Archive for the ‘david hepworth’ Category

Kylie and Jason – the glory days of Smash Hits

May 29, 2015
The best-selling issue of Smash Hits magazine on 30 November 1988  with Kylie Minogue  and Jason Donovan on the cover

The best-selling issue of Smash Hits magazine on 30 November 1988 with Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan – ‘the most famous “couple” in the world’ – on the cover

One of the frustrations of writing a book about the history of magazines is what has to be left out. Smash Hits is one of those great titles that, in the end, has just snuck into the book with one cover and a couple of other mentions. Smash Hits is well gone now, having lasted for 28 years after its 1978 launch by Nick Logan, but its power as a teen icon lives on – just look at the Facebook fan site Smash Hits Remembered.

It carved a place in the hearts of millions of teenagers – in Australia and America as well as Britain – with scurrilous gossip, song lyrics, posters, stickers and free gifts. In February 2006 – just after Emap had announced the title’s closure – a first issue of Smash Hits sold on Ebay for £30. The seller, Ruth, summed up the magazine’s appeal: ‘Smash Hits was the best pop magazine of its time. I used to buy it regularly from about the age of 8 to 13. I remember tearing out the posters to cover my walls and singing along really girlie to the songs.’ At its 1988 peak, Smash Hits sold a million copies of the Kylie/Jason covered issue dated 30th of November. Its average issue sales for the second half of 1988 jumped almost half over the first six months to 767,540 copies.

These days, it’s the retiring baby-boomers of the 1950s who rule the economic roost in Britain, with their property-based wealth and political voting power, but in the 1980s, it was the number of teenagers that was booming, and no magazine publisher caught that wave better than Emap with Smash Hits.

Pete Waterman as music magazine columnist The Hitman!That November 1988 issue coincided with the release of the single ‘Especially for You’ from Neighbours-actors-turned-pop-stars Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. The phenomenon of the Aussie soap opera was exploited by Stock Aitken Waterman – pop impresario Pete Waterman with song-writers and musicians Matt Aitken and Mike Stock – in a year that saw the recently-formed music producers dominate the charts. Pete Waterman is known to today’s TV audiences as a former judge with Simon Cowell on Pop Idol and Popstars. In 1988, he was also The Hitman!, a columnist on Number One – a rival magazine to Smash Hits. ‘Especially for You’ was a single from Donovan’s first album Ten Good Reasons and he would go on to eclipse even Kylie’s record sales in the next year (though he has lacked her staying power).  But Stock Aitken Waterman had already made 19-year-old Kylie Minogue one of the biggest successes of 1988.

It's Kylie!!! Neighbours soap star Minogue is reborn as a pop star on her first cover for Smash Hits magazine in (7 July 1988)

It’s Kylie!!! Neighbours soap star Minogue is reborn as a pop star on her first cover for Smash Hits magazine (7 July 1988). Note the exclamation marks – Smash Hits was renowned for them!

Neighbours had been one of the most popular television programmes for two years and, although I raised the possibility of spinning off a magazine from the soap opera with BBC executives, the fact the British broadcasts were months behind the first Australian showings stymied the idea. Minogue’s fame allied to the skills of Stock Aitken Waterman saw her debut single ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ at number 1 for weeks – a feat it repeated around the world. Her other releases in 1988 – ‘Got to Be Certain’, ‘The Loco-Motion’ and ‘Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi’ all reached the top 5 and the album Kylie dominated that chart for six weeks.

Smash Hits had it all covered. The May 18 issue had Kylie Minogue as one of its three posters in the centre (Five Star and A-Ha’s Morten Harket being the others). The issue also printed the lyrics to Kylie’s ‘Got To Be Certain’. Climie Fisher was on the front cover and Dirty Dancing actor Patrick Swayze was on the back.

The issue of 27 July ran its first Minogue cover – ‘It’s Kylie!!!’. For  20 September, there was another Kylie poster. The issue of 19 October carried Kylie on the front for the second time – ‘It’s … Smylie Minogue!!!’ was the cover line. November 2 had centre posters of Kylie and Michael Jackson.

It's ... Smylie. Kylie Minogue on the cover of Smash Hits magazine in October 1988

It’s … Smylie Minogue!!! Kylie Minogue on the cover of Smash Hits magazine in October 1988 (eight exclamation marks on this cover!)

Incredibly, amid the Kylie phenomenon, Stock Aitken Waterman also had hits with Mel & Kim, Sinitta, Rick Astley, Bananarama, Hazell Dean and Brother Beyond. They were known as the ‘Hit Factory’ and BBC radio ran a recent programme with that title in its Reunion series, which is still available on BBC iPlayer. Donovan had also reached the top 5 with ‘Nothing Can Divide Us’, so the pairing of the Neighbours duo in ‘Especially for You’ was a sure-fire hit.

The single was pitched into a battle for the lucrative Christmas number 1 against Cliff Richard’s ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ – 1950s rock ‘n’ roller versus 1980s soap stars. However, even though the release of  ‘Especially for You’ coincided with Kylie and Jason’s on-screen Neighbours wedding, the pop veteran who had seen his first hit in 1958 with ‘Move It’ won out with the biggest-selling song of 1988. However, ‘Especially for You’ did top the charts in the new year.

