Music As Reading: Mixtape IV, The Poet With A Thorn In His Side (he only ever wanted to be a music-maker)
Armitage: “I really like your stuff.”
Mark E. Smith: “Got a light, cock?”
The poet who, really, would have liked to be in a band more than he enjoys being a really-quite-successful poet – an evocative, pathos-drenched, rather depressing image. And one of crucial import to the Music As Reader. For out of it buzz a swarm of questions at the heart of what the Music As Reading project is, really, all about: what is the relationship between the poet and the music he or she listens to – and what can one discover about both forms from that relationship? Does the poet who loves to music-listen read or write with, alongside music because of the benefits to be had out of this relationship? And is poetry (slash, the poet) not just ultimately, compared to goodmusic (slash, the musician) intolerably sad, po-faced, poontang-repelling, and does it (slash he slash she) therefore require an injection of rockandgoddamroll if it (slash he slash she) is to regain the reputation, readership and romanticism that once defined it (slash he slash she) as a mode? Because let’s face it, most people start writing poetry because they want to be Lord fucken Byron, not Sir Andrew Motion – ladies and gentlemen, we’re being cool-shortchanged… Why?
Armitage is so specifically important, though, because he did the unthinkable and actually started a bloody band – way late (perhaps middle would be the more appropriate word, actually) in life. Then wrote a book about it, Gig (published by Penguin) which contains the above two-line anecdote – and a full history of not-being-in-a-band-but-being-a-really-quite-successful-poet Northern miserabalia. In it, and generally, he is admirably open and generous about who he digs, who he adores, the kinds of artists he would have loved to be a part of. Unfortunately, his actual band, the Scaremongers (www.simonarmitage.co.uk for videos etc.) sound like nothing so much as Registered Trademark The Worst Band Of All Time, the Beautiful South. Only a bit less shit. Surely, Simon, there might have been another way? Surely, Simon, is not Music As Reading it?
Part one, Bands Armitage would like/have liked to be a part of.
Searching for Mr Right – Young Marble Giants
She’s Lost Control – Joy Division
Independence Day – Comsat Angels
Spoilt Victorian Child – The Fall
Wildcat Fights – Eyeless in Gaza
The Boy With A Thorn In His Side – The Smiths
Nocturnal Me – Echo and the Bunnymen
Diamonds are Forever – Arctic Monkeys
Ever Fallen in Love (with someone you shouldn’t’ve)? – The Buzzcocks
Blue Boy – Orange Juice
Part two, Bands Armitage’s writing/songwriting reveal would have, in actuality, been a slightly better fit (note, half the size of part one).
Lucky You – Lightning Seeds
Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey
Our Mutual Friend – The Divine Comedy
Perfect 10 – The Beautiful South
Put A Donk On It (original mix) – Blackout Crew*
* I suspect this one needs a wee explanatory note. Blackout Crew are, basically, the Beatles of the Donk scene, a relatively new species of drainpipe-techno defined by a quintessential northern-only-ness to compare with, say, Armitage’s rendering of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Simon would surely approve – somebody should put them in touch with one another, get the poet to ‘drop’ on the next record (if there is a next record…) See the VBS donk-umentary (http://www.vbs.tv/watch/music-world/donk) for more information.