Saturday, January 19, 2008

And your granny always tells you that the old songs are the best

A few months ago, Siouxsie Sioux was interviewed by Keith Cameron for Mojo, as part of the promotional merry-go-round for her new album, Mantaray. This excerpt gives a flavour of the encounter:

I want to ask you about JuJu...

Oh, this is... I didn't know this was all going to be about the past. This is really boring.

But this is the Mojo interview: it looks back over an artist's entire creative life.

I know, but I haven't got all bloody day, to be honest. We're at JuJu, and I've just done a new record.

Can I just ask you a couple of questions about JuJu?

[Sigh] All right.


Later on, after objecting to Cameron's fascination with her swastika-wearing tendencies 30 years before, she realised there were just 10 minutes left to cover the new album, stormed out, and subsequently fired her press officer.

Ms Sioux is a diva, and such behaviour is de rigueur for those with such a job description. Also, one can understand her feelings: she had a new record to shift, and the back catalogue stuff was getting in the way. But she was also being a tad disingenuous, because the only reason anyone was interested in her new album (indeed, the only reason that record came into existence) was because of the stuff she did with the Banshees in around 1976-86. Like JuJu, for example, and, uh, that swastika.

It's inevitable that artists want to talk about the film or book or record that they're doing right now. For a start, they'll derive more financial benefit if the punters buy the new product rather than scrabbling in the attic for the battered vinyl that reminds them of the old days. But surely it's something deeper and more personal as well: too much focus on past glories implies that you're past it, out of touch, too damn old. You're not just in competition with other creators - you're facing off against your younger self.

So, every time Siouxsie or Martin Amis or David Lynch plugs their new work, there's a gorilla in the room: interviewer and interviewee collude in the polite fiction that JuJu or Money or Blue Velvet are ancient irrelevances, and that we're only interested in the latest manifestation of creative brilliance. Anything else is tiresome nostalgia.

But is Martin Amis ever going to experience the same sort of once-in-a-lifetime synthesis between inspiration and Zeitgeist that made Money so successful? Shouldn't artists just be honest in acknowledging their own magic moments, and accept that everything else will be in their shadow?

I'll get the ball rolling. I think the high point of this blog came in August and September of 2006: critical theory; religious philosophy; obituaries; live blogging the military coup; L Brent Bozell. Maybe it was because I was deep in the bowels of the Radiohead book at the time: I was waking up with more ideas than I could cram into the narrative, and they had to go somewhere. And nothing subsequently has given me the buzz that I got in those few weeks.

So: what was your golden age of blogging? And you're not allowed to choose your latest post, unless you're Siouxsie.

20 comments:

Murph said...

Oh, this is... I didn't know this was all going to be about the past. This is really boring.

Geoff said...

My early Heimat reviews which only Betty and Wyndham read. Then I threw myself into it like a madman. Now it's more of a social thing which is more enjoyable but my art suffers.

Betty said...

You want to see how Geoff suffers for his art ...

My blog is complete shit of course, so there hasn't been a golden age. Which is quite good, because I haven't got anything to live up to.

Annie said...

Good grief, was that really nearly two years ago? Doesn't time fly when you're having fun!

Are you writing another book now? (No pressure, like...)Isn't it strange when you are in the middle of something it makes the ideas flow more...

I think my golden age of blogging was before I had my own blog, curiously enough - it seemed very, very exciting. Of course, nobody ever responded to my comments as I had a mere email address and no place of my own... was just a norman no-mates lurker and commenter...

dh said...

I think mine was when CBGB moved to Vegas. I wrote a piece about an imaginary punk rock promoter. Well I liked it.

patroclus said...

My blog has always been so much half-baked rubbish, but I like it whenever the comments threads take on a life of their own. Like they did with this post, for example. It makes me very happy to know that my blog will always be there for me to look back on and laugh at funny things people have said in the comments.

Tim Footman said...

Is that the past in dog years, Murph?

The Heimat stuff is superb, Geoff. Especially the Bobby Robson bit, which I must have missed when I watched it.

Oh leave out the self-deprecation, Betty. Your blog is wonderful. And at least there's no bollocks about Bobby Robson.

No book at the mo, Annie. Boring commercial stuff instead. And lurking's cool - all the fun with no responsibility.

Found the CBGBs post, Dick. Never knew Kurt had dreadlocks.

That was the post that sealed your role as the Poly Styrene of Web 2.0, P.

wyndham said...

I like my marvellous posts where I complain in a single sentence that I have nothing to post about. It's groundbreaking stuff in the blog world, let me tell you, which is why I repeat the line several times a week.

Billy said...

I don't know when it was (I hate reading my archive, it's like reading your diary from years gone by) but I can remember it: I got into my stride, toned down the pithy-ness and started getting plenty of comments.

BiB said...

Never even had a bronze age, though I've loved (and hated, sort of) every second, but my one highlight, deserving of doing high-fives with myself, was when you complimented me on a good line. I e-mailed my other half, for we were far apart at the time, and said, "See? I told you I was fab," or something like that. He probably didn't moan about me blogging for one whole day.

Rimshot said...

I don't think I've reached the Golden Age of Rimshot yet. I'm still trying to discover how to make fire.

I do know that I had much more lofty goals with my blog than what it turns out to be today.

Spinny said...

What manner of a fuckwit is that Mojo interviewer? All you have to do is chat about the new album first, get 'em on-side - *then* you can say 'what about the old stuff/divorce/dodgy childhood?' etc. God, it's hardly rocket science, is it?

Anyhow.

I think my Golden Age was when I combined my two-favourite ranting victims (the Grauniad and fucking ill-mannered breeders and their badly-behaved kids) and people went a bit shouty in the comments.

I enjoyed giving that Emma Forrest troll a kicking too. Silly cow.

amyonymous said...

no golden age or nothing at my blog. maybe in the future? i read that Siouxsie article in Mojo and alternated between finding her an uppity diva and being sympathetic to her annoyance.

btw, good interview with radiohead in the current mojo.....

Annie Rhiannon said...

Before I moved to Ireland and got all depressed etc.

FirstNations said...

I've had quite a lengthy bronze age...

Tim Footman said...

Interesting that many define their highlights by the quantity and/or quality of comments - rather reinforcing Patroclus's notion of blogging as a conversation. Does M Amis identify his best book in terms of the number of reviews, I wonder?

patroclus said...

I always think that's how blogging differs from journalism or novel-writing, etc. - when done properly it becomes a collaborative effort between the blogger and the commenters; posts and comments amplifying and building upon each other.

By which token M. Amis should define his best book by the amount of interesting things people said to him about it, or the number of interesting people he met thanks to it, rather than by the number/quality of reviews.

Tim Footman said...

Many people said interesting things about Amis's novel Yellow Dog. I believe it was Philip Hensher who said that reading it was a bit like finding one's favourite uncle wanking in a school playground, or words to that effect. (Mr Hensher now teaches at our mutual alma mater, P, so I'm sure he expressed it with more elan.)

I hope Amis doesn't think that Yellow Dog was his best book.

Mark Wahlflower said...

When are you not deep in the bowels of something or other?

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