Sunday, 14 May 2017

Reading Matter

I have always been a big fan of music magazines. Back in the beginning there was Sounds which always had a wider range of music than NME. NME was always a bit intimidating, out in Keynsham we never felt quite cool enough for it. Sounds spoke to the kids in out of the way places, like Keynsham!

About 1978 there was a short lived glossy magazine called, Rock On. This was what would today be called a legacy magazine (Mojo, Classic Rock) and had articles on the history of bands like Pink Floyd, Status Quo and Fleetwood Mac, with reviews and posters. Terrible writing and worse editing (I know now) but for the information starved teenage budding rock fan, absolute gold.

Later on there were sneaky reads of my sister's Smash Hits and buying Sounds International and Musician, but until Q, started up in the mid eighties there was a drought so far as informative magazines were concerned.

Recently I read Mark Ellen's memoir of his magazine days "Rock Stars Stole My Life!" A great read (or listen; I did the Audiobook), which tells you a lot about the business of music writing as well as the gossip. He tells of leaving Mojo when the corporate world became too much and the life and death of The Word, a magazine I read from first to last issues and loved for the quality of it's writing and depth of knowledge. In fact my reading journey seems to have followed Ellen, Smash Hits, Q, Select, Mojo, The Word...

So today following the collapse of Team Rock at the end of 2016, the general decline in readership and the advertising revenue that supports it, we have the general reads like Q, the legacy mags, Mojo, Classic Rock etc forever looking over their shoulders, and increasingly niche publications aimed at ever tighter segments of the market. Country, Prog, Blues all have their own, and now Planet Rock Radio have started a new competitor to Classic Rock. The downside is that the really good niche rock papers, Fireworks and Powerplay will likely lose sales to it as well. As both these but particularly  Firworks are written with care, knowledge and an understanding of the reader's expectations they need to survive, if nothing else to ensure we aren't just fed magazines that are aimed more
at the needs of advertising than written for the music fan.

What do I read currently?

Fireworks, AOR, Hard Rock, increasingly drifting into other related areas. If this is your thing buy it.
Mojo If it has something on the cover that interests me (about twice a year)
Uncut Ditto
Shindig Back when it was quarterly it was a brilliant on 60s, 70s and obscurities that you had to rush out and listen to, now Monthly there has been a slip in quality. The recent article on Be Bop Deluxe was such a car crash that I haven't been back, although when something interesting appears on the cover I will doubtless buy it. Reviews section always has something good in it.
JazzWise best Jazz magazine by far.

Online magazines are getting better all the time, I like Louder Than War and Paste

And then there are Blogs, but that's another kettle of worms altogether...

Monday, 1 May 2017

Mixing It...

A while back I touched on mix tapes. This weekend we went to see Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, good fun film as was the first one. The music and mix tapes are a key part of the film and I got wondering what makes a good song for a tape, or playlist.

In High Fidelity Nick Hornby gives all sorts of rules for creating a tape,the only one I have ever followed is not to have two tracks from the same artist consecutively. Like many people I was making mix tapes and playlists long before the iPod and long before they were a fashion accessory. I just made them to listen to. Oddly many songs that make it onto a playlist aren't ones I would pick out as favourites. There needs to be a rhythm to a playlist, a flow that carries you through the songs. The Cinema (Curzon in Clevedon, visit it) played the first Awesome Mix CD before the new film and it struck me that following 'Fooled Around and Fell in Love' (pretty much the perfect mix tape song with Mickey Thomas' soaring vocal and a cracking guitar solo) with 10CC 'I'm Not in Love' broke up the flow so badly that even 'I Want You Back' one of those songs around the top end of happy, couldn't rescue it. Playlists do need a couple of harsh transitions between songs to make sure the listener is awake, 'Cherry Bomb' does that just fine on the Guardians Of The Galaxy CD, but that needs to reset the mood not stick out like a sore thumb. 

Damn it I do have rules after all, and here are some more, Pop, Rock in all their forms go together, some country, you can add in most Soul or R&B, the mainstream end of Reggae perhaps, but Jazz, most Folk Music or anything Avant Garde are a step too far, especially if you expect to play it in the car with civilians present. If you are reading this I sort of take it for granted that the latest Rap & Techno probably aren't on heavy rotation on your iPod. 

The second Guardians of the Galaxy CD is far more a soundtrack than a mix tape, the songs work well in the film but hang together far less well as an album. At the end of the new film Peter is given a Zune "with 300 songs on it!", which will make the soundtrack to the next film a doddle.