I was rather pleased to be described as a ‘musical commentator’ recently by Haworth Hodgkinson and that really set me thinking back to where my life as a musical commentator started.
So let me take you back through the mists of time, to the pre-Internet era of the late ’70s, a time of austerity , just at the time Margaret Thatcher came into power, it was a very different world, there were strikes everywhere, money was in the words of the song ‘too tight to mention’, and if you wanted to buy records, as I did, you got yourself a part-time job or hounded your parents to give you records or tapes for birthday or Christmas presents.
I delivered papers for my money, while still in secondary school, and as a keen young rock fan, I discovered the now legendary musical weeklies ‘Sounds’ and ‘NME’. These papers , along with the network of school friends who lent about their albums and swapped cassette recordings , fuelled my passion for music which remains undimmed as I reach the fabled ‘certain age’, my favourite album so far this year is Primal Scream’s ‘More Light’, which is absolutely brilliant.
Every week we would consult ‘Sounds’ or ‘NME’ to see which bands were coming up to Aberdeen and when their new albums were due out. My old mate Graeme Petrie always seemed to be the first to get the latest heavy metal albums , which back then was pretty cool. If you wanted to get your album before everyone else, it always helped if you had friends working in record stores and if you didn’t , there were always mail order companies. Music fans back in those days had fashions which went with the music , I suppose it’s bizarre when you think of this in the terms of 2013, but if you were a metal fan , a punk , mod or whatever, there was a ‘uniform’ that went with the music. In retrospect it was all about identity , about finding yourself and your place in the world, which clearly was not the world our parents had grown up in, the changing world of what would become known as ‘Thatcher’s Britain’, times of strife and anger , which it would be fair to say was reflected in the anger of some of the music of that period. Anyway , we would also comment on what the critics said about the albums and bands we liked, and this certainly shaped my musical tastes. My favourite critics from Sounds were Sandy Robertson and Edwin Pouncey , and they certainly sent me off on my course of discovery of music of all kinds. In my schooldays, I vacillated between the not so different musics of metal and punk (which my favourite band of the time, Motorhead, I reckon embodied). Once in my twenties , I delved deeper into music, taking in blues, psychedelia, folk, reggae, and basically all points in between.
So flashing forward to to 2013, things have changed beyond recognition , the way we buy our music has changed, and records stores , once the social hub and place of discovery, are a dying breed. I still mourn the passing of the legendary record store One-Up , which sadly closed in January of this year, and have resorted to buying online, at record fairs and charity shops.
I still love musical journalism, which is found online more than anywhere, and I have a bookcase full of musical criticism, by the likes of Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent, Greil Marcus, John Sinclair, Simon Reynolds,Jon Savage, Lester Bangs, to name but a few. I often comment verbally on music and am equally comfortable commenting on modern indie music as I am commenting on the likes of the avant classical Kronos Quartet or Sun Ra , purveyor of ‘out there’ jazz. I will be commenting or reviewing music in the coming months within these pages. Watch this space.