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Gallery: A History Of The Wire In Musicians’ Letters

May 2017



Practice makes perfect? Back in The Wire 15, Evan Parker accuses Brian Priestley of mythologising Charlie Parker by suggesting the saxophonist did not work on his playing. Parker praises Coltrane's work ethic, and this code of perspiration allied with inspiration has been central to UK improv in the following years.

Eddie Prévost, Issue 105: Who's he, a drummer? The percussionist writes to state his ignorance of John Cage’s work in the earliest days of AMM. The group fought against the top-down power structures of composers, though AMM would go on to borrow ideas from both Cage and Tudor.

Tim Gane, Issue 143. Responding to a letter accusing him of dissing krautrock, the Stereolab man comes out swinging in a manner that’s anything but "effervescently smug". "I don't give a fuck about these things,” says Gane, setting out a rigorous philosophy for his retro-concious group.

Alfreda Benge, issue 165. After a letter accused Biba Kopf of slagging off the Lincolnshire seaside town of Cleethorpes in his Robert Wyatt feature (issue 163), artist and lyricist Alfreda Benge, Wyatt’s wife and collaborator, writes to explain the difficulty of working with likeminded musicians from their base on the East Coast.

Michael Gira, issue 187. If we could turn back time, we'd find a way to fix this incongruous transcription error pointed out by the Swans main man, noting that in Ian Penman’s Wire 185 piece he inadvertently castigates those who "feel this need to quote Cher". Still, that Auto-tune bit on "Believe" is enough to get anyone angry.

John Butcher, issue 188. Responding to the Editor’s Idea column by Tony Herrington in The Wire 187, the saxophonist and ex-particle physicist discusses the petri-dish sound experiments Tony identifies in this first wave of reductionist improvisors, and reflects on "non-jazz modes" of improvisation.

Diamanda Galás, issue 195. After a letter querying a reference to the Scripps Institute in Ian Penman's piece in The Wire 190/191, Galás herself writes to confirm she was indeed a research assistant at an organisation of that name – a Californian biomedical research body – and discusses biochemistry and psychotropic research.

Richard Hell, issue 206: Responding to Alan Licht's piece in The Wire 205 on the many iterations of blankness in rock 'n' roll, the Voidoids and Heartbreakers guitarist declares his famous idea of "filling in the blank" alludes to both possibility and dropping out, and praises the films of Robert Bresson.

Philip Corner, issue 258: After The Wire’s special issue on music and humour Laugh Till It Hurts (issue 256) musician and Fluxus pioneer Philip Corner writes in with his own extensive gag reel.

Carlos Giffoni, issue 304: Following Peter Shapiro's guide to the Roland TB-303's greatest hits, Mr No Fun/No Fun Acid doubles down and sings the praises of the Roland TR-606, the drum machine that gives acid its kick in a live setting.

Wooden Wand, issue 332. "You get banned". In this ironic parable of the file sharing era, James Toth tries to find one of his songs on Soulseek to teach to his bandmates, only to get pwned by a user pirating his stuff.

To celebrate our 400th issue, Derek Walmsley trawls through 35 years of insightful, inciteful and even infightful correspondence from musicians from our Letters page, whose gladiatorial appeal is described by David Keenan in an essay for The Wire 400.

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