Saturday, February 11, 2006

Smash(ed) Hits

Monday 13th February will see the last issue of "Smash Hits" , once required reading by UK teens, but now a victim of today's demand for immediate pop updates and fickle music tastes. Launched in September 1978 as a monthly magazine, it quickly increased to fortnightly publication and reached a peak of 1 million readers during the Kylie/Jason era in the late 1980s. Recent sales have dropped to about a tenth of that. Despite it's demise as a print title, the "Smash Hits" brand will apparently continue as a digital radio station and music TV channel.

This was probably my first issue of "Smash Hits". I say probably because I've long consigned my copies to the rubbish heap of history. "Smash Hits" provided the wallpaper for a generation and I was no exception. This was probably my first issue of "Smash Hits" because, at the time, I was squandering my pocket money on any magazines that featured my pop idol, Adam Ant. The first record I ever bought was Adam & The Ants' "Kings Of The Wild Frontier", £3.99 for a vinyl album with limited edition collectors' booklet. I preferred "Smash Hits" to any of the other titles I bought, the fold-out poster magazines being insubstantial, the likes of "The Face" being too highbrow for my pre-teen mind. "Smash Hits" struck the right balance of gloss, substance and fun: revealing but light-hearted interviews; lots of pull-out-and-keep posters; crucially, the words to the incredible chart sounds I was discovering at the time. I couldn't afford to buy it every fortnight, so it was a blessing when my older brother subsequently placed a regular order at the newsagent. As a reader in the early 1980's, "Smash Hits" was a great celebration of the diversity of the period, tackling the necessary evils of Bucks Fizz and Tight Fit, uncovering the subversive pop of Japan, Associates and the Human League and introducing the more bizarre (and often one-hit wonder) sounds of Haysi Fantayzee and Men Without Hats. My bedroom wall reflected not only my developing eclectic tastes, but also "Smash Hits" at times 'out there' approach to the poster pin-up: Marc And The Mambas; Talk Talk; Propaganda; Spear Of Destiny; Madness and Heaven 17, all jostling for space at one point. The 'vox pop' interviews underlined both a love of music and a sense of humour; was it editor emeritus Neil Tennant who coined the names 'Sir William of Idol' and 'Sir Clifford of Richard'? Kipper Williams' often hilarious cartoons were another highlight. I particularly remember one featuring a guy in a shoe shop asking for a pair of "slip on Dexy's"; in line with their "Come On Eileen" image, these inevitably turn out to be a pair of facsimile dirty, bare feet! Well, I guess you had to be there... The occasional 'reader request' issues were another treat - I marvelled at the lyrics of David Bowie's "Young Americans" and The Teardrop Explodes' "The Great Dominions" long before I heard the songs themselves. Inevitably, as I entered my teens, I began to look for a more satisfying read, and found this in the in-depth interviews featured in "NME", "Melody Maker" and "Sounds", then magazines like "The Face", "Select" and "Jockey Slut". Sadly, all but "NME" have proved unable to adapt to changing times, tastes and technology and have long been cancelled; even "NME" is a shadow of it's former self, preferring soundbites to insight, downloads to detailed critiques. I currently buy "Uncut", though it's blinkered focus on the rock pantheon of Dylan, Lennon, The Who, Neil Young, et al and it's tendency to only champion 'new music' if it's Americana, often rankles. "Smash Hits" had clearly lost it's way since my time as a reader, but it's a shame that there's no longer a teen market magazine that highlights that there's more to music than reality TV show winners, manufactured pop bands and resampled, resurrected hip-hop corpses... Posted by Picasa


Blogger Atom Boy said...

"...the likes of "The Face" being too highbrow for my pre-teen mind. it was a blessing when my older brother subsequently placed a regular order at the newsagent."


6:16 am  
Blogger Khayem said...

No need to have posted your comment - I could hear you chuckling across the continents...

P.S. No suggestion that "The Face", "New Sounds, New Styles", et al were too highbrow for you, of course!

6:54 am  

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