Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Blaugust Music Experiment

The Blaugust Music Experiment has been very interesting. Well, it has for me. Researching and writing the posts has been very enjoyable. I've had far more ideas than I've had time to use and I've got some plans for what might become regular "features", something this blog has never had before.

When it comes to response, it's probably been a little better than I expected. There have been a few comments, all of them considered and thoughtful. Given the increased volume of blog posts, not just here but throughout the Blaugust-inflected corner of the blogosphere, I'm sure more posts are getting skipped than in a normal month. I know I'm struggling to keep up. Off-topic posts like these are probably some of the first to go if you're in a hurry.

And this is an MMORPG blog after all. You wouldn't expect readers necessarily to welcome a Spinal Tap style new direction. Although, curiously, I've noticed a distinct increase in posts about music on blogs otherwise focused on gaming. Not sure it's quite a trend yet but it's curious to see.

One big problem with including posts about music on a gaming blog is that musical tastes are far, far more varied than tastes in gaming, not least because there are more musical styles than there are gaming genres. As a class, gamers tend to be stereotyped as metalheads or at least rock fans but that's almost certainly nonsense. I doubt a room full of gamers would be any more likely to agree on musical favorites than a room full of accountants or interior decorators.

All the same, I'm guessing that most gamers, not to mention most readers of this blog, have somewhat more coherent and consistent musical tastes than I do. I know everyone says "I like all kinds of music" but most really don't.

Neither do I. There are whole genres I can't stand - all the flavors of death/black metal, grindcore, anything where the vocalist sounds like they're throwing up in bucket. Rammstein and Babymetal are about as metal as I get these days.Then there are plenty of genres I usually wouldn't take any time to listen to -  techno, drum'n'bass, a lot of mainstream r'n'b, chillwave...

Outside of things I actively dislike, though, I'll pretty much listen to anything and not only will I listen, I'll make an effort to discover. The searching and finding is as much fun as the listening, sometimes.

All of which means that, when I share my favorites and new finds I'm likely to spit out a peculiar and incoherent melange of styles, periods and sounds. I'd hope people might flip throught them, listen to a few seconds and move on to the next if it doesn't catch their attention, but I know most probably won't.

Popular music just isn't as popular as it used to be. When I was growing up and for many of my adult years, music was the most important of all cultural indicators. When I was at school the first - literally the very first - question I and my friends would ask when we met a new boy (single sex school, so it was always a boy) was "What bands do you like?"

From the answer we would make a snap judgment on whether to put any effort into getting to know the newbie or whether to cross him off our list of potentially worthwhile contacts. As I moved through University and into an extremlely socially active 1980s, even among groups of comics fans the most frequent and often the most intense conversations revolved around music.

Things aren't like that any more. People do still define themselves and their circles by musical taste but it's the exception now where once it was the norm. Music has become just one of a range of cultural tags and by no means the most important.

So, going forward I'm thinking of keeping the music posts short and including fewer videos with each. I don't have any hard and fast plans because I don't do that sort of thing and even if I did I wouldn't stick to them. I'm far too whim-oriented for that.

Tentatively, I'm thinking of a semi-regular theme based around Cover Versions. As I wrote a while back, I really love covers and these days there are an astonishing number to be found online.

And I do mean "found". The sheer quantity is staggering and the quality varies from execrable to embarrassing to bland to enjoyable to amazing. I feel I can offer something of a public service by drawing attention to the best (or funniest) of the versions I happen across. After all, I'm doing all the hard work anyway.

Similarly there are the utter obscurities. Things that'll never be heard or seen unless someone throws back the blinds and lets the light in. I have a habit of searching for songs on YouTube that have fewer than ten thousand views. The fewer the better, really, although it's quite hard to find the very unwatched ones, the stuff that only the people who made it and maybe their friends and family have ever seen.

And judging by the views on some of those that I have found, not even that. I've watched a few that had no views at all. Most of them are... not good. But now and again you find a gem. I'd quite like to flag those up.

That's just a couple of ideas. I have more. Suggestions always welcome!


  1. My musical tastes are definitely different than yours, and they're certainly a whole lot less British. I've skimmed through the music posts as a result - but I haven't skipped them entirely. Reading the lengthy pieces you've done this month, it's clear that there was something inside that you've been waiting to get out. That passion alone is pretty cool. Beyond that, while the music itself isn't my jam, it's neat to hear about a scene that is so distant from anything I experienced in my own life. It's been worthwhile to skim through, with the bands themselves and their music taking a bit of a back seat to the story that connects them all.

    You owe no one any apologies for putting out content that clearly meant a lot to you. It was better than you think. I figure that they get shorter naturally now that you've gotten out the biggest part of what you were waiting to write, but those posts are definitely not unwelcome.

    1. The long, autobiographical posts came as a bit of a surprise to me. I certainly hadn't planned on doing them. I did, unusually, jot down a few ideas before I started the music posts and that wasn't one of them. Once I'd started, though, I thought it would be nice to get a lot of the anecdotes and incidents I used to retail in pub conversation down in writing. I enjoyed it a lot.

      What I planned on doing from the start were fairly short posts, like the recent Lana del Rey one, but the problem turned out to be that I had to much fun writing them and had too many videos/songs I wanted to include. I admit to more than a smidgeon of self-indulgence, but then, as i increasingly find myself saying, it's my blog, after all!

      The Brit-centric nature of the posts hadn't really occured to me but of course it's inevitable when I'm describing a life spent largely in England. I don't think the same is likely to be true of the non-autobiographical posts in future, or at least I hope not!

  2. I think you are about a decade older than I so your musical back catalogue covers a lot of the same stuff my parents listened to when I was a child, though I think they would have found some of your stuff a little too wild. They were part of the hippy flower child generation before parenthood made them "wise up" somewhat. Back when we still had a record player capable of playing vinyl, I found some of the stuff from the late 1960's. To me the "surfing bird" stuff sounded weird. By the late 70's and early 80's this wasn't getting much if any airplay. Of my mother's music of that era I mostly remember Queen. Queen was acceptable, but Kiss was not. I had to listen to that at my cousin's place!

    I do like your idea of delving into cover versions. Some songs have been covered in different eras, even back to the 1920's and get a new musical coat of paint every 20-30 years or so.

    1. One thing I wanted to work in but couldn't find a place was my mother's unusual reaction to what Ilistened to as a teenager. At that point in time we'd just about got past the "Generation Gap" but we were still very much in the era of dads asking "Is that a boy or a girl?" when anyone in glam get-up appeard on Top of the Pops and the idea of your parents liking anything you did was not considered normal.

      My mother, who is now 86 and would have been in her late thirties, early forties in my teens, used to ask me to turn the record player up when I played things like The Rolling Stones. When I was playing the first Clash album in 1977 she said it sounded like the Stones and listened to most of it.

      Most weirdly of all, when I cleared all the prog albums out of my record collection in classic punk year zero style, she asked me if she could have all the Uriah Heap albums and she used to put them on when she was cleaning the house! Later on she was a Queen fan for a while and even now she occasionally surprises me with things like Bruce Springsteen, who she was buying live videos of only a few years ago.

      I think we all make stereotypical assumptions anout what music people will like based on their age but it's often way off the mark.


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