How (not) to make it in the music industry, part one
All this talk of The Smiths reminds me.
It was 1983. The Smiths had just released ‘Hand In Glove’, and were clearly going to be mega.
Over in Tottenham, Alan McGee was putting the finishing touches to his master plan to ruin independent music for a generation. He’d already started his club (The Living Room), put out the debut single by The Legend! (which lost him so much money, he wasn’t able to release a follow-up till the following year) and released two issues of his fanzine, Communication Blur. Both issues had flexi-discs on the front, to help shift copies: and columns from The Legend!, to help keep sales under control. He was still working on the railways, but all his spare time was taken up organising the club and plotting. He asked me to take over the editorship of his fanzine, with equal contributions from four other people (himself, Bobby Gillespie, I can’t recall the other two). He had a great idea to help it go national. Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records had offered him a Smiths track for the next flexi-disc.
“It’ll sell 10,000 copies Jerry!” he remarked excitedly.
“But I don’t like The Smiths.”
(I thought they were fine at that point, actually: had caught them live, third on the bill to Sisters Of Mercy and The Laughing Clowns, but didn’t like the way the hype was being lined up.)
“But it’ll sell 10,000 copies!!!”
“I fucking hate The Smiths.”
The flexi-disc never materialised, the third issue of Communication Blur never came out, I took the stuff I’d written for it and started my own fanzine, shortly to fall out irretrievably with Alan over something I’d written (and should have said to his face, rather than write it).
Alan McGee, The Smiths and Geoff Travis went on to become very successful indeed. Rough Trade Records nearly went bankrupt. And me … well, I’m studying how to learn to be a music critic and surviving on benefits. At the age of 50.
As Alan put it last year: “The main difference between you and me is 30 million pounds”. It was the first time we’d been in contact (albeit briefly) in 25 years.
NEXT WEEK: How I refused to write a book with Kurt Cobain until he got “less famous”.
Illustration: Dave ‘The Very Busy Man’ Smith