'Seven Nation Army': The Song That Inspired Me To Become A Music Writer

Despite an interview where Jack sighed at every question, Meg stayed silent and them subsequently calling me out mid-concert for "misquoting" them, The White Stripes still inspired me...
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Despite an interview where Jack sighed at every question, Meg stayed silent and them subsequently calling me out mid-concert for "misquoting" them, The White Stripes still inspired me...

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Pat Long will be joining Sabotage Times Editor James Brown and other former NME writers David Quantick and Barney Hoskyns, discussing the music that inspired them to become music writers at the Stoke Newington Literary festival on Saturday 2nd June. Click here for info and tickets. He writes…

In retrospect, I suppose I got off lightly. One of my friends, a fellow NME writer, once wrote a small but dismissive review of a new Who record, only to find that the next time he went to see the band live Pete Townshend stopped the gig to bellow “ALAN WOODHOUSE HAS NO BALLS AND NO SPERM!” at the presumably bemused audience, before plunging into a song about the internet or ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ or whatever.

My experience was almost as mortifying. Before I worked at NME I was just an unemployed/freelance music journalist frothing at anyone who listened – and quite a lot who didn’t – because the music press wouldn’t cover any of the obscure garage bands I liked. That these bands were mostly borderline novelty acts on tiny American labels whose records could barely be bought in shops in the UK didn’t matter: the world wouldn’t listen and it was a TRAVESTY.

Anyway, five or six years  later I had a staff job at NME where I was paid, barely, to right this colossal wrong by inflicting my taste and opinions on the magazine-buying public. In the intervening decade one of the American garage bands that I’d liked had done pretty well: The White Stripes were one of  the most famous and distinctive bands on the planet and I was being sent to Paris to interview them for a cover feature ahead of the release of their new album. Jack White was leery of the NME, claiming that he was always being misquoted, but through the intervention of my friend Ben Swank, the coolest man in the music business and Jack’s former flatmate, we were allocated our time with the band.

The interview didn’t really go that well. Meg didn’t say a word and Jack sighed at every question that I asked.

The interview didn’t really go that well. Meg didn’t say a word and Jack sighed at every question that I asked. I think that maybe I was put off by the fact that Meg was dressed like a child prostitute in a 19th century Western bordello and Jack looked like Dick Dastardly. This was for the photoshoot, you understand, not their street clothes.

Anyway, they played a memorable show, I drank beer, returned to London, wrote the piece up and thought no more of it. The Wednesday that the issue with the cover story on appeared on newsstands the band were headlining the Alexandra Palace, so I dutifully went along. I was a fan, although also being a journalist I was at the bar with the press officer and another writer when the band stopped the show, Jack produced a copy of that week’s NME with my story on and started ranting and raving about how he was sick of being misquoted and no one should believe anything that the NME printed. There were ten thousand other people at the gig that night, but at that point I was convinced that every single one knew who I was and what my crime had been. That was probably the point where I decided that writing about music for a living was a mug’s game and I wanted to get out while I still had my balls and sperm intact.

Pat Long’s book ‘The History of The NME’ is out now, published by Portico.

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