Heat up the branding iron

or how Henry misinterpreted lukewarm as cool

A crucial step in my seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER involved making sure that everyone in London knew I was the coolest kid in Hackney.

Out of 32 London boroughs, Hackney was definitely the coolest (how isn’t being 98% over the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions a middle finger straight up at the man?) and if I managed to become the coolest kid in Hackney, I’d probably be the coolest kid in London.

Easy.

Actually, it wasn’t.

I didn’t appreciate the challenge I’d set myself until I took a long look in the mirror.

Standing in my mirror staring spot I said, “mirror mirror, oh what do I see?

Knowing the answer, I gave it, “a 28 year old with great hair.

Suddenly an evil voice emanated from the frame, “look closer. What do you see?

A little confused, I replied, “unwavering determination?

The same voice hissed, “look closer and up a bit.

Then I saw it. I must have missed it because it wasn’t there – a hairline about to sink from mild recession into a deep and tragic depression. And this time the economy definitely wasn’t going to pick up – I didn’t have a job.

The priorities had changed. I needed a Turkish hair transplant stat. But before I could do that, I needed money.

Ah, money. For money I needed a job.

Damn.

Ok, the plan was back on. The parameters had just changed a bit.

I was going to have to become cool but without any hair.

Was that even possible?

Who’s the coolest bald guy?

I racked my brains.

Stumped, I put my favourite thinking record on, Sonic Youth’s Kill Yr Idols.

The title track roared:

I don’t know why,

You want to impress Christgau,

Ah let that shit die,

And find out a new goal.

Then it hit me.

The coolest guy in the world without any hair was Robert Christgau. You know, that guy who wrote all of those mean album reviews for Village Voice and publicly admitted that he knew nothing about music.

I didn’t know anything about music either! I was already qualified. PERFECT!

Robert Christgau almost bald
The self-ordained ‘Dean of American Rock Critics’ – ok, he’s got more hair than I let on. Maybe I wasn’t balding that much. (Photo by Joe Mabel – I found it on wikipedia)

And if I’d interpreted Sonic Youth’s lyrics correctly, he was so cool that even they hadn’t been able to impress him. I mean, he gave Confusion is Sex a C+ and that album’s radical.

I was going to emulate Robert Christgau. But how?

Becoming the dunce of British rock critics

To become the British Robert Christgau, I’d have to write music reviews.

But I didn’t know who any of the cool new bands were and had no desire to spend weekends scrolling through SoundCloud

Then it hit me.

I lived in London and there were loads of free gigs that only friends of the bands and weird groupies went to.

I could write reviews for those gigs!

It was a brilliant plan:

  1. Assuming I didn’t drink anything, it wouldn’t cost any money.
  2. It’d provide a ton of content for my great blog that’d make me look very, very cool.
  3. I’d be able to take pictures of grimy venues and put them on my Instagram account.
  4. Rolling Stone would probably give me a job and I’d be like that kid in the movie about the band who were in that aeroplane that falls out of the sky then the drummer tells everyone he’s gay (you guessed it, Almost Famous).

So I found three free gigs on Dice and went to them.

I then wrote about it here: Gig on Tuesday, Gig on Wednesday and Gig on Thursday.

I was becoming so cool already.

Then my father called.

Parents are made to inspire doubt

RING RING.

After picking up, my father just shouted at me.

Father Henry, “You need to stop doing those bloody music reviews Henry. They’re shit. It’s like you’re writing for Melody Maker.

I didn’t know what the Melody Maker was, but when he said that it was worse than NME I felt awful.

Why? Because NME’s a pile of shit and definitely not cool. I was worse than NME?! Surely not.

I took a look at NME’s best article ever, you know the one, their list of best 90’s EMO songs.

Jimmy Eat World before Jawbreaker?

I was reassured. Whoever wrote for NME was clearly an imbecile and I definitely wasn’t.

I still didn’t know what Melody Maker was though so I googled it.

Yes, Melody Maker was the Daily Telegraph of the music rags. I’m not even making this up, the editor actually wanted it to emulate the Daily Telegraph.

But, I mean, my music reviews weren’t overly long or complicated. I had an inkling that my father was acting out.

I was about to challenge him on it when my sister and mother said exactly the same thing: “Henry, you need to stop writing those music reviews. They’re just not very good.

Damn, all three of my readers had told me that half the content on my site wasn’t any good.

I took a moment to reflect. Looking over the reviews I just didn’t get what was wrong with them.

The exercise had even shown me how to publish threads on my new Twitter account.

What was going on?

Then I thought back to my copywriter training.

What did my readers have in common?

Understanding (and disregarding) your audience

Ohhh, yes! My father, my mother and my sister had never, ever been to a gig EVER and their favourite musicians were QT and Billy Bragg.

It was confirmed: their opinions didn’t matter!

I’d be damned if I was going to stop going to free gigs, drinking too much beer on a daily basis and writing bad music reviews about the bands I saw. 

Redemption sometimes comes in SMS (the joke doesn’t work if you don’t pronounce SMS as smeees. Get it? It sounds like threes)

And just as I realised that I was well on my way to becoming even cooler, I received a text from Dice.

I’d won tickets to All Points East.

Dice Tickets
I was sad. I really wanted to see the Courtneys.

The gods had spoken and they clearly wanted to read my review of everything that happened at All Points East.

I mean, it was clearly a sign and I couldn’t disappoint the gods now, could I?

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