Lockdown – one year later

Today it is exactly one year since lockdown happened. I left our office on Thursday 19 March with all my computer equipment to get ready to working from home. On Friday 20 March it was all systems go at home as I adjusted to my new working environment.

One of the biggest changes for me working from home apart from no more daily commute to the office was the silence.  The back of the house was so quiet that the silence was killing me.  Being a person that has a hearing loss, I was feeling a bit frustrated as I was used to the noise from the office be it phones going off or background chatter of my colleagues.

First thing I did was try to load up Spotify on my laptop. Must admit I didn’t like it, so I went into the next room and brought my CD player in.  CD players sound old, but my trusty midi system was going to serve me well throughout the pandemic.

Four albums kicked it all off as I listened to a variety from The Clash, Bob Mould, Depeche Mode and Metallica.  No rhythm or reason why I picked these.  I think they were already off the shelf and brought in from the CD player in the car, so this was going to be the start of it.

Every day I would do I Twitter log of what I was listening to.  This built up over time and by 17 April 2020 I decided to start writing about the daily listening habits and so Music Life in Lockdown was born.

When I started the blog I was just going to upload ticket stubs and write about the gigs that I had been to over the years. Before lockdown started I hit a brick wall and lost a bit of interest in doing this but something during lockdown inspired me to keep a diary and then write about what I was listening to.

Music Life in Lockdown would last for 40 weeks. By the end of the year I felt I had taken the online diary as far as I could go and it was going to be time to invest my energies in writing about other music related stuff.

If ever a band had a song that summed up the pandemic it was Northern Ireland’s very own Therapy?  With songs like Nowhere (very appropriate for the stay-at-home message), it was their reworked 2020 version of Joy Division’s Isolation which really hit the spot for me.

I found Twitter a great place to connect with other fans and it became an oasis of calm while everybody else was complaining about Brexit, Boris, lockdown or Trump. Twitter was becoming too toxic and music was going to bring a bit of positivity to the forum.

One of the first platforms I came across was Tim’s Listening Party. Tim being Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess who hosted a daily slot on Twitter with a listening party each night.

Very simple premise, Tim hosts the bands on Twitter, they tweet about the albums and whatever format we are listening in – vinyl, CD or streaming we can follow all the online Tweets.  It was a cool idea and a great way to interact with band and other bands.   

I enjoyed the ones I took part in with the likes of Ash, Pixies, Idlewild to name but a few. To date there have been nearly 700 listening parties and you can replay the previous ones here.

Another platform I enjoyed during lockdown was doing lists and 7RockLists was the next one I started to follow. Hosted by Connor in Australia it is very rock oriented. If it doesn’t fit the criteria it doesn’t get mentioned. That’s just the way it is. But it is a great challenge ranging from 30 day song challenges, to favourite albums or songs by bands that you like.

Connor also invited me to participate in my first ever mixtape for 7Rock. The challenge was to put together a mixtape on 2004 via Spotify. You can check out my attempt below.

The 1990s was a big thing for us music fans and I started following Brits & Pieces which is a nostalgic look back at the 90s music scene, the biggest bands of the decade and the future of music. Home of the Brits & Pieces album which I have yet to get.

A really good site to follow as it takes you back to old gig posters that you start to remember all the gigs you had been too. If you like Britpop and and music associated with that decade this is a good follow.

Listen Up Music is hosted by Rik who is an indie/alternative DJ. You can check out the podcasts here. He did some really great music challenges on a daily basis and it was fun to take part in them. There was also some listening parties too as well as track for the day.

Chop’s Fives by Chopstick is another platform I followed. A very simple way to do lists by picking five of your favourites on any category. The first one I took part in was music biographies and these five made my first list there –

  1. Our Band Could Be Your Life – Michael Azerrad
  2. Heavier Than Heaven – Charles R. Cross
  3. Girl in a Band – Kim Gordon
  4. See a Little Light – Bob Mould
  5. Return of the Last Gang in Town – Marcus Gray

Still on the subject of lists, Paul Bennett’s Music Alphabetty Preservation Society #MAPS is a real random one. Punters get to pick letters relating to either a band and a song and off you to go come up with some ideas. Looking forward to this one restarting again.

One thing that wasn’t going to happen in 2020 was the gigs and I had a load booked to go to.  Every single one was either cancelled completely or rescheduled.  Some would be rescheduled for 2021 only to be rescheduled again for 2022.  It will happen, one day.

For the month of June, I started a daily gig diary of previous gigs that I have been to over the years on the actual day.  The idea for this came about when Therapy? posted that their 2021 shows were being put back to 2022.  So, each day for the month of June I would upload a ticket or number of tickets by bands that I had seen on that calendar date. Might do this again for another month. Just a bit of pain going through the ticket stubs box!

During the summer I came across Richard Shaw’s Twitter music polls. This is a brilliant platform and Richard puts a lot of hard work and graft into this putting together all our lists to make up the top 50.

First one I took part in was for 7 albums from the 2000s.  That had me going online to see what all I bought during that decade and how I was going to come up with 7 albums.  Surely there would be more but 7 it was going to be.  Since then, I have been taking part in most of the polls where I had the music in my collection.  A lot of gaps for the likes of the 1960s and 1970s.  Most album I own are from the 80s and 90s. This also influenced the lockdown playlist as well.

One of the biggest changes music wise during the pandemic was the fate of music magazines. Kerrang went online and the likes of Q no longer publish leaving very few music magazines out there. I came across Speakeasy music fanzine.

This is a retro paper-only ’90s indie zine, looking deeper into the Baggy, Shoegaze & Britpop scenes. You can order a copy at http://speakeasyfanzine.bigcartel.com/products and it is great value for money. I wrote a piece on the Irish music scene in the 1990s and submitted for publication. Hope to be able to read my work in the magazine sometime soon.

The #AtoZ series hosted by Pia and @sotachetan got everybody involved in submitting songs for a playlist builder. I came in about half way through their run on the 80s #AtoZBest80sSongs. I took part in the full month for #AtoZBest90sSongs playlist builder which was right up my street. The next one was #AtoZBest80s album and the #AtoZAlbumIspy which was hard work but good fun. I am looking forward to next month’s #AtoZBest90sAlbums. I will be in my element for that.

I am currently taking part in the #FaveArtistTop25 which is hosted by @yesokwaitmaybe and @jasonsammis. I picked Pearl Jam for my top 25 songs. I am really enjoying doing this one and once I get to the last song it will be the subject of the next blog.

There are a few other music related sites that I follow on Twitter and I would like to give them a shout out here.

Rebirth of Cool Blogger hosted by Michael Tanner is a great blog. He writes about music old and new. He’s also a regular contributor to Speakeasy zine as well.

Every Record Tells A Story hosted by Steve Carr is a great blog too. Some great stories about how records were made by the bands and the artists. He done a online book launch on Zoom and done a reading from his book Every Record Tells A Story, A Vinyl Handbook. This is one book I hope to get soon. Last time I checked it was sold out but hopefully it will get another print run.

What will the next few months bring? I can’t see any gigs happening any time soon. Looks more likely 2022 will be a best bet. The likes of Reading/Leeds Festival are hoping to go ahead in August. That’s one that I won’t be rushing to go to.

Over the next few months I hope to be adding regular entries to the blog here and somebody I might just revisit the ticket stub box and pick up where I left off last year.

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