In the first in our series of contributors unlocking the vaults of The Wire's 400 issue archive, Brian Morton picks out some of its standout articles
2007 Rewind, #287, January 2008
I make no apology for starting with the sun this far across the sky. At the end of 2007, beginning of 2008, I had just about got my life and health back together again and ripping the cellophane off issue #287 to find listed the hottest/hippest releases of the previous year – which I passed in an achey blank – was like handing a starving man a menu. I spent a month chasing down everything from Matthew Dear’s Asa Breed to James Blackshaw’s speak-to-me title The Cloud Of Unknowing, to fORCH’s underrated Spin Networks. And at the end of it all, binged out like Mr Creosote, I always found room for one more wafer-thin disc. There were knocks on the door but... “Fuck off, I’m listening.”
MF Doom by Hua Hsu, #253, March 2005
In a version of “you had me from ‘hello’” this one had me from the cover inwards. Who, or what, was MF Doom? And how did he/it square with James Tenney, Ken Vandermark, Colin Potter, Wally Shoup (Wally Shoup!) and Hugh Metcalfe. This was what the mag was all about for me. That mask, those names, critical similes that clanked with meaning. Doom’s bonce nips out the “Adventures In Modern Music” tag, and most of the masthead, but we knew it was there and we knew what (not) to expect. A classic issue, if not an obvious one.
Rob Young on Julian Cope, #309, November 2009
I picked this because there’s no one I’d rather read than Rob Young and because there’s no one I’d rather hang out with than the old drood, who always manages to find a place between ancient and future (as the Art Ensemble used to say). I fondly remember interviewing Julian for BBC Scotland in Edinburgh’s Queen St Gardens, but pretending to be up on Cairnpapple Hill in West Lothian. The thing about Cope, as Rob found, was that when you talked about the Stones you meant Neolithic rather than Nanker Phelge. Great piece, and JC’s Black Sheep were a much underrated outfit.
Momus on Felix Kubin, #316, June 2010
I never read The Wire to tell me what I should be listening to, or what the cool people were listening to, but sometimes it was nice to find that what had seemed a solitary vice was actually considered pretty OK, and I had a slightly teary moment reading Momus on Felix Kubin, who didn’t seem my cup of tea at all but somehow managed to be hocketing round the house on good days and bad, and making more sense of the fallen world than anything else at the time.
David Toop on the SMiLE sessions, #333, November 2011
Like most of us, I read David Toop because I trust his judgement, and David’s spread on Brian Wilson’s great architectural folly fed me more cues for thinking about how music is positioned in our culture than anything I’d read for years. Can’t explain quite why. Maybe it was because David knew that SMiLE was all about the dream of perfection that underlies all pop.
Invisible Jukebox: Steve Martland, interviewed by Louis Gray, #102, August 1992
I didn’t love The Wire in the early 1990s and sometimes got tired of the lumpy eclecticism and endless debates about the role of the definite article. But there were some cut out and keep moments and Steve M’s Jukebox was grand because he took the lumpy out of eclecticism, responding with equal ease to Gorecki and Miranda Sex Garden, the sublime Baby Ford and the dismal Michael Torke. I miss the guy very much. This is as far back as I choose to go. I’m probably supposed to pick out ancient articles about Archie Shepp and Anthony Braxton, but I could have written those myself. What I really valued were the invites to someone else’s musical party.