maandag 21 mei 2018

NME to cease its weekly print edition. A conversation

Old news? Yes, but a no less interesting conversation started after disturbing news reached us on 7 March, when a U.K. musical magazine announced going out of print, upsetting the U.K. participants in this discussion. It started them reminiscing on the past, as things tend to go when we, including myself, reach a certain age. Not everything was better though, as you will find out.

Gary, 7-3 

Wo., 7-3
Yes, there's an end to everything. Kids are no longer interested in reading about music (or anything perhaps for most), only in games. Music is abundant and (near) free. Most are not interested in albums, just in songs by whoever, whatever. It seems they listen to music, but totally different from us. That is what the Internet has done.

The magazine I still read, 'Oor', has merged with another one years ago and since publishes only 10 issues a year, from 24, in which 10% of the pages are rehashes of older pieces used again to "celebrate" some reissue or other. And that is the best there is around these days.

Gary, 8-3
The Melody Maker was my personal favourite, but that went under in 2000! Of course the sad impact of closing such historic music papers and magazines is the loss of professional standards of journalism and interviewing…. I must admit I have never really been a fan of a lot of ‘muso’ journalists as they seem to want to cater for the populist view of the time and increase their chances of a job in on daily tabloid… however I do respect a lot of music journalists professionalism even if their views do not reflect mine. There are still some good print music magazines out there, the one I subscribe to is Prog magazine: which has a wide and eclectic choice of music both old and new…

Mark, 9-3
It's the end of an ear (as Robert Wyatt would say). I started buying the NME in 1971 when we went decimal - I would hide them from my dad and stored them in piles in the attic in our old family home in Wales - maybe they are still there, crinkly yellowed relics of  rock culture at its peak. I also savaged them for my clippings collections - some of which have survived as inserts in album sleeves. Melody Maker and Sounds too - and occasionally the more pop-oriented Record Mirror and Disc which I think merged at one point so intense and ruthless was the competition for the pop fan's loose change.   Some issue s are now quite valuable depending who was on the cover and interviewed inside (check eBay). I've just seen a tweet from Billy Bragg saying his life's ambition was to tour America and get on the cover of the NME. 

And then Q magazine came along in the mid-1980 and things started going from inky weekly to glossy monthly: death knell for Sounds and even the once august jobbing musician's bible, the Melody Maker, fell by the wayside. And now NME is no more, not even as a flimsy freebie that it eventually, sadly became with its ads for techy watches, BMWs and trendy trainers. Bring back the mailbox ads for loons and the agit-prop editorials I say! I'll miss its precious place though on my Thursday rush hour ritual, thrust into my hand on the forecourt at Victoria Station for me to scan for any possible morsel of musical interest during the two stop Tube ride to Westminster.  

I should wrap up though by saying - as the UK's Head of International Online Policy -   it's still online, you old fogey!  Hmmmm.....end of an era nonetheless.

Jeff, 9-3
Hi and apologies for not joining this stream of conciousness earlier!

I am afraid that this is not surprising, print media like magazines is dieing before our eyes. Real world Books still thrive, which is good as I am not a fan of ereaders for I think snobby reasons. eg having loads of books around the house is classy!

NME has been hopelessly out of touch for ages, musically. Hip hop etc passed it by and stuck to white guys with guitars. But it did have some relevance once  and when it was free, was not a bad short and sweet read - see Guardian leader today: and another Guardian article that is not so complementary: 

Now I have a confession, I was a Record Mirror reader! It was much more pop and more importantly it had a guy that covered the soul scene, incl reviewing the latest US imports, which was a big thing back in the day. I was also a fan of blues and soul ( But have not bought it in ages.

I am afraid that this is another sign of the times that provides us sad old gents (Wout - not you!) with an opportunity to do our best impressions of statler and waldorf from the muppets!

Gary - lets have another hangout and yes we need to go for a beer as soon as!

Sorry for the negativity!

Gary, 9-3
Not at all Jeff!

I for one thought that all the music papers lost credibility from the mid-70s onwards, maybe because they weren't writing as fairly and subjectively as I would have liked…. Or maybe I was just missing their point? I think that the real issue for me is that I listen to music, in the same sense that most musicians listen to music and not only for the genre style, political stance and fashion statement that goes with it: Which I recognise is what most people are attracted to. Of course this is a sweeping statement, but on the whole I think this is true. I know for example you listen to Jazz like Miles Davis and Thelonious ‘Sphere’ Monk (love his middle name!) which isn’t exactly ‘easy listening’, I think that gives you credentials to say you are not swayed by mere fashion?

Unfortunately, a lot of music journalists profile mark their ‘populist’ leanings because that is what the majority of readers want, and they are looking at the next stage of their career working on a tabloid…. that in my view led to the ‘dumbing down’ of music journalism; reporting on a performers dress sense and choice of girlfriend/boyfriend rather than the ‘music’ the artists make/write/perform. This is why I believe we are now in the age of the celebrity vocalist, music mogul and novelty ’talent competitions' rather than the high visibility of true musicians pre-1980s…. 

Now I have unfurled my ‘Old Fart Nation’ flag and saluted it American Dad style, but even if you or others do not agree with me, ask yourself the question, why are todays talented musicians (I mean non-vocalist) ignored in the mainstream music industry? Are they now irrelevant or unworthy of attention? Is playing a musical instrument or writing a music a worthless exercise? Is playing a musical instrument or writing music to a very high standard deserved to be sneered at or demeaned? Maybe its just another symptom of the prevalent populist, anti-expert society we now live in, maybe I am just getting to be a twisted, bitter old man that refuses to let go of the (precious to me) concept that real music means something other than a vocalist that has a great body shape, dress style, million+ snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter Numpty, Facebook followers?

Ah!... glad I got that off my chest… feel better for that rant!

Yes, please do send me a hangout invite for when you are available and let's meet-up in London for a beer (well just a sip for me!)?

Have a great weekend!

Wo., 9-3
Yes, I'm quite happy hanging on to my 50s, Jeff 😁.

Let me ask you all a question, just from curiosity. In the "serious" music press, like my Oor Magazine, journalists reviewed UK bands with a lot of disdain in the 90s and 00s. "Here is the next hyped up band, that will probably will be next month tossed out ex-candy of the week". Several of these bands I quite liked actually. Oasis, Supergrass, Silver Sun, The Rifles, even Blur 50% of the time. The Rifles even opened its first album with a song about the importance of the press and charting. What was your take on it, being able to look from the inside? Was it this bad? Several of these bands actually made it and were totally embraced later. Others we, indeed, never heard from again, but that is just the nature of music. Artists come and go and the exceptions remain sort of forever.

BTW, I am listening to one of those hyped bands of 2005 right now. I think I rather like Editors' new album 'Violence'. The right mix of a lot of modern (beats, sequencers) and older things (rock, dark new wave). Not its first albums though that reminded me too much of Joy Division.

Wo., 21-5
So one question remains unanswered. What happened with that beer?


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