Attended an interesting debate last night about Brum’s musical reputation, past, present and future at BCU’s rather swanky Parkside site as part of B-side Brum. In case you’ve not heard of it the basic idea is to compile a virtual 20 track album of songs from Birmingham bands and artists to underline Brum’s impressive (but often ignored) contribution to the world of music. Most people would agree that Sabbath deserve a slot, Dexys Midnight Runners has to be in there as has Duran Duran, ELO, Steel Pulse, UB40, Joan Armatrading and The Spencer Davies Group (I'd genuinely love to see Fuzzbox in there too, people seem to have forgotten just what a great and FUN...remember that word?...band they were). More recent contenders include Ocean Colour Scene, Editors, The Streets, Laura Mvula and Peace. Then you’ve got some of the leftfield selections, everything from Broadcast and Pram through to The Nightingales and Felt / Denim / Go Kart Mozart (Lawrence in his various guises) and, personal favourites Mistys Big Adventure and Miss Halliwell.
Do Guillemots count? After all their driving force Fyfe was born in Moseley. How about The Wonderstuff (hailing from Stourbridge)? Or, if you want to stretch the point, Led Zeppelin (Plant was from West Brom, Bonham from Redditch). You could even argue that Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge, although born in Manchester, was totally ‘shaped’ by his time at Solihull School (that certainly seemed the case when I had the pleasure of chatting to him a few years back...his entire career since then can be seen as one long “Fuck you!” to the place). And that’s really both the challenge and opportunity that B-side Brum faces I guess, where do you draw the line? Answers on a chunk of the old library please.
Anyway the panel debating Brum’s musical legacy and future – Lisa from Capsule, Vix from Fuzzbox, Matt Everitt from Menswe@r (now on 6 Music) and music critic Pete Paphides, chaired by BCU’s Professor Paul Long – just about scratched the surface of the topic ‘Does Birmingham Music Get The Respect It Deserves?’ which is about as much as you can viably hope to do in an hour or so. The answer’s clearly a resounding ‘no’ by the way, due in part perhaps to Brummies natural lack of ego and laid back attitude compared with, say Manchester’s rather more ‘in yer face’ approach. There were the usual, but still justified, comments on the major label’s London-centricity too, in fact it’s arguably far worse these days given that the old model of selling a physical music ‘product’ (records, CDs, cassettes etc) is screwed and a whole generation of music lovers expect to stream/download anything they want for FREE (QED most labels won’t take risks these days which is why the charts are generally so dull). That leaves playing live, merch (t-shirts, condoms, branded speculums etc) and licensing deals as the only way to scrape a living for most bands now. An argument was put forward by the lovely Mr Everitt that if you’re good enough you’ll get noticed but having sadly seen dozens of great ‘local’ bands fall on stony ground over the years I’d have to disagree. If nothing else B-side Brum will get people talking about this stuff though and I’m looking forward to seeing/hearing the final list next week (July 16th). I’ll keep you posted.
PS: Midnight Bonfires played a great set on the roof (Beatles stylee) after the debate. Well worth checking out...