So last May, as some FT readers will recall, I ran a conference at Birkbeck about the politics of UK music-writing from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, its roots and discontents, its early evolution and its latent potential, as I put it here back then. The plan all along was to gather extracts of the (extremely interesting) panels into a book, add in some essays from participants (and others) and publish it.
To that end, I present the kickstarter for A HIDDEN LANDSCAPE ONCE A WEEK: how UK music-writing became a space for unruly curiosity, in the words of those who made it happen, an anthology companion to the conference featuring conversations and essays that unearth the many surprising worlds explored by the UK music-press from the 1960s-80s. Click through for further details, little explanatory films and so on.
Contributors (panelists and essayists) will include:
Val Wilmer, Richard Williams, Mark Williams, David Toop, Tony Stewart, Bob Stanley, Charles Shaar Murray, Jon Savage, Cynthia Rose, Edwin Pouncey, Penny Reel, Liz Naylor, Mark Pringle, Tony Palmer, Paul Morley, John (aka Jonh) Ingham, Barney Hoskyns, Jonathon Green, Beverly Glick (aka Betty Page), Simon Frith and Nigel Fountain. The illustrations will be by the legendary SAVAGE PENCIL (see left for cover mock-up).
I think this is a strong and interesting project, giving voice to people in this history who’ve been lost from view as well as better-known names, exploring ideals and describing day-to-day practicalities — so click through, read, pledge if you like what you see, and (above all) pass it on to friends who you think will be interested.
This is the text of my presentation to EMP 2016, in Seattle. The theme of the conference was “voice”, thankfully this proved flexible enough for me to ride my favourite hobby horse. I gave the presentation without notes, so the text here is slightly drier than attendees might remember, and lacks ad libs, embellishments, moments of desperate panic, etc. Thank you to everyone who attended and thank you especially to all those attendees who came up afterwards and said nice things. I had a wonderful time.
Hello Seattle. Make some noise.
The odd thing about Tin Machine, having finally listened to Tin Machine, is that Bowie’s instincts were dead on. It’s not a mistake at all. He’s listening to the Pixies so he’s in tune with what’s happening in American indie rock; he’s thinking it’s time to strip back the production and make rock music, he wants to make something a bit more confrontational and instinctive… these are all exactly the right ideas for the moment. And yet when he comes to act on those instincts and form his band he ends up with a record of skronky blues rock and some of his worst ever lyrics. Of course you can say he picked the wrong collaborators, but it’s not just that. It really underlines the horrible gulf between knowing what the right move is and actually pulling off that move.
“Hi, we’re Jay, Mike, Cheryl and Bobby, better known as Bucks Fizz, stars of LOOK-IN magazine – oh the mischief we got up to! Nothing risque, you understand, it’s a children’s paper. Of course we’re also famous as the inspirations for Amaterasu, Inanna, Lucifer and Dionysus from last year’s comics poll winner, The Wicked + The Divine, which we thought we’d remind you of just in case it turns up again below. Our own comics career has been a little quiet lately but between you and us I think hosting this amazing Top 12 will be just the leg-up we need for a new beginning (mamba seyra), maybe a licensed series from IDW or perhaps Boom! Studios. Move over Jem and the so-called Holograms, Bucks Fizz are back and ready to twirl!”
Thanks, Bucks Fizz! Yes, bringing the curtain down on Poll Month, it’s the Comics Top 12. As usual, an asterisk means I haven’t read any of it but thankfully Kat has once again stepped in to lend her webcomics expertise to the countdown.
“Hi, I’m Gongy the Rank Movies Gong, who you might know from the intro to any Rank Movie you’ll have seen between 1935 and 1980. And when I wasn’t being banged by an oiled up muscled bodybuilder I liked nothing more than settling down to watch the movie I prefaced. Now working for J Arthur meant I didn’t always get to see classics, but I think I put enough time in the cinema to judge the odd movie, and am in a perfect position to hand out the -ahem – Gongs in this poll.
I do miss getting banged though. Do people not “get it on” in 2015? Are there no vaguely racist kung fu movies I can cameo in to instigate a fight? Roll uncontrollably down a hill? A Gong gets restless in retirement. All the Gongmen are dead.”
