Do You Remember the First Time…?
new book, The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons, then you need to get some pennies out and buy it! If you can; it might be worth going to a local bookshop as, I think, the Amazon price is a bit less than the retail one…I am not sure – we want as many pennies as possible to go Everitt’s way! The point of this feature is to have a look at the book and why it will strike a chord with any music-loving human. Brought out through Laurence King Publishing and with fantastic illustrations by Tim Marrs; The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons is a labour of love that looks gorgeous and is well worth spending some time with. I have not seen a review of the book myself – maybe it will be a few more days yet – but have had a flick through the book and am blown away by the sheer colour, detail and revelations you get! I will probably do a proper review when I have finished but, looking through, you get these beautifully illustrated and written interviews with figures such as Yoko Ono and Damon Albarn. Covering genres, ages and periods of musical history; each artist has their own section and you get fantastic illustrations of them. There are lists of their first gigs and records and memories. What I love about the book is it is written by someone who has been interviewing huge artists for years and has that passion to learn more about them and reveal stuff other interviewers do not…
The book is based off of the radio series Matt Everitt conducts and he has selected a mass of interviews from his years and brought them together in a wonderful collection. I love how you get illustrations and a unique portrait of the artist – it is a more artistic approach and means we do not have to see the same stock images of them – and you get a standout quote at the top of the first page (regarding that artist and their interview). We learn about their first gigs and records and all these important moments. I am a big fan of musicians like Sir Elton John and Florence Welch and it is good to sit in a café and flick through these pages and learn about their musical upbringing. The book requires some patience and study – it is a thorough and spellbinding collection of artists and a deep dive into their history – and it is written beautifully. I believe it took Everitt about three years to bring together – it would have taken me about a decade! – and you can feel the love and passion go into every page. It is a beautiful thing and if you can wait until Christmas; I suggest it would be a perfect stocking filler (you might need to reinforce the stocking as the book is a pretty chunky ol’ thing!).
IN THIS IMAGE: An exert from Matt Everitt’s book, The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons (depicting the Blur and The Good, the Bad & the Queen mercurial frontman, Damon Albarn)/ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Tim Marrs/BOOK PUBLISHER: Laurence King Publishing
Fewer young music fans are reading and Everitt’s radio broadcasts are probably the most accessible way of listening to The First Time with… My favourite instalment of his show was with Thom Yorke and, as I shall explore later, it is rare to see a lot of famous musicians speak. You get these magazine interviews but the questions can be generic and brief. One gets interviews on radio stations but, again, you always feel like someone is in the corner tapping their watch and doing the ‘wind it up’ symbol. They are then ferried across town and embark on this rotation of brief interviews. One reason why I love Everitt’s radio show (on BBC Radio 6 Music) is that there is time to swim and vacillate; a bit of a moment to muse and stroke the chin; time to crack wise and have a gone old chinwag! Not only does it (the show) make the artist comfortable and not rushed but it is a rare opportunity to look back on their past and how they got into music. Everitt is a masterful interviewer who has that ready wit and can get the best from an artist. The book brings all that to light and no details are skimped. One of my music dreams is to do the music news for BBC Radio 6 Music – as narrow and ambitious as that is – and it is wonderful to learn from their top dog (or horse as breakfast host Shaun Keaveny calls him!).
IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Everitt (left) with Shaun Keaveny (right) in a promotional photo for their interview to celebrate The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons’ launch where Keaveny turned the tables on Everitt and ‘grilled’ him about the book and its creation (the event took place on Monday, 5th November, 2018 at 107 Charing Cross Road)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Foyles
In any case; Matt Everitt is (rightly!) getting huge acclaim and love from those who have already got the book. Props to Tim Marrs’ trippy, vivacious and oft-sensational pen for bringing to life some of our best-loved artists with such fire and variegated seduction! The pairing is great and I wonder if the duo will work together. I am not sure what the next project would be but, as Matt Everitt was a member of the bands Menswear and The Montrose Avenue; maybe a semi-autobiographical tale/memoir about those 1990s heydays and the transition into music journalism? I am not sure but there will definitely be demand and appetite for another book. A reason why I am so involved with the book and love it is because of the angle it takes with these big names. I interview hundreds of upcoming artists each year and the main concentration is on whatever song/E.P./album they are promoting. I ask questions about their favourite albums/songs/artists and always feel like that is a minor part. P.R. companies and artists need their current release promoted and covered as thoroughly as a fat man being slathered in jam – get THAT image out of your head! –; it is all about that momentum and focusing on the here and now. So many sites are pressed for words and times so tend to repeat a press release and do a pithy interview. You get bigger magazines and papers like The Guardian, MOJO and newer publications like DORK and The Line of Best Fit doing some bigger pieces but they are few and far between.
I have drooled over brilliant bright and illustrative interviews with the likes of IDLES – I read a great one they gave for DIY – and you get these brilliant photos, wonderful questions and searing quotes. A lot of the focus is on the new and what is happening in their camp. I guess rising artists need to talk about what they are selling and where they are headed but so few interviews/interviewers pick under the skin and get inside the head, Michel Gondry-like, and uncover all the memories; interacting with one another in a nostalgia snow-globe. Matt Everitt has taken these artists – some newer ones like Florence Welch and icons like Sir Elton John – and has asked them to discuss those first-time memories. Where was your first gig? Which band did you go and see first? Can you recall the first record you bought?! There are all these pivotal moments uncovered and it allows one to see where the artist came from. I think it is crucial finding out where a musician is heading and what they are promoting now but I see few interviews that look back and get into the musical D.N.A. Consider these rising acts like IDLES and Nadine Shah; fascinating figures like St. Vincent and Jon Hopkins and, while we marvel at their current output; which artists inspired them and when did their musical ‘journey’ – I hate to use that word as it makes me want to barf blood but, hey… - begin and which was the record that came into their life first.
