Some pieces take longer than others.
As regular readers will know, I likened my recent (ish) experience of writing a chapter on women, punk and fanzines for a book on punk and fanzines to pulling teeth: Painful, long winded, with lots of agonising, re-doing, picking at it...
By contrast, the piece I have just had published on The F-Word, on the theme of women and music festivals, was written in a sort of feverish state last weekend. All credit to F-Word music editor, Jo Whitehead, for turning it around so quickly.
The sequence of events goes like this:
On Thursday 22nd June, I was half listening to the World Service while cooking my tea when they suddenly started talking about Glastonbury. No one I like is playing Glastonbury this year (or, indeed, ever seems to really, by and large...) so I wasn't really listening, until it became apparent that this was going to be a report on the lack of women playing music festivals, and I found myself listening, wearily at first, then angrily.
I seethed for about 24 hours afterwards, I think, then re-listened to the news bulletin in question on iplayer, did some further reading, and went to bed on Friday night feeling a bit more thoughtful about it. But still, ultimately, annoyed.
I got up for work at 7am on Saturday morning, had my breakfast, and as I ate, I began to get an idea for a piece about the whole issue of women and music festivals. I have to leave for work at 8:15am on Saturdays, which is a lie in for me because the 191 doesn't run on Saturdays so it's the 192 and they run more regularly. Anyway, this meant that I had exactly 15 minutes between 8am and 8:15am to plan the piece, which I did. In full. I then grabbed my stuff and legged it to the bus stop.
When I got home from work at just before 6pm, I sat down with the plan, read through it, switched my laptop on and wrote...
At about 8ish it occurred to me that I'd better have some tea. At 10 ish I remembered I was meant to have a shower. At midnight I thought 'I'd better go to bed now'.
I did sleep, but I was awake again by about 7am and up again, working on it, by about 8am. I eventually left it alone at about 10am in order to go into Manchester to buy the Gothic Tropic album at Piccadilly Records.
Then I had to go to the launderette and do the Co-Op leg of the food shop, then back home, work on the piece some more, do something else, work on the piece some more...
I finally stepped away from it at about half 11pm on Sunday night, having gone off on all sorts of weird and wonderful tangents throughout the day, many of which I subsequently excised around 11 ish just before I submitted it.
My final thought as I switched off the light and lay down in bed was: "There's an awful lot of Florence + The Machine in it. Will that be a problem?" I've been worrying about this a lot since, but now that the piece is up, I'm less worried. Because I know that I was using the band as an exampler and that I was writing in critical mode, not fan mode, and as such, I think it works.
It's not normally my style to write an opinion piece, or a j'accuse, and I don't think that the finished piece is one, as such, but it's much more of an opinion piece than I would usually write. Which I was uneasy about at first, but less so now. I was also uneasy because I'm not a festival veteran: As I wrote in my review of British Summer Time last year, my formative gig going years were spent at All Dayers, not Festivals. But, this is perhaps not so much of a problem as you might think, in that it allows me to take an outsider view on matters.
(Florence + The Machine, Ship To Wreck, live at British Summer Time 2016)
In recent years I've got very into a style of journalism that perhaps isn't traditional music journalism because it borrows from other areas, like economics, and which is generally less myth making and more dispassionate. I think the BBC report that inspired all of this falls into that category, and the articles from The Economist I've mentioned in my piece do as well. The Guardian, in it's reports on the industry side of the music business, also does interesting and enjoyable reportage and debate in this line.
As I see the piece up online, I am reminded, as I have been at intervals all week, of Paddy McAloon's 'I Trawl The Megahertz', a sort of stream of consciousness piece set to music, epic in scope. There is a pause at one point, a lull, in which the narrater, having expressed something close to mania just beforehand, concludes that the disillusionment that follows is 'The aftermath of fever'.
I hope that won't be the case. I have a lot of music to write about at the moment, if only because there are so many great albums out, but I'm not sure how those pieces will emerge yet, or when. I just know they will.