THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT I DO
“The good thing about the time on the music press was that I was there, on the road with the Sex Pistols, on the boat on Jubilee Day. It’s like a bad photograph of Kennedy getting shot – it’s still a photograph of Kennedy getting shot.” – Tony Parsons, quoted in In Their Own Write
“I was there” – rock critics wanted to write the Pistols into history because it meant writing themselves into history (in some tiny way). Punk, the way the journalists tell it in Paul Gorman’s oral history of the rock press, was special because the musicians and the journos all drank together, played together, fought and made friends. It’s the access-fantasy that I assume is at the heart of Almost Famous, too (a film I’d have to be paid to see) – the secret idea that every rock Johnson needs a hack Boswell.
But they don’t. The key to rock writing – to music writing – getting out of its current slump is the writers realising that it is really only they who care about whether the music now is worse than it was in whatever waybackwhen they want to name. The bands, the PRs, and most of the listeners get on with things. Is this an ideal state of affairs? Surely not. Will it change through the efforts of nostalgic rock writers? Surely not.
Or to put it another way – who’s following So Solid Crew about on tour, a tour dogged by violence, a tour where dates are falling cancelled like so many dominoes? One or two reporters maybe, at a distance, but nobody aspiring to the kind of up-close access Parsons reminisces about. But So Solid Crew – Number 1 from out of nowhere, the most ruthlessly saleable proponents of Britain’s newest music – are news if anyone is. Are journalists reluctant to turn them into history? And if not, why not? Because of the music? Because the violence goes beyond rock’s gangster-cult of the lash-out star and the managerial hardman? A racial element? Or because So Solid simply won’t let the writers get that close? (And why should they?)
There are magnificent articles to be written about So Solid Crew – about the places they come from, the people they left behind (they sing about hatas, the Crew say, because they are physically hated), the music they make and the trail of fear and hype and awe they’re dragging across the country. I have every confidence these pieces will get written, no confidence that they will appear in anything you could remotely call a music magazine, where writers seem more interested, still, in reliving a – glorious, yes! – past. They should be leaving their cubicles, getting out, finding out what people are listening to, swallowing their pride and asking why.