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GONZO WEEKLY #158: Jon meets Carol

Some years ago, due to public demand, and – one suspects – because he wanted to lay some demons of his own – Steve Ignorant went on a world tour called The Last Supper. It was billed as the last time he would ever play songs by his former band, Crass. About half way through the tour he had to change the line up of his band, most notably the female singer who was to perform the songs made famous originally by Eve Libertine. His new singer turned out to be a beautiful young lady called Carol Hodge who also performed under the nom de juerre of Miss Crystal Grenade, who claimed to be a Victorian freak show exhibit and cabaret style.

Carol herself was born with a deformed hand, and I have always been impressed with the way that she flaunts it, rather than hiding it, as society expects such ‘disfigured’ people to do. As someone who is pretty much crippled myself I have always applauded her for that.

But on top of this brave socio-political stance, her music is also pretty bloody stunning. I was entranced the first time I heard her demos, and am proud to say that it was me who brought her to the ear of Gonzo big cheese Rob Ayling; something which resulted in her getting a record contract with us.

As anybody with even the slightest interest in the music industry will know, sed industry is in a state of remarkable flux I am not one of those people who believes that the industry is in a terminal decline. Quite the opposite. As anybody who has ever read Gareth Murphy’s fascinating book Cowboy’s and Indies will realise, this is nothing new. There is a distressing tendency of the human race not to learn the lessons of history. And this is particularly apposite when one considers the music industry.

So many of us like to think that the industry began sometime in the early 1950’s when a hillbilly truck driver called Presley wandered into Sam Phillip’s record store in Memphis wanting to make a recording for his mother. This is complete nonsense. The history of the recorded music industry goes back to nearly a century before that with the invention of the Player Piano which was the first automatic musical instrument to have any major commercial impact if one is to be petty, one could even go back to the middle of the 18th century when Barrel Organs first became popular.

The recorded music industry has undergone a series of commercial peaks and troughs over the past hundred and whatever years. Some of them have been far more catastrophic than the present downturn, and the lessons of history suggest that the industry will recover, and that, somewhere along the way – when yet another technological advancement comes along to upset the metaphorical applecart – the whole thing will go tits up again.

Artists are dealing with this in a variety of different and often innovative ways. Companies like ours have adapted well to the brave new world and many artists have developed their own successful cottage industries, using a variety of different models. Carol, having returned to the 21st century from her anabasis in Victorian Freak-showland, has taken an idea from a very unlikely source; the outsider artist Daniel Johnson. She wrote about it the other day briefly, on Facebook. I was so overwhelmed by the philosophical and artistic nuances of this new idea of hers, that I had to find out more. So I gave her a ring…


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