We need to talk about 6.

I’ve been a musician forever. It seems…

Everyone loves music and everyone has their own little things that ring their bells. Accepted. There is, however, a difference between a normal person and a music lover. A normal person is fed whatever they hear on the radio at work, probably on Radio 2. They have fond memories of when they were young and got a little bit into raving or Indie clubs but otherwise they just waft along and like most stuff, and dislike other stuff.

The music lover is different. Firstly, the correct music is a matter of life and death. It’s mood management. It’s happy pills. It’s everything. Secondly, the thing they like is much more nuanced than just genres or artists, it’s types of rhythms or styles of production. Subject matter of lyrics or the presence or absence of certain instruments. It’s really deep.

As a consequence the music lover will have music in their collection that spans genre wildly. They will certainly have some music that normal people will despise. They will have an eclectic mix, and it has to be that way.

At home this is not a problem, when visiting friends… well, you choose your friends carefully! Especially ones that you visit. But we all have to work and if you’re restricted to a radio at work you’re in real trouble.

Except DAB is here, and there are extra channels with a more focussed playlist. Surely there is some harbour amongst all these extra stations? God knows there is nothing on FM for the music lover, unless you go Radio 3 of course. I can dig it, but I’m a rocker so that’ll only work for a short while. No problem they cry, there are a plethora of RAWK stations on there too! Well, yes but if I want to hear some Rock Music, ‘Smoke On The Water’ is never fucking it! And besides, as stated above I may only want to listen to a slice of Rock amongst many other things, not a whole day of ‘The Most Obvious Rock Songs Ever Made’.

Nope. The only choice for a true music lover within the full FM and DAB radio systems is BBC Radio 6 Music.

So right that they fought to save it and they succeeded. This must be the place, right? Staffed with either respectable DJs or Musicians, a very open brief it terms of genre and song choice, no advertising, very little news and sport. Just great music, all day.

Well, sort of.

I tried to explain the problem to a producer friend of mine and could only sum it up this way. You have a BBC radio station staffed by the elite of candidates for media jobs.Rightly so, maybe, but this builds in an inherent limitation. Those staffers choose a lot of the content even though all the DJs bring their own tastes to the table, there is a clunking playlist. It changes a lot but it has become horribly predictable because those staffers are all music lovers from University life. They all have a similar set of artists that they approve of. In this class-sensitive country they very often make the classic error of assuming that everyone else went to Uni and to the student union for socials and therefore has the same back catalogue of ‘classics’.

Can you tell? I didn’t.

I have lots of friends who did, and from my era they all liked Pop Will Eat Itself, Wonder Stuff, Blur, Ride, Teenage Fanclub etc etc. Indie kids were always middle class when I was young. I was from a working class town, even the rich weren’t middle class. None of us liked all that stuff, because it was made by uni kids, and uni kids loved it. We liked indie music too, but it was the stuff made by people like us.

What I’m saying is that there was always more than one type of musical purist, but 6 Music is unaware of this. They’re all Uni based indie kids with good taste in music, playing music made by people like them and they assume everyone listening ┬áis also the same. The working class has no voice in it beyond whichever Grime artist they’ve chosen to like this month.

So, each day I have it on my radio at work. I like some of it but more often than not I find myself hissing at the thing, usually because they’re playing that Labi Siffre song that Eminem sampled AGAIN, or because they constantly play the music of their guest Artist/DJs, or because they’re just being too obvious. Too safe. Too Patronising. Too narrow a choice. Too much mainstream music from their youths.

For a true music lover, which I most certainly am, I just shouldn’t be so dissatisfied by it. But I am.


Top 10 Most over-rated bands.

I’m very passionate about music, and I have very broad tastes in most genres. I’m most passionate about what I don’t like. I think this is basically OK. I don’t see it as a necessarily negative thing to not like stuff, I think that’s all part of the normal discourse for appreciating art.

With that in mind here’s my list of bands that LOTS of people love but I can’t stand, in no particular order. I welcome the ensuing debate…

  1. The Velvet Underground. I find everything I’ve ever heard of theirs really terribly produced and I’m a fan of interesting production. The songs are very basic at their core but with a literary pretentiousness to the lyric that has somehow managed to fool a lot of smart people. And closet fetishists. Also the singing is so fey and lazy. Ugh!
  2. Joy Division/New Order. I mean, it’s just horribly executed (no pun intended). Awful playing which I could forgive if it was just JD, but just go and watch Bernard Whateverhisnameis play guitar. After 30 plus years as a ‘professional’ musician one should at least be comfortable with ones instrument, not to say actually have got quite good at it. But no, he looks like he’s fresh out of his 3rd lesson and relying heavily on session musos and production to make it listenable.
  3. The Strokes. Just. Fuck. Off.
  4. Teenage Fanclub. Teenage strop more like. What is it with that wispy singing, barely there and propped up with harmonies. And if you see them live, they can only just manage to recreate them. Singing softly and making a trademark of a harmony vocal style over extremely basic chord sequences, you’d think they can perform them with confidence, but oh no.
  5. Blur. I mean, I could be here all day with this one. I’m already picking up a theme here. Essentially, don’t put something down in the studio that you can’t perform live with style. Damon Albarn is the prime chancer, with very little musical ability he’s been trying to con everyone for years that he’s a real musical genius. And he fucking isn’t.
  6. Patti Smith. Utter, utter pretentious art-school dog-shit. And really that whole NY art-rock scene can do one. Similarly wrong as The Velvets. Just because you call it art, doesn’t mean it is. Horses, horses, horses. So fucking what??
  7. Pete Docherty. Well, this is obvious, isn’t it? How dare you put out a record and expect people to pay good money for it when it sounds like you can barely be bothered to stand up in front of the microphone. Skaggy twat.
  8. The White Stripes/Royal Blood. Oh, look. We’re so unique we didn’t bother to get a bass player because you don’t need one. Except we’ll have an effects pedal putting in the bottom end or we’ll record bass in the studio and effect it on stage. Don’t be a prick, just hire a bass player. Anyone can play bass.
  9. The XX. This is a record you need to have, somebody once told me. No. Not if you’ve already heard the first couple of Cure albums you don’t. Away with your shite, and try finishing a song before you release it.
  10. Nirvana. Yes, that’s right. I said it. Nirvana are hideously over-rated. When they came out it was good, pretty damn good. But all the fake misery and vague imagery, nonsense lyrics and so on led me to opine at the time that the only truly great thing about that band was the drummer. And what do you know? I wish I’d had a score on Cobain topping himself because I saw it coming a mile off, only it turned out it was his wife after all.

So there you go. I feel so much better getting all that out there.

It’s like a release, spiritually.

Come take me on if you disagree, or tell me your additions.