So this is lockdown and what have you done? Another year over, an indistinguishable one just begun. As we hit the one-year anniversary of music being shut down faster than Channel 5’s experimental new chat show A Cough In Your Eye With Ian Brown, what have we learned?
- Tim Burgess on listening parties with Oasis’ Bonehead and Blur’s Dave Rowntree: “They’re a distraction”
That local council Zoom meetings contain infinitely more passion and charisma than an acoustic livestream from Gary Lightbody’s kitchenette. That it’s impossible to over-binge Taskmaster. That trousers were just chains of the oppressive capitalist hegemony all along. And that there are many thousands of people dumb and selfish enough to risk getting lockdown extended by marching through major cities shouting, “What do we want? No more lockdown! When do we want it? A few weeks sooner than officially scheduled!”
And we’ve learnt that, even facing an existential crisis, music endures. In inflatable bubbles, on fans’ doorsteps and in makeshift human paddocks, dressed as a happy saveloy or stifling sneezes through ‘I’m Still Standing’ in a back garden the size of Hertfordshire, music has survived this Facetimed fucknugget of a year unbowed (and largely financially unsupported). It’s been a time of great selflessness. Acts have kept writing and releasing records with barely any let-up, even with no prospect of making the costs back from touring them. Livestreams have raised much needed funds for crew and venues (hats off to Frank Turner for being the tatted Sir Tom of Instagram Live). Mumford & Sons, besides committing Twitterkiri, have mercifully done absolutely nothing.
But the most herculean effort has surely been put in by that undimmable sonic sunbeam Tim Burgess. On March 23 last year, he held a #Tim’sTwitterListeningParty for The Charlatans’ 1990 album ‘Some Friendly’, live-tweeting the record to help his fans through ‘Lockdown Day’. The following night Franz Ferdinand brought bottle and debut and did the same. By the end of the week, the Blur vs. Oasis battle had broken out again, this time in the trending bar between ‘Parklife’ (Twittered by Dave Rowntree) and ‘Definitely Maybe’ (with Bonehead on ‘How twatted were we on this?’ duties). A phenomenon was born, one amusing bass amp mishap at a time.
730 Listening Parties later, with the livestreams tailing off and the drive-in gigs stalled at the starting line, #Tim’sTwitterListeningParty is nothing short of a pandemic institution.
In the past 12 months its seen Liam Gallagher (‘MTV Unplugged’) and Paul McCartney (‘McCartney III’) duke it out for the highest tweet-count, until both got pulverised by Iron Maiden doing ‘Powerslave’ for the 666th party. It’s played host to the fuzzy drug memories of the likes of Pulp, Pixies, The Libertines, Duran Duran, Kylie and John Shuttleworth. It inspired both Mansun and The Music to reform mid-tweet, it revived Kevin Rowland’s love of his own music and it was where Biffy Cyro joined NME writers past and present in tweeting along to 2004’s ‘Infinity Land’ in memory of our sorely missed gunslinger and Biffmeister general Dan Martin.
What was once a one-man record club now has its own online hub where you can replay every single listening party in real time (962,000 replays and counting), watch Tim lounge his way through post-party Zoom ‘aftershows’ with his guests in a variety of fan-knitted jumpers or watch the peroxide prince transformed into an 8-bit computer game. It’s got its own emoji. This is some God-tier Twitter shit.
Besides the sheer communal joy of joining a party knowing there are thousands of like-minded souls dotted across the globe also trying to bawl along to ‘The Drowners’ on headphones without waking the baby, there’s something deeply reassuring in #Tim’sTwitterListeningParty just being there. The daily horrors of Twitter are somehow softened by the perpetual presence in your feed, around half eight, of Tim cheerfully enthusing about some long-forgotten motorbike solo with a Boo Radley. Without your annoying cousin posting fomo cocktail shots from Coachella, it’s heartening to know that music is still going on out there.
And it’s making people appreciate music more than any planet-eating NFT. “One of the greatest pleasures has been to see that people discover music that you know will stay with them,” Tim says, “and artists can see people falling in love with the music in real-time. This happened to loads of people at The Anchoress listening party the other day, but it’s quite a common thing with Claire Welles, Francis Lung and Jane Weaver all finding lots of new fans.”
Between all the string gauge details and bitching about royalty splits, the listening parties celebrate the immersion, artistry and behind-the-scenes camaraderie (translation: heroin) of the long-form album format in an age which can so often feel like having dislocated tracks fired at your head like a rain of Mordor’s most Auto-Tuned arrows. No wonder it’s been linked by the BPI as a key cause of the surge in vinyl sales in 2020.
Burgess is trawling a generation of music consumers and drawing out a new wave of music lovers. Come June 21, it’ll be the only thing worth staying in for.