Popular Music has often attracted tribes. Punks, hippies, soul boys, mods, rockers, ravers, People Who Like Chris Rea.
One of pop music’s most interesting aspects is that everybody’s journey of discovery is different and thus we all have an alternative history of events.
St Etienne’s Bob Stanley has written at length about how Bucks Fizz’s “The Camera Never Lies” is the perfect pop song.
Other people might accept such a statement as evidence to support an application under the Mental Heath Act…..
“What medical evidence do we have to support this application?”
“Well, the patient has been suffering from nervousness and complains of serious headaches. Psychotic delusions and voices in the head have also been observed”.
“Er, he says “Wibble” a lot…”
“Is that it?”
“Um. We saw him once with his underpants on his head sticking pencils up his nose…”
“Yes, yes, but do you have anything more concrete?”
* shuffles papers nervously *
“Er, well, yes your honour. The patient happens to think “The Camera Never Lies” by Bucks Fizz is a masterpiece of pop songwriting.”
“Oh dear. No further questions. A most serious case. Application approved.”
…..but there’s no doubting Bob’s absolute sincerity and belief in that song. Given he knows a thing or two about pop songs, who are we to question such an opinion?
For me, the eighties were all about loud heavy metal guitars, men wearing make up and bad haircuts. For an indie fan it was all about jangly guitars, men wearing make up and bad haircuts. For Pop fans it was synths and drum machines, men wearing make up and bad haircuts.
You see? Hugely different.
Hmmmm. OK, perhaps the eighties are a bad place to start.
What is certain is that almost anyone might have a story to tell.
Just this week, Julie Reid was having her hair done at a salon when she saw Prince ride past on his bicycle. She took a snap as he rode away back to Paisley Park for what was the last time.
The photo captured a private moment that was fascinating regardless of its significance as being the last public sighting of the brilliant musician. We almost expect to hear of Prince driving an ornate purple Prince-mobile pulled perhaps by swans, or purple unicorns. To see him dressed simply in purple – what else – on a pushbike showed us the rare sight of Prince, the human being.
“To you, he was a celebrity. To us he’s a community member and a good neighbour” said the sheriff of Carver County, reminding the press that privacy isn’t something that should be readily compromised purely due to a person’s fame.
Such moments, captured by the public, show a different perspective to the one more commonly told in books and magazines, yet are usually squirrelled away in peoples’ memories and attics.
A trip up to my loft last week unearthed a huge scrapbook full of press cuttings and magazine articles about Spandau Ballet, lovingly compiled by my wife (honest), who clearly had quite the teenage crush on Tony Hadley.
A friend of mine growing up in Wolverhampton told me about a friend of his, Dave Simpson, who in the 6th form used to write his own charts for his friends.
“There’s the actual charts”, he would say, “but here’s what it should be!” as if the record buying public had collectively got it badly wrong, which to be fair to Dave, could often be argued successfully.
This re-writing of history became known as “Simmo’s charts” and, by all accounts were a tremendously popular read.
Peoples’ memories and memorabilia are rich in detail, and recognising this, the BBC is now spearheading a project that is collecting such stories from the public.
The exciting news is that you can contribute.
The People’s History of Pop is asking people to add their memories, photos and stories of the rock and pop stars they followed over the years.
What’s more, the BBC will then be featuring a selection of these stories in four documentaries, the first of which covered the fifties and sixties and was shown a week ago (it is still on the iPlayer here). The BBC is mostly interested in recording the development of British music, so if you have memories of, say, punk or the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, these will be especially valuable for show three, which is still being compiled.
I am too young to have been at the Ruskin Arms at the birth of the NWOBHM, but have added a couple of things to the site from the late eighties. An AC/DC cardboard guitar I kept from a video shoot, a photo I took of Judas Priest at Hammersmith Odeon, and an advert for Shades Records from an old magazine. But I’m sure there are readers of this blog who will have some excellent treasures from their own experiences.
That Pigeon Detectives ticket stub you kept at the back of your drawer may yet prove to be a priceless piece of rock and pop history…
OK, well probably not The Pigeon Detectives…but you never know.
Others have added such wonders as a torn up towel thrown into a fevered crowd by Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode, an autograph by Otis Redding, salvaged walls from the now defunct Marquee Club and a membership card for the UFO Club, where Pink Floyd began their career.
As the recent deaths of Lemmy, David Bowie and Prince have highlighted, in the next decade or two many of the most significant creators of popular music may be taken from us. The way 2016 is going music journalists will be writing more obituaries than gig reviews.
But as well as the performers, the fans are also getting older, and this project is a fantastic opportunity for us to record our own histories, before we too shuffle off this mortal coil, doubtless arguing over the dubious qualities of The Camera Never Lies…
You can upload your memories at The People’s History of Pop by clicking this link. (It’s very easy: even I managed it).
Who knows, maybe your photo, old eight track recording or story of mending a tour bus tyre for an as yet undiscovered John Lennon will be just what the BBC are looking for to feature in their documentary… It’ll certainly make a lovely change from seeing Paul Gambaccini droning on anyway. Best of luck!