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Tuesday, 6 February 2007

"The Worst Trick God Can Play On You... to make you an artist - only a mediocre one". I'll always remember that quote. It comes from Bowie's epic 1980 NME interview with Angus MacKinnon. Here was an artist not only at the absolute pinnacle of his musical powers - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a stunning piece of work [how many artists in today's stodgy pop climate could bring so much from the margins of pop culture into the very heart of the mainstream and still sound as daring as that music does], but also still basking in the critical afterglow of his Broadway success in The Elephant Man. So *that's* mediocrity...

To the rest of us mere mortals, it's ultimately encouraging to hear an artist as committed to adventure complaining of the "ball and chain of middle class morality" that's holding him back, or expressing his artistic insecurities with such candour. For younger readers (if there are any of you, indeed, if any of you can *actually* read...) it might be worth having a look at the article linked above, if only for a peak into a world where an organ (and I use the term advisedly) such as NME could function as so confessional a space within the huckstering world of pop promotion. Imagine, for a start, any of today's career-attenuated, 4-wheel-drive worshipping musicians having anything worthwhile to confess in the first place, let alone so public a booth and a confessor with and within which to share it. The NME, like so much of the spikey, bottom-up culture with which I grew up, is long dead now. A less glamourous, less informative, less avidly read Smash Hits for those carefully dishevelled metrosex-rugged indie kids to pose with in their builders crack revealing, ready ripped jeans before their band hitches a Toyota or Vodaphone advert-muzak gig that will save them having to "sell out" by donning a suit to coin it in the city.

But there is hope, I guess, of the featherless, Emily Dickinson/Woody Allen kind. For all the dissing in these quarters, I think the Munterspace arena, if nothing else, allows for the kind of grass roots democracy that we fondly recall of the punk movement. If anything, the way that the download is transforming music consumption could see a revolution within the pop culture that is far more extreme and lasting than punk ever was. Because here, at last, is a means to do away with the big corporations altogether - even the little labels and distributors may ultimately be on their last legs. Because now, *anyone* can build up a following, large and trendseeking (Klaxons, e.g. 2,000,000 visits - many, I'm guessing courtesy of the Grauniad guide cover) or small and devoted* (Your Humble Scribe e.g. - c.9,000 visits in three months or so) and not only have a direct means of advertising their wares/performances etc., but also (if they wish) communicate directly with the people who, in years gone by, would have been huddled around the stage door hoping to feel the hem of their idol's garment.

I think this is a *fabulous* development and whilst the johnny-come-lately, middle class, "our-kids-are-organic-and-biodegradable" toss bags at the Grauniad will *always* latch onto the exciting stuff *just* as it's beginning to lose it's intimacy and freshness and become yawnsville, so there will always be something extraordinary peeping through the soil, dazzling us with it's freshness before the cold hands of the industry and the mass media rip them up and away with them to the hothouse. It's a very exciting time - we could be living through the pop music equivalent of the Gothenburg Press, but, as yet, still blinded as we are by the glare and blare of the meretricious colour supplement charade that passes for critical journalism at the moment you wouldn't know it.

I've rather strayed from my original purpose here somewhat, which was to say how *absolutely* and *totally* demoralised I feel right now, but there has been a catharsis of sorts in the writing of this, so I suppose it's worth carrying on a bit longer...

Reader's (that's singular, btw) choice for tomorrow's post:

a) Johnny Dee is a cunt for not plugging the Swipe Show.

b) Johnny Dee is a cunt for *repeatedly* not plugging the Swipe Show.

c) Johnny Dee is a cunt. He just *is*.

The choice is yours, baggiebird,

L.U.V. on y'all,


*yes, I am *of* *course* kidding...

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  1. Yes Bob - let's do away with the big corporations altogether, by using MySpace, which is now part of a big corporation.

    The change is exciting though, isn't it?

    Your spot on Indie 911 states that you're a fan of, or influenced by Big Audio Dynamite, yes?
    Did you get to see any of their gigs? I was at the Anti-Aparthied gig at Clapham Common just so that I could listen to the three songs they performed before (as Mick Jones told us at the time) they 'closed the park'...and I also saw them at the Subteranea, Notting Hill when they toured for 'Megatop Pheonix', which was arguably their finest work. I thought they were miles better than The Clash.

    All the best with your musical ventures.

  2. Sure, murdoch space aren't in it for charidee Istster, but there are other great places such as Garageband and Indie 9/11 that, had they been around (old git alert, old git alert!) in my day, would have made the whole business of music making *very* different..

    I guess the other argument that should temper my enthusiasm for the dawning of the Age of Blogqarius is the fact that the ease with which one can make music at home is as much a spur to the way things are going as the consumer end. This is fine in the hands of genuine musical innovators such as you and I Ist, but by crackee there's some pony out there too.

    I'd just like to put the B.A.D. thing in context, for other readers here. You can put down your influences on a lot of these things and I tried to do mine aplphabetically, so it reads something like:

    Big Audio Dynamite
    Pretty much anything beginning with B, actually...

    But yes, they were excellent at times. I have to admit, I only really know the first LP with Medicine Show and E=MC2 on. There's also one that has the line "when Tojo did the Mojo back in 42..." which I always liked.

    As for better than the Clash, I dunno. I think the more experimental Clash stuff from Sandinista onwards, where they got into break beats and sound a bit Talking Headsy at times is a bit overlooked, myself. So B.A.D was really just a continuation of that aspect, really, only with Don Letts let loose with A sampler. Never saw them in the flesh though.