IN THIS IMAGE: The poster for the first ‘proper’ gig I attended (on 8th November, 2005, aged twenty-two)/IMAGE CREDIT: Rob Jones
I know my first gig was seeing The White Stripes at Alexander Palace in 2005 (rather late in life it was (as I am thirty-five now); they turned up late and I only got to see the support acts!); the first song I recall is Tears for Fears’ Everybody Rules the World (my first memory of life, in fact around about 1985!) and the first album I bought was Now That’s What I Call Music! 24 (I got it on double-cassette and it had bangers from k.d. lang, The Bluebells and Paul McCartney, among others!). I can remember getting my first vinyl and tape cassette; the first time I saw a music video (The Bangles’ Eternal Flame on VH1) and I think all of these memories are a part of who we are. Some might saw that sort of reminiscing is nostalgia and what is happening now is more important. I am not suggesting every music interview spends a lot of time asking questions about the first album a band bought or which artist was the first Let’s Eat Grandma saw live but it would be a benefit. I fear music is becoming disposable and we are only after that quick hit! We want everything in a couple of lines and do not linger long. They say the album as a format is dying but I would disagree. I think more and more people are falling for a complete work and we have not lost that ability to stand still and listen. Fewer of us might be picking up a magazine or paper and reading about a musician – compared to the 1990s, let’s say – but music journalism itself is as broad and varied as ever.
IN THIS IMAGE: An exert from Matt Everitt’s book, The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons (in a section where he was interviewing R.E.M.’s lead, Michael Stipe)/BOOK PUBLISHER: Laurence King Publishing
For us to be truly connected with an artist and to understand what makes them tick; I think discovering how they got into music and the moments that define them (explored) is a great thing! We gain an understanding of where their own music stems from and get to know more about the human. I try and pitch questions to new artists regarding the albums that inspire them and what sort of sounds they grew up around. I love great artists like Jack White, Joni Mitchell and De La Soul and know their work intimately. I can pour over interviews and, online and in print, you can get a sense of where they come from. Most of the interviews I find, however, still tend to lean too heavily on their newer work and do not always dip into the past. One cannot get a true understanding and estimate of a musician without discovering where the ‘egg’ came from (or should it be ‘chicken’?!). If we talk about the modern and now then it denies that revelation and true knowledge; we are limiting our minds and there is a whole world unexplored. Matt Everitt’s The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons is a timely reminder that there are these stories to be told and memories to be evoked. I love Pete Townshend and The Who but I feel like I know their back catalogue very well. Where did The Who’s guitarist/songwriter start and which moments define who he is?!
Not only is it good to discover the early lives of the musical icons but the new breed have a lot to tell us. Every artist is inspired by others and we all have those first gig memories and the life-altering times that affect what we do now and the sort of music we gravitate towards. I hope, down the line, there is another volume in Everitt: in any case; he has given impetus to many and I can see eyes and mind opening, compelled by the depth and discoveries throughout the book. One big reason why I want to interview bigger artists is to discover the music that they are inspired by and how they started in the industry. Only when you learn all of that can you get a real insight and understanding into the music they (the artist in question) are putting out. How often do we see a titanic music figure interviewed without there being a new record out? Can’t we just sit Sir Paul McCartney or Patti Smith down and ask them about their ‘firsts’?! I would love to see/hear that and I feel artists always have to be on-point and brief – talk about what you are promoting and not too much else. I sense it when I am interviewing and feel I need to be in 2018 and not look too far back. Matt Everitt has interviewed everyone from Robert Plant and Paul Weller to Shirley Manson (Garbage) and I love discovering which gigs and records define these hugely important people.
I am not saying it is boring talking about their new work and what they think about Brexit and all of that but I love to look back; to get into the memory centre and see these vivid and past images flash through! One way for the new generation to get a better understanding of the artist they follow and the icons their parents grew up around is to see/hear these interviews where they talk about their paths into music and who inspired them. Finding out about the ‘muses’ behind the musicians is a great angle and something I’d like to see more in modern journalism. Some of the bigger, more popular sites do this but it does not happen as much as it should. Maybe this will change in years to come. I think my ‘first’ memories is a good way of defining and revealing my soul and reason for living music and, in turn, would be a great reason to ask the same from big artists. I hope I have done Matt Everitt’s The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons justice – or have rambled for a while! –; but it is a gorgeous work that has taught me so much about artists I feel I know pretty well.
PHOTO CREDIT: @florenciaviadana/Unsplash
Not only have I been awakened to this new side of them but I look at the records they bought and the artists who influenced them and, as a result, have checked them out. You can get that sense of lineage and inspiration and, again, that makes me much more connected to the artist than ever. Perhaps my path to the BBC Radio 6 Music stable – either pumping out a daily dose of music news or keeping the coffee machine working and stocked! – is a long way away but I have changed my style and improved as a journalist because of the likes of Matt Everitt and how they approach subjects. Think about your ‘first times’ and those soul-awakening gigs and records. Music is not the only way to discover what makes an artist tick and, when many icons write in an oblique and distant way; interviews are the only way we can truly get into their souls, memories and minds. Reading about these musical colossuses and the charming memories that are dear to them is truly wonderful and incredibly revealing. Celebrities and musical figures have already given The First Time: Stories & Songs from Music Icons a hearty thumbs-up and I’d give it a classic Paul McCartney double-thumbs-up of approval! The here and now and current time is vital for all artists and they are keenest for people to discovery what they are putting into the world and where they are heading. If we take a moment and ask them to talk about where they came from and how music struck them in a very primal way; I feel we can learn things about the artist that…