Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Milk Diaries: Memoirs

Melbourne's Wheeler Centre had the good foresight to bootleg an event I wish I could have attended: Carrie Brownstein in conversation with Myf Warhurst. Early on, Carrie began to describe how, as a kid, she would stage performances for her parents. It was an anecdote which highlighted an early compulsion to perform. I thought to myself, but surely we all did that? Didn't we sit various sets of parents down for the endless performances of singing, dancing and/or prancing?

The anecdote made me think of musical memoirs and how they manage to detail these various fan behaviours and activities. I often think of Giles Smith in Lost in Music, perpetuating this mythology surrounding his first 7" inch record. He had always insisted that his first disc happened to be the Beatles' last, but then upon searching for Let It Be, he found that he had never actually acquired the record. It's a story that charms me, in that it reflects a need to create this poetic narrative around the music, but upon closer inspection, it all falls apart.

The musical memoirs that remain with me capitalise on that balance, between the heady and the reverent, the silly and the extremely serious. I think of The Modfather, where David Lines collapsed in a newsagency upon hearing that the Jam just split up in 1982. There is a sincere sympathy with that boy on the floor with a bloody nose, but at the same time, there is this absurd portrait of this boy with a completely ridiculous musical obsession. The reader can affectionately chuckle, but the source of the humour comes from the recognition between writer and reader. We know, cause we've gone bananas over a band too.

I try to remain on good terms with the musical and personal past and I try speak of tastes and activities with an odd sardonic fondness. What I have to remember is that this kind of enthusiasm is hardly unique to myself. When fans talk to other fans about fandom, I think it is important to remember that love is an analogy: while I can talk of painting my left fingernails black in tribute to Freddie Mercury, I cannot inadvertently dismiss the dedication of another fan. The skill in it comes from crafting a story which illicits a glimmer of affinity and acknowledgement. The point is not only to honour the past but to encourage others to share their stories.

We all have a musical past and in the most idealistic sense, it would be so wild if more people developed the confidence to describe their relationship with music in blogs and zines. There are other ways to share obviously, only the other day, the Museum of London invited original punks to come down with personal objects for punk.london. They sat and described the significance of studded leather jackets, band buttons and weathered Doc Martens. If anything can be learned from that afternoon, it can be that physical things can be the best starting point.

So if you think you might want to begin, think of those band t-shirts (à la Vanessa Berry), ticket stubs, plectra, posters or your drawer of mixtapes, with dozens of romantic sentiments untapped. Write down anything that you would say to a friend who would care. Write quickly. Write every day. Share.

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