Cheers Gongy, and I hope you enjoy this batch of pretty decent reasons to spend time in front of a screen. But not right in front of the screen Gongy, cos we won’t be able to see the films.
“Yojne! – 01 Pot gnilffuhs-zzaj, gnikcilc-regnif lanif eht s’ereh, yawyna! Ekil I mug taht ekil, elyts ni kcab emoc ll’yeht yllufepoh. Selit eht htiw yoj on tub, sniatruc der eht dah yeht dna Esabemoh ni dekool I. Egdol Kcalb eht detaroceder tsal ehs nehw, morf selit roolf gazgiz esoht tog ehs erehw Remlap Arual gniksa ot dnuor teg yllanif nac I! Seires wen eht tuoba enoyna sa deticxe sa m’i. Skaep Niwt morf frawd gniklat-sdrawkcab eht, Ecalp Rehtona Morf Nam Eht m’i, olleh.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. Without further ado: let’s have a look at the Top 10:
“Hi Readers! It’s WHACKY here from COR!!, the weekly mag that thrashes the others. You’ve not seen much of me in comics lately, which is a bit of a sore point. I used to have to beat the offers away, but frankly, now Corporal Punishment in schools has been given the boot, there’s not been much call for my services. It’s a shame – a good whacking builds character. It certainly built mine. Still, I’m happy to help Freaky Trigger with their punishing poll schedule – they’re caning these results posts at the moment. Here’s the next instalment of the comics poll – I’m sure you’ll agree it features some real belters!”
Thanks, Whacky! I said in the last block of comics that it had the most titles I hadn’t read in. That, er, turns out not to be the case. Apologies for the perfunctory nature of some of the commentary below! As ever, an asterisk signals that I’ve not read any of it. We pick up with number 24…
“Hi I’m Mr Narwhal from Elf, you may remember my loveable show-stopping turn in what has now firmly become part of the Christmas canon. There goes Buddy the Elf, leaving the North pole and up I pop saying “Bye Buddy, Hope you find your Dad!” And time was that I thought my scene stealing appearance would spin off into a film of my own, say The Amazing Adventures Of Mr Narwhal. I even wrote a treatment Mr Narwhal Goes To Washington, a nautical remake of Mr Smith Goes To Washington, where I would fillibuster to stop deep sea Atlantic dredging. But sadly it wasn’t to be, and John Favreau stopped returning my calls around the time he made Iron Man 2 (I know King Shark is a DC character and I’m not a shark but give a narwhal a break). So these days I can be found doing Harry Nilsson covers on Thursday nights in The Red Lion on Glendale.
And of course I am here to present the FreakyTrigger 20 – 11 countdown of movies. I don’t get out to the movies much (its the nose), but I’ve seen half of them on screener and they would have all been improved by the appearance of an anthropomorphic Narwhal. Damn my agent.”
Cheers Mr Narwhal, and I too can definitely see you fitting in our first film here.
“Greetings people of Earth. It is I, Servitor Vek of the Doomlords of Nox. My all too convincing alien visage has come among you to pass final judgement on your species. I expect to reach a guilty verdict. Perhaps the comics you have selected in the Freaky Trigger poll can persuade me that despite humanity’s many imperfections, you deserve to be spared cosmic annihilation… for another few weeks.”
Gosh, thanks Doomlord. This is the – slightly delayed – second section of this year’s comics poll, and also has the honour of being the section where I have read fewest of the titles voted for. Will that stop me making brief and ill-informed comments? No, it will not. (An asterisk means I haven’t read it AT ALL, though)
“Hi readers, I’m Lionel Richie’s Enormous Clay Head. You may remember me from the ‘Hello’ video where a visually impaired student nearly sticks her fingers right into my eyeballs – ouch! Just because she’s blind doesn’t mean she has the authority to blind others. Didn’t anyone tell her ‘an eye for an eye’ is not a sound basis for a system of restorative justice? Anyway I’m potentially the only eye witness to my human counterpart’s abuse of his teacher-pupil power dynamic – a lawsuit waiting to happen if you ask me. But wait, what’s that noise? It sounds strangely like the roaring of a kiln… surely they couldn’t be trying to silence me for ever???”
Thanks Lionel Richie’s Enormous Clay Head, I’m sure the Claymation Jackie Wilson will come to your rescue any minute. Shall we say ‘hi’ to our top 20?