Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The NME is 60 years old....

So 60 years ago on March 7th 1952 the very first edition of the NME appeared. I started buying the paper in the 90's, in fact the first issue I remember buying had a free Creation Records tape and the main news story was John Squire leaving the Stone Roses, but after some research it turns out my memory is slightly blurred because the 'Creation For The Nation' tape was issued with a 1997 NME and Squire left the Roses in April 1996. It may have even been January 1996's 'NME Brat Pack' cassette that made me buy that first issue. One thing I do remember is that news surrounding the majorly overhyped release of 'Be Here Now' the third Oasis album was what made me start buying the paper regularly, and by 1998 I was buying it every week. Mind you back then they still featured some great bands and often gave away some excellent CD compilations, some of which are pictured here...

As we rolled in to the 2000's I was still buying the paper every week, despite the fact that it had gone up in price and the bands they were featuring weren't as good as the ones they'd write about in the 90s. But as soon as they stopped issuing as many free CDs and as soon as my 'punk rock' phase of 2003-2009 was beginning I found myself not buying the NME anymore... But during my punk phase I was still occasionally dipping into the indie rock world every now and again, and that meant still buying the NME whenever it came with a free CD. 

Now in 2012 with the excellent MOJO magazine my only regularly purchased music publication, I only buy the NME when it has an exclusive front page story I HAVE to read... instances of these are pictured below: the six most recent NME's I have purchased... Also some of the paper's modern day writers really suck... when a publication puts Lady Gaga on the front cover and gives her awful 'Born This Way' album an 8 out of 10 you know you can't trust their judgement anymore. And a couple of weeks ago when they greeted Dodgy's excellent new album with a lazy and ignorant review followed by a 4 out of 10 rating... well I don't even need to say any more.

But the NME still brings me up to the minute music news through its website, and occasionally purchasing it can be an interesting read. So I suppose we'd better wish for another 60 years right?

And now from here is a brief history of the paper...


‎Founded on 7 March 1952
In London, United Kingdom.
In 1952 the unassuming Musical Express and Accordian Weekly was bought - for cash, in a backstreet transaction - by Maurice Kinn, who relaunched the publication as the New Musical Express (it's fair to say the coverage of Accordian music in the magazine has suffered ever since). The first issue was published on March 7.

NME launches the first ever Singles Chart
8 November 1952
NME invents the British pop charts, printing the first ever best selling singles chart in the UK. Since rock music was still waiting to be invented, NME concentrated its attention on the popular music scene of the time - smart men in nice suits playing jazz, and slightly less smart men playing skiffle.

Birth of the NME Awards
February 1953
Launch of the NME Polls - later to become the Pollwinners' Party, and ultimately the NME Awards.

Elvis Presley's first mention in NME
20 April 1956
Executive Editor Maurice Kinn tells the readers to, ‘Remember the name Elvis Presley; this young American country western singer is destined to emulate Johnny Ray as the teenagers’ delight’. He’s right, and then some.

The Beatles and Stones play the NME Awards
1964 in London, United Kingdom
A vintage year for the Pollwinners' Concert, which we modestly flag up as the "Greatest Pop Talent Parade The World Has Ever Known." Hosted by Jimmy Savile, The Beatles and Rolling Stones both play live - and Elvis sends another handwritten note.

The greatest NME Awards ever?
Basically an amazing who's who of the music scene in the mid-60's, featuring live sets from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Moody Blues, The Walker Brothers, Them and The Kinks, plus solo spots from Tom Jones, Cilla Black, Donovan and Dusty Springfield.

NME in the '70s
The early 70s were a grim place for music, as rock became overblown, turgid and more than a little paranoid. The NME Poll Winners Shows were retired in 1970. The NME suffered, too, but just as the paper seemed destined to collapse, editor Nick Logan came in and shook it back into life, recreating the title as opinionated, biting, witty and making it essential reading again.

The only thing missing from the mix was music energetic enough to match the new journalism, but luckily that was delivered a few years later when punk arrived in a screech of spiky hair, black jackets and spittle. Initially, the paper's history made it seem to be part of what punk was attacking, but the NME knew what it was doing (after all, writer Nick Kent was briefly a member of the Sex Pistols) and it soon became as vital as safety-pins and knowing at least one chord.

Amongst the celebrated journalists passing through the magazine's offices during the decade were Bob Geldof and Chrissie Hynde, which may on its own account for that reputation for being opinionated.

