Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Women's writes

Music journalists gushing about bands is one thing, but music journalists gushing about each other is rather harder to stomach. When the object of affection in question is Sylvia Patterson, whose writing for NME (at least) seemed pretty unremarkable to this regular late-90s/early-00s reader, you have to take it with a pinch of salt.

Nevertheless, Eve Barlow's interview with Patterson for Noisey does suggest that the ex-NME scribe's memoir I'm Not With The Band: A Writer's Life Lost In Music might possibly be worth investigating, if only for an insight into an era of relative journalistic freedom, before a vibrant mainstream music press was killed off by money, marketing wonks and vacuous corporate cliches masquerading as pop stars.

That said, Patterson does acknowledge that creative freedom and good music writing does still exist - it's just that it's generally to be found online rather than in print and it's much harder to make a career out of it (even though her own experience underlines that that certainly wasn't easy even in the period she looks back on with rose-tinted spectacles).

There's a whiff of hubris about Patterson suggesting she had the ability to "destroy someone's career" - as she did actually try to do with Placebo's Brian Molko, "the most condescending, creepy, paranoid, slippery goblin of a man". But then NME was at that time a tastemaker in much the same way that Pitchfork is now, and had a wider readership (at least here in the UK), so perhaps the claim isn't quite so preposterous and egocentric as it might seem at first.

Through the decades rock journalism, like rock music, has generally been a depressingly male domain, and Barlow makes a point of asking Patterson whether she's encouraged by the fact that things do now seem to be changing. In her reply she observes that institutional sexism dictated that she would be expected to "do the comedy stuff" but that this actually stood her in good stead for coaxing her interview subjects into candid and unguarded comments. Interestingly, this exactly echoes the experience of young female pop journalists in the early 1960s, as featured in the Radio 4 documentary The Women Who Wrote Rock - a reminder that men haven't always ruled the roost when it comes to reporting and writing on music.

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