Marcus O’Dair is a music journalist (Guardian, Pitchfork, Wire, Uncut), one half of the group Grasscut (Ninja Tune, Lo Recordings), and lecturer in popular music at Middlesex University in London. He is also the author of Different Every Time: the Authorised Biography of Robert Wyatt (Serpent’s Tail, 2014). He told us his Harkive story in 2015
I’m listening to Dusty In Memphis on Spotify. This despite the fact that I’m writing about Massive Attack. Occasionally, though, to check a particular detail, I’m flicking back to Massive Attack, or to musicians whom Massive Attack have sampled. This too is on Spotify. In fact, I assume when I first contemplate this Harkive exercise that everything will be via Spotify – that I happen to have chosen to document a day that is, at least in terms of the ways in which I’m listening to music, spectacular only in its monotony. I wonder briefly why I didn’t choose the previous day: iPod on the train, Soundcloud in the hotel room, then videos of student performances in my role as an external examiner. Or the day before, when I was reviewing records for Uncut, both via PR-sanctioned download and direct from Bandcamp.
In the end, though, the day’s listening is more diverse than I’d anticipated. There’s plenty more Spotify (Gene Clark, Four Tet, Black Uhuru, The Focus Group, Sam Prekop, Kendrick Lemar, Jessica Pratt): I’m working from home today and, with two young children, that means headphones. But I’m not only using music as a more enjoyable version of cotton wool in the ears. I’m emailed at one point by a poor chap tasked with translating my Robert Wyatt biography, and flick through to a specific track in order to help him render in Italian my description of a particular guitar part as ‘swooping’. (Does the word, he wants to know, imply only downward movement?) I also listen to CDs: The Animals, Terry Riley and Tito Puente, picking up my double bass to play along – badly – with the last. In the evening, I go the whole hog, sticking on a Jamey Aebersold playalong CD for a bash at Satin Doll on my new melodica. Seriously. I also listen to a track via Youtube, when selecting a ‘track of the day’ to post on social media for my band Grasscut. When I get in the car with my wife and children at the end of the day, for a quick trip to the beach, we have the radio on, then a children’s CD (the only one all four of us can tolerate, being in Spanish and vaguely reminiscent of Gogol Bordello). Later in the evening, I listen to 6Music in the kitchen, happening to catch one of my mates in session. And I manage a few minutes on the piano myself, a stiff-fingered bash through Bach, Bartok and boogie-woogie.
Vinyl, throughout all this, sits there accusingly, leaning against the wall behind me. ‘I’m having a revival,’ it says. I reply that I’ve just moved home and don’t even have a deck set up, but it pretends not to notice.