Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Talking about music is the new writing about music

Somebody came up to me at Monday night's Word In Your Ear show at the Betsey Trotwood, which was billed as A Night Playing Records And Talking With Richard Williams and Kate Mossman, and asked if there was any chance of The Word coming back. I think I surprised him with the certainty with which I said "over my dead body".

I might miss the working environment but I don't miss the work involved in putting together a monthly magazine. Richard Williams said that one of the pleasures of doing his blog The Blue Moment was that he wrote what he felt like and nobody told him it was 200 words too long or spoiled it with an inappropriate headline.

I value lots of the things the magazine provided but a lot of the time I think it may work better through conversation. This is what I like about the Word In Your Ear format. This stuff's best dealt with by talking about rather than reading about.

I don't mean dry discussions about what ought to be in the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize or whatever happened to the protest song. Life's too short for all of that. There were a few things touched on in Monday night which nobody's ever going to write 3,000 words about that I find a lot more interesting than the things people do write 3,000 words about.

Things such as: why you get so few pop songs about Saturday night nowadays; how come the best disco singers have a hint of sadness in their voices; how Spitting Image used to make current affairs intelligible to a five year-old; why 1965 was the annus mirabilis of the pop single; what the inside of your head sounded like when you were fifteen; how pop singers might still function with Alzheimer's and why the greatest dance records by-pass your defences and speak to your true self.

I love all this stuff. It's the kind of stuff I used to love talking about on the Word podcast. It's something I hope we can keep alive through Word In Your Ear.

The next one, which is on October 9th at the Old Queens Head in Essex Road, features Mark Lewisohn, the world's foremost expert on The Beatles, talking about Tune In, the first volume of his mammoth trilogy about the band. We've also got Bob Stanley who's publishing Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop. That's in addition to the genuinely inimitable chap hop sounds of Mr B The Gentlemen Rhymer. Tickets are on sale here.  If you liked the Word Podcast or True Stories Told Live you might like this too. In fact if you go to this page and put the word "banjolele" where it says "enter promotional code" you can get tickets for just £10.

And don't forget our motto: it starts early; it finishes soon afterwards.


  1. Perhaps this is a good place and moment to confess that I miss the Word podcast more than the magazine itself (sorry). Is there any possibility of the podcast being resurrected - all participants seemed to enjoy doing it which is probably why I loved listening to it as much as I did?

  2. Steve, this isn't something you have to apologise for. Mark and I say the same thing all the time. We'd love to find a way we could do it again but, having given away almost 200 hours of podcasts during the magazine's life, when we were all in the same office every day and could at least justify the use of our time on the grounds that it might have some promotional value, we're not going to start giving away even more hours just to make you or us feel better. As things stand there's no sensible way to charge for podcasts. If there was, wouldn't everybody be doing it? But "live" may be a different story.

  3. Would it be possible to either stream or release the WIYE events later on for those who cant get there? I'm sure there are logistical issues but if they could be resolved I'd chuck in my 99p download fee like a shot. And would do so every week for that matter. I'm sure plenty of previous Word subscribers who loved the podcasts would do likewise - maybe we should do a survey on the Afterword!?

  4. David, I'm with Steve on this. Spent many a happy hour listening to all sorts of stuff on Word podcasts .. got turned on to music I never thought I would listen to .. books that I would otherwise never had read. Don't get me wrong: the mag was great but I loved listening to you guys chunter away on all manner of subject.

    Is there any mileage in pursuing the live + podcast model i.e. paid event and free podcast? Reason I ask is that Kevin Smith (American movie director) does this as a pretty much full-time venture nowadays with shows like Hollywood Babble-on and Jay & Silent Bob Get Old selling out smallish venues but doing big numbers via iTunes.

    I'd like to think you chaps have enough devotees to stage financially viable monthly happenings whilst keeping the (wider) Massive satiated.

    Just a thought ...

    All the best


  5. Don't want anyone to think we're being defeatist about this but there isn't a single proposed method of keeping the podcast alive that we didn't look into very very closely, often with actual costs and a pocket calculator at hand, and none of them made sense.

    You might be ready to pay 99p - and we're very grateful for people's interest - but we wouldn't get all of that 99p.

    The Kevin Smith parallel is flattering but he's worked in film - which is an enormous field - in America - which is an enormous country - and he's in the comics business, which is bigger than ever.

  6. It certainly seems to me that podcasting profitably (or simply covering cost) is one of the internet's Holy Grails. What a shame it is that people perceive them as "easy to make so not worth paying for" without really considering how much effort goes into each episode. Perhaps that's a point of view that will change in time, in the same way that the one off live experience has gradually become more valued than recorded music. I live in the West Midlands so getting to the Word In Your Ear evenings has not been possible thus far, but one of these days I'll make it to one I hope, because they sound great fun. Continued good luck with, and enjoyment from, them, and if you see a bootlegger lurking in a dark corner one night please give him my email address. Thanks for the reply David.

  7. I was a little disappointed to discover that you and Mark had to "get together" after the demise of The Word to have lunch or whatever. I realised that, ever since Smash Hits, I'd kind of thought that you lived in the same house, like Morecambe and Wise. Or The Monkees.

  8. I would happily read 3000 words on any of the topics that you mention in your blog. However, they are probably the kind of off-kilter subjects that would benefit from the back and forth that you get from a live discussion.

  9. Comedians do tours.
    Authors do readings.
    Could journos do a two-man hack?

    I'm hoping to see Duckworth Lewis later this month. Maybe they need a support act.

  10. I'm kind of surprised that Aunty Beeb hasn't demanded or allocated a weekly radio talk show hosted by David and Mark. Given that one or both of them are one of the first ports of call for comment on any happening in the music world it would make sense to have them on tap. That would then become a weekly podcast by default. There was very little material on the Word podcasts that wasn't broadcastable. (Van Morrison included). Any chance David?

  11. Mr H, I was the muppet who asked you about the Word coming back as trad paper-based monthly magazine on Monday night and was sent back to my fizzy beer with the tail between me legs. The thing is out here in the sticks where I live, witty and informative conversation the like of which I enjoyed on Monday night is hard to come by. (Maybe I am the problem, but I'll postpone that hard and unforgiving self-scrutiny for later.) So I had to make do with the next best thing, or the second next best thing after the poddies (can I call them that? No!), which was your wunnerful mag.

    However, Monday was the first WIYE I have managed to get to and it was well worth the effort. So while I will be exerting myself, and urge everyone else to do likewise, to get along to the next one, I will be keeping the inane questions to myself.

    Regards to you.

  12. Tony, you're not a muppet and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. It's just the business of closing a magazine is such a stressful business that once it's behind you it's oddly pleasurable to be able to assure people that there's no going back. Glad you enjoyed it on Monday night.

  13. Can I just add my name to the list of people who'd happily chuck a few quid in the hat for recordings of the WIYE gigs. I'd love the podcasts to come back, but completely understand why they can't. However, I'd think that something PayPally on the WIYE website and mp3 downloads would generate a few bob.