It’s been a couple of days now since I got the phone call from Sam, announcing that the forthcoming issue of Real Groove was to be its last. It’s being spun as a merger with its sister weekly publication The Groove Guide, but seeing as the new venture will retain the name, frequency and price tag of the latter I think at this point we can safely say that Real Groove is gone. I sincerely hope that the new publication manages to retain a lot of what made Real Groove matter to me and others, and would hope I’ll end up writing for it too – but while public relations demand that this be sold as a merger, common sense dictates that we call it what it is, and salute it appropriately.
Real Groove died on its 18th birthday – going out with the forthcoming Leonard Cohen issue and therefore having some kind of generational symmetry with its first incarnation, a two colour news-print in-store publication with Warren Zevon on its cover. While it initially focused on the blues and roots music which was its parent company Real Groovy’s bedrock, there was always room for everything within its pages – that same debut issue also featured Kerry Buchanan writing about Jimmy Cliff, hip hop and dance music.
While the blues/roots thing remained dominant through the first few issues, it wasn’t long before it started to mutate. As long-time contributor and columnist Gary Steel notes in his meditation on the magazine’s passing, each editor brought their own take on what mattered musically to the table. But I think what made the magazine special, at least to my eyes, was that for the most part it never valued one style of music over another, and fought the good fight for provocative criticism and artists who were either ignored, marginalised or derided by other publications. Continue reading