It was my Classics tutor at Eton who first noticed my talent as a writer and took it upon himself to nurture my gift. By the age of 18, I was a seasoned reporter, having worked my way up to the position of Features Editor at The Etonion Journal of Metallurgy. This venerable periodical, first published in 1873, was initially dedicated to the study of minerals and metallic elements, but broadened its scope in the 1970s to encompass an exciting new generation of denim-clad, shaggy-permed, hard rock groups, who had united under the banner of “heavy metal.” During my tenure on the magazine I commissioned articles investigating the mineral lattices prevalent in the music of mid-period Black Sabbath and the trace metals existent in the founding members of Motley Crue. Collectively we attempted to definitively answer the, still as yet, unresolved question: What metal is Bruce Dickinson made of? I penned many of the articles myself, among them: Is Biff Byford from Saxon Magnetic? and Were Mercyful Fate’s Drums Forged by Iron Age Blacksmiths? The journal, which is still published on the first Friday of every month, continues to be written exclusively in Latin.
After I left Eton I landed a job at Pop Vision – a magazine catering to the base musical tastes of the Proletariat. The culture at Pop Vision was very different from the hermetically sealed world of my alma mater. I was unprepared for how many of the staff, which included many of my former school chums, had adopted the speech patterns and mannerisms of East London gangsters. The word “Guvnor” was banded around with much greater frequency than I had anticipated.
The bands I interviewed were different too. Talk Talk were oddly silent, while Mute Records artists were capable of holding court on a wide range of esoteric topics, from Hungarian existentialism, to the peculiar back-to-front plumbing that is a feature of many properties within the city limits of Los Angeles and gave birth to the term “shit cannon.”
Britpop was in the ascendency and I soon became a familiar face among the ranks of the Indie paparazzi, accosting Luke Haines from The Auteurs as he exited Camden branch library with a Sainsbury’s carrier bag filled with yellowing Danielle Steele novels, and then chasing after him down the street, calling out: “Luke! Luke! It’s Mark from Pop Vision. Say something acerbic!”
On another occasion I was dispatched to a skate park where the guitarist from The Bluetones had become trapped at the bottom of an artificial concrete dell. Watching his feeble, abortive attempts at scrabbling up the steeply sloping concrete walls, I was reminded of a spider trapped in a bathtub. Somebody threw down a guitar and told him that we’d fetch a ladder if he played Chasing Rainbows.
Writers at Pop Vision were encouraged to use their articles to air any political opinions they had. It was considered very bad form if you didn’t bad mouth Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party at least once in every piece. Many of the articles published were the result of half-baked ideas – for instance I was once asked to conduct an interview with Stereolab in mono.
In 1997 the Pop Vision camera broke. After that no further photographs were printed in the magazine. The sudden absence of any pictorial content was passed off by the editor – Terrence Berkeley - as a Dadaist act of spontaneous deconstruction. When the office CD player ceased to function, a memo was circulated, informing us that any further single or album reviews would be penned as speculative pieces in which we would muster our latent psychic talents to describe the music contained on the CDs that had been sent for our appraisal. To aid us the Pop Vision office was relocated to a building in Kings Cross where three Ley Lines were said to converge.
It was this anti-listening to music policy that resulted in my description of Blur’s comeback single - Beetlebum - as “like being serenaded by a chorus of rowdy whelks, dressed in barnacle-encrusted Aaron sweaters, in a pub, in Leigh-on-Sea.”
I resigned from the magazine in 1999 to work on my fathers estate in Buckinghamshire. As I left the office for the last time I passed a stark naked Brett Anderson from the group Suede, who was waiting in the lobby. It was early Spring. A single yellow daffodil drooped from the tip of his flaccid penis.