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Tim Chipping

Ranting & Reeling

Tim Chipping’s monthly column

You know there’s an age when people stop listening to music as part of their daily existence? Well, perhaps you don’t. The very fact you’re reading this magazine means it hasn’t happened to you yet. Maybe it never will. But it’s not normal this, what we’re doing. Music was supposed to be a fad. Just a thing to occupy young clicking fingers until our lives became a serious concern. And then it was supposed to slip down the pole of priority; far below the pursuit of an insubstantial income, the illusion of property, a tolerant companion, the production and education of smaller versions of ourselves, the fear of disease, visits to garden centres and death.

Music’s place in the lives of what a 1950s advertising agency termed “adults” (in order to boost sales of cigarettes) is largely a nostalgic one. It exists to remind them of a time when they believed they were happier. Which is why, until the Internet made it virtually impossible not to steal entire back catalogues, the music industry was happily patting its paunches on the profits of adults buying just one album a year. Because they did it unfailingly in their millions. EMI, Sony, Virgin and Warner had much in common with Christmas tree salesmen.

Those days are gone and they will never return. What’s left are children buying songs that all sound the same and cost so much to perfect that most will never recoup the losses incurred by the aforementioned big label bosses as they continue to pretend their job won’t soon be a wax dummy exhibit in a museum about how people lived before the great darkness fell.

The BBC recently highlighted a new kind of music consumer (Tinkerbell coughs her last whenever those words are juxtaposed). In a much ridiculed online report they followed a student whose passion was for buying “vinyls” (cough, cough) which he then used to decorate his room. He didn’t play them.

When the laughter died down, many pointed out that he was at least still buying music. And while he was clearly a div, unaware that the £24.99 he’d spent on each of the seven new pressings he owned could’ve wallpapered his entire halls of residence if he’d spent it at the town’s ­second-hand record shop instead, perhaps he was the future. If he and others like him value the artefact maybe they’ll come to value the art and music will be saved.

But what some view as a lighthouse is probably just an idiot swinging a big torch. They’ll soon go inside, and the wrecks will resume.

We’re still here though; clamouring, searching, listening, banging on about and buying. We are the odd ones. And we’re getting odder.

Lately my taste for music that could kindly be described as ‘difficult’ has increased in a manner not dissimilar to my preference for adding record breaking Scoville units of chili to all that I eat. Pretty soon I will only be orally satisfied by a lit firework and aurally gratified by the sound of someone kicking a bat into a ceiling fan.

Because that’s what happens when you stray from the path; you become increasingly unusual. I don’t believe the Pied Piper left those kids behind. I think they stayed behind because they wanted a better tune.

Tim Chipping


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