MUSIC JOURNALISM 101 / JOHNNY MNEMONIC

 

Running amuck (adrift,
actually…) in the magical Land of Oz with a big-boobed, coke-sniffin’ bimbo and
assorted loonies.

 

By Johnny Mnemonic

 

I am a man adrift.

 

Prior to my current existential state of affairs, however, I
was a staff writer for what I presume most people considered to be highly-regarded
national music magazine. I hasten to emphasize my phrasing being in the past
tense, as the publication recently folded, the victim of all those things
you’ve been reading lately, with alarming frequency, about music magazines (and
the print world in general). I won’t bore you with all the mundane details of
my dismissal and its demise – yet – other than to say the basic law of the
jungle was in effect: if a business ceases to continue making money, and this
goes on for month after month despite (or owing to) the regular influx of meddling
new investors, hapless new editors and inane new marketing strategies, etc., soon
enough, something’s gotta give.

 

Ergo, I am a man adrift, with no immediate, regular source
of income. I will certainly be offering up my freelance skills to other
highly-regarded national music magazines, perhaps even the one whose website
you are reading this very moment, but the terms “freelance writer” and “regular
income” remain mutually exclusive. So while I drift, in between resume-mailing,
LinkedIn networking and Velvet Rope-lurking, in order to keep my mind from
atrophying from a steady diet of satellite TV and internet porn I’ve accepted
an invitation from the editors of Blurt to
author this blog.

 

“Music Journalism 101” is to be part-memoir, part-exposé and
part cautionary tale. On that first count, I’ll draw upon my experiences as a
music writer and introduce you to assorted denizens of the musician community
ranging from the sweet to the sour, from the supremely gifted to the
astonishingly clueless, and from the types who help make the world a better
place with their artistry to the walking/talking chunks of human feces who in a
sane, just world would be lined up next to a mass burial site in some
godforsaken corner of what used to be Yugoslavia and summarily shot and tossed
into the pit. As far as the exposé part is concerned, don’t necessarily take
that term literally (don’t want to
get your hopes up), although I will be tugging the curtain back to give you
glimpses of what goes on in the lives of music writers, their editors and
publishers, their peers and significant others, their hookups and drug dealers,
etc. Just to give you a teaser: for a week in 1989 I joined the touring
entourage of a former college rock band-turned-MTV-darling – for the purposes
of this blog, I’ll refer to them as “Dream Response” – in order to do an
on-the-road profile. This gave me access to the after-show activities, although
there was an unspoken understanding that I’d use discretion in reporting any behavior
that might prove upsetting to the quartet’s fairly vanilla fanbase, or for that
matter, to the members’ wives. From the band’s point of view, that unspoken
understanding probably served them well when it came time for me to file my
report. I quite diligently did not recount the scene in which I wandered into one
of their hotel suites’ bathrooms only to find the lead singer – let’s call him
“Frothy Bryson,” after his unnerving habit for literally foaming at the mouth
in the middle of one of his onstage “poetic” rants – ankle-deep in the chunky,
dark-haired, big-boobed local radio personality who’d turned up at the show to
record station I.D.s and was invited to stick around for the party. After a few
healthy toots of Peruvian weasel dust and three or four stiff vodka-and-7-Ups,
she’d apparently been ready to take more than just airchecks from the group. I
can still hear her horsey-like, pack-a-day wheeze of a laugh (how do these obnoxious gals get their radio
gigs? oh, right…) as she was grabbing for the straw… and if I squint my mind’s
eye just right, I can still see – no, please God, not again – Frothy’s hairy, boil-studded ass.

 

 

 

But don’t think that life in the music journalism business
is a merry old yellow brick road stroll into the Emerald
City, where vials of coke dangle from
trees like sugarplums and nubile munchkin lasses beckon seductively from shop
windows like Amsterdam
hookers. This is where the cautionary tale aspect comes in. “The biz” has a
boundless supply of headaches, frustrations, diva- and asshole-like
personalities, and just out-and-out lunacy, not to mention a deadeningly mundane
side to it (you know, hours upon hours trapped in a cubicle pounding away at a
keyboard while your head pounds from all that free booze you swilled the night before
at the Metallica album listening party at Arlene’s Grocery). It’s not all that
different from used car sales, actually. So my hope is that after reading this
blog, at least one aspiring music journalist out there, having gotten a sense
of how the sausages are made, so to speak, will plot a beeline straight to his
or her college counselor and switch majors to, say, Astronomy, or perhaps
Botany – any discipline where one’s native talents can be nurtured and turned
into a bankable commodity in the employment marketplace. Because if you believe
being a rock critic is a viable career path, I have some stock shares in
Madoff, Inc. I want to sell you. At this juncture in life, it’s probably too
late for me, but it’s not too late to prevent one of you from making a huge mistake. Don’t wake up one morning to learn
that the business you’ve chosen to work for is sinking faster than a GM truck
with cinderblocks chained to each axle, and that you have no tenure, no
seniority, no job security, no marketable skills, no nothing, really, plus the
additional stress of a pending loss of health insurance benefits when your COBRA
coverage expires. Now’s the time to consider that offer from your father about
taking up the family business, in other words.

 

Above I mentioned that the editors of Blurt invited me to become one of their bloggers. Technically, I
approached them with the idea. (I
could swear I detected a shrug on the other end of the telephone, but as the
answer was “sure,” that’s good enough for me.) Still, my ego can only take so
much battering in a compressed period of time – losing that highly-regarded
national music magazine gig and all – so it does me good to create this fantasy
in my mind that my arch prose remains in demand by my peers and, hopefully, will
be admired by Blurt readers. I may be
a man adrift, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still spout off with the best of
‘em.

 

My friends tell me I’m actually quite good at spouting off,
especially after a couple of whiskey sours. (I know, I know, a girlie-girl
drink, but – and here’s the first of what will be many fascinating insider tips
from the world of music journalism – you can casually sip whiskey sours all
night without getting too plastered, which greatly enhances your chances of
getting some juicy backstage or behind the scenes stories, since the bands
themselves tend to really bring it on,
post-gig; I think we already covered that part three paragraphs earlier.) I promise to write most of these entries in a relatively
sober state of mind, of course. Well, that is unless I feel, in the interests
of accurately recounting some of those juicy stories culled from my fabulous career in music journalism, I simply must recreate the semi-sober state of
mind I was experiencing at the time of the original incident.

 

Did I mention that my friends also tell me I have a pretty
fucking spot-on memory? I may be a man adrift. But I know where the bodies are
buried.

 

Guarantee: many of
the names, places and entities outlined in this blog will be changed to protect
the innocent along with the not-so-innocent. And also to ensure I don’t burn so
many bridges I can’t get hired again by some highly-regarded national music
magazine. Not that there are any left.

 

***

 

Johnny Mnemonic is the
pseudonym of a “highly-regarded” national writer with, he advises us, over two
decades’ experience working as a music critic, reporter and editor. We’ve never
met him face-to-face, and he further advises he will be delivering his blogs to
us via the “double blind drop-box method,” whatever that is, to ensure his
anonymity.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply