Make Hardcopy History
The news that Smash Hits has finally been eradicated from the newsstands (calm down at the back, that’s Smash Hits, not the NME) is only partially marred by the revelation that they will continue to exist online. Just like an impressionist painting created with the use of ironic oils, the death of Smash Hits at the hands of the internet is a panoramic vista we used to call long range comeuppance. For those of you too young to know or for those of you too bored to remember, Smash Hits arrived in a hail of colour photo opportunities, reproduced lyrics & the editorial robustness of Jackie (ask Mark Beaument), on the coat-tails of the Punk Revolution (copyright – Pat Gilbert 2006). Punk & Pop had married in haste - where, inescapably, they repent in leisure to this day - & many a first wave Punky Waver suddenly wasn’t averse to appearing alongside the latest teenybopper sensation after all. Credentials lay in tatters on the glossy photographer’s studio floor, the record companies were at the helm of the ship once again - & anyone that had long-term ambition to survive in the burgeoning free market economy was doomed to follow suit. Passion had indeed become a fashion - & the need for an ‘alternative’ became a prerequisite for sanity.
Mojo, Ucunt, Q - you can trace their collective raison d’etre all the way back to the day Lucifer created Smash Hits - & form a spectacularly accurate lineage of blame in the process. Q Magazine was a blatant exercise in harnessing the Smash Hits phenomenon - & pointing its modus operandi at an older (& wiser?) audience (admittedly, without the lyrics). Select, Vox (the NME it was OK to rack with the magazines years before the Great Re-Branding) & countless others have come & gone in the name of record company/brochure co-ordination in the ensuing 30 odd years. Quite why the BMRB (sorry, Mr Millwood Brown) didn’t just staple the massed press releases of the major record companies of the nation together every Monday morning & mail them out to everyone under the age of 40 with a complimentary copy of Music Week, Morrissey only knows.
Somewhere along the way we lost the good guys, Zigzag, & thousands of fanzine writers unable to settle for their fabled 15 minutes: their raw talents bled dry - set to work within the towers of Kings Reach – slaves to the dictates of IPC - & later Emap – where the only identity that matters is a corporate one.
Few today would believe me if I told you the UK used to have not ONE music weekly – but FOUR! One by one the competition duly fell:
Sounds - killed by the falling stock of street punk, boiled alive by Global Warming due to a hole in the Oizone layer.
Melody Maker - killed along with Kurt Kobain at the hands of a dark assassin, the year punk broke its back!
Record Mirror - the one that really should have known better, considering its partnership with the dance floor, how it failed to survive in the repetitive beat obsessed mid 80s to mid 90s is a travesty.
And then there was one, & we all know how boring, unjust & inexplicable that is. Editorially, NME never recovered its credibility after failing to address hip-hop & electro in the mid 80s. With the Cartel in ruins & the majors back at the wheel, the guvnors at IPC plotted a course of least resistance - & let free market economics take control (trade winds?). Eventually, things had become so bad by the end of the 90s that a major rebuilding programme was rushed into service by the then editor, Steve Sutherland, to rescue ‘the brand’ from the sea of other titles crashing down every 10 seconds on the shores of the public’s hard copy consciousness. The broadsheet was dead. Long live the compact. Actually, we’re a magazine – ah fuck it – we’re Smash Hits. The circle was complete.
Loose Lips Sink Ships, Plan B Magazine & artROCKER are the brave ones in 2006 (they do it because they want to - & a few of you want them to do it too – which is enough) – standing Canute-like before the unceasing waves of information technology – but most genuine music writers live inside your computer: the ones that do it for love not lucre.
Let Alan Jones stop us if we’ve fallen asleep to this one before no more. Let Pat Gilbert reclaim someone else’s hard work as his own for the very last time. Let Connor McNicholas crawl up Rupert Murdoch’s arse & rot - & - please, for pretty fuck’s sake – send Dave Henderson all the way back to Happenstance – where he belongs.
Isidore Ajar tMx 23 11/06