Hidden Landscapes

26
Oct 18

the other kind of industrial

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[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. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

Like many teenagers in the UK 40+ years ago, my non-school culture was basically two things: the music weeklies and strikes. One time my late colleague Steven Wells was reviewing a biography of Richard Branson for NME (Mick Brown’s I assume, published in 1988). “The 70s were a bad time for strikes,” said the book. No! wrote Swellsy, angrily and hilariously, the 70s were a BRILLIANT time for strikes. Management wrong, workers right, the side without resources flexing its collective muscle, the three-day week, no electricity for days on end, no one clears away the rubbish or even the dead… sorry, but for any distrustful, easily distracted young person this was all just great, as well as perfectly and morally correct.

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19
Sep 18

“ITES, REEL”

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Being a melancholy appreciation on his passing of this nation’s pioneering reggae writer: the great PENNY REEL

“Sing great song, down inna Babylon, show them your culture, down inna Babylon”
— ‘M.P.L.A.’, Tapper Zukie

It was October 1978, and the NME interview-feature was titled ‘The Keith Hudson Affair: A Dread Tale’. It was written by Penny Reel, it was about this same singer-producer, Keith Hudson — who had of course worked with Ken Boothe, John Holt, Delroy Wilson and King Tubby’s toaster-DJ U-Roy, as well as Big Youth — and it launched into itself as follows:

“ONE NIGHT I AM standing outside the Jamaican pattie shop in Portobello Road partaking of the same when a car pulls up on the street and from it emerge certain characters from Kilburn by the name of Militant Barrington, Tapper Zukie and Jah Lacey, which is by no means an unusual combination to see, as these are very intimate idren and frequently keep each other’s company, except that now there is a fourth person with them in the rear approach, one known as King Saul.

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30
Aug 18

how not to write about jazz, probably

FT + Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 443 views

[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. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

A week or three back, my old ilxor pal Kerr put up a list of jazz genres on FB and asked his followers who could define them. And bcz we’re dicks, we gave him a dusty answer (mine, in full, was “I can!”). We played mean games; we suggested he google. And so he did — fair play — and of course the joke was on us, bcz the results (wikipedia!) were terrible, full of error and sententious assumption. Some true claims — especially in the endless lists — mixed in with much confused nonsense and (wikipedia!) inapposite citation.

My dusty answer wasn’t just about being a dick: Kerr’s question had landed right on top of something that’s bothered me for decades. Which is why people often write so badly about jazz — including people who know a lot about it (a lot more than me anyway). They can get the facts right — the chords, the analysis — but then miss the point. They write well about the players’ lives and character, and about the feel. But when they write about what the musicians actually think they’re doing, and think about what they’re doing, it all goes cock-eyed and dull — as if being fully conversant with musical technique and terminology acts as some kind of huge mental block.

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7
Jul 18

what even is a review?

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[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. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

It’s 1971, and here’s Nick Tosches reviewing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid in Rolling Stone. A friend (hi Kerr!) linked it on Facebook, alongside the cheerful question Is this the worst ever review of all time? Almost all of the 500 words are mood-conjuring the look and hideous feel of an occult orgy, little to nothing is said about the LP in question, or any other, and in fact the piece ends by misidentifying the singer as Kip Treavor, misspelled frontman of Sabbath’s rival satanic-themed rock band Black Widow (it’s actually Kip Trevor): “The boy whips out a 10″ personal vibrator, adorned in waterproof acrylics with the image of the Nazarene. He intones the words NUK KHENSU TENTEN NEBU and approaches her intendant fundament… impletion… across the room the fresh corpse of an illegitimate hippie baby is dis-impaled from the ceremonial sword of Baphomet. The myrrh is extinguished with the collected saliva of priests listening to tales of carnal abuse in warm, dark confessionals. The Shadaic numinae are chalked over with the mirrored sign of Ariael, the 11 rubies returned to the vessel of Dione.

But all the same I’m going to say, no, there are many many MANY worse reviews, and here’s why.

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5
Jul 18

all the world on one short shelf — remembering roy carr

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Putting together a collective history for a project like this, of something you were at one time near the heart of, inevitably ends up being a series of missed opportunities. Roy Carr, late of NME, died at the weekend, aged only 73 — and I’m sad because I knew him for a while and he was a nice man, always friendly and funny and just boundlessly enthusiastic. He ’s emblematic to me of a time I have complicated feelings and personal regrets about, and now I find myself wishing I hadn’t taken his talents and his presence for granted when I worked alongside him. Even in the 80s he was an institution: I should have grabbed my chance and sat him down and got some stories out of him. Everyone in journalism has stories of course, but he had a thousand, going right back into the early 60s, and they were generally hilarious and scurrilous and some of them could never be told publicly.

