A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post and engaged in a live chat for the Dominion Post. The idea, mostly, was to discuss my role for the paper as a reviewer of live gigs and albums. But of course roles were blurred, understandably, and people asked questions that related to my writing here at Blog on the Tracks.
A question that came up - and it always comes up, if I'm ever interviewed, or when I have given guest lectures to media studies classes - was whether I had ever "got it wrong". A moot point I would think; I tend to ask that - often - at the end of these blog-posts. Or if not I give you the chance to dive in and say it, to challenge. I see this, very much, as a dialogue. That's always been my intention. Obviously it can appear one-sided at first, but it takes shape with comments below, and with the passing of posts. I've been at it for five years now, and some of you have been along for the whole ride, or a long time at any rate. So it's fair to consider this all dialogue - we learn from each other, about likes and dislikes. And learn from recommendations. Or learn not to take recommendations.
But this question always comes up - what did I get wrong. And tied to that is the idea of who I might apologise to. I know some people think I was very harsh about Coldplay's new album or Pearl Jam's career - via the documentary or the absurdities offered by the Rage Against the Machine guitarist when he thinks he's armed with a machine that kills fascists. And, heck, that was all just in one week.
But I certainly don't think I need to apologise to Chris Martin or Eddie Vedder (or Cameron Crowe) or Tom Morello/The Nightwatchman.
They are all blissfully unaware of what I wrote - no doubt. And even if they do know (a little bird told me recently that it was someone's job at EMI to read Annabel Fay this particular blog-post) they're all capable of accepting it as just one person's opinion. Of not caring about it at all - or of, who knows, maybe taking it on board in some capacity? We can but dream that there is never another Nightwatchman or Coldplay album; or at the least not ones as terrible as last year's releases by those artists.
But come on - they're just opinions. You lot tell me that often enough. You'd think I never knew that - but fortunately, with five years of near-daily reminders, I think - finally - I'm up to speed.
(Next job is to work on the short sentences. Yes. A must. And then - of course - the double dashes; the semi-colons. All that stuff that one or two - or a few - of you detest. I'll get there. Eventually. Promise. No point in me using my own voice to voice my own opinion after all, right?)
My answer - about getting it wrong - is that I'm sure I have. I know I have. Obviously. I don't think I'm right. Not all of the time. It's not about that. It's about shaping an opinion, hoping to engage - and I guess, from time to time, to enrage, sure. But it's about filing a daily opinion, creating - hopefully - a talking point. Gathering near-instant feedback. Creating dialogue. Getting you and me to think. I know I'm not always good at it. I know I'm not always successful - but I'm actually not sure about times, in the life of this blog, when I have "got it wrong".
And at any rate the mantra, in this industry, is always never complain, never explain. I learned that from a great man. But I'll acknowledge that in a way I'm breaking both rules with this post. You'll see why at the end.
Opinions do change, sure. But with daily blogging it's mostly about a reflection of what I'm feeling at the time. I gushed about the new Dirty Projectors record - which I love. A favourite from this year. But I was totally underwhelmed after seeing the band live a couple of years ago. That doesn't mean I got that wrong - though it could do, for you. You might have loved that gig. I wanted to like it. I almost did. But it didn't stick. It felt false. The new album doesn't feel that way for me. And so all I can hope there is to see the band make a return trip to New Zealand (fingers crossed, eh?) and hope also that they offer the kind of superb live show that the new album suggests - and deserves.
No apology necessary. Two completely different opinions on the same band - but two albums and two years to create space, and change, in those opinions; I think, sometimes, people read one blog post and are convinced it is not only "an article" but the definite article. A very definite article. No wiggle-room, no space to move.
The news, recently, that Foo Fighters are taking a break didn't make me feel as though I should apologise when I wrote this. I'll only feel sorry (and sad) if it turns out to be some elaborate hoax and they release another double album soon.
One of the posts that is often referenced is this one about Fat Freddy's Drop. Just last week someone wrote to me asking if I was prepared to admit, finally, that I got it wrong about Fat Freddy's Drop. I couldn't seem to get it noticed that I also wrote, quite positively I thought, about the band's second album. And that, by the way, wasn't offered as any sort of apology, just a reflection of what I thought at the time.
Last week I hammered out a few thoughts about female musicians; specifically the fact that we use that term "female singer/songwriter" or "female musician". In a Facebook comment someone asked me if I had written that to atone for when I wrote a piece suggesting that women had terrible taste in music. My answer was that it was no such thing.
Once these posts are written they take on their own life - it's no good me pointing out when I am and am not joking; when I'm poking fun and being deadly serious, and within that whether I've got the tone right or not. That's not for me to say. Once it's there - it's done. If I've got it wrong so be it. I live with that. And live with people deciding they hate me, or whatever their decision may be. That's fine. No apologies necessary though. Never complain, never explain. I've obviously got it wrong if it's not obvious that I'm having a bit of fun. And I'm okay with that.
I'll always apologise if I find out I've got information wrong - but in opinions about music there's no one I think I need to say sorry to, in the case of both readers of this blog and subjects I've written about.
But this is where you can step in. You can tell me who you think I should be apologising to. And if you want to say that I should be apologising to you - for wasting your time with this particular rant - you're wrong. You need to be apologising to yourself for making it this far when you clearly didn't want to.
Hang on, there's someone that is owed an apology. And I am thinking they never really received it.
I do owe an apology to Neil Finn.
One of the posts I copped a lot of grief over was my Open Letter to Neil Finn. (I should say I never copped any grief from Neil Finn.)
It started with this post - a passionate fan-plea, I thought. And it can probably still stand as that. But before I got to the open letter (and I'll be clear to say I'm not apologising for anything I said in that post) I also wrote this second post, a continuation of the discussion about Neil Finn's music and how I wanted him to release a new solo album. In that post I suggested that he was "revenue collecting" by releasing side projects that weren't always inspired. I was the lazy one here; I made it sound as though he was ego-tripping and revenue-collecting with the second Seven Worlds Collide project when the CD clearly stated that monies from it were donated to charity.
That is a major case of "getting it wrong". And I don't know if the apology means anything now - it's probably far too late. But it really was poor form of me to suggest that a charity project was another way for Neil Finn to top up his savings.
I have it on good authority that Neil Finn was not happy about that. And I would say that's more than fair enough. I get a little upset - in my own way - when people think that I swan around and write a blog for a living. So I can certainly understand him being annoyed, if, as I understand it, he was, at me making a claim that is factually incorrect and is really quite insulting given the philanthropic aims of that album and the lives shows.
So that stands out to me as a giant faux-pas. I was within my rights to comment around the music - but I got it wrong big time by trying to link the Seven Worlds Collide project in with any other side-projects, reunions and spinoffs that I deemed lazy, cushy, convenient gigs.
It's a very late apology - and so it probably means very little. But I figure, at the least, I can out myself in this very public forum, acknowledge a giant - shining - error.
Beyond that I cannot think of a time - yet - when I have got it wrong. But I'm sure you can think of several. So have at me. When do you think I got it wrong? And who do you think I owe an apology to?
Postscript: Yesterday on the Blog on the Tracks Facebook page I asked readers to pick a title for a blog-post. They choose the headline and I'll write the post. The winner, with the most "likes" - I took that to mean the one the most people were keen to see - was Bob Daktari with the suggestion "Things I Got Wrong: An apology to..." This is the post to accompany that title. Those readers are probably now wishing I'd picked any other title to write a post to. Or will call for Mr Daktari to apologise. And so, either way, the apologies continue...