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Blog: What Is Indie Anyway?

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Ever since the first cavemen put the first cheap knock-off catalogue guitars around their necks and said "Me am write song about cavewoman me like. Hope it make her notice me" there have been INDIE bands, and thus for almost exactly as long there has been the eternal question: "Yes, but What IS Indie Anyway?"

When I first got onto the Internet, approx 300,000,000 years ago in the 1990s, this question was asked a LOT. It may have just SEEMED like it was a Hot Topic because I'd joined MAILING LISTS like uk-indie where this was most of what anybody talked about, but it also came up a lot around them because Indie was becoming CONFUSED. Until about 1993 we all knew that indie was mostly jingly jangly guitars played by youths with big fringes who were TRYING to sound like a combination of soul music and PUNK but, by failing to do either properly, had created their own sound.

That is TOTALLY and DEFINITIVELY what it was, all right? It's my blog so LEAVE IT.

So yes, it was THAT, and nobody else outside our little groups knew about it because it was only played in pubs like The Princess Charlotte and released on records that you could only buy in Rock-A-Boom in Leicester. HOWEVER, around 1993 this began to change when bands that sounded like indie bands who had PRACTICED suddenly started to get on mainstream radio and telly and play in HUGE venues and LO! it was BRITPOP!

I know a lot of my chums then, and several of them now, had a huge problem with Britpop. "Ooh," they would say, "It's not indie is it?" and of course the answer to this is a) "not really" and b) "but who cares? Let's get drunk and jump around to Parklife!" For LO! the thing about Britpop was that it was a HECKLOAD of fun if you happened to be in your 20s, especially if you'd spent most of your Young Adulthood going to discos where they played ONLY GRUNGE. Christ! Nirvana were obviously really good and there were some decent songs I GUESS but Grunge was BLOODY AWFUL for going Disco Dancing too. When the highlight of the night is them STOPPING playing TAD (Tad! BLOODY TAD!) in order to play "Pretend That We're Dead" for the 100th time then you KNOW it is time for something a bit more FUN to come along.

THUS when I first saw Suede on telly i thought "HOORAH! More of this sort of thing please!" and REJOICED in stuff like "Common People" being played EVERYWHERE or bands that I could go and see doing GIGS then also being talked about on telly. It was ACE but it clearly WAS NOT Indie. Indie was music that was STILL being played in pubs like The Charlotte by the sort of bands that Mr T Pattison was supporting with Prolapse. It was bands like the wonderful Po! or Gorky's or the AMAZING Riot Grrl bands like Mambo Taxi or Voodoo Queens or Cornershop or indeed Huggy Bear, all of whom played in Leicester and were GRATE.

Britpop and Indie were two different things, very very occasionally crossing over with some similarities in sound but CLEARLY not the same. Which is why (he said finally getting to the point) it was a bit annoying to see them CONFLATED so wilfully in part 3 of the BBC's "The Story Of Indie" at the weekend. I'd enjoyed the first two episodes as they were about LOONIES and MAVERICKS creating their own bands and labels and distribution, whereas this one seemed to decide that in the 90s that all stopped and everything was handed over to the major labels. The bands featured were ALL the corporate big names of Britpop, with hardly anything mentioned about the massive boom in actual independent acts around the time who had discovered this thing called "the internet" as a way to reach new people.

Strangest of all was the fact that Stuart Murdoch From Belle & Sebastian had been a regular talking head on ALL of the episodes, but his band was not mentioned AT ALL! AT ALL! Belle & Sebastian were THE band of indie in the 90s, they were one of the first bands to have their fanbase create itself online, through fan pages and tape swapping on those email lists I mentioned at the start. They even managed to have a VOTE RIGGING "scandal" when their fans mass voted in the Brits to make them Best British Newcomer!

At the time this INFURIATED the traditional music press, as it had had nothing to do with them and wasn't even happening in LONDON. How dare THE KIDS (all right, The Young Adults) decide for THEMSELVES who they were going to like? And how dare this band NOT rush straight down to London to buy drinks for music journalists and BEG to have their photographs taken? Didn't they know that the journalists had already decided that ROMO was going to be the face of the future?

As you MAY be able to tell it was something that annoyed me at the time and is still fully fit to annoy me all over again now! Even stranger though is the fact that one of the main cheerleaders for Belle & Sebastian at the time, and the place where I first heard them, was the Mark Radcliffe Show featuring the same Mark Radcliffe who'd presented The Story Of Indie. MADNESS!

Of course, there was a much bigger problem with the programme that any of my twenty-years-on annoyance with the NME's refusal to cover gigs outside the M25: the fact that it almost totally ignored the involvement of WOMEN in indie at the time. This is all covered rather brilliantly in a blog by Emma Jackson (aka Emmy Kate From Kenickie) which is well worth a read and also a profound session of AGREEING WITH. Go and have a read of it!

Are you back? Good wasn't it? As ever, when I watch or read something about something I know a bit about and am INFURIATED by the inaccuracies, it does make me wonder how much OTHER history is half-baked mix of personal agendas and rubbish research. Could it be... ALL of it?

posted 22/10/2015 by MJ Hibbett

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Romo. lol.
posted 22/10/2015 by Pete

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