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Ian Anderson

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Way, way back at the dawn of time in one of the very first issues of this magazine, I wrote that our motto was “inspiration to enthusiasm.” To be honest, nothing much has changed down the years. Our team of writers stumble across inspiring new stuff (or rediscover the old and hear it in new ways) and want more people to share that enthusiam, to make sure that as many others find and share these treasures as possible.

There are some who say that specialist printed magazines and sleeve notes on records might as well be consigned to museums. In this current world where you can Google up (mis)information in a flash and hear pretty much all the music that’s ever been made with a bit of interweb wormholing or a Spotify playlist for free, why would you need to pay for these slow, antediluvian modes of entry to musical worlds?

Well, my argument is that it’s easy to find things if you know what you are looking for. You could say that accidentally running across something on YouTube is no different from my early teenage serendipity of walking into a room where a blues EP was playing. In those days my path led me to buying a copy of that record and absorbing the sleeve notes written by a man called Alexis Korner. I then discovered he wrote other things about this music, and broadcast a bit, and was a musician. Turned out that as a musician he was incredibly helpful to others, in fact he’d been so helpful to one bunch that their resulting band did quite well (I think they’re still going, they’re called the Rolling Stones).

I discovered the small magazines that wrote about this obscure music and became a print junkie. I slowly met other people who also shared these weird tastes, and we turned each other on to lots of other stuff we’d each found. Often this was investigated because of passing references in folk, blues and jazz magazines or LP sleeve notes: it certainly wasn’t played on the radio. I still have many shelves full of old magazines, and I still discover things from them.

Recently I ran across a live CD of Alexis that I’d never known existed and it got me thinking about how he was such an inspiring mentor. I first met him when I supported him on a folk club gig and was then mindblown a few months later when he namechecked me in a piece on the growing UK country blues scene he wrote for Melody Maker. When I briefly moved to London the following year, he lived nearby and took me under his wing, welcoming me into the family home which was another mind expansion: the first time I’d ever experienced that thing so commonplace in future generations where parents and children were friends and shared tastes and enthusiasms, rather than being adversaries.

Sometimes he took me out on his solo gigs, for company on the drive and to give me a leg-up support spot. Because he could. He was a good musician, not the greatest, but his real skill was as a catalyst, a sharer, and enthuser. He made things happen by inspiring people. He didn’t have to, but that was his way. He was my role model and I still miss him.

Ian Anderson

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