Monday, July 11, 2022

Stuff And Nonsense

When I was in my teens and twenties and would really have appreciated it, publishers didn't seem to be very interested in the reminiscences of pop stars. Or rock stars. Or musicians in general. 

These days the shelves are stuffed with the things. In the bookshop where I work we have two whole bays given over just to popular music biographies, not including popular music criticism, which gets a bay of its own.

The surprising thing that perhaps shouldn't come as much of a surprise at all is how good many of them are. People who write lyrics for a living turn out to be able to good at writing prose as well. Shocker!

Some of them are a shoe-in. John Cooper Clarke's recent autobiography, "I Wanna Be Yours", for example, is as sharp, funny and surreal as you'd expect. Or at least I think it is. I haven't read it yet. 

I've dipped into it to get the flavor but the copy in our house belongs to Mrs. Bhagpuss, who likes to take her time and savor a book. I gave it her for Christmas and she finished it last week. She's been reading it the whole time, a page or two a day. 

She's also no kind of member of the Cult of the Book, thank god. She reads books to destruction, something I very much admire. I have an almost pathological aversion to the idea of book-as-holy-object. The book is the information it contains not the wrapper placed around it.

Which is, of course, not to deny the beauty of the book as an art object in its own right. I dislike hardbacks but when I saw Jarvis Cocker's entry into the heavily-overpopulated Britpop Memoir stakes, I knew there was no point waiting for the paperback. 

The book, which goes by the excellent title Good Pop, Bad Pop, isn't just heavily illustrated for the sake of it; the illustrations are absolutely integral to the structure and the narrative. They also need to be seen at size and in color, not reduced and in black and white, as they surely will be in the cheaper edition next year.

Cocker, like Cooper Clarke, is someone you'd expect to shine in longform. He's not just a fine lyricist, he's a wit and a raconteur. Less predictably, he's not the first member of Pulp to put his past into print. Guitarist Russell Senior wrote an excellent memoir back in 2015. It's called Freak out The Squares and I've read it all the way through. Twice.

Jarvis, as you might imagine, features heavily and not always favorably. He comes across in Senior's version of the story as someone you might politely describe as eccentric, assuming you felt affectionate towards them, which Russell obviously does. I had been looking forward to the inevitable day when Jarvis would tell the tale from his perspective and I guess this is as close as we're going to get..

Being Jarvis, he's come up with an approach that treats his own past as a treasure trove of trivia to be explored, exploited and explained. It's a quite brilliant conceit, framed around a deep delve through the boxes of stuff he's been shoving into an attic for decades.

I'm not here to review Jarvis Cocker's book, not least because I'm only about a third of the way through it so far. Nor am I going to enter into an examination of the role, worth or value of the pop memoir as a form. (Both of those posts may well come later. I should make a note.)

Right now, though, I'm more interested in the idea Jarvis has given me for something to sit behind this year's Blaugust, to make the prospect of those daily posts a little less traumatic. Belghast asked only the other day for thoughts on the format and approach for this year's event, which has in the past sometimes proved more of a worry to some of its participants than anyone would wish.

As several commenters responded, Blaugust can generate an awful lot of posts. It's not just writing them that causes concern. Reading every one can be something of a challenge too.

My own suggestion, made entirely off the top of my head, was that we make a few lists. Lists are easy and quick to read - although not always to make - and they do tend to get people arguing, in the fun way, which generates content. 

I may still do some lists, mostly because I love both making them myself and reading other people's but I also thought I might rip off Jarvis's idea. I do actually have an attic full of old junk I could dig through for inspiration but unfortunately the only access is through a foot-square hatch in the bathroom ceiling and I'm really getting too old for that. 

Luckily, I also have a metric shit-ton of old nonsense in various spots around the house, far easier to get to and also probably more interesting. I'm not promising anything but it's an idea I'm keeping in mind. 

I suspect that, in the event, enough prompts and hooks will generate spontaneously during Blaugust to keep me supplied with ideas for daily posts but if not, now I have a fallback position. Always makes things feel more comfortable.

There is another reason I'm minded to do it. Since the whole concept relies on pictures of the items in question, I'm going to need a quick and easy means of photographing those objects and transferring the images to the PC. Currently I have at least half a dozen devices in the house that can take photographs, some more efficiently than others, but not a single one of them can pass those images to the PC without at least one annoying intermediate stage. Often more than one.

I've been thinking about getting a new phone for a long time. The one I have is fine except for two things: it has a hardware fault that makes the screen annoying to read and it's of a relatively obscure make that doesn't play well with others. 

The problem is, it still works pretty well in all other respects so every time I look at replacements, I end up balking at spending the money. This might just be enough to tip the balance to "Worth it."

We'll see. It's been useful having this chat. Thaks for listening. If I do decide to run the series, either for Blaugust or at any other time, you'll be the first to know.

1 comment:

  1. Oh. Right.


    Hmmm.... I ought to do something about that. And about Azeroth After Dark too, I suppose.


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