When I’m not writing fiction, I like to indulge in my numerous hobbies. Sometimes, I wish I had normal hobbies that normal people have. I imagine normal people have lots of fun supporting sportball teams, collecting stamps or having a nice game of chess. But instead, I choose such tragic delights as retro children’s TV, the mighty Eurovision fandom, and prog rock. Oh boy.
The thing with prog is it’s polarising. Lots of you probably hate it and want to strangle Rick Wakeman with his glittery cape. Many of you love it with a fiery passion. I’m in the latter group, although I came to it in my late twenties, never having lived through its golden era. Still, I love complicated stories, 23-minute songs and twiddly keyboard solos. Now, the other day BBC Four had a Genesis night consisting of the Together And Apart documentary, Three Sides Live and some Top of the Pops appearances. I duly sat down, beer and curry in hand, to enjoy proceedings. I made a flippant remark on Twitter that the holy Peter Gabriel vs Phil Collins war would no doubt erupt.
I dragged out my lovely vinyl collection. I nod my head in approval at many tweets, and picked up a few new Twitter followers keen on prog. One expressed a strong opinion on the matter at hand. Another started to disagree. That sort of thing. As is the way of the internet, because we can’t have nice things, it got a bit nasty for no good reason other than it’s the internet. I make a few mollifying neutral remarks, like how Turn It On Again is actually quite good but that Supper’s Ready really is the best thing when you need a 23-minute epic, and head to bed.
That was when someone called Al Murray a prick.
For those not in the know, he’s a comedy character who’s a blokey pub landlord, and he recently joined in the running against UKIP for the general election. I haven’t seen much of his act besides the stellar turn as Brian Pern’s drummer, but anyone who hates Farage is alright by me. Anyway, it becomes clear that Mr. Murray has spotted the exchange, now focusing on his own Collins/Gabriel preference, and decides to step in.
Remember, I’ve gone to bed while Al is being defamed for his opinion of a music group. Suddenly all my tweety devices start shouting at me, because there’s a full-blown armed conflict between three grown white men in my replies. Because Genesis. I end up dragging my Surface out again to tell two people to stop this carry on, exhort a comedian to go the fuck to bed (which he duly does), and retire grumpy, doomed never to have a nice dream about young Lamb-era Peter Gabriel playing the flute at me. And the replies still raged long into the night. I could have listened to the entire Lamb album and still had my phone bleeping sadly at me with fresh hate. I’ve gone past caring about the content of the discussion a decade ago. To his immense credit, Al puts the arguers in their place with a good degree of class and apologises to me for all the palaver, started by a crazy desire to watch some nice musicians on the tellybox with people on the internet.
**ANGRY INTERMISSION MUSIC**
(And isn’t that a nice spot of drumming from the young Mr. Collins there, prog fans? *adjusts monocle*)
At this point, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to read this fine piece, which really sums up what’s happening here. I started the evening having some nice conversations about prog- that’s conversations, where multiple people exchange remarks- and I end the evening deafened out of fun Twitter times by virtual willy-waving. I’d make a remark about there not being many ladies in prog, whether bands or fandom, but it’s sort of self-evident. Bit of a shame, that. It’d be nice to have some quieter voices in there, rather than a constant stream of one-upsmanship and middle-aged bile.
It also reminds me that we can never have nice things by even attempting to discuss anything on the internet (and that goes for both genders). Be it feminism, politics, the crisis in the Middle East, or whether Abacab was a really good album, the moral of the story is just don’t bother in case you’re shouted out of existence. Which is a pity. If only we didn’t inhabit our own little echo chambers, shouting to a self-selecting group of nodding heads, where a single voice of dissent is met with incoherent shrieks that would put a howler monkey to shame. But there we are.
And despite Peter Gabriel being my spirit animal, Invisible Touch is a fucking awesome track, by the way.