Saturday, June 22, 2013

In too deep, beyond b-town

The term ‘second city’ has become a millstone for Birmingham of late, it emphasizes a healthy inferiority complex and the self-effacing nature of the general population but it’s far from brash and shiny and does little they reckon to encourage tourism.

People in marketing circles have taken against it and started using things like ‘The Business City’ as a catch-all phrase, probably as it has a lot of conference venues. What we’ve needed for some time is a thriving music scene that shouts beyond the boundaries of the city, it seems that we may now have that but the name it’s been given won’t do the city many favours.

B-town just sounds a bit naff to me, hardly reflective of a city this size with a vibrant culture and arts scene. Like Madchester it possibly encompasses a range of acts who share a certain ‘sound’ and ethos but whenever I hear b-town I think of b-team (again the second string) and toytown which hardly seems fitting.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The taste of trust

Who do you trust to tell you what to listen to? The British public is passive, like sheep, and conservative in its tastes. It needs to be herded and led; we need someone to show us the way.

Industry spokesman Bob Lefsetz  echoed my oft-repeated views recently using slightly different terminology, claiming that we need a filter. He’s right because the access to music is greater than ever, allowing the past to compete with the present/future and it’s hardly a fair fight. If you can listen to something familiar (that you’re likely to love) or try something new (which you may hate), which way are you going to jump? We’re all sheep to a greater or lesser degree.

Lefsetz chose to use the Spotify top 100 tracks for the basis of his piece, reflective in some degree of the zeitgeist but potentially skewed by the overwhelming conservatism and perhaps also the younger age-range of the average Spotify user.

Similarly I could use the UK top 40. If the current chart reflects popularity (as is its function) then I am considerably further out of the loop than I thought. I might recognise the acts, having read about them, but of those 40 songs I think I’ve only heard 9.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Do you believe in rock ‘n’ roll radio?

My first recollection of hearing and liking music is linked to radio. It was 1972 in the kitchen of our maisonette, 20 Pennington House (it no longer exists), in deepest Oldbury. The track was School’s Out by Alice Cooper and I have to presume it was being played by Radio 1, though I don’t specifically recall that bit.

I was probably in the right age group to appreciate the growth and spread of radio in the UK without even being conscious of it. I have great recollections of the presenters from that era and now recognise our family must have changed loyalties to BRMB and Les Ross at some point around the time that Dave Lee Travis took over R1 breakfast from Noel Edmonds.

Even then I still thought it was just about the music, I recall haranguing the aforementioned Mr Ross (about heavy metal) when he opened a fete at St Mary’s Church in Bearwood and made my radio debut as a phone-in contributor to Les’s Jukebox Jury with my negative contribution on The Crusaders’ Street Life. I was late for school as a result of that, though school never seemed as important as radio.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Degrading the past, devaluing the future

It’s all about ‘education, education, education’ a famous politician once said. Given the mess we’re now in it’s hard to say whether he was right – perhaps those he educated (x3) have yet to take centre stage and revitalise the economy. In which case I hope they get a move on.

In politics it seems that it is hard to take a long term view, this may be due to the temporary nature of Government and the belief that the impact has to be achieved within one term or a second becomes unlikely. It is clear that Govt. depts. think like this and cabinet ministers more so. Their next appointment rests on having been seen to achieve something – often different to actually achieving anything.

There can be few other reasons for the attention that education ministers past and present give to the issue of examinations and marking systems. They clearly think that this is something we all understand and that by trying to have an impact upon it they can garner our support.

As ever what is less clear to the untrained eye is whether the tinkering really makes any difference. Education has clearly improved and the school system appears to be producing children with more qualifications at higher grades. Apparently this isn’t good enough and fails to produce the right type of ‘graduate’ – or so the current incumbent in the ministry would have us believe.