Most of you probably know I'm a big fan of the much-derided band Marillion. I make no apologies. Your opinion is wrong. I became a fan when I was 13 or 14; they got me at that sweet spot when I was still malleable, and their music became part of me. But then something happened; Fish, the charismatic, towering, lead singer, left the band and was replaced by a tiny heartthrob called Steve Hogarth. Marillion became an entirely different band.
I'd argue that they became a better band.... but it wasn't the same band as the one that had hit me at that formative point.
Gradually, as Hogarth became more established as the lead singer of Marillion - and, frankly, the band wrote better music with him - they played less and less of the old, Fish-era tracks when I saw them live. They didn't need to. Why play, I dunno, the clunky and soporific Chelsea Monday - just because it's old - when you could play something new and better - and more representative of where the band are at as human beings - like, say, White Paper?
And then, a few years ago, those old, Fish-era, tracks started creeping back into the setlist, the band having proven themselves without Fish, having succeeded in maintaining a successful career, and clearly having come to terms with their past. Suffice to say, when they played Market Square Heroes - their debut single - for the first time in years, I was pretty euphoric. It felt special. It was a callback to being a kid again, and besides - much as it pains me to say it - Marillion perform those old songs better than Fish does these days.
Since then, I think I've heard Market Square Heroes at almost all of the Marillion gigs I've been to in the past few years, and, well, the edge has been taken off that euphoria. Just a little.
Doing classic Digitiser last week, I felt like Hogarth must've felt those times he played a Fish-era song in his early days with the band - being met with applause and cheers, knowing it'd be followed by one of his own tracks. Cue polite applause, which you can't be sure isn't just being delivered out of pity because you don't want him to feel bad about how much more you enjoyed the Fish song...
Obviously, the "lead singer" in Digitiser wasn't replaced... but he was changed. I'm 15 years older than I was when I last wrote Digitiser, and in those 15 years my life - and I with it - changed a lot. An equally tumultuous, and significant, 15 years before I started at Teletext I was a six year-old.
Don't get me wrong; I absolutely loved doing classic Digitiser last week. It took me back to glorious days, like it seemed to take so many of you back, but... it was a lot of effort.
Not even in the sense that it took more time for me to do than it used to (though it did). It was just harder to get into that mindset than it once was. Partly, that was down to the fact that this was the first time I'd written it since 2003. But also... it was because I had to find a me that I no longer am. I had to get into the role, I suppose.
One thing I did realise is that I'm better at doing "jokes" than I used to be. Or, at least, better at structuring them. You probably wouldn't have noticed, but I felt it while I was writing it. I feel I'm a much better writer these days than I've ever been. 15 years experience writing things other than teletext pages will do that, I suppose.
Yeah, a classic-style Digi might get quicker if I did it every day - certainly, I wouldn't need to create all the page templates from scratch like I did this time - but it would also mean that I'd have suppress who I am now.
That's not to say I've become Mr Boring, I don't think. I mean... Mr Biffo's Found Footage was about as unfiltered a reflection of me as you're ever going to get, and - whatever you might've thought of it - I don't think it was playing anything safe. I mean, Jesus, for some of you it was practically unwatchable. At the same time, it's not all that I am. I like writing these big, long, self-reflective pieces, and I appreciate that you tolerate me mixing them in among stupid listicles and whatnot.
I had a lot of people last week begging me to make Digitiser2000 like classic Digitiser all the time.
I get it. I mean, as I say... I'm a Marillion fan. I've been there. "Play the old stuff!". But that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt when people - albeit in not so many words - tell me that Digitiser was better, or more desirable, than what I do now. That it was better than, say, Mr Biffo's Found Footage (which I think nevertheless is the best thing I've ever made). That the teletext format improves my writing - makes it more concise, and funnier. I mean, it really stings, but I also understand it, and fear that these people are right. Doesn't mean I want to hear it - because I don't really know what to do about it.
