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The Music Press November 28, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

crocodileshoes had a comment the other day that really resonated with me.

On the thread about the documentary White Riot C noted this:

A hat tip also to those unsung – except on CLR – heroes, the music press. The term mainstream media hadn’t been invented when I was reading about the ANL but I could read about them in Sounds and the NME.

I’ve mentioned it before, and will again, but for me Sounds, Melody Maker and to a lesser extent the NME, were central in helping shape a world-view. These magazines were far from left-wing, but there were progressive strands that went through them. In a period of Thatcher, and Major, they were oppositional in a diffuse but not unuseful way.

And then there was the broader cultural context of the magazines, bringing ideas that I suspect for many of us would have been locked away in academia and elsewhere were it not for the sometimes pretentious, sometimes naive, sometimes educative, mix that was presented on a weekly basis to readers. I didn’t just read them for the reviews and news and articles but for the style of writing, the sense of like minds and so on. Even today I can list off the top of my head favourite writers and knowing that if x or y or z said something was good, well, chances were I’d like it.

Helen Love had this about the UK music scene, half-parody, half sincere, one suspects. But the press were a key component in that scene.


1. sonofstan - November 28, 2020

I teach a module called Popular Music and the Press, that I inherited. I find I have to catch myself going on about the ‘good old days’ too much, reminiscing about the 70s NME as some kind of golden age to kids who’ve never read music print journalism.
I read a collection of pieces Mark Sinker edited called A Hidden Landscape Every Week arising from a conference and there was some useful correctives about how male and white that supposed golden age was – Paul Gilroy is especially scathing as to how badly black British music fared in that context until the 90s

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WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2020

I would completely agree. I think the late 80s/90s was a much better time, at least up to Britpop.


WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2020

Actually, just thinking about Britpop – I wonder not to stretch concepts too much, was that in a sense a response to that opening to black music? There seemed to me to be a bifurcation of music back to more traditional approaches, with D’n’B etc and all forms of ‘experimental’ music on one side and then meat and two veg on the other. That’s a bit unfair to all on that latter side but they were very white and trad.


sonofstan - November 28, 2020

Meat and two veg for sure. At least some of Britpop was an industry that had no idea how to deal with a future they saw coming down the track and trying to build a bulwark against it. Sort of like music business Dunkirk, with Gay Dad and Menswear as a rickety small craft….

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oliverbohs - November 28, 2020

I read that but I found it was too full of obscurantism, score settling over ancient feuds and of course revisionism from the benefit of decades later. Being a saddo I’ve read a couple of books on the subject and none of them definitive, though the chances of such an overview at this stage is slim to none. The one or two old issues of NME from the 90s I’ve seen, divorced of context, seemed full of filler. You had to have been there, or not been there but prepared to entertain versions of those who were. In those days it wasn’t that hard to, nor was it


WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2020

Nme was not great in the 90s, Melody Maker up to 97 much better


2. Brian Hanley - November 28, 2020

It wasn’t just the NME or Sounds either. I remember reading Paul Weller (in The Jam days) talking about socialism and class in Smash Hits. From about 1983 Hot Press was also either interviewing political figures or asking musicians about their politics. It certainly was a big influence on me.

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WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2020

Yeah, Smash Hits brought some stuff in under the radar, and HP definitely.


3. Jason O'Toole - November 28, 2020

Don’t forgot Hot Press! I reckoned it was a great publication circa 70s-90s. And, of course, when I was there (he says in tongue-in-cheek).


sonofstan - November 28, 2020

Jason, do you know what happened to HP’s archive? There used to be an online resource but I can’t seem to find it, and obviously library collections are out of bounds.


Jason O'Toole - November 28, 2020


As far as I know, most of the archive material is up online behind a paywall system.

I had to go looking for some of my own i/views recently and found them when I Googled my name and HP. Here’s that link of all my stuff (horrible f***** pic of me, by the way):


There is also an in-house library of all the early print editions nicely bonded and categorised by year of publications.

I don’t know what system is in places now, but I used to enjoy spending my free time reading back issues in their old library/conference room in their old offices on Trinity St.

You could find copies lying around everywhere back then and I even spotted the infamous Charlie Haughey edition sticking out of a pile on the ground in a corridor.

I also used to have access to an internal website system that great search engine to look up stuff.

I am more than happy to help find something in specific, but I reckon if you Google author’s name/subject name and Hot Press it’ll come up.

HP had a lot of the old material typed up, in fairness.

Hope all that is of some help.

Stay safe


PS – I’m only noticing now that some others had already mentioned HP before my initial post – sorry!

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sonofstan - November 28, 2020

Thanks Jason – I’m working towards something at the moment where what I need is a little more general and therefore more frustrating to search for: in the recently published collection of Vox magazine 80-83, there is quite a lot of criticism of HP from snotty young punks, and I’m interested in finding out what exactly provoked them (I sort of remember – but I need actual copy).
The NLI has a complete collection, so as soon as I can get back in there – and back to Dublin safely – a few leisurely mornings should give me what i want.

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4. crocodileshoes - November 28, 2020

SoS knows so much more about this than I do, but I do remember the likes of Jane Suck and Vivien Goldman making quite explicit feminist contributions – at a time when the music biz was undeniably as white and male as any other biz.
I suppose the amazing thing – in retrospect – about the seventies music press was that 20-year-olds with no journalism degrees or uncles in the newsroom were given a platform to say, it seemed, whatever they wanted, to a huge audience. Giovanni Dadomo told us to buy the new Jonathan Richman record rather than Dylan’s or the Stones’, not just because the music was more fun but because it was more important. Julie Burchill reviewed a Bryan Ferry record by calling Ferry ‘a worthless human being.’ Is there any way in which the 18-year-old of today feels something is being written precisely for her/him, as I did then? Even when it was something by Penman or Morley that I – and I suspect they – barely understood?
As for left/right politics, it’s notable that the graduates of that era who made a career in newspapers did so in tabloids, with a right-wing bent – Parsons, Bushell, Birchall. But none of them had much of interest to say about the music, anyway.
I guess the music rags were a big part of my education in the liberal sense; I felt they were giving me permission to think, teaching me to discriminate, provoking me.

Liked by 2 people

sonofstan - November 28, 2020

“I guess the music rags were a big part of my education in the liberal sense; I felt they were giving me permission to think, teaching me to discriminate, provoking me.”


Liked by 1 person

5. alanmyler - November 28, 2020

What struck me about the NME in particular back in the day was the density of it. It was a thick weekly paper filled with just so much content, and with often a sense of insider cliquiness to the writing that make it difficult to get to grips with. After trying for a while I’ll be honest and admit that I gave up. HP on the other hand I used to devour. Bill Graham I really liked, and Neil McCormick. True enough about the sort of counter cultural aspect to it, there wasn’t a whole lot else on my radar back as a mid-teen then that brought that politics into my life other than music and the music writing that went along with it. And Radio Moscow world service I suppose.

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