NME in the 80s
At the turn of the ‘80s NME has it highest sales figure since 1968. The 80s were a confusing time for rock music, as the punk fall-out split into two very different camps: the make-up and blouses of the new romantics and the slogans and seriousness of the growing indie scene. The NME kept a foot in both camps, adding an alt-rock tracking indie chart to its pages, and becoming as well-regarded for releasing music as writing about it: either in the form of cover-mounted freebies featuring the likes of Paul Weller and the Jesus and Mary Chain, or through proper records like C81 and C86, two now-legendary indie-scene compilation albums which gave a leg-up to then-largely unknown acts including Aztec Camera and Primal Scream.

By the time The Smiths formed in Manchester, the NME had cemented its position as the must-read for the self-respecting (some might say self-absorbed) music fan - indeed, the young Morrissey had been a regular presence in the letters page before he ever got a mention in the reviews section.

The rise of hip-hop threw writers into something of a spin as editorial turf wars were fought between dance enthusiasts and guitar fans but just as it looked like the magazine might split into two separate blocs the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and the Madchester scene gave everyone something they could agree on: guitars, but aimed squarely at the dancefloor.

C81 cassette cover-mount
NME release the influential C81 cassette tape in conjunction with Rough Trade Records, available to readers by mail order at a low price. The tape featured a number of then up-and-coming bands, including Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, Linx and Scritti Politti, as well as a number of more established artists such as Robert Wyatt, Pere Ubu, Buzzcocks and Ian Dury.

Another cover-mount cassette, produced in conjunction with Rough Trade, C86 was a showcase of independent artists such as Primal Scream and The Wedding Present.

The C86 scene is now recognized as a pivotal moment for independent music in the UK. Andrew Collins has called the C86 tape "the most indie thing ever to have existed."

NME in the 90s
As the ecstasy-fueled buzz of Madchester started to fade, attention focused on the other side to the US. While some of the competition became so grunge-fixated they might as well have published in check-shirted covers, the NME offered a cooler take on the scene, also finding space to encourage UK bands as they struggled to find something as compelling as the loud nihlism of Kurt and Co. It was NME’s cover after Kurt’s death that remains the most icon, tragic image of this hero.

NME was well placed when Britain got its act together, chronicling the rise of the Blur and Oasis led Britpop movement. From 1996, it was able to cover their doings in far more detail, as NME spawned, taking a once-a-week magazine into a round-the-clock news service.

And the glamour and excitement of the 1960s awards shows was reborn in the form of the Brats in 1994 (as opposed, of course, to the UK back-slapping celebration of established artists, The Brits) complete with an annual, nationwide live tour of the brightest new acts in the land. Since then, the NME Awards tour has been a starting block for bands including The Stereophonics, Coldplay and the Arctic Monkeys.

Richey Edwards' '4 Real' incident
15 May 1991
Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards gains notoriety following an argument with NME journalist Steve Lamacq, who questioned the band's authenticity and values, keen to ensure the punk ethic was not abused, after a gig at the Norwich Arts Centre. 

Lamacq questioned Edwards' seriousness towards his art, and Edwards responded by carving the words "4 Real" into his forearm with a razor blade he was carrying. The injury required eighteen stitches.

The Brats are born
February 1994
Having been dormant since the 70s, the live NME Awards come blasting back in the form of the Brats, created as a protest against the cheesy corporateness of the Brit Awards.

Britpop was in its halcyon period; to reflect this the likes of Radiohead, Suede and Elastica took home awards. The cover of the February 5th issue was: 'Take Brat And Party!' and featured Yorke, Frischmann and Anderson pouting and holding their awards aloft. Hitting all the mid-90s culture reference points, it was hosted by Vic and Bob, took place at London's New Empire and was broadcast on the The Evening Session.

Britpop at its height
In June, the NME Stage at Glastonbury featured a host if exciting new bands such as Elastica and Supergrass. Two months later, the Blur vs Oasis chart battle - ignited by an NME cover feature - signalled the start of Britpop's mainstream takeover.

NME.COM is born
June 1996
The digital version of NME is launched to great fanfare - promising music news, reviews, interviews, and "revolutionary same day reporting".

NME in the '00s
The NME continues to shape-shift, absorbing part-sister/part-rival publication Melody Maker in 2000; launching a series of spin-off specials, NME Originals, drawing on its unrivalled archive of interviews and reviews; sponsorship of stages at major music festivals like Glastonbury, Reading-Leeds and T in the Park. 

The ever-expanding NME Awards – now broadcast on Channel 4 - and a weekly NME Chart Show were further steps from being "just" a magazine, while retaining its nose for the uncovering and promoting the best new music.

NME Radio launched in 2008 with a special series of shows by Ricky Gervais, going on to feature exclusive sessions from the likes of Florence and Foals. Club NME nights came next - first in London, then around Britain and now in the US in Los Angeles and New York. While all this was going on, the paper itself continued to find new music to get excited about - Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, The Libertines.

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