For this week’s post, we have been asked to find two examples of popular music archival practices – one online, one physical. I will be beginning with the online archive I have selected, the Facebook group “Third Eye Blind Misfits”.
Third Eye Blind are a band that first broke through after supporting Oasis in 1997 and subsequently releasing their first eponymous album, which spawned two high-charting singles – ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ and ‘Jumper’. Both of these songs have become synonymous with the 90s, but the band never stopped creating music, releasing another 4 albums and 2 EPs, as well as several singles since. The Facebook group was originally set up by three fans of the band to share news, shows, stories, questions, lyrics and general discussion. The name comes from a recurrent lyric within the band’s discography and the collective name for the fan base – ‘misfits’ (most prominently a song on their third album called ‘Misfits’). The group hosts downloads of a huge amount of the band’s recorded material (released and unreleased), as well as several live recordings of songs that didn’t have recorded versions created/released. Additional material is also available, such as a weekly Third Eye Blind cover by a member of the group, a weekly trivia question, a world map of the fan base and countless contributions of tattoos, photos, lyrics, artwork, rare albums/vinyls and critical opinions of releases.
This site is ran by three fans – appointed by the original creator James Childress. However, due to disputes with how the page was ran, James stepped away and began a new group amidst a flurry of drama and argument. This displays one of the main talking points from last week’s readings – the challenge of sustainability. This group was nearly deleted (along with a multitude of artefacts and other archival items) due to an objectively petty argument. This is a challenge with online ‘hobby’ archives that have an informal management hierarchy – it only takes something small to potentially threaten the entirety of the archive.
In terms of a physical archive, I will be looking at the 2005 punk music exhibition ‘Sex, Seditionaries and The Sex Pistols’. This exhibition was held through a joint effort from Urbis (a small grassy area in the centre of Manchester which is a popular recreation area with rock and metal fans) and Manchester District Music Archive, a now online archive ran by volunteers who accept submissions of all descriptions for archiving. The MDMA’s mission statement is to preserve and display Manchester’s musical heritage.
The exhibition was met with critical acclaim, with many previously unseen items such as Never Mind the Bullocks handwritten lyrics, anti-fashion clothes worn by The Sex Pistols, rare designs of promotional materials and photographs of the genre’s biggest bands on tour. The archive also puts on music events/club nights, panel discussions and occasional exhibitions. Once again however, the challenge of sustainability becomes apparent. The team behind the archive is very accomplished, as is the archive (winning several awards), but the board and founding team are volunteers, and have been working on this since 2003. 13 years have already been put into this archive – but how long can it last? The need for a continuing stream of enthusiastic volunteers will soon become apparent as the archive and its creators age whilst the demand and usage increases.
One area that may be interesting to research within archiving could be meta-physical archiving. This refers to archiving that doesn’t take a physical or digital form, but transcends these stages. This is best displayed using an example from above: Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind. This song was a huge hit in the 90s American charts, and has since become heavily-associated with the 90s, often appearing in other media set during this time (American Pie featured another song of the bands for example). The song is so synonymous with the 90s that it is extremely common for people to know of the song but not the band due to its deeply-entrenched familiarity within our culture. Perhaps one could argue that this song has been archived into a subconscious cultural grouping of 90s songs, along with other songs such as Basket Case and U Can’t Touch This. Despite relatively little to no information on the songs (many don’t know Semi-Charmed Life is about crystal meth), people are indeed still aware of them – they have been preserved and protected from fading into obscurity.