Monday, September 29, 2014

It Was Just a Big Room

The Deftones, Live at Brixton Academy

I get a little tired of these things.

He was always a self-possessed chap but still, I could only marvel as I often watched him coolly chatting away to the owner of the place—Simon Parkes.

Parkes was famous among music-loving Londoners, not only because he owned and ran the Academy (ably assisted by his Rastafarian second-in-command Johnny Lawes, another London music scene legend I also came to know through Rupert) but because he did so despite having only one arm (as a result of his mother being prescribed and using the scandalously under-tested drug Thalidomide during pregnancy to combat morning sickness).

His hair-raising new memoir, Live at the Brixton Academy, which I inhaled in a two-day binge-read, tackles the issue of his “disability” (I use the quotation marks because he does, writing, “I was certainly never, ever, allowed to consider myself ‘disabled’”) in the first pages. The book begins with a confrontation with a gang of bullies at his new school, one of whom calls him ‘a one-armed spastic’.

I will grant Parkes the right to tell his story but the Brixton Academy was just a venue for music. Parkes didn't create his own music label. He didn't "break" anyone as an artist from what I can gather. He simply caught a hold of the need for London to have a venue that could seat five thousand people--not so much a club and definitely not a soccer stadium. This is what a businessman does, and that doesn't make Parkes an actual piece of music history. He was no different than the guy who made the headphone jack on the iPod--part of what sold music to people without really doing anything else.

So, if a guy got lucky and figured out how to sell bands that were in that middle range between obscure and huge, so what? He made his money, he dumped the venue when he felt he needed to, and that's that.

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