All round Britain regional fervour is running high. Newsweek may have dubbed London the capital of cool, but the provinces are fighting back. The fact that few of the current wave of Welsh pop bands actually come from Newport is incidental: it just goes to show that anywhere with one nightclub, a couple of musicians and an imaginative journalist could be the focus for the next groovy vibe. According to Rob Haigh of drum 'n' bass act Omni Trio, you need look no further than Hertford for the latest hip scene. "It's a hotbed for DJs and producers," he says. "When I moved here I was amazed by what a rave town it was."
Earning temporary trend status is one thing, but for a city or area to encapsulate an era is quite another - musical epicentres like Liverpool in the 60s and early 80s, Manchester in the late 80s or Bristol in the early 90s are still few and far between. Why one town "happens" and another fails to is a mystery; affluence and size seem to be no guarantee. Brighton may be paradise for art student trendies yet all they've got to show for it is the terminally unfashionable Levellers.
As Phill Savidge of leading music publicists Savage and Best says: "I grew up in Nottingham and we could never believe that great bands never came out of there. But the place had no group other than Black Lace. Like Brighton, maybe it's too attractive. It also has a lot of affluence which could mean it's less likely to be creative." So for a burgeoning creative scene a certain amount of dissatisfaction and existential boredom helps; it also fuels ambition. Paul Lester, features editor at Melody Maker, cites Borehamwood, Herts, as a good example of a hell-hole with musical aspiration. "It's a big jungle area with techno and spliffed-out trance. There are also skinheads, anarcho-punks and greasers; it's a microcosm of Britain," he says. "It's the sort of place where all you can do is plan your revenge on the world by forming a band."
And with the success of jungle (or as the "scene" like to call it, "drum 'n' bass") planning your revenge is so much easier - and cheaper - than it used to be. Escapism can be yours in the shape of a Roland 303, a sampler and a bedroom to record in. Which may explain why parochial haunts like Beccles, Hitchin, Stevenage and Great Yarmouth are suddenly home to a cooler brand of movers and shakers.
Another mystery is why certain towns and cities are enduringly successful (Manchester) while some tend to ebb and flow (Liverpool in the 60s and early 80s). Others are still waiting to happen, among them famously Birmingham - not cool now, never was and probably never will be.Reuse content