Stevie Chick on Sharon O'Connell

Sharon
wasn’t quite my first editor – that was Neil Mason, the Melody Maker
album reviews editor who commissioned me to write my first paid album
review in 1997.

But that first review – of Subcircus’s Carousel –
was my last for three months. I pitched ideas, to no avail. This
“career” seemed over by the first lap or so. Then Melody Maker
journalist Neil Kulkarni suggested I get in touch with Sharon
O’Connell, the paper’s live reviews editor, because we had similar
tastes.

Safe in the knowledge that Sharon was a Girls Against
Boys fan, I realised I was dealing with a truly evolved being, so I
sent her a bunch of stuff I’d written, and soon found myself getting
live review commissions.

Sharon worked me hard and I was
grateful. Soon, I was writing maybe three live reviews a week, out
every night catching shows and struggling to write them up before my
day job, temping at an Inner London Further Education college. Writing
so much copy in such a short time got me to tighten up my style.

Sharon
was a deft enough editor to encourage us to take chances, while
stopping us short of embarrassing ourselves (too much, anyway) in print
– though I still can’t quite believe she permitted an extended
metaphorical reference to the sex-toy from whence Steely Dan stole
their name in a Girls Against Boys live review.

Working with
Sharon ill-prepared me for some of the editors I would subsequently
write for. With Sharon, there was very little ego involved, no attempts
at squashing an overenthusiastic writer with withering cynicism, and an
absence of any Oxbridge arrogance that still lingers in the most
unexpected of places. She would jibe me about the narrowness of my
tastes at the time, encouraged me – no, needled me, in the nicest of
ways – to check out stuff I had initially dismissed, sending me to
review stuff I’d previously disregarded unfairly. It all made me a
better writer, and enriched my record collection.

Ending our
working relationship was my biggest regret when I left Melody Maker in
1999. She exited herself shortly afterwards and has freelanced for The
Times, Time Out and Uncut, among others. She was a writer, first and
foremost, and retained a writer’s love of the joy of words – and a
fan’s sharp, inquisitive, discerning and demanding love of music, which
she encouraged just as much in those of us she edited.

Stevie Chick is a freelance writer and editor of Loose Lips Sink Ships

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