Friday, 29 June 2012

A love letter I waited too long to write

The Word Magazine has died. Next month's issue will be the last.

It's not lost on me that the medium I am using to communicate my grief probably killed it, but whilst I consume vast amounts of media online and expect it to be free, The Word was something I was happy, nay, grateful to throw money at.

It was brilliant. Ludicrously knowledgeable pop culture journalists writing with verve, wit and faith in the intelligence of their audience.

I bought the first ever edition of Word magazine (as it then was), because it was advertised somewhere I could see it (on illegal flyposts outside BBC Television Centre), and it had my hero Nick Cave on the cover.

As a disillusioned NME subscriber it was perfect - The Word was the wondrous illegitimate lovechild of Smash Hits and Melody Maker in their 80s heyday. But this precocious publication eschewed the blinkered approach to different musical genres and just celebrated what was good.

I'm listening right now to music which I got on the monthly Word CD. 15-tracks every 30-odd days which opened up endless avenues of discovery.

The iPod re-connected me with music, but The Word gave me something to put on it. There are hundreds of bands I just wouldn't have listened to without The Word putting them through my door - Sun Kil Moon, Can, Cashier No.9, The Leisure Society, Epic 45, Steve Pilgrim, Warren Zevon, John Grant, The Broken Family Band, Sebastian Tellier, Harry's Gym and many more....

I learned about Spotify, how Jean Jacque-Burnel got that ridiculous bass sound on Peaches, which books I should read... films I should see... I got an education in music pre-1976 (an area I've always been hazy on), and the working lives of jobbing musicians before they became global superstars. One interview with Phil Collins about his life pre-Genesis was humbling, and a Noel Gallagher cover interview gave a genuinely affecting insight into the life of one of the most over-exposed artists in pop history. I don't keep copies of old magazines, but I've still got that edition in the attic.

Why do I know what Barack Obama said to Andrew Marr moments before their recent-ish sit-down interview? Because I read it in The Word magazine. Why did I watch all five series of The Wire on the fx channel before you did? Because an article in The Word magazine made it clear in no uncertain terms that it was the single best thing on television ever. And it was. Why have I even heard of Azealia Banks? Because I read a piece delighting in her lyrical filthiness in The Word magazine.

The Word cared about its readers. It curated a friendly, whimsical online community - the Word Massive - it produced a superb weekly podcast, and it put on live events, including, on one delightful occasion, a musical boat trip down the Thames on a fake Mississippi paddle steamer.

Bands read it. Big-time radio DJs read it. Film-makers read it. Best-selling authors read it. And now it's gone.

And of all the shit things in the world which make piles of money, and all the shit people in the world who do nothing but lie, cheat, avoid tax and fix interest rates whilst being handsomely rewarded for making our society steadily more unfair and unequal, there weren't enough rich investors, or subscribers or casual readers prepared to pay enough money to keep a few brilliant people at The Word magazine on a liveable salary.

I haven't been this upset since Roger Taylor left Duran Duran.

I wonder if I'll get my remaining subs back...?

Ho hum.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Putting the rest of us to shame

This is Tim Brabants from Chertsey. He is an A+E doctor and a current Olympic champion. He has an MBE, collected shortly after winning his kayaking gold in Beijing 2008. Tim is old enough to compete as a veteran club kayaker. Instead, he's out there performing against the very best in the world.

I spoke to Tim on my show just after he'd won the race which confirmed his selection for London 2012. Today I met him for the first time at Eton Dorney, the Olympic rowing, sprint canoeing and kayaking venue (very impressive, by the way). It was the first time the kayakers had put their Team GB uniforms on and the mood was, ahem, buoyant.

Tim is just about the nicest man you could wish to meet. Determined, modest, polite, disarmingly grateful for what has come his way, and clearly reluctant to spend much time talking about the incredible amount of hard, thankless work he must have done over the years. Years I spent, er...

Tim's day job is saving peoples' lives. He also just happens to be a world-class athlete with a golden past, and still possibly a golden summer ahead of him. He has, quietly and successfully, already achieved an incredible amount.

He's only 35.