Do you wanna be in my gang?

What are you doing when you buy a record?

You're buying membership entry into a gang, a cult even. It's the music business's model for monetising alienation. If you own the record it's suggested that you're an initiate in the way someone who doesn't isn't. They might get to enjoy the music but until they own some merchandise - or perhaps see the groop in concert - they're supposed to be on the outside looking in.

The irony is though that you, the buyer, are also on the outside looking in. However much you buy, however many limited edition twelve inches, you're still on the outside. Your face is just pressed closer to the glass. And you love it, you big dummy...

Mechanical reproduction in its unfettered digital incarnation has been a disaster for the music business. Streaming, a catastrophe. Because they erode that fundamental concept of ownership and its relation to belonging. Certainly, the wagon still continues to roll, but that psychological contract is weakened. This is where blockchain may come in. The use of a blockchain "removes the characteristic of infinite reproducibility from a digital asset". It's the dawning of a new digital era.

I'm not particularly transfixed by this lady Imogen Heap, and I'm underwhelmed by the rhetoric she has built around the Mycelia Music blockchain software: "To empower a fair, sustainable and vibrant music industry ecosystem involving all online music interaction services" - yawn, it sounds pretty dull. But there's something happening here.

Mycelia, or its successor, will only triumph when it taps into all those horrible emotions. It will triumph, not out of respect for the little guy, but out of greed and envy. When only 100 people can own that exclusive track. Imagine if The Beatles had stopped issuing White Albums at 624570.

It's hard to imagine against the backdrop of streaming music how this could map out - essentially a step backwards to downloading. But it's acutely possible. Also, and this is perhaps controversial, but I would think that, re-shackled to irreproducible talismans, or at least partaking of some kind of exclusivity, people will once again find music touches them more profoundly. Sad but true.


reminiscing mark

teen alone
in vaseline and overcoat
saw fall at hammersmith odeon
year was 88
singer looked like budget nosferatu
in brown leather
lager was vomited

year was 93
empty glasgow backstreet
pseudo spaghetti western scenario
scab student outgunned
by high-shouldered
hip priest
"i am damo suzuki"
"no, i am damo suzuki"
"i am damo suzuki"
"no, i am damo suzuki"

last week
mass media in morbid reaction
one man banned
dies before he gets old
at 60
record companies plan monetisation
blogger fashions mimetic hagiograpy
no future remains to predict


The Adventures of Winston Churchill


I had a moment of déjà vu with Big Shaq's "Mans Not Hot" because I had the idea first way back in 1996. I keep meaning to get round to blogging this.

In response to an advert in the Guardian I posted this very comic to a TV production company in Stratford. I was picked up at the station by Ann Wood in a Rolls Royce and driven to the then unseen Teletubbies set. Commisioned to write two scripts which were deemed not suitable. Maybe I'll post my storyboards here one day?

Brap. Brap.

Collecting and addiction

[John Cale's "Paris 1919" in various formats from the author's collection.]

Collecting is one of those things that, I suppose, is generally advisable not to take TOO seriously.

Facing oneself in the mirror there are enough things in one's life which are, in holistic terms, a bigger "issue" - like for instance air travel, or eating meat or one's attitude to capital in relation to people living in, say, Bangladesh. Does it really matter very much that one is a little fixated upon stockpiling recorded music? And occasionally in multiple formats?

I stumbled across this fascinating article about "Obsessive Record and CD Collecting". The heavily garlanded Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA. is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Gambling Studies at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. Mark clearly knows a thing or two, not just about collecting music, but addiction itself. I reckon he's probably going to have to reconcile himself with being my NBF, at least in my fevered imagination we're going to have extensive conversations about what links The Beatles and The Velvet Underground.

