Memories of NME
ALL IMAGE/PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/NME
Why the Death of the Print Version Is a Tragic Milestone
LAST Friday has been talked about…
by all and sundry in the media. For some sixty-six years; the NME has provided the music-hungry public with its fix of news, reviews and features - Friday saw the final printed magazine arrive. I have seen journalists come out and give their reasons for loving NME. I have been reading Mary Anne Hobbs’ piece for The New York Times - and why the end of NME’s print version is a tragedy. She worked at the magazine and recalled some great times. One experience, interviewing Nirvana and trying to put a piece together to impress her editor, found her retreating to a room and slaving over the interview – transcribing the conversation word-by-word and putting the hours in. Cigarettes were smoked and endless cups of coffee consumed. Hobbs painted a picture of the NME office in the early-1990s: meagre wages and people working every hour possible; crammed into the office, looking for that latest scoop. The setting sounds draconian but, as she explained; it was about the love and passion for music. I have been looking at tweets about NME’s R.I.P. From musicians and D.J.s through to producers and music fans – there have been so many sad and regretful expressions on social media. It is sad to see the printed magazine go out of circulation: the online edition will continue to run, well…for a very long time. Maybe the end of NME’s famed hard copy is a sign of the times: music journalism is online and there are few surviving magazines.
To me, there are childhood memories and good times associated with NME. For me; it came into my life at aged eleven or twelve (around 1995) and the infamous Britpop battle between Oasis and Blur. Seeing the gnarly Gallagher brothers squaring to Damon Albarn and his crew was a giddy delight. This was pre-Internet – well; music websites, anyway – and I would go and buy the magazine at the weekend. It was an essential purchase and, as soon as I was at the newsagents; I would take the magazine to a coffee shop and pour over every page. It was not just the headline news and the cover that fascinated me: every page provided some intriguing and worthy. The magazine was not as advert-heavy back then – it has become more commercial in recent years – and, if there were some, they served a purpose. One could find like-minded people to connect with – those looking for band members – and there were some great stories and titbits. I was always hooked on the reviews: the latest smashes being given a good going-over by the journalists at the time. Writers like Hobbs and Stuart Maconie helped bring the magazine to the masses and add original voices – you could feel their passion and personality coming through on the page. Rather than have a squad of faceless, rank-and-file writers producing anodyne and expressionless words: here, one could discover a haven of sharp minds and driven souls.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
I have been hard on NME and how it has changed over the years. I feel it has come to the point where it is about advertising and making things as commercial as possible. There are some good articles/interviews but there is something lacking. Many have voiced their concerns and highlighted a decline in standards and appeal. I am with them, to an extent, but feel NME’s allure and quality come in its printed form – the fact they had to give it away for years signals it was destined for the pile. Maybe it can be revived but it seems unlikely I guess. The reason I am sad to see the end of NME’s ‘traditional’ format is the memories that flood to mind. After the 1995 Britpop heyday; I saw the end of the movement and the directions bands like Oasis, Pulp and Suede were taking. The 1990s, in fact, was a great period for musical discovery and eye-opening moments. I remember the late-1990s and the changes happening in British music. Blur were still going but my favourite period was the embrace of American guitar music and the bands coming out around that time. The Libertines arrived at the turn of the century and there was an exciting British Hip-Hop/Rap movement waiting in the wings. In fact; my memories of NME chart back as far as the early-1990s.
IN THIS PHOTO: Nirvana/PHOTO CREDIT: Press
I have faint memories of Nirvana gracing the covers. The Grunge overlords were natural stars and inspired a generation of musicians. Seeing something as grand as the U.S. trio staring back at you – with a cheeky grin – remained in the mind and made you want to dig deeper. The interviews had a unique edge and always involved the reader. One did not experience the usual, tired-and-tested questions and formulas. There was genuine wit and intelligence; the questions were original and the artists, justly, responded. The magazine represented a sense of rebellion and exclusivity. There was chatter in the school playground and, if you did not have a copy of NME in your possession, that marked you out for questioning and ridicule. There were those who opted for Pop options and fluffier magazines – Smash Hits was a favoured publication for many. Because of its sense of cool and authority; those who read NME were part of a ‘tribe’. We all stuck together and felt connected. Someone who thinks the same as me and follows the same music – those important realisations got me through school and bonded me closer to those I would have, otherwise, have ignored. It was a perfect ice-breaker and weekly forum. We (me and a selected group) would converge to the playground – or a playing field somewhere – and flick through the pages. There was the Blur and Oasis camps (I was in the former) and those who preferred American Alternative – those who opted for British outsiders.
One of the thrills NME provided was that narrow and dirty feel. The magazine was not that huge – compared with something like MOJO – and it felt pretty light. Not only was it perfect for swotting school bullies – it was easy to fit under the arm and you didn’t have to spend all day reading it. The pages were thin and there was the illicit feel of flicking through and seeing some in on your fingers. I followed NME through the 2000s and tracked the birth of bands like Arctic Monkeys. Each time a new bunch of heroes were proffered and featured; I would rush down to the shop and get the skinny about their latest work. Even when NME was moved online; I was keen to get the printed version and get that authentic, genuine feel. There is nothing like the build-up and anticipation of the magazine: waiting feverishly so you can grab a copy and scurry away to a safe hiding spot. The fact that has come to an end leaves me feeling emptier and lonelier. I speculated how NME’s decline was only a matter of time. Even if a change of editor and ethos has reshaped NME and offended some of its regulars; the legacy left, and the memories we all have, cannot be overlooked. The fact it lasted nearly seven decades is an impressive achievement, indeed! I am thankful to have been part of the fanbase; to have grown up when British music was coming to the forefront – the fact I found company and that sense of belonging. For someone struggling to adapt to the changes in life and the challenges of school – having NME in my hands was a lifeline and a huge motivation. Rather than bemoan the changing times and declining standards: a passionate and thankful nod to a musical hero…
FELT much more appropriate.