The VPME – 10th Anniversary !

Today the VPME celebrates 10 years at the musical coal face. Yes, on 31st July 2007 we posted ‘ The Burning Ambition Of The Early Diuretics” by Brighton uber-pop band The Pipettes. Listening back it’s still a great pop song and the idea of giving the Phil Spector girl group sound a reboot with a modern post feminist twist was certainly something that resonated in the mid -noughties monochrome world of landfill indie and whey faced mutton fingered lad rock. A bleak world which saw the NME in the thrall of fucking Razorlight and Johnny Bovril.

So I guess ten years is some sort of an achievement in the fast moving disposable world of pop culture. Or perhaps a cautionary tale and an object lesson in the futility of perseverance? Like watching a man pushing at a door marked pull for ten years? On a personal level, it’s been a challenging decade ill health, stress, unemployment, bereavement, the relentless grind of austerity under an uncaring out of touch government have all taken their toll. Conversely, it’s also been a decade rich with amazing experiences and opportunities and as ever much of the good stuff relates to music. As laugh-a-minute life and soul of the party Friedrich N once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

It’s also been interesting to see how blogging has evolved over the last decade. Some blogs have grown to such an extent that they aren’t really blogs anymore and somewhat ironically have morphed into that what they once sought to replace. A few have remained true to their original ethos whilst many others have chased hits churning out vacuous daily content that adds zero to the sum total of human knowledge. Indeed there are some which induce a strong urge to pluck out my eyeballs and pickle them in vinegar rather than ever read their incoherent arrant fucking nonsense -“Top Ten Trainers The La’s might have worn” “Singers Who Look Like Pasta” “What We Learnt From What We learnt Articles” (that’ll be fuck all mate) As a fan of the written word this constant churn for hits, the spewing out of any old shite, the one listen album review, lists about lists,  .. it fucking depresses me and I wonder rather than help new music, does it perhaps not hinder it ? Add to the dispensability? There’s also a view that a writer, who thinks everything is BRILLIANT is simply a PR Fluffer, an unctuous ingratiator. It’s one thing to play the game, quite another to contrive to make Uriah Heep appear somewhat insouciant! They offer an opinion that has no cultural value other than to hoover up freebies, photo passes and a nice little pat on the head. Drowned In Sound Founder Sean Adams has often highlighted that the churn – the endless quest for content conceived simply for hits does little to help new music. He once suggested he’d love to see a music blog that posted one song a year. That might be an option.

Of course, there’s no hankering back to the so-called “golden – age of music journalism”, y’know the one that actually never existed? much of it was misogynist, vitriolic show boating and more about the journalist proving how clever he was than the actual music.

So did blogging really bring about the death of quality music journalism? Nah, but the internet, social media and streaming has certainly made the landscape more challenging. It’s hard to mention the NME these days without typing LOL, but there is still some magnificent writing on line once you wade through the selfie “Look it’s ME at a festival ” shite – The Quietus is probably the gold standard when it comes to great writing and no matter how, dark, cacophonous and impenetrable the music is, the articles are more often than not, a joy to read. DIY and new publications like DORK are vibrant and fresh and have their fingers firmly on the pulse and have an aesthetic that shows they actually give a shit. Dom Gourley at DIS often writes about the sort of music I love in an engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable way. I might not always agree with him on the merits of a number of bands, or Len McCluskey’s moral veracity, but he’s always worth reading. Laura Barton of the Guardian who was very supportive of this blog in the early days (even writing a few articles for us) remains one of the most beautifully eloquent and poetic writers around and in terms of being able to convey exactly how music feels, there is nobody better. How it hits you on an emotional level and becomes part of you. She manages to convey all of this with fluidity, grace candour and genuine emotion and is somebody who connects with music on a deep and personal level. Exactly the sort of person who should write about music. As much as I miss her ‘Hail Hail Rock and Roll’ features in The Guardian her ‘Notes From A Musical Island’ series on Radio 4 is a gift that keeps on giving. Some people just have it.

The era of the music blog as a primary source for musical discovery has shifted, this is partly due to the natural way things evolve, the emergence of streaming services and the domination of Spotify with its clever algorithms which has made new music discovery accessible to even the most technically challenged.

Once it was Myspace which was all about music but now we have Facebook where we live in our own social media bubble in which we surround ourselves with people whose opinions match our own world view. See something we don’t agree with? That’s fake news, see someone whose music or art we love getting castigated on twitter? That’s a witchhunt. Call a band shit? That’s fighting talk. And thus we never really engage with or consider opposing views, indeed even a mild rebuke of Saint Jeremy Of Corbyn can produce some pretty vitriolic abuse and accusations that you’re a red Tory or worse … a Blairite!

