Music:I have to go with Joy Division here, even if that decision inspires a measure of guilt
Life in a Northern Town
Paul Morley of New Musical Express fame has a long piece in today's edition of The Observer in which he reflects, in a rather rambly and rosy-tinted way, on his experiences in the Manchester and, to a lesser extent, Liverpool music scenes in the wake of punk. The ground he treads is already so smooth with wear that it would make sense if nothing were to grow there for decades. But there are moments of such fine writing in his piece that I don't care that it's the antithesis of new. Take this paragraph on The Fall, for example:
By mid-1977, the instantly intimidating and incendiary Fall were blasting tinny sound into cryptic song, fronted by that creepily normal looking maniac first spotted violently heckling Paul Weller - 'fucking Tory scum' - when the Jam played the Electric Circus. The Fall's first show seemed to be played in front of an audience that consisted entirely of the Buzzcocks. Mark E Smith's earliest performances, where he was often playing in tiny clubs or rooms that sometimes seemed to be where you were actually living were possibly the angriest thing you would ever see in your life. It seemed he was being so angry on your behalf. You sometimes didn't think he'd make it to the next song, let alone 30 years and 30 albums, some of which sound like they were made before they even existed. Through a harsh northern filter, the Fall channelled into their songs a night's John Peel show from the mid-Seventies, one of the darker, stranger ones on which he played rockabilly, dub, psychedelic pop, garage punk, New York punk, English punk, Canned Heat, the Groundhogs, Peter Hammill, Henry Cow and Faust. The Fall might in the end be Manchester's greatest group, if only because there have been at least 20 Falls, one leading to another, all of them with the same lead singer, who's always the same and never the same twice.
I love the mind-bending inspired by, "some of which sound like they were made before they even existed." And that description of Mark E. Smith certainly places the recent furor chronicled here in perspective. You could learn a lot about how to make music sound exciting by reading prose with this much pith. I like to think I already have.