One of the dubious pleasures of retirement is that sometimes you unearth and then perhaps swoon over mementos that have long languished in cartons in your garage. The garage is not, of course, an ideal repository, owing to the not entirely remote possibility of mice. Really, certain things ought to be brought into the house — but what’s the hurry? Another year one way or another, what will it hurt?
From December 1975 through June of 2002, I was a full-time editor on the staff of Keyboard magazine. Keyboard (called, at that time, Contemporary Keyboard) had started a couple of months before I joined, but I was on board for the 3rd issue, and in fact I wrote as a freelancer the opening feature article in Vol. 1, No. 1. I was at Keyboard for somewhat longer than anybody else. They came, they went, I just sat there at my desk and did what I did.
In the late ’90s, the company started downsizing the magazines, which included Guitar Player, Bass Player, and at times other titles as well. I made it through the first couple of rounds of downsizing, but by the third round my salary, after all those years, made me too tempting a target.
Honestly, I was relieved to be let go. In the ’80s and ’90s it was an amazing place to work, but by 2002 the shrinkage and what we might call, if it’s not too pejorative a term, the institutional dry rot were not hard to see. The publishing company, originally called GPI, had been bought and sold a couple of times, and by the dawn of the new century the prevailing corporate philosophy was not, shall we say, entirely congenial to what had been our editorial mission 20 years before. I could say a lot more about that, but maybe I shouldn’t.
The last print issue was dated March 2017. The magazine still exists in some form, I believe, as a website owned and operated by the Future Publishing conglomerate. I never go there, so I have no idea what they’re up to.
After I was laid off, I remained on what’s called the comp list: I had a complimentary subscription. For a few years after I was laid off I continued to write for the magazine as a freelancer. (There was never any question about the quality of my work.) Eventually that came to an end as well; the corporation proposed a new contract for freelancers, and I found a couple of the contract provisions unacceptable. But even then, I remained on the comp list.
Because of that (returning to the topic with which this rambling reminiscence began), I have a complete collection of Keyboard issues. They’re not all in pristine condition; a couple have damaged covers; but they’re all well preserved, and the pre-2002 copies are mint. No mice built nests in the cartons while the archives were in my garage.
Today I brought the whole collection into the house, sorted it by date, and stacked it neatly on the shelves in the spare room. And now I’m thinking maybe I ought to write a memoir. I’ve never been even faintly interested in reading memoir, much less writing it, but I still hear occasionally from people who were reading Keyboard 25 years ago and have fond memories. Heck, I have some pretty fond memories myself.
Digging through the back issues would remind me of so many things I’ve half forgotten … and a few I’d just as soon forget. I’m still in touch with many of the people with whom I worked, and I’m sure they’d enjoy reminding me of still more events, some glorious and others gloriously awkward.
A memoir? I’m not sure I want to go down that road. One of the things you learn, if you work at a monthly magazine, is that it’s all waste paper. You keep churning it out, month after month and year after year, but it’s all dust in the wind. As Mick Jagger said, “Who wants yesterday’s paper?”
But I don’t know. Maybe it would be fun to write a memoir. Maybe somebody would enjoy reading it. Maybe somebody would even want to publish it, though that seems doubtful. I’m kind of looking around for a project, so maybe this idea is worth mulling over. Oh, I could tell you stories….