on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2014 10 Aug

The legendary Mike Barnes

von: Manafonistas Filed under: Blog | TB | Comments off

Mike gave up music journalism in 1989. A live review of Gaye Bykers On Acid, published in the notorious fanzine Lime Lizard, had been altered so much to the negative by the enthusiastically hands-on editor that the group’s manager professed a desire to give the budding writer a „good kicking“. In the same issue, the editor inserted abusive comments about the Queen into Mike’s first ever interview feature – on The Chills – which bordered on treason.

These extreme examples of the vagaries of editorship suggested to Mike that journalism was not for him. The following year a friend coaxed him out of retirement, suggesting he write for the nascent Select. He got the gig, contributing to every issue of the magazine from its inaugural issue until its demise in 2000.

Along the way Mike became established as one of the principal writers for The Wire and he has been a regular contributor to MOJO since 1995, as well as contributing to The Guardian, The Independent On Sunday and The Times.

Deciding that he needed to broaden his horizons, Mike embarked upon writing a critical biography of Captain Beefheart. Seriously underestimating the difficulties of researching the subject in those pre-internet days, he worked at it on and off from 1996 until late 1998. Dissatisfied with his efforts, he ripped it up and started again, cancelling most engagements and working on it every day, even refusing to cut his hair until it was finished.

Ten months later, in September 1999, the mentally shattered author – who now looked like a low-budget Howard Hughes – handed in the manuscript. The book was published in 2000 to considerable critical acclaim. He is currently writing a novel.

Mike’s activities as a drummer pre-dated and paralleled his career as a writer, encompassing all points between straight ahead rock and free improvisation. His first group, The Walking Floors, were heckled by U2 at their debut London gig in 1980, an incident that prompted a lifetime’s antipathy towards Bono and chums. At best a cult group, The Walking Floors’ studio recordings have been recently re-released on the Messthetics post-punk series. At the time of writing The Floors had achieved 543 plays on Last FM to U2’s 44,606,871. OK Bono, let’s just call it a draw and move on.

Although most of his groups have been obscure enough to barely trouble the scorers, Mike’s last three gigs of note have been at the Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne, with Towering Inferno; at the Bull & Gate, London, with Damo Suzuki’s Network; and playing drum and keyboards in Pimmel’s Music For Massed Fuzz Organs at Café Oto in December 2011.

In early 2012, Mike’s views on Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica were recorded by the Library Of Congress, Washington DC, for inclusion in the National Sound Registry’s permanent collection. This means that after all who read this are long gone, Mike will continue enthusing about the album until the crack of doom.


©Copyright 2014 Mike Barnes

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