Thursday, October 24, 2019

There's nothing so potent as an old podcast - unless it's three hundred-odd of them

Fraser's worked some everyday magic and now all the Word podcasts are on Spotify. That means you can follow this link and go back all the way to the first weekly one from 2007,  done in the small room where Mixmag used to store all the clothes for fashion shoots, right through to the most recent ones, which are recorded at the Islington in front of a live audience.

There are over three hundred of them and they probably average a running time of around forty-five minutes so you could probably drive to Afghanistan listening to nothing but. I'm sure there will be some people who will complain that they still haven't got the full, longer version of one from the days when they were only available to subscribers but personally I think it's a miracle that they're there in any form at all. They were certainly not done with any thought of posterity.

They contain contributions from all sorts of people, from Matt Hall, who first suggested that we ought to do it regularly, to Word writers and staff members such as Andrew Harrison, Jude Rogers, Rob Fitzpatrick, Andrew Collins and Kate Mossman. There's a period of a good few years when Fraser Lewry was always in the room, manning the levels and making his own characteristic contribution.

The nearest thing to ever-presents are Mark Ellen and me. We didn't set out to do this but what we've ended up with is a unique record of what poured forth on hundreds of perfectly ordinary days when we just went in the other room, with scarcely any preparation, opened the faders and yakked. That adds up to hundreds of hours of us just gassing, just trying to keep the bright red ball of human interest in the air not for as long as it took to line up a record but right to the end of the hour. Most of the time there are no edits.

People liked to say they liked the Word podcast because it sounded like a lot of mates having a conversation in the pub. Well imagine that you had recordings of all your conversations in the pub. That's what it's like for me and Mark.

We can drop into these three hundred anywhere and suddenly be ported back to a time when Oasis had yet to break up, when Amy Winehouse was alive enough for us to make jokes about her, when Twitter was such a novelty that it required explanation, when we thought that all that work we'd put into the latest issue of the magazine was going to pay back in terms of an extended reach, when we still thought that the record business was a pretty big deal, rather than a sub-division of the information technology industry, when we talked about going into big record stores and looking at all the new releases. We didn't fully realise we were map-making in an earthquake zone.

There's also lots of personal stuff that wouldn't be noticeable to the casual listener. People talk about family weekends just past, about holidays taken, about Christmases coming up, about daft things that happened in the office the other day, about the sound of a passing police car denoting "the sound of Young Islington having it away on its toes".

For myself I never go back and look at the magazine but every time one of these old podcasts pops up on my phone I'm secretly thrilled and listen to the end. I'm not proud of them. Pride seems beside the point. We were only trying to please ourselves and in the course of that we happened to please a few others as well. And now there's a mountain of this stuff that you can enjoy again.

Noel Coward remarked on how potent cheap music could be. I think old podcasts are even more so.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Ginger Baker was the Stirling Moss of drumming

Following the death of Ginger Baker I asked on Twitter if there were any famous drummers left.

People replied with their nominations.

There were the obvious ones such as Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts.

Then there were names like Jim Keltner, who are known to people who study album credits.

Somebody pointed out that in the world of metal the drummer still had a certain celebrity.

But still the overwhelming majority of names came from the 60s and the 70s. This seemed to recognise the fact that the drummer hasn't had the same level of fame since the invention of automated percussion.

Ginger Baker was on the front page of The Times today, which is some indication of how famous he was. I think he was even quite well known amongst people who had never knowingly heard him.

He was the first celebrity drummer I can remember apart from Dave Clark and Dave didn't really count. Ginger was the first person I remember who did solos rather than breaks.

He also looked like a drummer, which I think is very important. He always played as if he felt his place was in the front line rather than at the back.

In the years when he was no longer in the spotlight it was impossible to talk for long about drumming without mentioning his name. The expression "like Ginger Baker" was a term widely understood.

People who drive fast are still regularly likened to Stirling Moss, who stopped driving in 1962.

Ginger Baker was to the drums what Stirling Moss was to racing cars.

That's a very special kind of immortality.