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Boys who heard music

December 23, 2005

A few columns earlier, I mentioned the phenomenon of faux-celebrity blogs that were set up as part of a public relations exercise (to promote a film and so on). You will be glad to know, however, that the Internet isn't populated entirely by charlatans -- some celebrities do maintain their own Web sites and journals unassisted.

Authors are high on this list for obvious reasons (blogging being a natural extension of something they love doing), but famous people from other professions have a Net presence too. Musicians, for instance.

Like many others who developed a musical sensibility in the 1980s, I was a fan of Talking Heads, the quirky, experimental rock band that had punk origins but eventually showed great versatility across genres.

Fronted by the talented singer-songwriter David Byrne, they produced such anthems as Road to nowhere and Burning down the house. I was pleased to discover recently that Byrne has an impressive online journal.

It's only natural for a celebrity-blogger to write about the things he specialises in, or at least try to cash in on his name to draw visitors to the site. Which is why the surprising thing about Byrne's journal is that it reads like an all-purpose diary written by any talented writer.

Byrne does make the occasional Talking Heads reference (there's no question of being low-profile; the blog is part of his official Web site) and also discusses concerts and rehearsals -- but it's refreshingly clear that he writes about things because he wants to write about them (which really is the best reason to blog).

If you had to categorise this blog you would probably call it a cultural critique, but it's best not to put it in a slot. Topics vary from observations on the drug wars waged by the US government to notes taken during a museum visit to even Japanese onomatopoeia. Yes, really! ('…"Bashi-bashi" suggests the natural sound of smacking someone across the head… "guu-guu" depicts someone in a deep sleep accompanied by snoring.') As a non-specialist blogger myself, I enjoy this wide range of subjects.

The quality of the writing is also accomplished and it's no surprise that Byrne was recently awarded a prize by Esquire magazine for his online writing. Throw in his other talents (like photography) and you clearly have a man who wears many hats.

On The Boy Who Heard Music, Pete Townshend of The Who has serialised his novella of the same name. Townshend has PDF files of the novella available on his official Web site too, but he created the blog because 'comments can be shared - and I occasionally engage in certain issues here'.

Predictably, some of his posts have 300-plus comments on them. Meanwhile, superstar band Radiohead use the appropriately named Dead Air Space as a forum for spaced-out observations (is this why they call it Space Rock?) and stream-of-consciousness rants. Any of the band members contributes as and when he feels like it, and a typical entry might begin: 'So now we have…lots of loose ends. Or starts.' Heavy.

Jai Arjun Singh, aka Jabberwock, blogs at

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