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Formative Years

January 10, 2010

Here’s some unforgivable nineties retro nonsense. Don’t ask me why, but I ended up browsing through the Archived Music Press website (“Scans From the Melody-Maker and NME circa 1987-1997”).

I focused my browsing on the later years of that period, which were of course the years of decline. I was twelve in 1994, when I first had a look at the music papers; I turned thirteen in the summer of 1995, which is when the Britpop thing really came to the boil. The Melody Maker died a few years after completely losing its dignity, and something calling itself the NME is still apparently published. I am alive and well and living in Toronto.

Not every newsagent in my part of Bradford could relied upon to have lots of copies of the NME and Melody Maker waiting on their magazine racks for me early on a Wednesday morning – even though I was employed by one of the fuckers. One of the newsagents, not one of the newspapers, that is. I’d estimate that there were about five or six newsagents within a two-mile radius of my house, and one or two of them would stock one copy only of one or both of the papers. Wednesday mornings would often involve a tour of several newsagents, and I’d feel that I’d better buy some chewing gum or perhaps a Solero from the ones that didn’t have what I was looking for. Imagine Beckett’s Molloy, if he were interested in reading about Britpop. In late 1995 things became much easier because I could get the both of them from Morrisons, probably with a bag of donuts. Why am I telling you this?

Anyway, a few points that came up during my reminiscence:

– Even at this stage in the papers’ history, the quality of the writing is good. But then Simon Reynolds, David Stubbs, Taylor Parkes and so on makes for an impressive set of writers. There are times, of course, when these writers are really conjurors, fabricating intellectual significance from the most apparently hopeless sources. All those fleeting faddish bands are really things that the journalists play upon.

– Which makes one think, of course, of the undercooked shite that was regularly served up with ceremony. Take this Melody Maker article on the admittedly deplorable Menswear – “We’ve only been together as a band for six weeks!”, the idea of the “debut gig” as a industry event – all symptoms of a pop culture peckish for a a new fad, certainly, but in a sick way this is quite wonderful when set next to the superserious music journalism of today, fatly fixed on professionalism and integrity.

– I’ve no idea at all whether this chap below was any good, or what he sounded like (if that indeed was the point), but who would write about him today? No-one, that’s who. The advert for Rancid below the review makes for a stimulating / disgusting juxtaposition.

– All those lengthy features about bands going on tour in America! This was the time just before sending a band to America stopped being like sending them on an adventure through space and time. Probably a nice reason for a holiday, too.

– Everyone remembers the papers’ overhyping of retro dadrock in the mid-90’s, creating an environment in which Shed Seven and The Bluetones could realistically hope to have top-ten singles. Thanks for that, NME and Melody Maker. However, it’s only fair to remember that there was always a counter-argument – in 1995 we find David Stubbs declaring Oasis finished, and this was even before they’d played that show to a crowd of 16 million or something.

– Then the disgraceful Maker Makeover –
From this:

To this:

– Looking closer at that Super Furry Animals cover – wasn’t it weird when they decided to write about those rubbish American bands that no-one cared about? Screaming Trees: Is “Dust” this year’s rock masterpiece? It is not. Also, does anyone know whether Pornography on the Internet was actually the name of a band? It was the internet, of course, that wiped the newsink from our fingers for good… fast forward to Luke Haines in 1999, ever so deadpan: “You developed late. Weren’t the nineties great?”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 12, 2010 1:26 pm

    “something calling itself the NME is still apparently published”

    Feel like I may use that one if I ever find myself talking about the NME.

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