Monday, September 23, 2002

[NOT] A MUSICAL TOUR OF THE KINGDOM: It was really when i found myself wondering if Timmy Mallett's novelty cover of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini would be enough to observe that he told the [Brighton] Argus about hitting Thatcher on the head with his Mallet, and how, since he'd been on Top of the Pops as well it was too many dreams come true for one man, that we realised our plan to take the musical pulse of the nation, as reflected through random local papers purchased as we toured about, was going to come to nothing.
It had started well enough - The Manchester Evening News slobbering over Oasis' return to Manchester; they gave over two pages of a Saturday edition to Noel being rude to Gary Neville (signing the footballers guitar with the sort of wit Oscar Wilde would have collaborated with Hale and Pace for) and local residents living in fear of the Old Trafford gig; then the Brighton And Hove Leader offered up the news that the Normstock ghost had been "laid to rest" by the peaceful passing of a film event on Brighton Beach (because, yes, an old movie on a windy night in september is almost an exact re-creation of a heavily promoted dance night at the height of the summer, isn't it?). But then The West Sussex Gazette sniffily even refused to mention that the "pop band" who'd been making crop circles was the Levellers, although towards the end of the same edition they did manage to get quite excited by the prospect of a Joe Jackson gig. And the further we went from the bigger towns, the more poor the coverage of music - local or national - became.
Which strikes us as a shame - if papers like the Banbury Guardian and the Cotswold Journal can find room for in-depth reports on bridge matches and small fires in local sheds, can't they make a little bit of space to write about people making music in their areas? One of the fears of local papers is that they face an ever-dwindling readership, and yet while there are clearly things happening in their patch - I mean, Oxfordshire, for crying out loud - they don't bother to give space to one thing that might encourage a younger audience to start to turn to their pages. When music does pop up in these papers, its either in the form of am dram productions of Me and My Girl, or else a small-as-you-please concert listings (band name, one-word description - "punk"), or, if you're really lucky, a small preview of an dinsoaur act passing quite close-by (Liverpool's Merseymart is especially guilty of this, usually filling up its quota of 200 words or so with something about a band about to play Manchester.)
We can't believe that the whole of the Cotswolds is now mined-out and no new exciting bands are living there, and that if people will happily file reports of minor football fixtures they can't find a couple of people who'd be happy to file music reviews. Maybe it's asking a bit much for papers which claim to exist to reflect civic pride to seek out young people doing something for themselves, something to be proud of, with the same fervour that they bring to unmasking teenaged vandals.

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