People really ain’t giving enough credit to Andrew Unterberger. The US Jukebox, Singles Going Steady, was running way before I abandoned the whole posting-pictures-of-Claus-Lundekvam-in-lieu-of-commenting-on-Busted racket and got Todd to let me revive the UK section, which is something people forget much too often - I’m delighted that Ian Mathers and John Cunningham both picked their reminisces from the days before the Jukebox became the mass international conglomerate we know and tolerate today. It’s a hard old job, this Jukebox editing lark, and I really don’t think Andrew ever got the credit he deserved for his role in its past. If I could remember who used to run the UK Jukebox beforehand, I’d be thanking them too - I think it was Scott McKeating, but I’m not 100% sure on that. If it was, then, er, cheers.
I’ve taken the decision to close the section down because we’re running a model that is pretty much impossible to sustain. At optimum output, we’d be producing four blurbs on 20 songs every week, 80 blurbs a week in total. To expect that kind of turnaround on a regular basis from a completely unpaid staff is unrealistic at best, and that we even made it this far is kind of amazing.
I feel I ought to thank a few people in particular for helping us make it to this point. First off, Martin Skidmore, for getting in blurbs for nigh-on every single song we’ve covered in the past couple of years. How he managed it, I’ve no idea, but he did, and I’m hugely grateful to him for it. Without his blurbs propping us up, we’d probably have been stuffed by about mid-April. (I should also thank Hillary Brown and MT Kafka for being similarly prolific, albeit over slightly shorter periods of time.)
Secondly, Edward Oculicz. It’s arguable that without the influence of his much-missed blog, Enthusiastic But Mediocre, the Jukebox would look very different indeed. His commitment to tracking down and raving about the best of chart pop from all corners of the globe was a massive inspiration on the early days of the unified Jukebox - trying to imagine the section’s history without Marit Larsen, Bertine Zetlitz, Nadiya, Miranda, Snook and goodness knows how many others seems almost impossible now, and it was by and large due to the influence of EBM that we even looked for them in the first place.
Most of all, though, Todd Burns. It’s been said a lot over the past few days, but really - the man’s a fucking saint. Even at this section’s lowest points (of which there have been several, more or less all of which were my fault), he stood by us. He edited the thing single-handed for the whole of July this year (on top of keeping Stylus going on a daily basis), because I was left offline after moving house for a rather more extended period that I’d expected, and uttered not one word of complaint about the whole thing. Given the amount of missed deadlines, neurotic meltdowns and various other shit that I put him through, his support for me and the Jukebox has been nothing short of heartbreaking. That we’re still here is a massive testament to the job he did in making Stylus such an open and inventive place to be. To say I owe the feller a drink or two is quite a sizeable understatement.
There’s too many damn memories to mention here, really. I think my all-time favourite Jukebox blurb, however, remains Jessica Popper on The Dears:
Jessica Popper: I really like this one. They do the girl/boy duet better than The Kills and The Subways, although I’m not sure they’re quite up there with Kylie and Jason. Let’s not go overboard!
I dunno why, maybe it’s just the immature sod in me, but comparing The Dears to “Especially For You” just puts a big smile on my face. I think Joe McCombs got it right earlier on - the way the section ran, everything got treated equally, even more so now with the blog format. Every song was just as prominent as every other one. ‘The Way I Are’ (another of those global smashes we didn’t really see coming) spent as much time at the top of the page as Jan Delay, Keak da Sneak got equal billing with The Hoosiers, Daughtry rubbed elbows with Julie Zenatti… all the stuff.
This goodbye is certainly not without regrets, though. I wish I’d made more of an effort with links to other blogs - those ones in the sidebar were all Todd’s doing, and they’re primarily pop-oriented, which isn’t really the impression I wanted to give. It always bugged the hell out of me when people would talk about us being biased towards pop acts, especially from Scandinavia, and so people started thinking that was all we did, when that was quite some way from being the case. Certainly, we went deeper into Scandinavian pop than comparable sites, but that’s cos we tried to go deeper into everything. It didn’t always pay off, but it certainly used to be the biggest thrill diving into Charts Around The World to pull stuff out of nowhere, which resulted in some really very odd things indeed finding themselves sharing the limelight with whichever bloody Nelly Furtado single it was this week.
I just wanted us to be more than an MP3 blog. I didn’t give a stuff about us getting there first, so long as when we got there, we did a good job on the thing. To hell with getting in on the ground floor. Look through these highlights we’ve picked - some of them made number one. Some of them blew up big. But for all them, there’s The Research, Helen Love, Rachel Stevens, Keak da Sneak, Marit Larsen - outside The Jukebox, these songs really didn’t amount to a hill of beans, but they still stuck with us. Just cos they didn’t go on to be massive hits (Marit ain’t done shit outside of Norway, Rachel Stevens got to number 12 in the UK but her career’s been in limbo ever since) doesn’t mean they aren’t still amazing, and we’re no less proud of them today than we were when we reviewed them. This wasn’t about trend-spotting, this wasn’t about having our fingers on the pulse - it was about trying to get excited, about having a belief that pop music could be inexhaustible in its capacity to take you to new places, show you new things. This all sounds hopelessly naive, I know, but goddamnit I can’t help it.
By and large, I’m damn proud of this place.
Oh, enough rambling. Seeing as how everyone else has picked out one highlight, here’s mine:
Her name’s Vitaa, and she never actually made it into the Jukebox for reasons I can’t remember. I found her in the midst of that flurry of French stuff we had about a month ago. The song of hers I fell for was entitled ‘A Fleur de Toi’. Her MySpace is here, the video of the song is here. It’s the most incredibly constructed ballad I’ve heard in goodness knows how long, and it feels completely wrenching. You’ll like it, dammit. You bloody well will.
Thanks to all the writers. Thanks to all the readers. I’m off to reclaim my sleep patterns. Goodnight.
[William B. Swygart]