I know Digitiser was special for a lot of people. It was special for me too, it changed my life. It was a unique, lighting-in-a-bottle phenomenon of a thing, and I wouldn't be here writing this now if I'd never had Digi. I wouldn't have so many of you kindly backing the things I do if it wasn't for Digitiser. I know that.
And I also know that, were I to turn this site into a full-on recreation of classic Digitiser, that it would be a lot more popular, and I'd possibly make more money from it. At least at first - but how long could I, realistically, keep it up? What would be the end-point? None of us are getting any younger....
So, that isn't going to happen. Here are the reasons why:
- I've got a job, which pays my bills (sometimes anyway). Grateful as I am to everyone who donates or has bought some merchandise, I don't earn enough from this site to replace that job. I wish I did. Of course I'd love to have a full-income Digitiser2000, and thus the time to make something very different and special of this site. Candidly, classic Digitiser - news, reviews, features, letters, experimentation with the format, every day - would take me more time to do than Digitiser2000 ever has. And thus, would get in the way of my work. I can ill afford that.
- Digitiser was created for an entirely different medium. If I just put teletext pages on here every day, I think it would be a law of diminishing returns. Over time - without an anniversary to justify it - I believe it would start to feel weird, odd, and a bit sad, and - yuh yuh - less special. Digitiser is gone, and that affords it a sort of mystique. Wouldn't it be a shame if it was just there, all the time? What's that? "No. Just shut-up and play the old stuff!"
- You have to try and move forwards in life. That's not to say you can't honour the past, or glance backwards from time to time - and I think it's likely you'll get some more classic pages at some point - but I don't want to spend the rest of my days reliving past glories. I want to do new things.
- I like the sprawl of being able to write as much as I want on Digitiser2000. Yeah, I know. There was a discipline to writing for teletext that made it punchier. Yeah, it somehow made my writing funnier. Again, thanks for letting me know. But I also love the freedom of being able to work through the knots in my head without having a word count imposed on me by the medium.
- I'm just not the same person I was when I wrote Digitiser. I started writing for it when I was 21, finished when I was in my early 30s. Digitiser had a bit of bite to it that I don't want to display now. We were wilfully rude to the people who wrote in, we dismissed games without consideration of the work that had gone into them, we insulted everyone. Yeah, I know that made it more amusing for those who weren't on the receiving end, but I don't really want to do that all the time. I don't want my life's legacy to be "That acid-tongued bloke who hated everyone equally". That wouldn't be a reflection of who I think - I hope - I am these days. It's the opposite, if anything. I'm not an angry young fellow.
So, I just want to say this: don't think that Digi wasn't as important for me as it was for you. It means everything to me. I'm deeply, profoundly, grateful for all things it gave me - from friends to experiences to opportunities, to all the lovely words so many of you wrote last week. Digitiser completely changed my life. I resent nothing about it.
I know it's my Beatles, and that everything which I'll do subsequently - in the same sort of general area, as Mr Biffo - will be my Give My Regards To Broad Street or Flaming Pie. I know that a lot of you will be disappointed that today I've gone back to regular Digitiser2000. It's just something I have to live with, but at least I live with it knowing that you're getting something which is honest and reflective of who I really am, warts and all. If that means I'm less popular, and I'll never have another "hit", then I can live with that. Better a life lived for myself than spending it contorting to the desires of other people.
BUT! Digitiser isn't gone. Not entirely. And as this is the 25th anniversary year it's as good a time as any to wallow in some nostalgia, and - collectively - celebrate something which seems to have meant a lot to so many of us.
So, if last year was all about Mr Biffo's Found Footage for me, this year is going to be a year of Digitiser. It's likely that I'm going to put together a big event, a Digitiser web series, and - possibly, maybe - a book. Maybe also a podcast. Over the coming month we've got to fulfil the Kickstarter and Indigogo backer rewards for Found Footage, and then the planning will begin in earnest. Whoever he is.
I'm blessed. Having done Digitiser, and having so many of you stick with me through my non-teletext-y endeavours, gives me the freedom to do other things. Thank you for letting me be me. Do you see?