[Note: This was posted on my LiveJournal blog a few days ago, but thought I’d share it here as well.]
First off, I have to share this absolutely brilliant quote about from Bob Mould in his autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, which talks about his tour with Husker Du in the early 80s, which I believe brilliantly captures what I’m aiming for in this book:
“We were quickly discovering that the East Coast had a unique mentality that might be summed up best in two words: college rock. A lot of it came down to the clustering of high-quality schools in the Northeast, particularly in the Boston area, where the tour took us next. There were many more college radio stations in the Northeast than in the Midwest, and they gave rise to the likes of the Bongos, Violent Femmes, and the dBs, bands who had a more accessible, more melodic sound than hardcore.”
Seriously, I need this as the preface quote.
The research for Walk in Silence continues apace, with much reading and note taking. I probably should be doing some more pencil-marking in the books I’m reading, but I’m one of those book geeks who cringes at doing that. (Which is funny, considering how my Dad’s been doing that for years with his own hometown history research.) Still, I’m finding a lot of interesting information that I can play with, and I’ve ordered a few books from Amazon that should be coming my way soon that could help.
It’s kind of interesting, looking for the history of college radio. Not college rock, per se–one just needs to look for biographies of the genres, bands and scenes, and there are many–but when it comes to college radio in particular, it’s kind of a desert when it comes to books, or even online resources for that matter. There’s a few books out there on the technical and historical sides of college radio stations, and there’s a ridiculously huge number of band/scene biographies…and crazy as it sounds, I’d like to marry the two in this project.
Why, you might ask, would I want to do something like that? Would anyone really care about why some backwater college played The Smiths instead of Kylie Minogue, or The Cure instead of Van Halen back then? But that’s part of why I want to write it: because if that backwater college hadn’t played the Smiths or the Cure, they may not have been as huge and influential here in the States. Sure, some of this music filtered through in other ways–hardcore and punk pretty much survived on DIY and word of mouth–but a lot of these bands that I’m focusing on weren’t DIY punks from LA or DC or wherever. I’m not focusing on the hardcore punk scene anyway–there’s quite a glut of those books out there already. I’m focusing on British post-punk bands and local American bands that were rarely carried in chain stores because they weren’t fast, big sellers. They were bands that caught the ears of the collegiate crowd in the early 80s and were played on their stations, and maybe by some fluke (or some brilliant producer or director) showed up on a tv or movie soundtrack. In my opinion, it wasn’t so much the hardcore punk as it was this particular post-punk genre that became the basis of today’s indie rock, and I think that story needs to be told. We’ve already celebrated “The Year Punk Broke” in 1991/92, but again–that’s just a subgenre of a much larger musical movement. I’m not looking to tell the story of its grand entrance into the mainstream; I’m looking to tell of the story of how it eventually got there, something that’s very much glossed over. My idea is to explain why this music came to be important in the mid-to-late 80s, show its origins, and how it eventually became the norm.