Saturday, May 4, 2019

Dave McCullough speaks!

From 1983, Sounds legend Dave McCullough appears on something called Greenwich Sound Radio, as the guest on a regular item called 'Creatures What You Never Knew About" (someone talking and playing records from their collection - worth digging through the archive as there's people like Robert Wyatt and Green Gartside guesting on other episodes.

McCullough sounds exactly how I'd imagined - sparky, lippy, opinionated, very decided in his opinions.

 A lot of what he says is total bullshit...  even contradicting himself within minutes  - but he says it in such a beguiling spiky yet silver-tongued way that I'm utterly charmed.

Biggest contradiction is the narrow view of rock history he outlines (Elvis>>>.Stones>>>Pistols/Jam/Clash/Buzzcocks>>>Fall>>>Smiths..._ versus the much wider and more interesting sense of music that is evident from what McCullough actually plays here. Half of the selections are people like Peter Hammill, Hall & Oates (who get two tracks!), Dory Previn, and Tim Buckley (and Sefronia-Buckley too - sickly ornate horror!) and most of the rest is well-wimpy early offerings from Hurrah!, Microdisney, the Pastels plus a Devotosolo ("Cold Imagination" off Jerky Versions of The Dream).  Jackson Browne gets a namecheck as well. Only tracks by The Fall and the Jam fits the historical narrative McCullough supposedly adheres to and upholds with every fiber of his writing being.

our Dave walking with The Clash (looks like Leicester Square)

I could only afford one music appear, so always used to buy NME, but I did spend a lot of time standing up in W.H. Smiths speed-reading the other papers. And with Sounds mostly I was looking for Dave McC’s stuff.

He had a great idiosyncratic style - very much Sounds's own equivalent to Morley - funny, playful, quick-minded... and he had unusual quirky taste. Sometimes he would take against things that logically you'd think he ought to be into, judging by his past preferences profile. Or he would take violently against things that he'd once fervently been into.

It’s funny how things stick in your head.

I can remember him reviewing The Fall post-Hex and saying how they'd gotten stuck in a dour rut and should do something unexpected like work with an orchestra.

"How I Created Modern Music - by D. McCulloch (a weekly serial)" - M.E.S. takes a playful swipe at our Dave, former Fall champion turned scourge, via NME"s Portrait of The Artist As A Consumer column. And isn't McCulloch referenced in an actual Fall lyric? Or am I imagining that?

Dave McC seemed to loathe The Cure and their audience, for reasons I can’t remember.  Thought they were sheep, I think. But then again I found a review somewhere that was gushing about  the first Cure album. And a review that's fairly positive about Pornography. He seemed to flip around a lot in his views! 

I remember he was a big fan of an obscure Scottish postpunk group called The Visitors.

Very early - the first, in fact? - to write about The Smiths and all the Scottish Postcard stuff, obviously.

And Joy Division. 

It’s a shame he disappeared. There was a brief stint working at Blanco Y Negro, alongside Geoff Travis and Mike Alway. I'm told he also did some reviews for City Limits. And then....  silence.

I wonder what propelled his withdrawal. I read somewhere he went back to Northern Ireland and became a teacher. If so, probably an English teacher judging by the many literary references in his writings, and his emphasis on lyrics in the radio show above. 

In the audio interview, he talks about being more interested in motor cars and pedigree dogs than music! So perhaps that was the onset of a great disillusionment. Although he doesn't sounds disillusioned - he sounds full of fire and spirit. 

If anyone knows... let me know.


Below is a whole bunch of old McCullough pieces from Sounds... starting with this hilarious slag-off of bitter rivals NME's C81 cassette with Rough Trade - despite the fact that it is crammed full of the exact music that he himself has been championing at Sounds. (Clearly Geoff Travis held no grudges when it came to McC working at Blanco Y Negro)

And here also is a tribute/reminiscence of McCullough that John Carney aka Kevin Pearce did for Tangents back in the day.

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