An often-repeated question : is the internet (or more specifically the world wide web) the modern equivalent of a great library, full of erudite learning on dozens of subjects? Or is it more akin to a newsagent, stacked with up-to-date titles, catering superficially for the narrowest of niche tastes? Or is it perhaps a cavernous second-hand bookshop, reaching all parts of the reading public, like the former railway station in Alnwick or the several multi-roomed castles in Wigtown?
You can decide for yourself which category best suits articles from now defunct music publications.
Like many, especially male readers, I have spent a certain amount of time listening to various types of pop, rock, folk and jazz music and also reading newspapers and magazines associated with these. One music paper I bought regularly for a time in the 1970s was Sounds, and I can still recall the names of some of the journalists who wrote for it, and even to what extent their tastes accorded with my own.
One name which I recall was Steve Peacock. Peacock appeared to have a taste in rock music which seemed particularly cool (since this adjective has continued in vogue unchanged in meaning into the 21st century, I can’t immediately think of a better one): Van Morrison, Captain Beefheart, Little Feat, the jazz-influenced experimenters like Soft Machine, certain members of the folk-rock school like Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band, reggae. He seemed to share many of the tastes of the late John Peel who was at that time a columnist and occasional singles reviewer with the paper.
In the later 70s, Peacock left Sounds along with a number of colleagues and joined another, short-lived, publication, Streets Ahead, which appeared to cover other arts, current affairs and sport as well as popular music. After that, I never saw his by-line again.
Until thirty years after that, when the internet had arrived, and, one day, I came across the web-site of one Steve Peacock, a journalist and broadcaster who appeared to specialise in agricultural and countryside matters. The web-site suggested that he had spent some youthful years in music journalism, so it did seem to be the same man. However, it appeared that, in contrast with some of his contemporaries who had continued their coverage of popular music into the glossy magazine world of the 1980s and 1990s, or on radio or TV, music had been only a temporary part of Peacock’s professional career. For the subsequent thirty years he ploughed (to use an obvious and lazy pun) an entirely different furrow.
Some of Peacock’s pieces on such luminaries as King Crimson and Roxy Music feature elsewhere on the internet, but this story serves for me as a reminder that something that seems important and long-lasting when you are young, may become, if you are lucky enough to live longer, only one short adventure among many.
In the light of Peacock’s range of expertise, it is probably appropriate that one particular snippet of his music journalism which sticks in my mind has a wider resonance. When Bad Company, whose members had enjoyed success with other bands, released their first album in 1974, Peacock felt that it was a bit predictable. “It is a manifesto, a policy statement,” he wrote, “and, like all such things, it tends to state the obvious and let the finer points slide.” I thought then that it was a clever thing to say, and, ever since, it has seemed an observation which has remained very relevant and applicable to manifestos compiled by other people.