On tour: The Doors. The Dan. The Dead. Dead or alive? Who knows?

green traffic lightProustian

Live ads Music magazines, monthly

British music mags, once a seething pit of pathologically antisocial vibes, are now a library of wistful epistles to the last century. Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Neil Young and the bloke who mowed the lawn at the place Led Zeppelin recorded Houses Of The Holy (really though). You name it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Or at least it’s logical. Once Q started and didn’t flop, to be followed by Mojo, Uncut and a tide of specialist zines bearing bulging barrels of heritage, it became clear there was a market for it – a market of punters with a personal stop button who’ve not really listened to new music since Sgt Pepper’s/Hotel California/Definitely Maybe/Barbie Girl/whatever. They’re gonna buy the old stuff over again.

The mags, once inky and hand-staining, now glossy and palate-cleansing, cover every genre of post-war popular music – as long as it’s proper music, because in an unexpected twist rock fans have turned out to be ultra-conservative. Like Grandpa Simpson, they used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was and they didn’t like it – especially if it wasn’t played on real instruments. That’s why four new titles are being launched next month devoted to the individual bass strings.

Fair enough, let them get on with it, on 180-gram vinyl if they like. We’re all Record Collectors now.

More touching nostalgia: Nicky Campbell is a punk rocker

No, the amazing, discombobulating thing about the mags is the ‘Live’ ad pages. They’re fantastic. Who woulda thunk that in 2019 fans of these sort of people would still be going to these sort of concerts? Should they not be doubly incontinent, or at least confined to an Oak Tree mobility chair and Country File? 

Scanning the ads is like landing on a floating point between 1969 and 1989. It’s a magical journey to the smoky, dogshit world without Pret A Manger or the Slug & Lettuce – when London was a tatty bleeding mess where you walked off the stinking floor of the Lyceum into a near-bankrupt city patched with bombsites roamed by bands of rightwing skinheads and the population was decreasing by 1,000 per minute. It’s literally Proustian. But we’re closer to 2065 than 1965. What the fuck is going on?

Look at who’s playing. Hall & Oates. 10cc. Steely Dan. Mott The Hoople. Steve Hackett. Big Country (?). The Doors (Alive). The Human League. Cockerney Rebel. The (Live) Dead. Some acts are functioning humans, some are moribund and some are imitations of the deceased. It’s a crazy parallel universe.

You can’t blame the guys. It’s their pension. But you know what will happen when you get to one of those shows. No moving, no talking, no spilling, no breathing. People shooshing you and tutting about people using their phones. Where did it all go wrong? Why don’t these newly buttoned-up worshippers just go to church, where the crowd is suitably reverent?

And all that hell is only if you can get in (should you want to). When these artists were really around, there was only one generation going to see them. Now there are about seven and it’s a strain to get a ticket for even the hugest affair, because some leaky granddad is taking the whole extended family to see Deep Purple, who they don’t even fucking like.

Anyway, if you’re not sure which bunch of dead flowers to water, here’s a ranked consumer guide. Remember to weigh up quality against cost (although you’ll soon spot a relationship between the two).

  1. Premium
    Huge, like Steely Dan or Hall & Oates. Around a ton per voucher to watch the artists on a screen from a distance. Band members (not necessarily the ones you remember, although that could just be you) are re-toothed and shiny with a veneer that belies their years and material that belies its original qualities of originality.
  2. Cult
    Sub-arena, like Mott The Hoople or Steve Hackett revisiting Genesis revisited. Artists inhabit smaller rooms with no space to move, or possibly inhale and exhale, due to XXXL veteran fans embarrassing the official capacity (which was based on normal-shaped people). An added annoying element in these audiences radiates a toxic ‘knowledgeable’ glow, but crowds lack the injection of youth that more popular premium acts attract.
  3. Tribute
    The Doors (Alive), the (Live) Dead and so on. Bringing after-timers the thrill of seeing their heroes in a shithole, when in reality they are 02-fillers, defunct, or expired. Summed up by the Arctic Monkeys imitators who one Arctic Monkeys fan said were better than the Arctic Monkeys. You know what he meant, but it’s an existential conundrum.
  4. Package
    For example, the Human League plus ABC and Belinda Carlisle, playing Saffron Walden. Tough mudders who’ve hauled themselves up from a racecourse rebirth (see below) but can’t quite raise a full house alone, so team up with like-minded, era-related, musically-unrelated desperadoes.
  5. Racecourse
    Those playing at racecourses – whether premium (Newmarket) or cult (Brighton) – after the horse racing. Beyond redemption. Unless they get on a package tour.

See you down the front!


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