Why Do This?

8 02 2014

This blog has always been about celebrating the culture that makes me feel good. I’m afraid it’ll have to stay that way, no matter how much it’s more about me than it is about you.images

When I started writing this a few years ago, I had to think seriously about why I’d write it. Part of it was an exercise in social media, putting the component parts of blogging, Tweeting, Facebook posting, and self promotion together. It’s good to know their interconnectivity, how they bring people together, how they shred the old ways of publishing.images-1

Growing up I imagined writing or editing Rolling Stone magazine. It was my cultural sweet spot. It focused just about everything that meant the most to me with crystalline clarity. Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Jamaica Kincaid, Greil Marcus, Jan Wenner, Jan Morris, Cameron Crowe, Ben Fong-Torres, William Greider, and Kurt Loder had the tone and voice that brought everything home in just the right way. It’s become clear in the past 40 years that many are called but few are chosen. I don’t mind, now anyway, not being called to the Rolling Stone stable. It was a privilege just to lean on the fence from the outside. Still is, in many ways. But this  blog allows me to skip ahead in the line and push what I always felt was the best part of cultural criticism: Tell your friends what you like, why you like it, and no editor or publisher or company can tell you how to do it, or if you can do it at all. 

Criticism has many facets. I’m not wild about the school that values negativity over accentuating the positive. There’s less time and need now for slamming art for what it’s not. What it is is what counts, not what it could have been. That’s what I write about, the culture that improves my life day to day. This blog is just a list of what I’ve been reading, watching, and especially listening to. That’s all it is. My opinion may be less relevant than most cultural critics. I’m not bovvered.

The best part of writing this blog is passing on the culture that has enriched my life. If it enriches yours too, then a good thing has become even better.

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9 responses

8 02 2014
George Fuller III

Man, I love your attitude.

19 07 2014
Andy MacIntyre

Hi. The link to your blog was passed to me by Don Johnston, who is a work colleague and saw a blog I did for a playlist of tracks that I put together to accompany a 10K run. He asked for a link to my blog and we friended on Facebook. Couldn’t agree more on the above post. I started my blog after coming home from a business trip to India. The in-flight entertainment had the documentary ‘Springsteen and I’, which I watched and it inspired me to decide to go through his entire back catalogue (studio albums) from start to finish. I posted my thoughts afterward on FB and enjoyed it so much I decided to continue with other artists and start blogging on each one in the same way. I don’t necessarily choose artists I like, although the first two, Bruce and Kate Bush were chosen for that reason, but I do try to pick artists I have some kind of relationship with. If I am negative, I try to at least be funny about it, rather than malicious (I hope I never come across that way!) When I have done artists whom I have little knowledge of, e.g. Afghan Whigs and Pixies, I think the posts are weaker and less personal. It’s hard to build a relationship with a record on one listening. Oh. Also love Catherine Tate and her Lauren character, girls like that really do exist here in South London.

Andy

20 07 2014
Out There

Andy, thanks for taking the time to write this note. Don’s an evangelist in the best sense of the word and I always appreciate his guiding hand.

A tip of the cheese-cutter for the frequency of your postings. Your format is compelling. We’re constantly walking through catalogues anyway, so why not write about it. Gut level thoughts are valid and you do it well. I agree with your Kate Bush posting particularly. What an arc of music. Aerial is a favorite, as is Hounds of Love. If she didn’t believe in her work, she wouldn’t release it. It’s clear in every note that she is living those records. The Pixies are another favorite of mine. The last great rock band. There’s always someone doing something interesting, but a band at a peak & paving new paths is an awesome thing to behold. I haven’t had such a strong feeling about a rock band since probably Trompe le Monde.

You’ve inspired me by the way you’ve monetized the blog. Maybe that’s what I need to make myself post more often: a goal other than sharing my thoughts.

For the past 45 years or so, the cultural exchange between Britain and the US has been my cultural backdrop. When I began listening to music seriously, my British heroes always referenced American music as their inspiration. It’s only in the past 10 years or so that I’ve understood why they felt so strongly. The last 100 years have been one raucous aural party. It’s been such a pleasure witnessing it and knowing that others, like you, are enjoying it too.

