Music has impacted, shaped and enriched my life more than any other art form. It has given me a kaleidoscopic lens through which to see the world. It has been a crucial bonding agent in most of my important friendships and relationships. It’s my livelihood, my obsession, my medicine, my bottomless well of joy and discovery, my comfort blanket in times of darkness and despair.
Music is also my time machine. A song or album has the power to instantly transport me to the time and place in which it was originally recorded, or to the time and place that it initially blew my mind, or to an indelible moment in my life that it memorably soundtracked.
For instance, I can put on Queen II and marvel at how such a brilliant and bonkers record was essentially recorded on the cheap and on the fly in late 1973 and early ‘74, while also toggling back and forth between the hot summer day in 1989 where I listened to it for the first time while strolling through Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, the house party a few years later where I bonded with a certain up-and-coming (and very stoned) rock star over our mutual love of the album, and the sweet hit of life-affirming positivity that I’m getting off of it in the present day. And that, to me, is pure magic.
“Jagged Time Lapse” is a song recorded and released in 1967 by the legendarily confrontational UK mod-psych band John’s Children. About 20 years ago, I lifted the title for a regular column I was writing for a now-defunct music magazine, in which I reviewed the latest CD reissues of 60s and 70s garage and psychedelic artists, as well as the latest releases by contemporary bands influenced by those earlier sounds.
At the time, I thought the phrase “Jagged Time Lapse” perfectly captured the way that music could hurdle the decades without losing any of its original power or its ability to inspire new artists. That interpretation still holds true for me today, so I’m lifting it once again for the name of my new Substack, which will be devoted entirely to music and music-related pop culture.
Why am I launching a music Substack? Well, for one thing, many of the music-oriented subjects I’ve been wanting to write about lately aren’t the sort of things that would be of interest or relevance to my editors at the many publications and websites I freelance for.
For another, I’m constantly unearthing cool/hilarious/fascinating chunks of music history in the course of doing research for other pieces and projects; I’ll occasionally share these things on social media, but algorithms often keep them from being seen by many of the folks who would enjoy them.
There’s also the relentless passage of time itself. Some unwelcome developments in my life these past few years have served as a stark reminder that, while I can leap back and forth through it via the magic of music, time is something I can’t outrun.
(Photo by Justin Borucki, taken in Arnhem, Netherlands in 2006)
In the course of nearly 30 years of writing professionally about music (and over 35 years of intermittently playing it), I’ve accumulated a wealth of stories, interviews and experiences, and I want to be able to put the good ones (and some of the really bad ones) all down in one place — and share them with those that would dig them — while I still have the ability to do so. This platform will enable me to do that, as well as assemble them in an easily searchable archive.
For about five or six years now, I’ve also been toying with the idea of a musical memoir of my adolescence — a turbulent and confusing period in which my life and sanity were truly, to paraphrase Lou Reed, saved by rock and roll (and AM radio pop, and disco, and new wave, and heavy metal, etc.). I’ve already penned a few chapters for the book, but I need a kick in the ass to get going again, and I think launching this Substack will definitely give me one.
If this all sounds like something you’d be into, please subscribe to Jagged Time Lapse. A free subscription will get you a couple of my newsletters a week sent directly to your inbox, which will include anything from cool old ads and photos, to amusing tales of rubbing shoulders with artists both famous and obscure, to essays on my latest musical obsessions. I hereby promise that it will be fun, a brief distraction from the world’s awfulness, and maybe even enlightening — like this Billboard magazine pic of former Mets third baseman Ed Charles working a somewhat regrettable Lou Christie single as a promotions guy for Buddah Records.
But should you opt for the paid subscription — a measly $5 a month (can you even get a coffee for that these days?), or a bargain annual subscription of $50 — you’ll also have access to transcripts of interviews I’ve done through the years, new chapters of my forthcoming musical memoir as I write them, and some particularly juicy tales from my days in the music journalism wars. I’ll also occasionally post polls giving paid subscribers input into which old interviews I should dust off from my hard drive. Dave Davies? Sergio Mendes? Mastodon? Ozzy? The choice will be yours!
And if you’re feeling really flush (or just incredibly generous), you can sign up for a Founding Member annual subscription, which for $200 will get you all of the above, plus a shoutout in the newsletter and in any future books that may result from it. (Unless, of course, you prefer to remain incognito for whatever reason.)
As a freelance writer, I frequently spend far too much time chasing down money that’s owed to me from some publication or client or another, so paid subscriptions to Jagged Time Lapse will be an especially welcome buffer against such indignities. And since I’m currently in the process of leaving North Carolina to begin a new chapter of my life in New York, I am more grateful than ever for the support of like-minded souls.
Thanks for reading this far. I really hope you’ll take this musical time trip with me.
Looking forward to reading your stuff. Sorry to hear you're leaving NC when we just got here.
Ed Charles was a Buddah promo guy? I can't even imagine, say, Jeff Bagwell with a Columbia Records silk jacket on!!🤯