Genesis was headlining at Knebworth & Reading? The Moody Blues released their 1st album in 6 yrs -- where was the front-pg on that? (The fact that the album sucked mighta had an impact.) & why was Virgin Records signing the Pistols & all that reggae stuff when they already had Mike Oldfield, David Bedford, Henry Cow, Gong....
Finally it dawned on me: As usual, I was about 2-2-5 yrs 2 late 4 the Xcitement I wanted 2 read about, which was the heyday of prog-rock. All that was on its way out now, mayB kicking & screaming (U.K., & a diffrent, changed, "matured" Roxy Music was still around), but surely on the way out NEhow.
& the writers in the British tabloids were Njoying the change, reveling in it -- at last, some real Xcitement! Something new!
It's funny that I don't remember that much of the actual WRITING, just the atmosphere that came across so clearly. I don't remember that many of the writers -- outside of American Lester Bangs, who did a multi-part series about following the Clash around from gig 2 gig, which almost made sense. (Lester could make NE1 sound good -- he did a long write-up 1nce Dpicting Captain Beefheart talking 2 furniture & conversing w/ paint, & even that made me wanna go out & buy the 1st Beefheart album I could find.)
I remember writing by Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Logan, John Tobler, Tony Tyler & a few others. Tho Tony Parsons & Julie Burchill were supposedly cranking-out heinous diatribes in the pgs of NME during this period, I musta missed them. & I missed all of Chrissie Hynde's work -- she was off somewhere 4ming the Pretenders. (I finally read some of Julie Burchill's work in those big, flashy annual ROCK YEARBOOKS that Al Clark & Ian Cranna & others edited during the '80s -- pieces she did on The Decline & Fall of Boy George, & some of the mid-'80s "pop tarts," gave me an impression: kinda cranky, but pretty witty.)
It's not the writers so much as the atmosphere that sticks w/ me: a buncha folks reaching up from a grimy newspaper pg 2 shout: HERE'S A BAND U GOTTA C! HERE'S SOME MUSIC U'VE GOTTA HEAR! The passion & immediacy of it all. & it got amplified & repeated every wk.
ROLLING STONE was always 2 distanced 4 that kind of immediacy, & they did nothing but get more distanced. 2 bad 2, cos a lotta my fave writers worked there: Hunter Thompson, Tim Cahill, Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Charles M. Young, Daisann McLane (best article ever about Fleetwood Mac during the TUSK tour), David Felton (w/ the best article ever about Brian Wilson emerging from his bedroom after 10 yrs), Ben Fong-Torres.... All gone from there now. & tho I'll still pick up 1 of RS's occasional best-of or retrospective issues, I haven't thot 2 look 4 them at a bookstore or onna magazine rack inna long time. & the last time I checked, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY was doing a better job covering current music/books/movies than RS, & in more depth....
The only mag 2 ever gather a roster of writers as good as RS was MUSICIAN magazine in the late-'70s & thru the '80s, when they had Charles M. Young, Matt Resnicoff, Vic Garbarini, Dave DiMartino, Chuck Eddy, Jill Blardinelli, Mark Coleman, Rafi Zabor, Chip Stern & others writing 4 them -- only then their approach was "Here's some great music U may have overlooked" -- right up my street, obviously. & they were all freakin hilarious, which is always good.
& like RS, they let everybody get away....
(I might not B so nostalgic about British music tabloids if I had actually kept COPIES of NE of them, but somehow in my many moves over the yrs the Ntire pile got trashed -- I don't even know when I threw them out, but I kept NOTHING. Since then I've kept everything I like. I have copies of ROLLING STONE dating back 2 1976 & copies of MUSICIAN dating back 2 '78, but nothing from the 100+ lbs of British weeklies I had piled-up. This stuff is irreplaceable. NE of my friends overseas got NE connections on Fleet Street...?)

2 comments:

Gardenhead said...

sadly a lot of those tabloids are either defunct (melody maker) or gone to shit (NME). However, they have tonnes of back copies of them lying around in second hand bookstores so if you ever need me to look out for an issue from a given era just drop a line.

Also, if you go to the quietus.com you'll find an amazing online magazine with plenty of melody maker and NME hacks from the golden era you describe above still writing for them!

tad said...

Thanx, G, somehow I knew U'd come thru 4 me. I'll check-out quietus.com & C what they've got going. I'll hold-off 4 now on yr offer about back issues, cos I'm not looking 4 NEthing specific -- there's like a whole era I guess I'm trying 2 recapture here. But I may get back 2 U in the future....
& I looked-up NME at Wikipedia after writing this & found-out MELODY MAKER had bn absorbed in2 NME a few yrs back, & NME itself ain't doin so healthy right now either. Again, it's the things U take 4 granted that U miss later.... -- TAD.