My wife is English. It’s a matrimonial match that comes with certain advantages. There is, for instance, the accent. While I still do not enjoy being told to pick up my socks or mow the lawn, my British bride’s lovely lilt does take some of the edge off.
And then there’s the magazines.
You see, my wife was not my first English love. That honor belongs to the vibrant and engaging British music press. While I remain a consumer of American music magazines, my heart belongs to the weekly English newspaper NME and the monthly Q.
It belongs to specialty publications such as the classic rock focused Mojo and general interest mags like Uncut. The English have, for years, embraced the idea of music and the music industry as worthy of serious, thoughtful and informed journalism and criticism. I feel fortunate that my continued connection to England has kept my British music magazine pipeline open.
Recently, I got a new stack, an assortment of six or eight publications spanning about three months. Much of what was covered was expected, but still interesting, news: The European festival season. The strife and drama that continues to surround defunct rock act Oasis. New acts that will flare briefly and, in the way only English acts can, disappear without a trace. Interesting, but not unexpected.
There were also a few features built around the music fan’s natural inclination for nostalgia. They recounted once-great acts and music movements, particularly prolific periods of time and places that seemed to produce an inordinate number of successful acts. They were stories I found interesting – interesting and incredibly irritating.
Nothing gets under my skin quite as effectively as an artist claiming a particular time or place to be more significant than another.
Memphis in the ’50s, London in the ’60s, the Bowery in the ’70s and Compton in the ’80s were no different than any other time or town. They are considered significant because of the artists associated, but those artists could have been from anywhere. The Talking Heads would have been just as interesting had they played regularly in Chicago dive bars rather than CBGBs.
The reason I find this so infuriating is that by placing a premium on those things tangential to the art produced, writers are, in fact, stealing some of the spotlight from the talented musicians who have produced that work.
Oasis was an interesting act because it deftly combined elements from a variety of classic British rock acts and forms. The fact the band started, along with a handful of others, in the industrial city of Manchester hardly matters of all.
Great music is timeless.
Great music can come from anywhere.
Assigning it a place and period is unnecessary.