The Press Gang
Who do these music press writers think they are? A big joke, that's what we make of it.
Just what do all these funny people from the music papers get up to! I mean, it's not a real job... is it? Don't they just swan around and slag off good music?
The happy hour was unusually quiet that night in the Wang Bar. The long counter was deserted but for Lucan, the barman, quietly polishing glasses; the only customers were a small group of shabby and raddled-looking music writers, seated around a glass-laden corner table awaiting their floozies.
The lanky red-headed melancholic figure of Des Gruntled drained his pint mug.
"Y'know," he said, licking his lips, "the question I get asked most often when I tell people I'm Features Editor at Idiot Sound Maker, is 'how do you get to interview these famous people?'." The others nodded agreement. Des leant forward across the pub table, carefully emphasising his words: "So I tell 'em. I tell 'em all about ringing record company press offices, and dealing with publicists like Rex Spence-Account. Now there's a man whose life is dedicated to not", he spat, bitterly splitting the infinitive, "allowing his client to talk to the press." He sat back in his seat puffed his chest out, and assumed the smarmy upper-class accent of the well-known publicist:
"'Oh yes, Idiot Music Sound: you're calling about the possibility of interviewing Big O'Popstar, aren't you? I'm sorry but it's out of the question at the moment, as he's out of the country filming an episode of Miami Vice, then he's off to Sri Lanka to work on 'Are you Experienced', the sequel to 'Absolute Beginners', which follows the characters into the Sixties when they get caught up in the hippy revolution and Jimi Hendrix, in which he plays an alien from another planet, then we're in Abbey Road with the Georges (Michael and Martin, that is) for pre-production work on the concept for the new album's working title of "My New LP Thing", and I could have fitted you in for a telephone interview then if only the doctors hadn't forbidden him talking to journalists on the 'phone because of its adverse effect on his sinus, which he was - I mean - really cut up about, but then there's the recording in Nassau, overdubs in Tokyo with Springsteen, and the 12in in New York with Narada Michael Warden, before Biggo takes Spielberg off to do the video, which takes us up to the Summer after next when he's on Wogan. How about I get you some good colour shots, and you use the Wogan interview as your basic text?' Stupid bastards."
Des sat back while the laughter died down. Roger Thesaurus, portly scribbler for Seminal Strummers magazine, spoke up.
"And the other question people always ask is 'what are they like?'" They all nodded in agreement. Roger continued:
"I had to interview Paul Spart of The Spartwangers. Not only did he keep me waiting for two hours in Gnomish rehearsal studios, but he demanded a new set of strings off me because I was playing his guitar when he came in. Stingy bastard - he's not been the same since he did that Bard Aid benefit gig for the Royal Shakespeare." Thesaurus' appalling sense of humour had not improved. "Anyway, I gave him the old chat technique, y'know - like the new album, who produced, what studios, all that bit - and the sod said he wasn't interested in technical stuff, and proceeded to bloody lecture me on the importance of white soul to revolutionary socialism for 45 minutes. Trying to get 2000 words out of that - bloody murder. I ended up doing the interview with his guitar roadie."
"I've done Spart," muttered Ted Tallhead from MIDIMuso Monthly, paying no heed to the ribald comments that followed. "But he's not as difficult as Morris Miner, from The Jones. I'd arranged to chat to him about his unique vocal stylings." The others sniggered. "I thought I'd take him out to lunch, few glasses of wine, loosen the old voice strings. Miserable sod. We tried eight different pizza places, four pubs, and countless wine bars - apparently his moral and social conscience will only let him eat henna sandwiches. On white bread. And then all he'd talk about was how difficult it was to get microphones that weren't made from metal mined in South Africa, and could I recommend a good megaphone."
"S'not as bad as Blackie Richanmorose," grumbled Des Gruntled, now fortified by another pint after the strain of his lengthy monologue. "Most of my interview tape was inaudible because of the squeaking of his leather codpiece' and the rest of it mysteriously got rubbed out when I asked him whether the secret of his fast fingerwork was actually an echo unit. He gave me a funny look - all malevolent like - then he leant into the tape machine and said some sort of latin verse. That was the last thing that got recorded."
"You shouldn't mess with those occult bands - next time he'll probably turn you into a frog," warned Ted.
"So that what's happened to their singer - after their dreadful display at Knobworth's Mighty Beasts Of Megametal Festival last year, all he could do was croak - 'gillan, gillan'!" Thesaurus laughed.
"I had that Nobby Nobsperm in once, just after he'd left Stormy Mondy." Klive, Korrespondent for Kertharsis spoke up. "I asked him about his, y'know, 'dietry habits', and how his guitarist lost those two fingers, and whether the stories of him biting the head off a cow on stage were true. He just sort of shrugged, and said the fingers were the kind of accident that could have happened to anybody, and as for the cow, someone had thrown it up onstage, and he'd thought it was a rubber one, and that the mooing noise was a bass solo."
"Was he... odd?"
"He did twitch a bit. But he was all right until I asked about the unexplained disappearance of the bass player halfway through their last tour, and the bones they'd found in the tour bus - that was when he went funny. He grabbed my Walkman and started biting it. I had to claim this new one on expenses..."
"Must have been a full moon!"
"You haven't said anything yet, "Des Gruntled turned to Victor Ludorum, the tall, dark and handsome reviews editor from Mark King Music. "So what's the worst job you ever had?"
"Worst job I ever had to do," he mused, sucking thoughtfully on his briar, "was writing my magazine's 'Funny'."
Feature by Jon Lewin
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