20 07 2014
Andy MacIntyre

Thanks for the kind words Lee. Frequency of posting is not a problem. Spotify opens this whole world up to you, but then you immediately can’t decide what to listen to first. This gives me some discipline and I just write the blog as I go along. I also drip feed the albums onto Facebook to get some immediate response from my friends. By the time I get to the end of an artist I have a substantial post ready to go. I also do some quick posts on a theme, such as Eurovision and Bond, which are good fun when I have a free couple of hours.

Hadn’t really thought of it as monetizing to be honest, just posted a link to the 10K run post as it was all linked to the charity I support, but should really stick a permanent link on the page.

Don told me you were a devotee of Bowie, who I’m doing now. Case in point, I listened to Pin Ups today and discovered his cover of Springsteen’s ‘Growin’ Up’ which was released as part of a reissue in 1990. Would never have known about it otherwise.

21 07 2014
Out There

Bowie? There’s not enough web space to write my thoughts about him. We’re lucky to have lived at the time of so many musical greats and Bowie’s one. He played Atlanta in ’97 when Earthling was released. It’s a powerful, overlooked record. And instead of playing the local enormodome he booked the International Ballroom, in a Chino-Latino suburb, a place more used to wide brim hats, big belt buckles, and denim. A Norteno band would have been more in keeping with the place. Oddly enough, the Pet Shop Boys played there a month later. Tiny venue. I missed both shows. I’m sure I was doing something important, like, uh, I don’t know what. On reflection, no, I wasn’t that busy. Sarah McLaughlin played a mid-sized place the next night and I went because my girlfriend was interested. Sarah was big at the time and filled the place. During a tuning interlude she says, without looking up, “Did anyone go see David Bowie last night? What a great show.” Yeah, if a gun had been handy I would have used it. On meself.

Regarding monetization, I realize as an American that every time I used that word I sound like I’m sifting through the widdahs-n-orphans fund. Poor word choice and phrasing on my part. I meant to say your decision to funnel blog money to a charity is admirable and something I believe I’m going to take up. Sorry; no irony involved.

Pin-Ups? Mick Ronson? Great British singles? It’s a rocking’ record, even after all this time.

Stay in touch, eh? It’s great to hear from you.

29 07 2014
Andy MacIntyre

Hi Lee. Sorry to clog up this post with off-subject comments. I reckon this might be of interest to you: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04bg8c1 a BBC radio documentary about Mick Ronson that went out yesterday. I haven’t listened to it myself yet but it will only be up for about 4 weeks. I think you can listen to BBC radio programmes anywhere on the planet, but don’t blame me if I’m wrong and I’ve just left you disappointed.

31 07 2014
Out There

Andy, please take up as much space here as you like. You’re a very welcome guest. I will indeed give it a listen as I’m a big fan of the man from Hull. Even here in the States he’s revered, so thanks for the tip. And yes I’m also a Beeb fan, predictable as that may be. Radios 3 and 6 are my touch points when the talk to turns to doing radio right. Britain has legitimate complaints about how its taxes are spent, but no one on the planet does radio better than the BBC. Think otherwise? Come here. You’ll run screaming back to Parliament begging for shelter from the cultural storm. Speaking of which, Don Johnston & I need to get you on the Grateful Dead train. It’s just about the best ride there is.

31 07 2014
Andy MacIntyre

Hi Lee. I know next to nothing about the Dead and haven’t even tasted Cherry Garcia ice-cream. The BBC (I don’t need any evidence that it’s a superb organization) showed a documentary on the making of Wish You Were Here recently which inspired me to follow up Bowie with Floyd as a forthcoming post. Maybe I’ll intersperse some Grateful Dead and see what the fuss is about.

5 08 2014
Out There

The Dead is tough thing to pick up on, Andy. Jerry Garcia’s gone and the live shows were the best entry point. However, there’s a massive legacy. This New Yorker article is as good as anything at explaining … uh … it.

And this is a cast off from BuzzFeed, which actually doesn’t do a bad job.

The entire shows are the real key and where the buzz lives. As a fan of the great British groups of our time, bands that had periods of two to five good years on a run, the Dead didn’t have a bad year from ’68 to ’77. After that, the tours were hit-skip on quality. It’s also, seemingly anyway, a very American phenomenon. It embodies many of the qualities I like most about this country, including the freedom to create and to travel. Liberty is at the heart of the group. And it’s basically a jazz band, though none dare call it that.

It took me years to come to the pleasure of the Dead and I wish it hadn’t taken so long.

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