Still Going Strong
The art of perseverance.
It didn't strike me until this issue was already in a fairly advanced state of production that all three of this month's featured artists have appeared within E&MM's pages before.
Of the three, Tim Souster is the elder statesman, having graced the magazine's pages as far back as May 1981. E&MM was in its infancy then, and that particular month, came to its readers with a small piece of vero-board stuck to its front cover, together with six short features inside to give people ideas as to what to do with it. Times have certainly changed.
Keith Emerson appeared on E&MM's cover exactly two years later, and waffled on at such enormous length that his interview took up no fewer than nine pages of editorial. As for China Crisis, they've spent hardly a year away from us: they shared the front cover position with rock keyboardist Don Airey in February 84.
But quite apart from being featured in E&MM for the second time around, those three artists have something else in common - perseverance. They've all struggled at some length to achieve the elevated positions they now enjoy in their respective musical fields, and they've all experienced times when self-doubt nearly got the better of artistic determination and caused them to jack it in.
At the time China Crisis were striving to gain recognition, the world was full of young hopefuls all attempting to get their message across, but the problems facing Souster and Emerson were of an entirely opposite nature. Both of them spent their musical apprenticeship trying to do what almost nobody else was doing, and both were forced to take what can only be described as circuitous routes to their eventual goals.
Souster spent years sponging off educational authorities around the world in order to pursue his musical ideals, for the simple reason that they didn't fit in with the accepted standards of the day. It wasn't until the late seventies that the composer could confidently free himself from the bonds of academic life and go it alone, and even then, living entirely from his music proved a struggle.
Keith Emerson had a similar predicament. He was a keyboard player at a time when the world only wanted to listen to guitarists, and was forced to over-emphasise his own virtuosity (to some extent in the studio, but mostly on stage) simply to make the point that the keyboardist had just as big a contribution to make as anyone else.
Eventually, people listened to both musicians, and the world of modern music is a lot better off as a result. Yet although the state of play has changed to the extent that innovation (superficial or otherwise) is welcomed with open arms by most of the music industry, that doesn't mean to say perseverance is on the way out.
If anything, it's more necessary than ever, because there are now an awful lot of those young hopefuls vying for the industry's attention. If your bedroom wall is littered with rejection letters from record companies and you're lucky if you get more than 30 people to see you at each gig you play, it's the easiest thing in the world to give up on music and opt for merchant banking instead. But most of those that eventually achieve success do so because they have the courage to continue writing and playing their own music even when the odds are stacked against them.
So if there's a message to be gleaned from this month's crop of artist interviews it's this: Hang On In There.
Editorial by Dan Goldstein
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