It is time to pay a sad, but perhaps inevitable, farewell to a music magazine that has been a part of my life since I first became interested in music; the NME. I bought my first copy sometime in 1970 and I began buying it regularly in around 1972. I really only missed two or three copies per year and in the 1970s I avidly read it from cover to cover. I became a subscriber in 2010 and continued as one until shortly after it became a free publication in 2015. Is there room for a weekly print music magazine any more? probably not. Could the NME have become a monthly publication? I doubt it, the competition from Q, Mojo, Uncut, Vive Le Rock and others is pretty fierce.
The NME, or the New Musical Express as it was then known, published the first ever UK singles chart in its first issue in November 1952. If you’re interested Al Martino was number one with “Here In My Heart”. I lived through some of the greatest British music journalism that there has ever been during its heyday; Charles Shaar Murray, Danny Baker, Nick Kent, Julie Burchill, Paul Morley, Andrew Collins and Tony Parsons to name but a few. Who can forget Danny Baker’s fabulous essays on Michael Jackson and his take on American male soul groups which if memory serves me well was called something like ‘In Praise Of Crimpeline Flares’. In the 60s the NME Poll winners shows included the likes of the Beatles and the Stones playing live. They were among the first to talk about and champion punk in the late 70s. This was a time when the paper became openly political and often published well written and venomous anti Thatcher articles, which I loved.
It came close to folding in the 1980s as it seemed to struggle to find its place in that musical era. But ultimately it survived and pulled through.By the 1990s the paper was very much a supporter of what came to us under the frankly ridiculous banner of BritPop. My favourite cover of this period recorded where the NME brought Brett Anderson and Suede and the Dame himself, David Bowie together. They also led the somewhat ridiculous battle of the bands between Oasis and Blur in 1995. Then of course there were the sometimes infamous Brat Awards as a left field alternative to the Brits. Even as recently as this week it has continued to publish some excellent pieces; Leonie Cooper’s column in support of International Women’s Day was bloody good. and take a look at the NME’s election coverage in 2017. I have seen many posts on-line recently since the announcement of the death of the NME many of them stating somewhat callously that the NME was no longer relevant and hadn’t been for many years. I disagree with this. NME was not the bands and not the music but it brought those bands and their music to our attention when everything wasn’t instantly available on-line. It gave a voice to protest when the ‘adult’ right wing press were not interested. I would argue that the need for that kind of protest and that kind of music reporting is still relevant, but it really doesn’t exist. There are many wonderful things about the age of the internet but compared to the days of paper publication it is often bland, corporate, washed out and washed up. We take our media in so many ways now and in the past the NME and some of its competitors were our vehicle for ‘sticking it to the man’. Now ‘the man’ is the industry, we lost the battle, ‘the man’ has largely taken over and we are happily drip fed Saturday night garbage like the X Factor and the Voice because they sell soulless, lifeless dross to the masses.
There are still bands out there that mean something and I am sure that all of you will be able to name at least one. In my opinion that includes the Tuts, Colour Me Wednesday and Avalanche Party. But ultimately the world has changed and that new world deems that the likes of the NME is no longer required. I disagree and I believe that there is a place for a publication that is passionate about new music, trends, fashion and politics. However it will almost certainly need to live on-line. Can nme.com deliver in those areas? Given the need for corporate advertising to survive, possibly not, so maybe now is time for a new underground movement. Who wants to join me at the vanguard of that? Or shall we just roll over and bow to ‘the man’? RIP NME.