How getting Dickon Hinchcliffe on the cheap opened my ears
When I was young and handsome (let’s say the early 90s) a band would turn up, (let's say a band like Suede) and from their music and press coverage I would find references to their influences; older artists who 'did it first'. In Suede’s case it’s a thread running back through The Smiths, Roxy Music and, of course, David Bowie.
I discovered lots of music this way. Finding artists from the past from their impact and influence on new bands.
This still happens, but with music from all eras only being a click away it feels like artists appear influenced by every decade and every genre all at once. It's become harder for me to find the lines, the threads are knotted.
Movements and scenes in popular music are much less distinct than they were 20 or 30 years ago. And discovering new music now comes in other forms, ranging from social recommendations to software algorithms.
All of these developments are rather wonderful but they do pose some questions. Do I have access to a wider or narrower range of music? Do I just get more of what I like? Am I being exposed to artists out of my comfort zone? Where is the element of chance?
Here's a story. Back in 1995 the Melody Maker attempted to run an indie music version of the popular Fantasy Football game you find in most newspapers. The aim was to assemble a supergroup composed of band members from the top acts of the day. If their real life bands charted you scored some points and, well… suffice to say, it was a complete flop. As far as I recall the game petered out very quickly. Except...
When I was putting my band together I needed a cheap guitarist, so I filled the vacancy with Dickon Hinchcliffe from the Tindersticks, a band I had no knowledge of. The reason I chose him? He was cheap and had a cool sounding name.
When the competition died I forgot all about Dickon, until one afternoon a few months later when I was in a London record shop. I happened upon the Tindersticks single, No More Affairs. Of course in 1995 there no way of previewing a shrink-wrapped CD, so on a whim, I bought it.
And so began my love for the Tindersticks. They were unlike anything else I owned, far removed from my usual indie, rock and pop purchases. (Somehow I had missed their Album of the Year success in 1993). Fast forward to today and I still love their brooding, soul-infused melodies. To have discovered such a beautiful band in such a clumsy way makes me smile. Far more than any Pandora suggestion ever has.
Don't forget to be random.