Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Many many years ago, shortly after I had left school and started drifting through a faintly miserable job that I still have no idea even now why I did, so far was it from anything I have been interested in before or since, and, worse, one that entailed me driving every single day - in a battered Ford Escort that was eventually and thankfully stolen from a multi storey car park in Southend and used as a (very slow) getaway car in an off licence robbery - from my parents house in Essex, along the dull ennui inducing A12, through the Dartford tunnel to a small village in rural Kent (that place again) where I tore my hair out in boredom and occasionally sloped off to hang out and smoke joints in, wait for it, Maidstone. During those days, a long way from where I wanted to be, and who I wanted to be, I developed a deep and abiding love for a weekly music paper. It kinda made up for everything else. It was my Open University course and my escape. Each Wednesday I drove from the office down to the village newsagent and picked up my copy of Melody Maker. Even the site of it made me feel better. It’s glossy cover and the deep shadows cast across the faces of its cover stars strike me even now as utterly perfect, capturing the heartbreaking thrill of an exotic pop world of the Other. I can picture one cover now: the blue of a swimming pool rippling across the cover, and in the middle, in a little box with a red frame, a photo of The Pixies, my favourite band of the time. I devoured those copies of Melody Maker. The Stud Brothers and David Stubbs and Simon Reynolds and Chris Roberts and Simon Price and, later towards the end of its official glory years, Taylor Parkes and Neil Kulkarni. But really, it was those late ‘80’s writers that got me with their assquaking rhetoric and their theoretical justifications for anti-social noise and their four page essays castigating Hue and Cry.
And I wonder now is it purely nostalgia that makes me think that this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore? Picking up a music paper to learn about George Bataille and Julia Kristeva! Reading fabulously erudite pieces on the Mutoid Waste Company! Interviews with Green Gartside about Jaques Derrida! I never understood anyone who denigrated the music press for being too pretentious. For me it was never pretentious enough, It could never be too intellectually aspirational for me. The writers had impeccable taste (so impeccable as to be of course totally, occasionally, questionable, I have distinct recollections of The Stud Brothers liking soft rock band Heart and, really, god bless ‘em for it). Quixotic, pointlessly vitriolic, funny and fabulously luxuriant writing that revelled in the opportunity and the time to go off on dizzying flights of fantasy about Public Enemy, The Young Gods, Throwing Muses, My Bloody Valentine. Even The freakin’ Mission. So I kept wondering as I occasionally picked up a copy of NME while waiting for a train in W H Smiths or bought Mojo in the airport and felt terribly old and irritated all over again by the Bob Dylan industry and the insufferable fair mindedness, that maybe MM wasn’t so great after all. Maybe it was like the Observer reviews that replaced it in the mainstream media. Reasonable, well-ish written, but dull, derivative, tediously un-pretentious. Or like the NME now, vapid and small-minded indie fare. And then I found myself in this shop in Manchester, with an hour to spare and I came across a box of late ‘80’s Melody Makers. And I read them and guess what? They were fucking brilliant. They got me into music but also so much more.
Posted by Charles Holland at Wednesday, February 20, 2008