    L.U.V. on ya,


  3. Good rant Bob. You have a point about Myspace but istvanski is right about the irony of it all. Strange times we live in.

  4. Rant, Dickster? Rant??

    I'm just warming to my subject!!

    L.U.V. on ya,


  5. I guess there's less of an irony to it all Dick if you see myspace as a smart, opportunistic (and *very* swift) reaction to the dangers spelled out to the music industry as we know and loathe it by the emergence of download technology.

    Basically, there exists the potential right now for someone like me (42, April 17th coming - get those cards and prezzies lined up while you can, it might be your last chance...) to basically produce, manufacture and market my own material in a profitable way, with complete artistic and image control, without stepping out of my door. ("You can know alll things on earth"...) So, you know, multiply the opportunities for young, gorgeous, hungry types to really make a big noise without having to go cap in hand to anyone. I bet the Arctic Monkeys will one day kick themselves for not having held off taking a deal from a label and kept the whole thing to themselves.

    I say all this from the purely analytical point of having asked the question how does someone like me who is - let's face it - basically unpromotable under the conventional music industry model, get his songs heard by some of the reasonably large number of people out there I know would at least quite like them? And it will happen - on a small scale, perhaps, but there will be an LP and downloads and it will all have been done with no support other than that of you good people, family and friends; a little piece of my heart, straight to yours and one small, silent, single finger salute to wanker world, the Grauniad and all the shitty little arbiters of taste with no taste themselves.

    So, that'll be $19.99 then Dickster - you did want the S.E. unsigned copy, I take it? The signed one I can do you for ten.

    L.U.V. on ya,


    ...and yes, before you all write in, I know - Hitler was Aries too. And vegetarian...

  6. Was this post written by Bob (the slightly less mad)'s Grandad?

    Anyhow, everybody knows NME's always been shite and Melody Maker (RIP) ruled.

    (anyhow, top secret this Bob, but I might be coming into some money (about £500!) and I might buy a proper computer so I can listen to pod-casts and munter-space and stuff! Shhh, though. not sorted yet.)

  7. Sure I'll buy one. But I'm not sure how it works ultimately. I guess people hear something they like and tell their friends and so on. Then the breadheads (haven't used that expression for ages) see the potential and buy you out.

    That song of yours 'All My Heroes Let Me Down' is very good. I think with the right handling (it needs remixing) and some promotion it could really fly. It's certainly one of the best solo efforts I've come across on Myspace.

    I guess only you know what you want. Do you want a more commercial sound or are you happy to give it away on Myspace? Do you want to be a mysterious cult figure or do you want to fill the Albert Hall? Or both?

  8. I think the Klaxons are shite I don't really care if 2 trillion people disagree.
    The way I remember NME had some good writing but they were always so bloody miserable with it. Reading it never failed to make me depressed or perhaps that was just me being a teenager.

  9. I read somewhere the Klaxons couldn't wait to sell out. What kind of message does this send to Myspace purists?

  10. Oh, I used to love the NME when I was a teenager. The more poncey and pretentious it was the better, especially if it was full of loads of bands I was never going to be able to hear. Look, I was stuck in a backwater that was twenty years behind the times, there was nothing else to do.

    I've only heard that single by the Klaxons, which I like, but it isn't meant to be representative of them. Aren't they meant to sound like Jesus Jones?

    Oh dear. New rave? Chance would be a fine thing.

    I'm off to put me dusk mask on and smear meself with Vics Vaporub.

  11. "Was this post written by Bob (the slightly less mad)'s Grandad?"

    Spinster, Just because you've done a few drugs, it doesn't mean you're going to be a teenager forever, I'm afraid. One day you too will have difficulties avoiding wee seepage and will be comforted when you see young people with half their arses showing who still think it's cool to wear Rolling Stones t-shirts...I know it seems far off now, but tempus is still fugiting away....

    So, the premium bonds have come up have they? If you'd only *asked*, *I'd* have bought you a PC, Oh divine Bristols from Bristol....

    Realdoc: I was expecting the Klaxons to sound *extraordinary*, so was *inevitably* disappointed - but what I heard sounded OK, they stand out from the herd, which is about all you can expect, I suppose.

    Dickster - v. kind words re Hero. [Blushes] What exactly would make you happier about the mix? And don't say 'lose the vocals'....

    Betty: NME blah blah blah, provincial town...blah blah blah ...*VIX VAPORUB??!!??* *Now* you're talking.

    Save some for me....

  12. Oohh I feel all privilaged. So witout any further ado i'll have option c please Bob, as i'd quite like to know why he is a *cunt*
    (see I am still here, honestly I haven't buggered off anywhere exciting.)

  13. Dickster - v. kind words re Hero. [Blushes] What exactly would make you happier about the mix? And don't say 'lose the vocals'....

    I hate critiquing people on their blogs. It sounds like I know what I'm talking about and it's just my opinion anyway. I do have a few comments which may be helpful Bob, I'll email you if I can find your address.

  14. Dickster,

    I really don't mind you posting stuff here - you know my views on healthy debate etc. and I don't mind how harsh you are...

    However, if you don't feel you can let rip here, mail me:

    I don't check the other one very often anymore.

    L.U.V. on ya,


  15. Well OK then. I just thought Roberta sounded a bit weak and distant. But maybe it's intentional. I know she's a very shy person at heart. But then again she does want to be noticed. True artists are full of contradictions.