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27
Jun 18

from iceberg to titanic, and from titanic to iceberg, and from iceberg to titanic again…

Hidden Landscapes21 comments • 533 views

… but already it was impossible to say which was which (or sometimes you get what you pray for — and it isn’t really quite what you wanted: the MICK FARREN story)

[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. Please share widely and encourage participation!]

Hazel asked me in podcast 3 (the punk one) to name two pieces of punk writing that had had an impact on me as I first began to buy and read the music papers, so naturally I plumped for two pieces that ran somewhat before that (meaning, I suppose, that though I wasn’t thinking of this as I named them, that the impact was as large as it was despite being indirect). One was Tony Parsons’ ‘Thinking Man’s YobsNME cover story on The Clash from March 1977, a key marker in punk’s evolution: from here on, the music mattered because it was political, the voice of unschooled dole-queue youth — or at least you had to push back hard if you wanted to read it another way) [Footnote 1]. The second is from nine months early, same paper, June 1976: Mick Farren’s polemic ‘The Titanic Sails at Dawn’.

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21
Jun 18

the eight-and-a-half pillars of true punk

Hidden Landscapes9 comments • 496 views

(disclaimer: some of them are false)
[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]

A fun thing about the podcast is the way Hazel’s questions rattle away inside my most ancient, unexamined opinions — things I think that I no longer quite remember starting to think. When I pop-quizzed her on the groups that played in the 100 Club Festival, 20-21 September 1976, I wasn’t surprised she’d heard of almost all of them: it was a tiny two-day event more than a decade before she was born, but (a) she is knowledgable and full of curiosity and obsessed with music past and present, and (b) it was the founding event for “rock at the end of rock”, when you were required, as an index of your commitment to the necessity of the splintering, to take implacable sides within your own splinter. To this Shropshire-based punk noob — I didn’t move to London for another six years, I hadn’t yet started reading the music weeklies — the festival mapped what punk had been in its first (some say only) year, and what it was going to have to become as it expanded and divided and dissolved. Above all, it’s the moment of division, forming lines that can just about still be traced, if you look carefully in the right places.

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31
May 18

no longer a debate? lennon’s REVOLUTIONS 50 years on

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[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)

lennon fistWhen 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.

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21
May 18

the invisible dandy: scribbled farewell notes on TOM WOLFE

Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 132 views

[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]

kandy koloredYou only have to read the titles and the trend-naming — ‘Tiny Mummies’, the Tycoon of Teen, Radical Chic, From Bauhaus to Our House, the Me Generation, The Right Stuff — to see, instantly, that there was something here. Like some motormouth manager promoting the new pop group he was making famous and secretly ripping off, he had the liveliest huckster’s imagination. Here was a energy that made thing happen: Wolfe watched and listened and took notes and got inside heads — some heads — and when he got back to the page, delivered an intensely vivid cartoon sketch of a scene, sound effects in place among capitals, italics, dots, dashes and exclamation marks, the main narration often broadcast as if from behind the eyes of its participants, an inner-monologue ventriloquism that enabled the writer subtly to imply unreliability or even foolishness in a scenester.

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14
May 18

other jacksons in your house

Hidden Landscapes18 comments • 1,679 views

… or how when we made Morrissey we made him bad

[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]

panic | hang the DJA bitter office quarrel — the so-called the ‘HipHop Wars’ — had been making life at the NME miserable from some time. At issue was the current and future direction of the paper — how to give the readers what they wanted to read, week on week, while staying abreast of music’s future trends — so when the Smiths released ‘Panic’ in late 1986, it crystallised everything. “Hang the DJ!” sang Morrissey: “Burn down the disco!” Those who cared for black music at all — future and past — were appalled: to them it was very clear who this talk of burning and hanging was aimed at. His supporters scrambled for a less ugly reading: not that kind of DJ! Not those discos! Much was made of Steve Wright following a news report about Chernobyl with a Wham! song. Concluding statement for the defence: He’s not anti black musicians, he’s anti bland music — and that goes for us all, surely?

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