So do we need blogs or music journalists? Probably – if only to help filter the sheer volume of music out there. Some people will always be interested to hear the views of a writer they trust. Personally, I tend to follow writers more than blogs, or zines per se. Writers who are passionate and can communicate, I don’t expect a mixture of Shakespeare and Zola, just the ability to convey an atmosphere or emotion. Not what bus you got on the way to the gig, or if your mate Biffo was pissed. When a new music blog springs up and immediately has a “donate button” my first reaction is … Ok, what are your server costs? how many contributors do you have? do you intend to pay your writers? what are your views on photographers and the licence/copyright of their images? Will you run it like Sports Direct in the unlikely event you turn a profit? Why should I donate? Or is this just for shits and giggles and a free pass to a 6 quid gig? If it’s the latter and the blog is simply churning out endless top tens, lots of filler, lists, contrived ‘controversial’ Clarkson-lite opinion pieces about nothing and copy and pasting press releases my second reaction is often ‘ you can take that donate button and fuck right off. ” Similarly blogs that make huge claims about their influence and have an endless list of rules and submission requirements an artist MUST adhere to are also on my own personal shit list. Seriously ? Can you not manage to filter your mail boxes? Some even require artists to follow them on social media to be considered. Oh, do fuck off you entitled bellends.

Perhaps we have reached ‘peak blog’, (I mean at times Liverpool seems to have more blogs than actual music fans .)Perhaps a blog will arrive with a radically new approach and change everything, who knows? It’s still great to see blogs who started out around the time of the VPME still at it and seemingly still as passionate about the discovery of new music as ever. In terms of the one person blog, Breaking More Waves has always been a favourite. I often don’t quite get the more poptastic tunes but admire the enthusiasm and wit. I get what music gives even if I don’t get the music, y’know?

Over the ten years, we’ve championed a huge variety of bands from Marina And The Diamonds, back in the day when she was randomly uploading MySpace demos to Sissy and the Blisters, Havana Guns and Monkey Swallows The Universe (who?) Howling Bells through to Wolf Alice, Public Service Broadcasting, Black Honey and this year the amazing Dream Wife. Many artists have disappeared without a trace and a few have become some of the biggest names in music and being the arrant narcissist I clearly am, I take full credit. It’s all about ME! Ultimately nobody can predict who is gonna be the next big thing, even Ed Sheerin didn’t predict he’d become Ed bloody Sheerin. Anybody who claims otherwise is talking through their hoop.

So back to ME, it’s my blog birthday so indulge me … Over the last 10 years I’ve had some amazing experiences, been given air time on BBC 6 Music, been part of the BBC Sound of panel, been interviewed by The Guardian, written for Music Week, been nominated for awards and staggered into a Stevie Wonder press conference backstage at Glastonbury only to be told, ‘You shouldn’t be here – for Christ sake don’t let him see you’ – I was like , “wow … Can miracles really happen??” And of course, I met the MARY CHAIN!! More than once. Ok so I was hiding under their tour bus ala Max Cady but hey, needs must! And when one of your fave artists says “ Thanks again for all your support over the years – you were a big influence for me personally having the confidence to even contemplate performing with Lush again” you feel perhaps you may be getting some things right. I’ve written for some great publications, had my own radio shows and rediscovered my love of photography which has somewhat taken over. I remember seeing the excitement my daughter experienced backstage as a guest of Paloma Faith who never forgot the early support the VPME showed. And I now can even almost laugh at having my drink spiked at Glastonbury during Pulp’s set.  But of the many highlights it ultimately comes down to the people – and I’ve felt privileged to meet some incredibly talented creative like minded people who have shared the same passion.

So perhaps after ten years, I should stop. Go with some dignity. Don’t be the drunk who is initially amusing but eventually outstays his welcome and ultimately shits his pants before the night is through? To be honest the last year has been a struggle to keep on blogging and writing etc ( health … bereavement .. life … trying to write a screenplay (seriously, and I need a writing partner – any offers – get in touch) )……. but music has always been there, a soundtrack to the ups and the downs and the numerous curve balls that life throws at you, it’s not a cure all , but it’s certainly always there ready to help to soothe the soul … to console and make sense of your emotions and ultimately uplift. And to draw you back in all it takes is one great gig or one great song to give you that rush, that feeling of vitality and connection with the world …. and then boom! You’re back in the game.

When I think of how music makes me feel, it’s rather like an awakening of the senses, in fact, I’m often drawn to a quote from the movie Awakenings when I try to make sense of what music does for me – “Read the newspaper. What does it say? All bad. It’s all bad. People have forgotten what life is all about. They’ve forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded of what they have and what they can lose. What I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life!” – That is how music makes me feel.

So I might stagger on a little bit longer yet. Sorry.

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