Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ambition still calls our every tune ...

Continuing with the literary theme of the ninth issue of Your Heart Out, which can be downloaded for free in the legendary library on your left, hearty shouts of approval were given to Nick Tosches' Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll. One of our very favourite music books, it consists of a number of pithy pen portraits of the pioneers who shaped what would become r'n'r but somehow didn't get their dues. Written at a time when hardly anyone gave two hoots about the likes of Wanda Jackson, Johnny Ace, Ella Mae Morse, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and so on, it's irreverent and argumentative and captures something much more about the spirit of r'n'r, the immediacy, the urgency, than any number of scholarly books ever could.

Of course the world of journalism and music publications has changed a lot since the early '80s when Tosches wrote the articles that make up Unsung Heroes. Now there almost seems to be a natural career progression, a defined trajectory to follow. Get a degree. Start out somehow, somewhere with a blog or an independent publication, graduate to the music monthlies, the broadsheets, get contacts, get a publishing deal, stick some vague thoughts together, and hey presto your mates will give you some good reviews and you'll do a signing session with some friends DJing. Pah!

Do you mind if I get personal for a moment? Drop the old royal we thing? Years ago now, many years ago, I did a fanzine. I wrote it because I felt I needed to. Needed to communicate how strongly I felt about certain groups who were not getting written about elsewhere, or who perhaps were being written about in a way that would put their own mums off them. I wasn't looking for fame or recognition. I just needed to say certain things. The great thing was these fanzines reached far and wide (nigh on impossible in the digital age ...erm?) and people started getting in touch who seemed to feel the same way, seemed to feel as desperate as me. Among those people were two kids who were I think at college in Bristol or was one in Sheffield? Their names were Mark and Matt. They were crazy about Hurrah! and the Jasmine Minks. They loved what I was writing and wrote long, wonderful letters. In time they started a fanzine called Are You Scared To Get Happy? It became a real success, though we lost touch, moving in quite different musical directions. I only ever met them once. Appropriately it was at a Creation/Kitchenware night at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. The Jasmines were scary that night. Adam had his kilt on, fastened with a Ramones badge. Jim had his hair cropped, and went mad at a heckler. Anyway I remember Matt and Mark saying they felt like country bumpkins among the London hipsters, which I never understood.

A lot happened. Matt ran the Sarah label with Clare. He later put together the wonderful London mag Smoke, with Jude whose career trajectory subsequently followed quite orthodox paths. Matt meanwhile as far as I know is not a best selling author. He may write under a pseudonym as a romantic novelist selling millions worldwide. I hope so. But I doubt it. Nevertheless, despite differences in taste, I was always a huge fan of his way with words, and his wit, but instead of being able to enjoy his writing we instead are subjected to the kind of idiot who graduates from a blog to The Wire or New Statesman or Mojo or The Observer. And don't worry I'm not bitter and twisted. I've been lucky in a way. People have been exceptionally kind. I just wish more of them would tell the world about Your Heart Out. Sometimes you feel like someone standing on a corner trying to give away fivers. Sometimes you wonder if it's worth carrying on.

Nick Tosches thankfully did carry on writing, becoming the Peter Ackroyd of rock and the rackets. Among his books is a biography of The Killer, which gives us an excuse to upload this. Just watch those mod girls dig Jerry Lee ...


  1. Don't worry Kev. Its all happening exactly as its supposed to. Excellent post by the way. I wish you'd get personal more often.

  2. carry on duckie and know that we need you