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Campaign For Real Rock- James Smith rallies to Edwyn Collins call for action and says it’s time to wake up!

Campaign For Real Rock

”ËœAnd they’re wondering why we can’t connect, With the ritual of the trashed guitar’

I was four years old when Edwyn Collins released his 3rd album Gorgeous George. I still remember lead single A Girl Like You emanating from our well worn car radio with a warm crackle and hum. It’s one of the few songs from my childhood which stuck with me even though I never knew who sang it. Then when I discovered Orange Juice a few years back it all made perfect sense. Instantly I fell for Edwyn’s wry observational lyrics, his quivering croon and his ability to write brilliant pop songs. The kind of pop songs which have never sounded like paint by numbers, lowest common denominator drivel. The kind of pop songs like Campaign For Real Rock.

   For me, good music is good music regardless. It is timeless and it comes in many guises. The most important aspect being that it has heart. A pounding heart and an undeniable passion for the sheer thrill of creation. It’s a trait all great music contains and it’s a trait which can never be defined. There isn’t a formula and it can’t be taught, we simply know when it is there. 

    So, if we were to call upon a Campaign For Real Rock, what would we be asking for? Are we asking for Townshend Jr. to slam his guitar through the drum kit? Do we require little Iggy to roll around in a heap on hot candle wax and glass? Perhaps every gig from now on should end in an ear assault finale of unbearably loud feedback à la My Bloody Valentine? No, none of the above of course. To emulate such Rock and Roll past times would almost certainly come across as contrived tom foolery for anyone involved. With the best possible intentions, you would be disregarding the importance of a moment in history, which cannot be truly replicated ever again. 

   With Edwyn’s campaign, I believe he was chastising the people who half heartedly invest their time and money into tired tradition’s within so called ”Ëœalternative’ music. Those willing to accept that the life has been sucked out of Rock and Roll; Those that forget to acknowledge Rock’s greatest asset was always its spontaneity and its ability to revel in the unexpected. This is what makes Edwyn Collins so Rock and Roll. He is charming and polite and he sings about ”Ëœstanding sultry in the rain’. His latest album sleeve is basically just a wildlife guide for bird spotters. Technically speaking, he couldn’t be less Rock and Roll if he tried. To put it in a nutshell, the one thing Rock and Roll about Edwyn is the only thing that really matters; His heart. 

   It’s a trait I feel is lacking within music at this moment in time. With the NME telling us that Brother are the future of British guitar music, you can’t help but question why you ever cared in the first place. This is not a Brother bashing by the way, that would be too easy. This is a genuine plea for some proper punk initiative. This is a Campaign For Real Rock. I had the privilege of seeing Gil Scott Heron live last summer and it remains the most moving gig I have ever attended. Gil Scott Heron is probably more Rock and Roll than any other band that has emerged with a guitar in the last five years. Disregarding the fact that his music is a mean concoction of jazz fusion paved over by political street poetry; Gil Scott Heron is also 61 years old. Yet he still means it with every ounce in his body. I also saw Patti Smith, The Fall, Nick Cave and Grinderman, Sonic Youth and The Pop Group tear the stage apart last year. More ferocious than Gil Scott Heron in terms of physical performance, but each and every one championed that undying punk aesthetic that music so badly needs right now. In addition to this, all the aforementioned are old enough to be my parents. This certainly isn’t a bad thing for them; For I sincerely hope I will be even half as cool as Nick Cave and his spell binding facial hair when I hit fifty. 

    Basically, we’re fucked. The music industry is falling down around us and the government are prioritising numbers on a page over human beings. Sitting outside Millbank getting high, occasionally waving a half-hearted makeshift banner proclaiming ”ËœCAMORON!’ in the name of education just won’t do. We sit there waiting to be spoon fed the future, kidding ourselves we’re doing our bit when really we don’t have a clue. Music is escapism from the real world. Though i like to think it is the most important thing in the universe, I know really that it isn’t. For those that really care however, it is something we could never live without. It can’t rid the world of poverty or debt but it can put the fire in our bellies when we need it most. We need to put the guts back into the guitar now more than ever. Besides, in years to come if we actually did make a difference to this country; Would we really be happy hearing Brother soundtrack the revolution?

   Whilst your peers may be starting their Campaign against the rise of tuition fees; Do something worthwhile. Start a campaign which no external authorities can interfere with; Pay no attention to any band you even suspect of having false intentions. For every new band you see or hear; Picture yourself grey and old and imagine what effect that music could have had upon your life. For starters, go buy Frank Turner’s complete discography from your local record shop. Make note of why an Eton educated, Winchester boy with an acoustic guitar is the only thing Punk Rock about our generation. If your not convinced then go start your very own, Campaign For Real Rock.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Bang on the money for me. I keep feeling what goes round comes round again and again. THe punk revolution inspired me in 1977 when the things in our country were bleak to say the least. Here it comes again! I just hope the kids of today cant get up out the armchair – throw the games consoles away and start another music revolution. For goodness sake, just take a look at the charts! The charts dont mean anything anymore just an indication of how crap things are musically today.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly and am a fan of Collins and especially Gil Scott Heron(saw him live too amazing!).Attitude and conviction are the most vital ingredients that make the difference for me and this is definitely missing from a lot of bands today.Costumes and pose instead of content seems to have taken over music so are we back to the mid seventies?I wouldn’t know i wasn’t born yet!(this maybe a blatant plug but..)the band i play in ‘the ascension’ believe in speaking our minds and playing what we believe in regardless of the consequences which if isn’t a campaign for real rock i don’t know what is!.To keep it unbiased i’d also recommend ‘Kin’ and ‘Mr Heart’both from Manchester as also having real rock fire in their bellies,let the revolution begin!

  3. I’ve seen a few bands round Manchester over the past couple of years that seem to be intent on bringing rock and roll kicking and screaming back from the abyss. Dirty North and Frazer King couldn’t be more different from one another but the attitude, the passion and most importantly, the tunes are there. You certainly couldn’t accuse them of pretension or contrivance, they’re just your average lads. They just happen to have that insight, soul and originality that’s in all great rock bands. Then you get the kids who are just posing, dressing up, following the latest musical trends as dictated by mediocre journalists. There’s no heart there, no danger, no message. I won’t name names but these seem to be the bands getting the big gigs, the festivals, the deals, the airplay, the magazine covers and it’s just bland. I suppose real rock n’ roll bands are just to much of a risk to invest in nowadays. Wouldn’t want people listening to stuff that gives ’em ideas would you?


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