Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Marcus Berkmann

Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Marcus Berkmann

Article excerpt

It's all gone now, of course. Not just the magazines themselves, but the legendary bile of old-school rock criticism

With seconds to spare, I think I have chanced upon my music book of the year. Such choices are always frighteningly subjective, relying as they do on the narrow musical tastes of the chooser, his or her sex, age, education and ambient level of grumpiness. So I make no claims for this book beyond the fact that I liked it a lot. You might not like it, although the book's author would probably think you were wrong. He has been a rock critic for many years, and old habits of the species (intellectual arrogance, superhuman obstinacy, absolute belief in the correctness of one's tastes) die very hard.

Andrew Mueller's It's Too Late To Die Young Now (Foruli Codex, £9.99) is subtitled 'Misadventures In Rock and Roll'. Not unlike Mark Ellen's excellent Rock Stars Stole My Life! , it's a memoir of a life misspent in inky music magazines, in the golden age when such things actually existed. Mark Ellen began his inky career in the 1970s and stretched it out until a couple of years ago, when his impossibly quirky magazine The Word finally folded. Andrew Mueller, a dozen years younger, grew up in Sydney and emigrated to London in 1990 purely in order to write for Melody Maker .

I should probably mention here, in the interests of fair play, that I know Andrew slightly: not well enough to feel embarrassed about enjoying his book as much as I have done, but well enough to know that he writes as he speaks, in complete sentences with subordinate clauses, and drawing breath only when he has reached the end of the paragraph. He has a sharp, snappy style that frequently teeters in the direction of the baroque, and he can be very funny. And in this book, he captures exactly the wonderful inconsequentiality of the rock journo's life: reviewing terrible gigs, slagging off terrible albums, interviewing half-witted musicians, hanging out with hacks even worse dressed and more psychologically disadvantaged than you are yourself, all for 10p a word.

It's all gone now, of course. Not just the magazines themselves, but the legendary bile and high-handedness of old-school rock criticism have been swept from the map. Such magazines as survive are 'fearful of alienating the readers and advertisers they still have, whereas music magazines of the pre-internet age could alienate their readers and advertisers all they liked, secure in the knowledge that there was nowhere else for their readers and advertisers to go. …

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