Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Marriner’s parrot in the New Yorker

October 9, 2016
Neville Marriner obituary  on The Times website in October 2016

Neville Marriner obituary on The Times website in October 2016

The Times had a nice reference to The New Yorker in its obituary for the conductor Neville Marriner on Monday:

If ever a pocket cartoon summed up a man’s achievements it was the celebrated drawing carried by The New Yorker magazine that showed a parrot listening to the radio. Out of the airwaves came the announcer’s voice: ‘That was the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields …’ Quick as a flash, the parrot chirps in: ‘… conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.’

Shame the cartoonist isn’t credited.

Tremulous author frustrated in finding Poyner’s verdict

July 22, 2016
Seafoxes band

The Seafoxes playing at Jamboree tonight – musical distraction from my worries

Aaaarrrggghhh. As I wrote last night, I went out to find a copy of August’s Creative Review to read Rick Poyner’s view on A History of British Magazine Design after a restless night. But the world is against me. No copies in yet at the newsagents in Borough High Street or WH Smith and around London Bridge.

So on I go past Tower Bridge to the Design Museum. Oh Woe. The museum has finally moved. You’d think Kensington needed another museum like a hole in the head. It’ll be sorely missed by me.

History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

First heavyweight criticism of A History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

So, on to Tate Modern. Guaranteed to find Creative Review there. But no. All the July copies are sold out too – as they were every else (you get the impression that Creative Review might have pulled back on its newsstand distribution too far).

But is wasn’t all bad, I ended up signing copies of British Magazine Design on sale at the Tate Modern bookshop with Amy and Richard, who were very helpful in trying to track down a copy of Creative Review. Rush down there now!

So my panic over Prof Poyner’s criticism continues … but a night at Jamboree to see the Seafoxes launch their new EP should at least take my mind off things!

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Smash Hits first issue is an eBay hit

June 6, 2016
Debbie Harry and Blondie on the first issue cover of Smash Hits from November 1978

Debbie Harry and Blondie on the first issue cover of Smash Hits from November 1978

Blondie was ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ all the way to the top 5 of the charts back in 1978 and that success was helped by Debbie Harry and the band being  on the front cover of the first issue of Emap’s Smash Hits in November that year. The back cover was a poster of Abba and the centre spread was of Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats.

When the magazine closed its doors 10 years ago, copies went up on eBay and one fetched £30. Now, a copy of Smash Hits has beaten that figure, going for £31.80 plus £1.50 postage after 14 bids from four people.

That makes four copies of the nigh-on 40-year-old issue that have sold in the past month, the other three selling for £5.99, £11.61 and £31. The cover had come apart on the cheapest of the three, but the other two looked to be in similar condition – the £20 difference showing how much of an eBay selling figure is down to luck.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

An evening with Andy Strange and the Seafoxes (and George Martin)

March 9, 2016

Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982 Beatles producer George Martin on his Desert Island Discs page from 1982

I was with record producer Andy Strange yesterday evening to listen to some tracks he is laying down for the up-and-coming Seafoxes. Andy learnt the ropes from working with George Martin for 15 years at AIR Studios. We talked a bit about Martin over a few cans of Polish lager, so it was eerie to be woken up by a clock radio this morning telling me that the legendary Beatles producer had died.

Andy had just listened to a George Martin tribute on the Robert Elms show and commented this afternoon:

Working with George was always a special experience. He was a true recording legend who everyone had the utmost respect for. He created a friendly family environment at AIR Studios that clients and staff all enjoyed. A real gentleman who always had a good laugh making records. His role was to help the artists realise their musical dreams and, more often than not, make their music far better than they could have ever dreamt of. He did not make records that sounded like George Martin records, he simply made many great records with many great artists. His musical sensibilities and influence on popular music will be with us forever.

Martin was brilliant on TV and radio – today he would become a David Attenborough of music. I remember him on Desert Island Discs and a documentary where he talked about the importance of the silence between notes in music. I checked out his Desert Island record choices from 1996 and it’s a eclectic mix, including Ravel, the Liverpool mopheads (of course, with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, a Mozart Oboe Quartet, Britten and Gershwin (‘Bess, you is my woman now’, his overall favourite). His luxury was an electric piano.

But I also saw he’d also been on Desert Island Discs in 1982. The record choices then included Debussy, Flanders and Swann, a Cimarosa concerto for oboe and strings, two Beatles tracks (‘Here, There and Everywhere’ and ‘In My Life’), Peter Sellers, Bach (St Matthew Passion, his overall favourite) and Britten. His luxury was a clavichord.

