Last week we at the wave sent some reporters up to Manchester for the Louder Than Words Festival and this is what Brice came up with.
Barney Hoskins in conversation with Simon Warner:
To open the festival activities, Barney Hoskins, a preeminent music journalist, co-founder of the online archive Rock’s Backpages, whose work includes biographies of Tom Waits and Led Zeppelin, joined Leeds University Popular Music Studies lecturer Simon Warner for a conversation about his career.
Barney first tells us about the book he is currently working on, a study of Woodstock as a location, and its history before it was associated with the 1969 music festival. A festival that, as Hoskins reminds us, didn’t actually take place in Woodstock, but more than fifty miles away in Bethel. “Why didn’t they change the name?” Warner asks. “Because it already had a significance in the counterculture at the time. There is a history of musicians and artists settling in Woodstock, even before Bob Dylan retreated there in 1967. He didn’t choose this place for no reason”, Hoskins says.
The book won’t be published before spring 2015, though. This exemplifies Barney Hoskins’ attitude about writing. There is a reason why his books have all been praised for their wealth of information and overall quality. He works on a single project for four or five years sometimes, because it is what’s needed to present the subject authoritatively. When I talk to him afterwards about the challenge of interviewing people for a book on someone who’s not quite open to talking about his life, he tells me that Jimmy Page was paranoid about what people might say about him, whereas Robert Plant was okay with it. “And there’s a reason to that, because Robert has mostly treated people good all his life, whereas Jimmy hasn’t. He should’ve thought about it at the time”, he laughs.
Wilko Johnson and Zoe Howe in conversation with John Robb:
Probably the most moving and inspiring talk of the weekend. Wilko Johnson, who came to prominence in the late 70s as Dr. Feelgood’s guitarist and main composer, was at Louder Than Words on Saturday to present his new book Looking Back At Me, a collection of photos and anecdotes about the part of his life he now likes to refer to as “B.C.”, understand “Before Cancer”. Back in January this year, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and that’s the very first thing he talks about. “They told me I’ve got ten months left. I’ve done it!”, he laughs. What follows is an hour of insightful anecdotes about his time in Dr. Feelgood and before that, when he was just a “hairy hippie”. Reflecting upon his choice not to undergo chemotherapy, he says: “I didn’t want to lose my hair!”
When asked about his guitar playing style, he says it’s all about the rhythm. “People said we were doing pub rock, but I could never relate to that. We were just playing rhythm n’ blues, like The Rolling Stones.” “The way I play”, he adds, “that’s just what I do. The second you go onstage and you start playing, everything else in your life just goes away. I love literature but I don’t think Hamlet had much influence on blues rock”, he laughs.
When a member of the audience raises the question of whether he’s going to tour again, Wilko responds: “When you’re doing a tour you’ve got to plan it months before, and of course now I can’t do that. But I’ll go on as long as I can.” Fist in the air, he stands up, more determined than ever, his eyes wide open, and makes his way to the exit as he is given a rapturous applause and standing ovation. The second I see him going out that door, I know I’ve been part of a truly fantastic moment, something that, as Simon Warner told me later, “we probably will never witness ever again.” Thank you Wilko. Boom Boom
Chris Salewicz in conversation with Simon Warner:
Chris Salewicz knows. He was there when the NME had its “golden age” and was the bible of rock writing. From 1975 to 1981, he wrote for the publication, alongside other writers such as Nick Kent. On Saturday, he came to reflect upon his career and talk about his current project, a book on the 27 Club. Amy Winehouse. Kurt Cobain. Jimi Hendrix. Brian Jones. Robert Johnson. They all died at the tragic age of 27 and, so Chris says, there must be some kind of links between all these people’s lives. Everybody knew Amy Winehouse was going to die. Everybody. “What’s going on in here?” he exclaims. “Why isn’t anyone keeping an eye on this?” Chris Salewicz suggests that the right people didn’t surround Winehouse, or the other “members” of the club. When asked about the relationship with her father, Chris instantly responds: “she was in love with him”, but then refuses to comment any further on the subject.
Joe Strummer and Bob Marley then rapidly come up in the conversation. Chris Salewicz has written two major books on both of them, and could count Strummer as a good friend of his. He tells us how he never saw The Clash as a political band. “What I loved about them was just how funny they were.” The day Joe died, Chris was in an immense state of shock, and after a few days he started writing how he felt about it. “I was just writing down all my feelings and emotions. I didn’t talk to anyone at that time. By the end of it, I had written fifty A4 pages”, he says. “I soon realised it was actually the first chapter of a book.”