London-born author and highly respected music critic Simon Reynolds began his writing career with the much-missed UK rock weekly Melody Maker during the mid-1980s. He later went freelance, splitting his time between the UK and New York and he’s since become a renowned author of music books such as the acclaimed Rip It Up And Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 and Shock And Awe: Glam Rock And Its Legacy.
However, while Reynolds is generally referred to as a “music critic”, he’s actually a committed music fan with an extensive record collection. Indeed, as his exclusive uDiscover Music interview with The Sound Of Vinyl curator Henry Rollins reveals, he’s also a lifelong fan of vinyl. You can watch Reynolds’ highly considered interview with Rollins in full below, but if you scroll down, you can first sample a taste of several of the topics raised during the conversation.
Henry Rollins: “You’re well known for having written post-punk tome Rip It Up & Start Again. What did you learn from writing about such a massive chunk of musical history?
Simon Reynolds: “I learnt that a lot of people who were around then didn’t realize how exciting a time they lived through. ‘Post-punk’ existed as a term in the music press in the late 70s, but it only really took hold as the ‘post-punk era’ by the mid-80s. It referred to basically any band who might have been inspired by the likes of the [Sex] Pistols, The Clash and Ramones, but wanted to push music further and didn’t just want to repeat the first Ramones or Clash album over and over again.”
Rollins: “How do you pick a topic to write about?”
Simon Reynolds: “Most of my books about music are often about flawed individuals, but they’re heroes in a way. They’re choosing the path of most resistance by doing something interesting and unusual in a business which doesn’t always reward that approach.
“Invariably, the chapters in my books focus on the story of a band or a scene in a town where the people involved are often trying to create something out of almost nothing. Actually, often the heroes are non-musical – the people who start a club, or write a fanzine or start a record label are often the catalysts.”
Rollins: “As a fan, do you have analog feelings tied into vinyl you don’t get from playing a CD or streaming music?”
Simon Reynolds: “Most of my warmest feelings towards music are about vinyl and the packaging and tactile aspects. For example, it’s always a ritual getting the separate discs out of PiL’s Metal Box without scratching them. That’s always a challenge.
“It also relates to a time when I had a lot less records. When I bought seminal albums like Metal Box or The Slits’ Cut, I only had meagre financial resources as a young person, so there was always anxiety parting with the equivalent of two weeks wages buying something which it might take me 15 or 20 plays to get into. Maybe that’s something that’s been lost by downloading and streaming music – that investment in music. If you’re a kid working a lousy job, you’re putting a significant chunk of time into buying an album. There’s an emotional intensity to picking a record in the shop, taking it home, taking it out of the bag and putting it on a stereo and it creates a very strong bond!”
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