Within the sub-genre of humanity known as musicians the most keenly contested award, the one we all want to put on our (metaphorical) fireplaces, is that of ‘hardest working band’, or, if I may translate into music business-eese, ‘person or persons who is dead famous and travelled around a lot’, or ‘got a record coming out this year and the marketing spend has to go somewhere’. Seriously, art can get a fucking ladder to a pit of arseholes, it’s all about the miles (and sometimes kilometres when overseas, distance-fans) covered and the money made and the cogs of the industry turned and turned and …
Nah. Nobody cares about that, not even the people who win them. Not even Michael Stipe. ‘Hardest working’? It’s a shit use of words in a world which needs them, badly. For most of the people you’ll see in the top tens of lists like these hard work involves getting up late (whether in a bus or a hotel) and snoozing until they’re required to have the most fun a person can have – pretty much all they’ve got to do is have the politeness to love what they do and don’t be so much of a dick that everybody hates them, at least not on successive days.
Yeah, there are bad bits. There is missing people, there is booze and there are the many complications of the human heart and mind. For some, who want to get life over and done with quickly, cocaine is available, particularly from men with hats. Sets can get boring. ‘Reign in Blood!’ shouts another crowd member, hilariously. Yes, it IS hilarious. You ARE the first one to shout that. YES YOU ARE.
But to re-gress (did I ever gress?) I came here today (well, Tuesday, which is when I wrote this) to ask you to extend a hand of kindness to the bands whose labour is often ignored, particularly the guys who work in call-centres and cafes and all-night garages, the certifiable weirdos who will drive up to Glasgow – which is in Scotland – then back in a night and spend the next day in work trying to stay awake when all they can see is the blackness of the road which leads, inexorably, to the nothingness that is their bank accounts. I knew I’d get inexorably in there. RESULT. They make no money – in fact, they pay for the honour, more often than not, happy if they can find twenty people a night to expose to the contents of their minds and trousers. They take no holiday, at least not in the conventional sense. They are the sacrificial goats who lined stomachs during the brutal rise of the music industry and they will remain when it finally (nb. can’t say ‘inexorably’ again) dies, drowning in a swamp formed from the spit and semen of Kanye West, who is apparently brilliant at something.
I admire them for their belief and their passion against such insurmountable odds. Now, when I do a show, I can guarantee that at least a polite amount of people will show up (unless it’s in Northampton – or Oslo – or, now I think about it, many places) but sometimes they do these distances – good bands, as well, only without the right story to surround them – and nobody turns up, and the few that are there have just come for the half-price pints of Fosters, which is like crossing a road to get punched in the balls, only while smelling of bad piss.
Or tits, whatever. Let’s not get all bits-specific. Celebrate them, not with the miles they have travelled but instead an excel-spreadsheet illustrating the amount of holiday time devoted to the band as a percentage, or a CV which shows a litany of jobs started and left because that was the only way to get out on tour, the wreckage of relationships (as a pie chart) and the total absence of vitamins in blood-streams, particularly those only ever exposed to a toxic cocktail of service station sandwiches and Dairylea dunkers.
Celebrate them. They are real. They are you.