Every Record Tells A Story
Every Record Tells A Story seeks to write about records, and the extraordinary people who made them..
ERTAS author Steve Carr has written for Classic Rock Magazine, Team Rock online and Record Collector Magazine. Steve has also appeared on the Radio 4 programme The World Tonight and on TV with BBC4’s Pop Charts Britannia: 60 Years of the Pop Charts, which looked at the history of popular music.
Since 2012 Every Record Tells A Story has looked back at rock and pop’s quirkier stories, myths and legends.
A unique feature of the blog is Steve’s forays into the world of record collecting, some of which have involved a wager. For example, could you build a collection of original Beatles vinyl for less than the price of the reissues? How much would a complete set of David Bowie’s classic albums cost? Could you make and sell on eBay a deluxe box set of Neil Young albums using the original albums? And if, instead of buying a box set by Oasis, you spent the same money on buying second-hand albums, what records could you end up with?
ERTAS also features live reviews, photography, the occasional interview and general music-related nonsense.
Hi Steve! “Every Record Tells a Story”– excellent name, and very true, what can you tell us about it?
The genesis of the whole thing came in 2001, when I stumbled across the newly released book Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman. Here was a guy who grew up in the middle of nowhere, listened to a derided genre of music – heavy rock – and could still talk about it with enthusiasm and with his critical faculties intact. It was brilliant. Wouldn’t it be good, I thought, if I could do something like that, but talking about life in the UK? There were similarities: Klosterman lived in a part of the world that I pictured as a wilderness, whilst in the UK I grew up in a cultural wilderness, musically speaking, thanks to the national radio stations that played non-stop Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
Of course I did nothing about actually writing a book, but the idea remained. I can’t review new records as well as Pitchfork or Drowned In Sound and I can’t approach an artist and say: “I’m from Rolling Stone and can I have an interview?” But not many people write about heavy rock, and those that do tend to (rightly) take it quite seriously, and tend not to write about other genres. So I had something different, because all I want to do is make jokes and write about other bands as well as Whitesnake. The Blogs-With-Jokes-About-Heavy-Rock-And-Other-Bands-niche is not a large or particularly strongly contested niche in the blogosphere, so I think I have a free run at it. I am trying to make a virtue of a lack of focus.
I like to think that blogging is to writing what punk was to music – a DIY ethic – that whole “here are three chords, now go form a band”, only with words. It isn’t of course – it’s basically me, typing into a computer, which is about as far removed from punk as you can imagine. However, my blog is the culmination of years of just being a fan of music, reading countless music biographies, storing up all these ideas and events – things that happened at gigs for example, and then gobbing them, carefully, onto the page.
I still have doubts about the name, but you have to call it something – and you should have seen the other ideas – they were far worse.
Has your taste changed much over time?
It has widened. In his book 31 Songs, Nick Hornby wrote that Led Zeppelin and loud music generally is something you grow out of. I disagree. I now find something to enjoy in most genres, but there’s still nothing quite like the sound of a Gibson Les Paul plugged into a Marshall Stack.
How do you view the role of the rock writer, and the ‘blogger’ in particular?
If I have a role, it is to entertain people with the writing, make people laugh and hopefully get them to dig out a new or old record. That’s all. Every Record Tells A Story will appeal to gig goers, vinyl lovers, and fans of indie, rock and metal. It’s like a poor man’s Mojo Magazine, only not as well written, but perhaps with more jokes.
There are many very good music blogs out there, much better than mine, a lot of which tell you about new music and new bands, and they play a great role in promoting new bands. Well, that’s not the kind of blog I write. Who wants to only listen to new stuff when you haven’t heard all the old stuff? It gets exhausting to keep up with. I start to doubt someone when they recommend their eightieth new band of the year as being something special. So I’ll write about say, six new bands a year, and I’ll really like them all.
Of everything you’ve presented on the site, is there anything of which you’re particularly proud?
I once took on a bet that I could buy all the Beatles albums on vinyl in a limited time and budget – that was a good series and was as much fun to do as it was to write. I had to do a fair bit of research, which I enjoyed. It ended up being part record collecting, part Beatles history and part comedy caper. Well, I thought it was funny anyway. I enjoyed it so much I did a follow-up with Bowie’s records six months later. As a consequence, I now own a lot of Beatles and Bowie vinyl. Which is no bad thing. My most popular post was a joke article I wrote about a university that offered a degree in record collecting, which went modestly viral…
Has the Every Record Tells a Story site led to any other opportunities?
One of the first pieces I wrote for the blog was a jokey thing about my memories of taping the charts off the radio. Somehow a BBC researcher found it and invited me to take part in a BBC documentary called Pop Charts Britannia: 60 Years of the Top Forty. They found a boom box and got me to tape a recording of the top forty countdown from the early Eighties. It was a lot of fun.
More recently the editor of Classic Rock magazine got in touch to ask if they could publish one of the ‘Rock on Trial’ articles about sexism in rock. I pulled together a few Pie Charts to illustrate the point, so it had a quirky visual element to it. There are very few Pie Charts in music criticism, I find. It was very flattering to rub shoulders with “proper” writers. It was encouraging. Maybe, I thought, I should carry on doing this blogging thing just a little bit longer …
I had no expectations or ambition that blogging would lead to anything else, so these things are nice to do when they come up.
If you are here for the first time, here are some articles that you may enjoy:
(An adapted version of this article later appeared in Classic Rock Magazine)
Is Heavy Rock Just a Teeny Weeny Bit Sexist? (This later appeared on Team Rock’s Classic Rock website)
For Classic Rock Magazine:
For Record Collector Magazine:
Mercury Rev: Live Review
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There is also an Every Record Gallery page on Pinterest if you like that sort of thing…
You can email me at email@example.com