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(Message started by: S J Birkill on Today at 16:37)

Title: Record Collector article
Post by S J Birkill on Today at 16:37
This month's Record Collector contains an article (pp 55-56) by MV member Chris Evans, based on an interview he had with Pete and Clive. Chris notes they chopped the end of the piece, but seem not to have hurt it too much otherwise.

Title: Re: Record Collector article
Post by chris_evans on 01.10.05 at 13:31
Closer inspection reveals that RC excised slightly more than I first realised, including one or two nice quotes. Harumph. So here are the missing paragraphs:

I wonder if (Clive’s) early style was, at least partially, born of a need to impress.

“No, I never felt the need to impress. I was just a show-off, which is very different. If I’d wanted to put everything I had in the shop window, the shop window would have been much more crowded than that. I just wanted to treat literature and culture as reality. Which it still is to me, that’s why I write my criticism. One of my main forms of expression is the critical essay, and that’s based on the idea that this stuff is just as real as bread, butter and milk.”


There were also crucial changes in Pete and Clive’s working methods on Winter/Spring.

“Clive became much less hesitant about giving me lyrics that weren’t always mathematically neat in their structures,” says Pete, “so we ended up with something like An Empty Table, for instance, which is almost free form. He would also sometimes hand me a sheet which was just a page of sketches of ideas, to see what might come out of it musically. Then I’d pass that back to him and something else would happen with the lyric. Originally, 35 years ago, Clive would just give me a finished lyric and I’d set it to music, but the more we’ve gone on, the more the writing has become a back-and-forth, two-way process.”


We conclude our conversation by trying to identify contemporary lyricists who have carried on what Clive started 35 years ago, particularly in an age where the word-soup of someone like Chris Martin is held up as evidence of towering genius. Pete is someone who still has the same enthusiasm for new records that he had in the Sixties, and he’s clearly keen not to sound like someone who’s stuck in the past. But he’s quickly struggling.

“Er, Becker and Fagen.” Contemporary? “Well they’re still doing it, of course.” But he takes my point. “David Byrne – he’s one of the few people whose records I buy unheard.” I agree, but feel constrained to point out he’s in his fifties. “Bruce Hornsby, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, John Prior – still in codger territory, I suppose.” Exactly. “Ben Folds – I like the poppiness of what he does. And Barenaked Ladies.” Younger, I concede, though I doubt many people would class Ben Folds’ lyrics as anything better than smart. Only later do I think we might have considered Momus, probably the only lyricist of the last 20 years similarly over-qualified for the job of rock star, and still a relatively youthful 45.

In fact, though Clive was initially optimistic that writers like Randy Newman, Robbie Robertson and Bob Dylan would inspire future generations of rock wordsmiths to ever greater heights of expressiveness tempered by old-school craftsmanship, what we mostly have is lyricists who fling gimcrack images and metaphors at the page in the hope that some of them might coalesce into something that sounds like profundity. Pete Atkin and Clive James once represented the hope that rock music could aspire to a whole lot better than that. Yet though the cult of punk-induced stupidity that defeated them the first time has come and gone, the idea that a rock lyric is worth the exercise of intelligence, passion, wit and discipline seems to be in steeper decline than ever.

And that’s likely to remain the case – until, of course, some other novelist/poet/essayist/wit and polymath decides to focus his energies on writing a hit record.

Title: Re: Record Collector article
Post by Seán Kelly on 02.10.05 at 21:39
Excellent Article Chris - and what a pleasure to see PA & CJ's names on the front cover of the magazine - Many Thanks - and also for the additional pieces posted here which are very interesting themselves.  
(wearing a nice bold printed shirt tonight - which prompted my wife to ask if I was "planning to appear with Clive James soon?"  - just thought I'd share that with you !)

Title: Re: Record Collector article
Post by Seán Kelly on 03.10.05 at 15:20
and, at the dangerous risk of replying to my own post, can I add that it was great to see the lyrics of Hill of Little Shoes printed on the page alongside the article.  As a regular Record Collector reader I can confirm that it's a very rare day indeed when RC print lyrics - for obvious reasons!

Title: Re: Record Collector article
Post by chris_evans on 10.10.05 at 15:58
Thanks for your kind remarks, Sean. Nice to know somebody's read it. And it would be even nicer if I could get paid for it!
(One of the Shrewsbury elite)

Title: Re: Record Collector article
Post by chris_evans on 21.05.06 at 09:47
Anyone who missed the RC article can now read it - and much else that's both edifying and instructive - online at www.cgevans.co.uk/pete_atkin.htm.

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