There’s some kudos, a certain degree of cool to being a music journalist. Obviously, it’s got more than a little to do with the fact that you get to hang out with the stars. If you’re lucky, you even gain intimacy, managing to conduct one of those in-depth interviews during which your appointed mega-luminary – usually drunkenly or druggedly – ditches discretion to disclose personal details never before exposed to public glare.
However, while deep and lengthy one-to-ones can prove both rewarding and revealing, there’s still something to be said for brevity. To illustrate this point, here are three examples of how the succinct can be every bit as impressive as the extended encounter.
History’s heel forever crushed The Beatles in 1970. Paul McCartney was the first of the band to publicly resurface. He did so in 1971, fronting his new band, Wings. Other band members included his new wife, Linda, former Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, and Denny Laine one-time singer and guitarist with The Moody Blues. That autumn, this nascent outfit took to the road, turning up mid-day and unannounced at a succession of UK universities, offering to perform there that same evening for free.
At the time, I was studying Industrial Metallurgy at Birmingham University and was a member of the students’ union events committee. That’s how my encounter with Macca arose. Years later, an issue of The Wool City Rocker carried the announcement that my previously unpublished McCartney interview would feature in the next edition. It duly appeared, worded out in its glorious entirety, exactly as it actually occurred. I went: ‘Is this your water?’ to which McCartney revealingly replied ‘Yes’. That was it.
We jump to 1978 for my next. That year, Birmingham rockers The Steve Gibbons Band were about to release Down In The Bunker, arguably their best album. As an acquaintance of the band, I’d been invited to hear them rehearse some of the album’s songs. That’s how come, on a hot afternoon, I was sitting on a cold stone step in a chilly darkened cellar listening to them as they ran through a string of impressive new songs.
In those days, prior to my present baldness, I sported an embarrassingly droopy hippie moustache and increasingly unfashionable long hair. A few songs into the band‘s set, I forfeited my role as their entire audience when I was silently joined by an even hairier aging rocker. A couple of numbers later, I turned to him and said: ‘This stuff’s really good, isn’t it?’ ‘Yeah,’ came the reply from a face I recognised.
As the session drew to a close, I broke our mutual silence for a second time by saying: ‘You are Robert Plant, aren’t you?’ ‘Yeah,’ replied the Led Zeppelin singer as he got up and left, providing my second example.
My third occurred about four or five years later. By then, I was living further north in Bradford. One Monday afternoon, Gaynor and I were wandering through a gallery in what was our home city’s sparkling new centrepiece, The National Museum of Film, Photography and Television (now more sensibly called The National Media Museum). Suddenly Gaynor nudged me and whispered ‘Isn’t that Bob Geldof?’ It was. Here we were, alone in the gallery with the man famed for fronting The Boomtown Rats, organising Live Aid and using swear-words. And as he passed within inches of us, I played an impulsive verbal gambit, venturing: ‘I thought you didn’t like Mondays.’ With hardly a pause or a glance in my direction, he dealt me a two-word response that I’ve treasured ever since: ‘F*** off!’
And so there it is… brevity. What more could anyone want?