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Monday, March 23, 2015

I don't know about the future of the music press but its past gets better all the time

A questionnaire about the future of the music press was doing the rounds online this weekend. "Do you get most of your information about music from press or from blogs?" That kind of thing. I stopped filling those in a while ago. They're mostly sent by journalism students hoping they can turn their dissertation into a gig. I tell them the gig's gone but they want to believe that's not true so badly that they try to reason the music press back into rude health.

They'd be better off reading a couple of new memoirs about rock journalism from the days when the living was easy and the cotton was high. Shake It Up Baby! is by Norman Jopling and it's sub-titled "notes from a pop music reporter 1961-1972".

For instance, in the week of May 15th 1965 Norman's in the Savoy with The Beatles who've come to see Bob Dylan. They go to the restaurant and order porridge and pea sandwiches. Paul sings their new single "Help!" to him and says "I think John and I are writing different sorts of songs now....I can't say whether they're better or worse but they're certainly different."

The other book is Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the '60s by Richard Goldstein, who was the man who wrote the "Pop Eye" column in the Village Voice and therefore has a claim to be the world's first rock critic. By the late sixties the chummy tone of Norman Jopling's articles in the Record Mirror had given way to something altogether more knowing.

For instance, Goldstein remembers talking to Jimi Hendrix in New York in 1970. "Hendrix was stupefied, his shirt stained with what looked like caked puke. There was no publicist to make excuses or even wipe him up."

There's nothing quite as seedy as the Hendrix encounter or as epochal as dinner with the Beatles in Mark Ellen's Rock Stars Stole My Life!: A Big Bad Love Affair with Music, which has just come out in paperback, but there is a vivid and some say quite amusing account of what it was like to work for NME, Smash Hits, Q and the rest when the business was exploding in every direction. In some senses that was the best era of all. I would say that, wouldn't I?

Mark and I are talking to Richard Goldstein and Norman Jopling at next Tuesday's Word In Your Ear at the Islington. Anybody with even a passing interest in what it was like when the going was good really ought to be there.

Meanwhile, here's Richard interviewing Jim Morrison in 1969.