Why Fandom Matters
Today I just had a conversation with Colin, a friend of mine in Manchester. I say ‘friend’ even though we have not talked in seven years, we realised today! He owns this amazing record store called Vinyl Revival in Manchester. Before I lived in the UK, I would make annual pilgrimages to see him, and pick up hundreds of pounds worth of records, T-shirts, badges, mugs and assorted other memorabilia. The store specialises in Britpop era, Madchester items, from original Factory Records posters to re-released compilations. It became a joke, because I would literally have to buy an extra carry on bag after every trip to the store, and would be seen drudging through Heathrow back to California with bags stuffed full of books about the Happy Mondays almost bursting open in customs. Colin would always hook me up with special limited edition items - he gave me one of my most treasured possessions, a Hacienda Members card. To someone else, this may be total garbage. To this kid from Santa Cruz who had spent an entire lifetime obsessing about all things Mancunian, it was like a piece of the holy shroud.
Speaking to Colin today made me appreciate (for the millionth time!) how powerful music and fandom are. He remembered me from those years of annual visits, being in awe that he had actually been to the Hacienda, or that he knew the members of Joy Division / New Order. He never made me feel like the total obsessive nerd dork who viewed Madchester as a personal religion. Instead, he always made me feel included in it- telling me stories, giving me New Order posters from twenty years ago, even getting me on the list for a Bad Lieutenant show (a spin off project of New Order with Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris).
He recently reached out via Twitter to help do a launch party for my new Joy Division book in Manchester, the obvious ground zero for the band and root of my own adoration of all things Northern. It did not matter that we had not spoken for years, or that I was now living here, a bit more jaded, a lot less excitable, than I had been during all of those annual visits. The tribe of our shared fandom acts as a glue which binds us together- it means we share specific tastes, values and ethos. He is now running an indie record label on top of the shop- one of my all time dreams to do myself. The fact that he has had the shop for almost 20 years- during some of the worst possible times to be in the record store game- is an illustration to our Gen X going against the grain belief system, if it means pursuing something that we are passionate about.
I was again reminded that it is because of Joy Division that this friendship exists, the opportunities of my life have opened up in the specific way they have and that I have been able to move from fan to fan expert. The other day I put on the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, another band that I listened to constantly for several decades of my life (though never became as besotted with as I have at times with JD). All I could think was, ‘THIS IS SO GOOD.’ It is rare, almost never that I hear something new and have this reaction. Is it nostalgia, is it getting older, or really was the music just better? I argue that it is all of these things- but they are intrinsically linked to the fan communities, the Colins of the world, and places like Vinyl Revival, where you immediately share a bond upon walking in. Ok, you say, don’t One Direction fans share this too with each other? Show me a boy band who has had fans open stores, put out records, be in the community living the life that we heard via the beat of our musical heroes- fans making, sharing and recording history. They don't exist. Which makes my circle of fandom special, important and valuable.
**For more info on the book launch for "Joy Devotion: The Importance of Ian Curtis and Fan Culture" check out the event page over on Facebook**