Hidden Landscapes

7
Jul 18

what even is a review?

Hidden Landscapes15 comments • 438 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!]

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

Hidden Landscapes5 comments • 212 views

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 • 477 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 Landscapes8 comments • 410 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

FT + Hidden Landscapes8 comments • 297 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]

“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 • 100 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 • 1,588 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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8
May 18

HIDDEN LANDSCAPES: THE PODCAST

Hidden Landscapes1 comment • 173 views

Three episodes are now up: Hazel Southwell and Mark Sinker talking through the story of the UK music press from two very different angles (bcz I am old and she is not), to help start the conversation around my upcoming book.

pod 1: the pilot!
pod 2: uh merry memories of the nme!
pod 3: the ins and outs of PUNK ROCK

If you’re enjoying it, please subscribe to our PATREON, to help cover soundcloud costs and admin, and help us put aside the fortnightly time to make it as good as we’d like it! Also please point people in our direction if you think they’d enjoy it. I’m also blogging there every week: essays now up on MORRISSEY and why his bigotry wasn’t seen sooner and challenged harder in the 80s, on the late TOM WOLFE, and how the music press ran with his ideas, and how JOHN LENNON AND YOKO ONO‘s interaction with the radical political press of the early 70s fed into the end of rock and the start of post-punk, and so on and so forth…

Plus here is the book’s COVER courtesy SAVAGE PENCIL — due out end of July (UK) and end of August (US)!

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