Are there any decent blogs about music these days? I mean, aren't all music blogs these days just people posting YouTube clips and download links for songs and mix tapes? Is anyone actually writing about music any longer? More to the point, is anyone reading?
I am not sure why I stopped writing about music. Actually maybe that should read 'I am not sure why I stopped writing'. When I brought my old Tangents site to a shuddering halt back in Midsummer of 2007 there were all kinds of reasons not fit for airing in public. Or even in private. Call it a mid-life crisis. Call it exhaustion. Call it the creeping realisation that Work was taking over from Non-Work. Call it the victory of the call of the bicycle over the call of the typewriter. Outdoors versus indoors.
Maybe too it was giving into the inevitable: even in 2007 the days of websites where words were the dominant media were distinctly numbered. And the number was small.
So, does anyone write about music any longer? Ironically the question is on my mind more because of Work than Non-Work (it's not just me, you want to go and listen to Broadcast now too, don't you?). A colleague asked ages ago if I could recommend some blogs and/or books about music for a Year 10 boy who doesn't really like reading. Typically I have forgotten about it/put it off for far too long. And now it is a summer half term with clouds threatening outside and this is an avoidance technique through which I can put off any number of other tasks, not least of which would be the pile of marking. Anyway, I ask again: does anyone write about music any longer? And if they do, what could I possibly recommend to a year 10 boy?
See, here's the thing: I don't really care about tapping into what any teenager might be listening to in 2013. It is many years since it made any sense to me whatsoever. One of my colleagues said he was interested in 'challenging expectations' in his lessons, and I can relate to that. I think that's what we should be doing as teachers. Kids want to listen to the latest Radio 1 X-Factor whoever, fine, sure, let 'em do that. I'm not judging. Really, I'm not. But in MY class? You'd listen to *insert name of random Unpopular artiste* or nothing at all.
Anyway. Recommendations. For what it's worth, this is what I'd read if I had the time:
Everett True's 'Collapse Board' would be the obvious place to start. There are some great writers here. Period. They write about music, but they don't really. I mean, no-one who really writes about music in any interesting way actually writes about music, do they? The music is incidental. Just like war or fishing or hunting or bullfighting is incidental with Hemingway.
Louder Than War. If I could really find the energy to care much about 'Punk' and such like I might like Louder Than War more than I do. I still find John Robb amusing though.
Your Heart Out. Not really a blog at all, but Kevin Pearce's project of downloadable pamphlets is astonishing in its breadth and depth. Your Heart Out takes the initial premise of Tangents (tangential connections and pathways) and takes it into uncharted territories. If I was a teenager I'd probably be overwhelmed and confused, but if that's not the definition of being a teenager I don't know what is.
And can I just point you at the archived Tangents site, gathering digital dust way over here? Sometimes I sneak a peek myself and amaze/depress myself at the amount of words we used to write.
As for books, well, you asked for it (actually YOU didn't, but you know what I mean):
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung - Lester Bangs
Sure, it's obvious NOW, yes, but man, just imagine reading that as a teenager. Imagine you never heard 'Astral Weeks' before reading Bangs. Imagine you never heard Lou Reed before picking up on Lester…
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom - Nik Cohn
If you can read this and NOT: 1. Fall in love with the immersive power of rock'n'roll and 2. Despair at how tragically rock'n'roll went off the rails, then hey, you have no heart, soul, imagination, optimism or cynicism.
Something Beginning with O
- Kevin Pearce
If you could find a copy without needing to take out a mortgage you would know… You'd just KNOW.
Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story - Victor Bockris & Gerard Malanga
Okay, here's the deal. Choose a hot summer's day. Lie out in the sun with your Raybans on. Read 'Uptight'. Reflect on the fact that life will never be the same again.
From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-punk History for the Post-punk World - Clinton Heylin
Because the US punk scene was always immeasurably cooler than the UK punk scene.
But Jon Savage had a pretty good go at making the UK punk scene seem interesting...
Ask: Chatter of Pop - Paul Morley
If you can remember the '80s you weren't there.
The Go-Betweens - David Nichols
Because everyone needs to read a book about The Go-Betweens. They just do.
Positively George Street: "Sneaky Feelings" and the Dunedin Sound - Matthew Bannister
Because everyone needs to read a book about Flying Nun and the New Zealand music scene. They just do.
Live Through This: American Rock Music in the Nineties / Nirvana: The True Story - Everett True
Because I understand a lot of young people are still into the whole Cobain/Nirvana thing. Even though they all actually just listen to Foo Fighters and don't know who The Vaselines were. Oh, plus I got a thanks in the intro to 'Live Through This'
"Radiohead" - Welcome to the Machine: "Ok Computer" and the Death of the Classic Album - Tim Footman
I personally have zero interest in Radiohead, but Tim says nice things about my own book in this, so it's in...
Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons
- Ben Fong-Torres
Can't imagine many teenagers these days being even remotely interested in Gram Parsons, but sheesh, if I had my way…
I guess the whole Laurel Canyon story is more likely to appeal to forty-something burnouts than anyone under the age of twenty, but meh, if I met my eighteen year old self I'd foist this on him (and he'd throw it back in my face and call me an old hippy).
Sway - Zachary Lazar
A novel loosely wrapped around facts, but if I was going to read any book about The Rolling Stones this would be it.
And can I finally be cheeky and recommend my own (now ageing) slim collection 'Young and Foolish: A Personal Pop Odyssey'? You can get in on Kindle you know. Complete with typos and bad grammer and everything. There's a whole section in it dedicated to the Belle & Sebastians when they were whippersnappers don't you know.
I'm sure there is a load of on-line and off-line stuff I've forgotten/don't know about. Leave a comment if you want to recommend something/someone... comments will be open for a week or so.