By Lawrence Piddock
I’ve been away for a little while. I’ve not been idle, but plans have gone awry. My idea for a CSS tribute band involving kazoos, bassoons and a ukulele didn’t quite work out. Neither did my quick fire game show featuring twelve hosts and a couple of schizophrenic contestants called Who Said That? Which has bizarrely not been picked up by any of the TV stations I pitched it to, not even Bravo or Nuts TV...
Also it doesn’t help when you send pieces to somebody and they don’t read them (a little clue, his first name’s Kevin...*).
Anyway, last time I wrote I was having a pop at festivals and this leads on a tad conveniently. A piece in the pre-Glastonbury NME excelled itself when it declared that if people were willing to protest against U2 for dodging taxes in Eire, then why aren’t people were willing to protest against Beyonce taking a princely sum for performing a private gig for the Gadaffi family a couple of years back.I’d like to make it clear that I had very little time for the not-so-dearly-departed Gadaffi and his ilk, but there was more chance of the Daleks turning up on the Pyramid Stage during Coldplay’s set and exterminating Chris Martin than any anti-Beyonce protest ever happening.
And the NME know it...
Because, let’s face it, they’ve got form when it comes to this kind of lower league shit-stirring. I, and fellow bloggers of a certain age, can recall NME’s then resident spartist, Steven Wells, a man who gave the impression of somebody itching to have a pop at New Order for having a band name with right-wing connotations. Or expose Karl Marx as Nazi on the grounds of being a) German and b) Never a fully paid-up member of the Communist Party. Either way at least Wells had some genuine opinions, even if it was blindly obvious to a dewy eyed 17 year old harbouring some strange delusions about wanting to be a music journalist (Dad, you were right, I was wrong. I’ll buy you that pint at Christmas), that he would never have the guts to ask New Order to their face.
Zoom forward a few years to 1993 when the BNP won a council seat in Tower Hamlets. The NME and to a lesser extent Melody Maker decide to recapture some of their late 70s radical chic by trying to organise its readers with some rabble rousing (laced with a distinct ignorance of political history and sadder still a touch of anti-Semitism). One day future historians will uncover these and get the impression that the BNP had won a general election with John Major acting as a hapless Von Papen/Hindenburg figure (had the BNP bothered to read the music press they would’ve lapped it up). It all faded away to nothing by Christmas as they started to write about New Wave of New Wave and something called Britpop.
In 2009, when Rage Against The Machine beat the X-Factor winner Joe McElderry to the Christmas number one spot. The NME’s editor, Conor McNicholas (who was oblivious that its success was down to the Facebook campaign and to a lesser extent Jedward’s mum), got carried away as if he was about to storm the bastille. Spouting “Young voices who previously struggled to be heard, have taken on the establishment and won, what else can we turn the power of this collective to?” His campaign was ignored, people are still watching X-Factor, Jo bloody Whiley is still holding down a job and the only thing that seems to have changed is the large number of copycat campaigns trying to get a different song to Christmas number one, it’s so fucking predictable.
You could easily argue that I’m old enough to know the score where this is concerned, and you’d be right. However, you would’ve also thought that with the welter of competition online, NME might have raised their game a tiny bit over recent years, but alas no. Maybe it’s time for a slightly more old school solution and for maybe someone with a bit of money to get together with some people with the right amount of chutzpah and get something together. I dunno, perhaps some kind of magazine about music, which comes out every week and doesn’t play some of the games that its main rival has been playing over the decades (Especially trying to badger people that it’s compulsory to like the Smiths). Hey! I’d even chip in a piece or two if they wanted, because not even Q will take me on after this little vignette!
It’s a long shot, but it might just work!
*Sorry for my tardiness Lawrence, I have it on good authority that I’m going to hell - KL