The Guardian has listed Donovan as one of its ‘pop casualties of the 1980s’, saying:

Before [in their Neighbours hey-day, with a cheesy photo of him with Kylie]: He was Scott to Kylie’s Charlene in the Aussie soap in the 80s, and later her boyfriend in real life. In 1990 he won Best Male Solo Singer and Worst Male Solo Singer at the Smash Hits Awards.
After [2000, with shaven-headed photo]: He is now a father of two and reportedly has found happiness with long-term girlfriend Angela Balloch.

Smash Hits may be gone – sales were down to 120,000 copies an issue when it closed in 2006 – but it is not forgotten. There are even two books about it – the 2006 Best of Smash Hits by former editor Mark Frith, and Pop Life (2011) by three former writers and editors of the Australia edition. The best-selling issue in Oz was also in 1988, with a Bon Jovi cover for the 30 November issue. That sold 150,000 copies.

Profile of British music magazines 

British teen magazines

 

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Emap throws in the towel

July 27, 2007

This morning’s press release from Emap was phrased in the language of the City, but to those used to reading the runes, it spells the end of the company as a major force in magazine publishing:

‘The Board of Emap today announces that, in response to various unsolicited proposals it has received recently for parts of the Group, it is undertaking a review of Emap’s group structure and portfolio of assets. All options to maximise shareholder value will be examined, including a possible sale or demerger of some or all of its constituent businesses. Citi and Lazard have been retained by the Board of Emap to assist on the review’

How did they manage to piss it all away?

It looks as if chairman Alun Cathcart will oversee the group being split into three parts – consumer titles, B2B magazines and radio so it can more easily be sold off.

After Tom Moloney went in May I said that Emap was ‘unlikely to be spoilt for choice’ for a new chief executive. That has proved the case – the company is still looking, but why bother now?

July 7, 2007

I’m in Canada at present (Halifax to be precise with Montreal to come). I’ve just read Tim Holmes pondering when teenagers switch from print to digital media. It tweaked a nerve that had been awoken at an exhibition of books that have won Alcuin Society design awards (at NSCAD university – well worth a visit).

Picking up the winner in the children’s category – When You Were Small – immediately had me sitting at home reading to one of my kids when they were small. The book – and hence reading – forms an emotional bond between infant and parent that no computer has yet come near to breaking.

Yet, the judges’ comments seemed to deny the emotion that books engender. The comments were very dry, discussing the typography and half-titles, but they gave the game away in one section when they discussed a title not being as ‘exciting’ as others. And the in-your-face vividness of the illustrations by Joe Morse in Casey at the Bat was, for me, a strength in terms of appealing to a teen audience bought up a the so-solid world of Banksy’s grafitti.

The show moves on to several Canadian cities before the winners represent Canada at the Leipzig and Hanover book fairs next year.   

More praise for ‘little boxy things’

July 7, 2007

An earlier blog about Emap quoted David Hepworth on everybody reading pithy boxes, but the real importance of boxes, pull-outs, read-throughs or whatever you want to call them is that they get people into the articles and/or are remembered.

I ran InterCity magazines in the late 1980s at BBC/Redwood where it was by far the best-read title the publisher produced, despite having a comparatively low circulation. I lost count of the times people that I met at conferences pulled boxes from their wallets that they had culled from its pages, especially summaries from the ‘Captains of Industry’ series.

The prime example was related to me by the recently-retired chairman of ICI, Sir Denys Henderson. He had been awarded an honorary degree by Manchester University. At the ceremony, the chancellor had quoted the box that accompanied InterCity‘s profile of him a few months before almost word for word.

Alas, ICI – like InterCity – are no longer the forces they once were.

What Emap has lost

May 21, 2007

David Hepworth knows his magazines. It’s an impression that is reinforced every time I read his Guardian column. He – and his Emap alumni at Development Hell – are also a reminder of what Emap has lost.

Twenty years ago, East Midland Allied Press was a regional newspaper running around biting the ankles of IPC with magazines such as Smash Hits and PC User (and demonstrating the digital future with Micronet). But in 1999 it tried to throw its weight around in the US. In retrospect, the £700m loss on Petersen was a shock that destroyed the company’s corporate touch.

It is fours years since Emap last demonstrated how launching a magazine should be done – Grazia was inspired. Now, it seems to have forgotten how to run a company – just look at the way its French arm went down the tubes. It’s been bad news all over, with closures galore, the demise of FHM in the US, and Emap couldn’t even pick the right paper size for the Car relaunch.

So Tom Moloney’s departure was no surprise.

He’s come a long way since he arrived with the company as advertisement director of Educational Computing. David Arculus, who with Robin Miller led the expansion of magazines at Emap, has called Moloney ‘the most talented person I’d ever met’. (Though Moloney is not the only advertising boss of Educational Computing who could lay claim to such a title – Seven Publishing founder Seamus Geoghegan being the other.)

Emap cast around for six months before appointing Moloney in 2003, but had been spoilt for choice – between Arculus and Miller – in 1997. It’s unlikely to be spoilt for choice now.

As for Hepworth, his latest column gives a thumbs-up to ‘classic glossy’ Portfolio as a lure for wealthy readers but feels Monocle should be a TV programme (which, ironically, is what founder Tyler Brûlé tried to do before the magazine). Condé Nast’s Portfolio is ‘full of long pieces that nobody will read and little boxy things that everybody will’. If only everything were that simple.