Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pop Kid Without Needs

The music mag, Zig Zag, passed me by as a pop kid.

I've got a sense that I was maybe too young when it was in its heyday. I'm sure I saw it on the shelf at the local newsagents but I think at that point (in the early eighties) it was too much of a goth magazine for my liking. I want to say I once bought a copy because there was a featured article on Marc and the Mambas on the front cover but that might just be false muso syndrome.

This yabbering is just my way of leading into the fact that it's such a pleasure that Highlander over at Cactus Mouth Informer is continuing to post old articles from Zig Zag on his blog. It's such a simple but brilliantly effective blogging idea. Why isn't there a legion of music bloggers out there scanning in their old NMEs' or Melody Makers'? What's the point of posting out of print classic albums from '79 if all you're posting alongside is yet another cut and paste from Trouser Press? How are you supposed to get the scent of sweat, idealism and bullshit in your nostrils if you can't read the half-manifesto, half-monomania from the lead singers concerned when they were releasing the albums?

Whilst I'm on a mini-rant - waiting for the kettle to boil brings that out in me - what about the political bloggers scanning in their old Subversions or Now That's What I Call Marxist? I'm usually not the biggest fan of reading PDF's on the net but surely the old political and musical inkies are prime candidates for rediscovery in their original format? I think it shows that the internet and blogging is still largely in its infancy. But that might just be me throwing my toys out of my play pen because I want to read old Sounds articles about Blue Rondo A La Turk that date from 1981.

Rant over. Kettle boiled. Tea masking. And back to H's excellent series over at his blog. A recent post in his series is a three page article on Theatre of Hate from October 1981. (Featuring an incredibly young Billy Duffy.) Never really got Kirk Brandon and the devotion that he's known to inspire. The music is a bit to clangy, the lyrical sentiments a bit too earnest and po-faced despite their obvious sincerity and I still can't delete from my memory bank an image of him sitting and smiling with Vera Lynn that dates from a mid-eighties issue of Record Mirror. It was the stuff of nightmares. Oh, and Then Jericho stole Kirk's blueprint anyway and just added some nice v-necked jumpers into the pop mix.

The latest Zig Zag article featured on the blog is a two page Simple Minds article that dates from 1981. You know, when they were still brilliant.

Here's some articles from Zig Zag that caught the eye:

  • Nice interview with John Peel from the October 1983 issue. 'fraid I was never a Peelite, Too much of a pop kid, I guess. Too busy watching shite tv from 10pm-12pm Monday thru' Thursday. Whatever the reason, it was my loss.
  • From the same issue a three page spread on the Cocteau Twins. I was a pop kid but that didn't stop me buying the Cocteau Twins 'Pearly Dewdrops Drop' and This Mortal Coil's 'Song To The Siren'. Beautiful, beautiful songs and for some of us born too late, Elizabeth Fraser was our Claire Grogan. What can one say about the excellence that was the Cocteau Twins? I think Harry Lauder expressed it best in the Ealing Comedy classic, 'The Third Ned':
    "Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Grangemouth for 30 years under a Labour Council they had cronyism, terror, murder, packed meetings, bogus town twinnings and bloodshed, but they produced Gordon Legge, Isla St Clair, and the Cocteau Twins. In Nottingham they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? Paper Lace."
  • I still think that Jarvis Cocker, Noel Gallagher and Billy Bragg are the three most entertaining interviews in pop music. Back in November 1983, Jarvis Cocker was kept in a state of perpetual fear that the 1967 unsold copies of Pulp's debut album on top of his wardrobe might cascade down one night and suffocate him. Noel Gallagher was having an epiphany in a sitting room in Manchester whilst watching The Smiths perform 'This Charming Man' on Top of the Pops for the first time but Billy Bragg was sticking out like a sore thumb in a Zig Zag issue that also featured King Kurt, Death Cult and Lords of the New Church, with a four page feature to support his debut solo album, Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy.
    What with it being 1983, the Billy featured is not so political but the army experience is mentioned and there's also the details of him recently playing the Futurama festival which, 25 years later, only conjures up images of an indie Spinal Tap for this reader. By the by, I've mentioned the Billy Bragg podcasts approvingly on the blog before and I'm happy to do so again. The podcast, 'PJ to top of the indie charts', covers the same period featured in the Zig Zag interview.
  • The November '83 issue also carries an interview with Mark E Smith. Marc Riley has just left the band; Smith makes a casual reference to once held left-wing beliefs that I never knew he held; and, spotted through the interview, are references to Smith's new wife, Brix. Minor pop stardom was just round the corner. If late '83 showed us a Billy Bragg who was yet to be party political, the same period shows a Mark E Smith who had yet to get the crusty curmudgeon persona down pat. For all his personal make up, the bloke comes across as genuinely happy. Strange one.
  • That's the articles that caught my eye, but if the word 'Batcave' means anything to you, there's enough stuff in this very link to keep you happy between now and the start of the football season.


    Highlander said...

    Many thanks for such a massive 'nod' and the ZigZag scans will keep Cactus going long after I've run out of vinyl to rip - but probably not topics to rant about.

    Any major dude with half a heart said...

    For your Melody Maker and NME scan needs:

    Stubbs, Rice, Parkes and some lesser geniuses are represented.

    David Stubbs, by the way, has resurrected Mr Agreeable on The Quietus (

    Also visit the man's Mr Agreeable site, and look for the match reports.