Rock Backpages in the archive with Keith Altham

Rock’s Backpages. Mark Pringle Believes in the Past.

in Community/London/Music

Music journalism, music writing, music magazines are by their nature – ephemeral. They give news about music. What’s new on the music scene. What’s fashionable, breakthrough, the flavour of the month. Gigs. Record releases.

with Daniel Fields

When ephemera become archives it is a collective memory. Something strange happens. Things that you felt were important at the time but never thought you would be looking back on from the future are collected in yellowing pages, in flaky old listings, in columns of names and places and dates. These are in living memory. These are our living memories.

Mark Pringle is one of those working to make sense of the old papers for music enthusiasts. For those who were there who want to reboot their memories, or share them with others, maybe their proverbial (or real) grandchildren. For researchers, newer, fresher generations who weren’t there but want to know about what happened in years when music meant to much to youth, to counter-culture, to art, to politics. Has this changed now? Many conversations have been had on this subject.

It’s a lot of work, so much material to get through. There’s interviews, audio as well as cataloguing back issues. Barney Hoskyns – – and Mark interview authors and musicians, journalists and music business people for a series of podcasts.

Barney Hoskyn’s website is my guide to the podcast of Rock’s Backpages. It contains the links to the shows over the years. Hoskyns summarises entertainingly the episodes as in the recent show with the author, the GQ editor, who celebrates ‘Lineman”s composer Jimmy Webb and the song’s original singer, the late Glen Campbell. In the show Dylan Jones explains how he came to write the book and the three men enthuse about Webb’s ability to tell stories in song and in person. Great subject, great song, one which continues to fascinate listeners. It’s open-endedness. The Wichita Lineman is still on the line.

Danny Jones visits to chat over his Elektra days with the Stooges and the MC5 – and the five years he spent managing the Ramones. This is food for those that enjoy rock anecdotes. He recounts the tale of the night Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin ‘wound up rolling around on the floor of Steve Paul’s The Scene in a ball of cartoon smoke and fists.’ Days that have past and will not come again. This is where they end up. In anecdotes and armchair history. Someone stayed standing long enough to put on their slippers and pass the stories on. Days of the 1960s and 1970s of which they say, if you can remember them, they never happened.

How did you get involved?
I co-founded the site with Barney. It was his idea, and I was the only web-savvy person he knew, so he asked if I was interested.

Ooops. Should have known that! What does it mean to you to help with Rock’s Backpages?
It’s an endlessly fascinating gig, discovering new articles, signing up new writers.

Can you say something about Barney – what’s he like? He seems extraordinarily intelligent and a bit of a laugh.
Lovely bloke and great fun to work with. Has a monumental knowledge of pop history but is the opposite of a train spotter. There’s always lots of laughter in the office.

I wanna know – how is Rock’s Backpages run?
I find and proof-read all articles up to 2000, at which point Barney takes over. We post around 60 new articles each week, plus one audio interview — my gig too.

Give me one delicious highlight for you of working with Rock’s Backpages

Lots, but finding this:

WOW! Thanks Mark Pringle. So generally, we should be checking out this website for stories, people, gossip and more from all our yesterdays.

Jude Cowan Montague is an artist and broadcaster. She produces 'The News Agents' for Resonance FM, a weekly show experimenting with international story and the arts. She worked at Reuters Television News for many years as an archivist and this has informed her poetry and some of her art. She's an award winning printmaker and a composer. Her graphic memoir 'Love on the Isle of Dogs' is available from Central Books.