On Friday, two days from now, your man from Just Backdated is heading off to the Palace Hotel in Manchester to take part in Louder Than Words, the music writers’ festival where we all get together to talk about our profession in panel type discussions that last from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. We also hang out in the bar a lot at night and argue amongst ourselves, tell lurid tales about the worst interviews we ever did and, well those of us a bit long in the tooth, bemoan how much better it was ‘in our day’.
LTW is in its third year now and for the second year running Omnibus Press, of which I am the senior editor, is a sponsor of the event. Last year we came on board a bit late which meant we had a fairly low profile but this year that has changed. I’m on the welcoming committee, which means I’ll address the gathering on Friday night, and I’ve been roped in to take part in three events on the Saturday.
The first, on Saturday morning at 10.15, is entitled Watch The Small Print: Libel, Copyright & Legalities. Associate Carol Isherwood, of national law firm Shoosmiths, and yours truly will be discussing legal matters relating to music, rock books and publishing in general. Carol specialises in intellectual property law including copyright and contract issues, representing artists in both contentious and non-contentious matters including infringement cases, and while my legal training extends no further than a two-day course at the Publishing Training Centre in Clapham I have spent half a lifetime fending off complaints great and small.
Advertised as a light-hearted, anecdote-fuelled session with a serious underpinning, it has the potential to be as dry as a Sauvignon Blanc but rest assured that if pressed I will liven things up by revealing the names of those acts who have attempted to sue Omnibus Press over the years and why, and how we ducked and dived our way out of potential trouble.
On Saturday afternoon at 3.30 I’m on safer ground, taking part in a discussion entitled The Who At 50 with Mark Blake, author of Pretend You’re In A War (see Just Backdated review: http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/pretend-youre-in-war-who-sixties-by.html), Tony Fletcher, author of our great Keith Moon biography Dear Boy, and Ian Snowball, who’s just compiled a tribute book to Moonie that Omnibus will be publishing next year. We tried to get the Rt. Hon. Peter Townshend of Richmond-upon-Thames to join us but he declined owing to prior commitments, sending us his best wishes in the process. This was a shame but then again I might have been obliged to explain to him why I was disappointed with his own book, not to mention The Who's Official History. It does seem like a good opportunity to tell a few Keith Moon stories though.
Finally, at 7.15, I’m part of Juke Box Fury, ace record label man and now the world’s coolest librarian Richard Boon’s panel where writers play and discuss the tunes that inspired their careers. Then they vote hit or miss, and discuss music writing in general. I’m on the panel alongside Mick Middles, who co-wrote our biography of Ian Curtis, Riot Grrrl pioneer Karen Ablaze and Daniel Rachel, author of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters.
Richard asked me what song I’d choose and to tell him why I chose it, but I won’t give the game away by naming it here and instead offer a potted version of how I responded to his request about why: it’s the summer of 1969, I’m 22 years of age, at a crossroads having worked for five years as newspaper reporter but growing a bit disillusioned, love rock’n’roll, love The Who, buy and love Tommy, see Who (for first time) at Plumpton Festival in August, mind blown, decide to answer ad for job on Melody Maker, interview involves long discussion on Who, job given to Richard Williams, my mum dies in November after long illness, depressed, listen to Tommy a lot over Christmas and New Year, see Who again (at Dunstable) the following March with girl I want to get friendly with, her mind’s blown by Who so getting friendly happens after show, a week later MM editor Ray Coleman calls, there’s another vacancy, still interested? Been writing about rock’n’roll (and The Who) ever since.
Other Omnibus Press writers taking part include Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson, Richard Balls, Daryl Easlea, Zoe Howe, Spencer Leigh, Joel McIver and Simon Wells. Zoe, married to drummer Dylan Howe who now plays with The Blockheads, will be talking to Jemima Dury about her dad. Musicians taking part include Keith Levine of PiL, Steve Ignorant of Crass, our good friend Rick Buckler, Pauline Black of The Selector and CP Lee, doyen of Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias. Once again the festival will climax on Sunday afternoon with the presentation of the Wilko Johnson Young Writers Award for music writers under 25. Supported by Bloomsbury Press and the website Rock’s Backpages, the finalists and winners deemed to have produced the most aspiring and inspiring music writing will receive their prizes from David Ward of Bloomsbury and my pal Barney Hoskyns, the man behind RBP.
A full programme of events can be found here: http://louderthanwordsfest.com/programme-of-events/
A splendid time is guaranteed for all, and daily reports from the event will appear on Just Backdated if the laptop behaves itself.