Mark's view on collecting comes in the very last line of the article:
"Yes, I love music and it takes up a lot of my life. However, I am not addicted. My obsessive love of music adds to my life rather than detracts from it—and on that criterion alone I will happily be a music collector until the day that I die."
and this on the basis of his criteria of addiction:
For any behaviour to be defined as addictive, I would expect there to be specific consequences as a result of the person’s relationship with the behaviour. More specifically I would expect to see all the following things: 
- Salience (when a particular activity becomes the most important activity in the person’s life) 
- Mood modification (the use of the activity as a way of either getting a ‘high’ or ‘buzz’ and/or using the activity to escape, de-stress or numb) 
- Tolerance (needing more and more of the activity over time to feel the mood modifying effects) 
- Withdrawal symptoms (psychological and/or physiological consequences such as excess moodiness and irritability if unable to engage in the activity) 
- Conflict (with other activities – such as work and hobbies – and personal relationships, that may lead to a loss of control) 
- Relapse (i.e. returning to addictive patterns of use following a period of abstinence)
Naturally this is something which I've given a lot of thought to over the years. Surely you'd be disappointed if I hadn't? On one level it's strictly comic, indeed over the years I have riffed on this. Mark must be an altogether healthier individual than me because I manifested all of these points:
Salience. Gotta admit, almost in shame (lol), that very, very occasionally collecting records has nudged its way into (possibly) being the most important activity in my life. If only for brief windows... perhaps. Check.
Mood modification Oh puhlease! Of course. Those peaceful moments when you're combing through the racks, in "the zone" blissfully oblivious of all your problems. Check.
Tolerance Ha, ha, ha. No longer content to leave a record shop with one record? So it's got to be two now has it? Check.
Withdrawal symptoms Yeah, probably. Or certainly, at least, exhilaration upon resumption after a self-enforced fast. Check.
Conflict Pshaw. In trouble? Skint? The Mrs (or Mr) annoyed with you. We've all been there! (looks around at an empty room). Check.
Relapse Again, I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to stop buying records. And failed ;-p Check.
There are two books which have particular resonance with regards to collecting records. Evan Eisenberg's "The Recording Angel" starts with the author visiting the collector Clarence:
"Clarence opens the kitchen door and you enter, but just barely. Every surface - the counters and cabinets, the shelves of the oven and refrigerator, and almost all of the linoleum floor - is covered with records. They are heavy shellac discs, jammed in cardboard boxes or just lying in heaps; crowning one pile is a plate of rusty spaghetti. In the far corner are four shopping bags full of sugared doughnuts. There is a stench."
Lol. I mean, great to put my own issues in a wider context, and all that. No stench in my study, no sirree... The other good book, and a personal favourite I often return to is "Collecting: An Unruly Passion." Psychological Perspectives by Werner Muensterberger. Favourite bits include the chapter on Tulip mania (which has particular relevance in the era of Bitcoin - hey, have you noticed how people who have just bought Bitcoins can't wait to tell you all about it? Hook the next sucker innit) and also the story of Gloucestershire's own Sir Thomas Phillips who set himself the task of collecting "One Copy of Every Book!" (Sir Thomas, like many of the great bibliophiles was not much of a reader).

The best bit, however is the section where he looks at collecting's roots in tribal behaviour, specifically head-hunting. Ethnography always produces the most revealing perspectives on "modern" human activity don't you think:
"These head-hunting expeditions had various purposes, the most important belonging to the initiation rites of the pubescent boys, culminating in a circumcision ceremony in the course of which the youth sat on a skull during the actual operation. This last instance is particularly descriptive because the entire procedure literally makes the young novice the possessor of the power-imbued skull. Here we must remember that the verb "possess" comes from the Latin potes (able) and sedere (to sit). I do not believe that any other demonstration of what it means to possess could be more explicit, starting with predatory expeditions and climaxing in the ritualized act of taking possession of the soul-substance or life-force of the slain victim. It is an unqualified enactment of ownership and triumph."
Yikes! So gory. Love this. Great as a means of understanding the whole notion of recorded music as "souls trapped in wax", of collecting as an activity driven by sublimated desire for power and enlightening too with regards to music industry's fixation on the scalps of dead stars: Jimi, Janis, John, Jim and Ian. Also, you gotta reflect, if this is collecting's root and source, a not entirely healthy preoccupation.

Record Thief and his mates

[Click to engorge.]

I was a bit surprised to notice that I've never before posted this "classic" (ahem) comic of mine from 1997. Quite amazing to reflect upon the entirely different pre-mp3, pre-Audiogalaxy, pre-Sharity blog, pre-Spotify universe from which it hails. Many people, I would imagine, view their physical collection of records (and CDs) as an encumbrance they'd gladly rid themself of. Of course the price would have to be right, but this still in the context of vinyl's supposedly "magic" resurgence.

Art Kassel's "Hell's Bells" is, of course, a Robert Crumb fave and all this wave of comics I made were inspired by Terry Zwigoff's "Crumb" movie and my vision of myself at that time as a "neo-Crumb". A month or so ago I bought a copy of the DVD and watched it again for the first time in twenty years. Such a deeply affecting movie. One thing which I think evaded my twenty six year old consciousness however, is the depth of Robert's "craft". Amid all the talk of family madness, perversion, LSD and cosmic inspiration that's something which can get lost by the wayside.

In the film seeing Robert working with his son Jessie to improve his drawing technique is a tantalisingly brief window into that neglected side of the Crumb genius; Crumb, the master craftsman. Many of the comics I did, like much of the early Woebot blog entries (er, until about two years probably, lol), were fast and loose. Generously you'd say this output was driven by an "electrified urgency" (true!) but on the other hand things could get a little sloppy. From that point-of-view it's always nice to discover my old work like "Record Thief" that's more carefully executed, even if this was actually drawn, unplanned, off-the-cuff and without any corrections.