Although no track appears in both lists, there are strong themes (besides the Beatles): French romantic composers (Ravel and Debussy); humour (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Beyond The Fringe, Flanders and Swann); oboe pieces; LSO recordings; keyboards. In both cases his book choice was very practical: how to build a boat and a manual on practical engineering (I always thought such useful choices weren’t allowed – wasn’t someone refused a cat as a luxury because they might eat it!)

Among a list of credits that’s as long as your arm, taking in Elton John, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion and building a recording studio for Robbie Williams, Andy was one of the engineers on In My Life – a CD Martin did to mark his retirement. It’s mainly cover versions of Beatles songs that he produced originally – Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin on ‘Come Together’, Goldie Hawn signing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, Jeff Beck playing on ‘A Day in the Life’ and Sean Connery’s singing ‘In My Life’.

Andy was telling me last night how revolutionary it was when Martin left EMI in the late 1960s to set up AIR (Associated Independent Recording), unleashing a movement towards independence in music that is still happening today. The first studio was in London’s Oxford Street, high up in a building that was the headquarters for the Burton tailoring chain. Andy has a couple of framed letters from the 1970s, both from the building manager complaining about the noise and nuisance from the studios. One is about the Sex Pistols (the building manager had obviously just seen their TV interview with Bill Grundy!) and the other about projectiles coming from the rooftop studios – tomatoes! I wonder what Martin replied?

The first Madonna magazine cover

December 17, 2015
The first Madonna magazine cover - No 1 from 4 February 1984

The first Madonna magazine cover – No 1 from 4 February 1984

A question comes in: when did Madonna first appear on a magazine cover? I can’t claim to have a definitive answer, but the first British example I can find is the above No 1 cover from 4 February 1984. The fortnightly IPC magazine beats the better-remembered Smash Hits published by Emap by 12 days.

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, also in February 1984

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, two weeks later in February 1984

i-D then followed with its March/April issue (which may well have also been in the shops in February).

Madonna cover from i-D dated March/April 1984

Madonna proves she can wink for the cover of i-D dated March/April 1984

It was another five years before Madonna began to appear on Vogue covers in the UK and US, but Tatler had given her its front in 1987.

Madonna fronts Tatler with a sophisticated look in September 1987

Madonna fronts Tatler with a sophisticated look in September 1987

And Playboy got in pretty early on Madonna’s act too with this September 1985 cover. Note the headline: ‘Madonna nude: unlike a virgin  … for the very first time.’

Madonna was pretty quick in getting her kit off for Playboy in September 1985

Madonna was pretty quick in getting her kit off for Playboy in September 1985

Looking at these covers, it’s noticeable how quickly she changes her style to give a different look for each audience – the teens in No 1, the rich sophisticates for the upmarket Tatler, and the goggling male readership of Playboy.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

‘Fabulous’ pays off for the ‘Sun on Sunday’

November 12, 2015
The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

Most of today’s tabloid newspapers were founded by magazine barons – the Mail, Express and Mirror. The exception is the Sun, but it is well aware of the selling power of its supplements, so much so that when parent company News UK closed down the News of the World in 2011, its Fabulous magazine was moved across to the new Sun on Sunday when the daily started coming out on Sundays six months later.

Last Sunday’s edition plastered images of the supplement across the front page to promote five covers devoted to the members of boy band One Direction: Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, with a fifth cover of the boy band members together. There was similar marketing online and the special 1D magazine was also pushed in the Sun on the previous four days. The aim is to attract younger readers – and hopefully get people to buy more than one copy of the paper. It’s a strategy that appears to pay off – sets of the five One Direction magazines have sold on eBay for up to £49.99! A classic piece of brand marketing using popular celebrities.

The promos in the paper read:

With Zayn Malik’s departure and the decision to take a break in 2016, it’s been a tumultuous year for One Direction. In this week’s Fabulous, Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam reveal how they reacted when Zayn quit the band, what they plan to do with their time off and why this is definitely not the end for 1D.

There are also five covers to collect – share yours with us using the hashtag #Fabulous1D!

Don’t miss Fabulous, free with The Sun on Sunday. For more, go to Fabulousmag.co.uk

Magazines like this also allow the paper to focus on a specific part of the readership – presumably teenage girls in this case. It’s a strategy that the Mail on Sunday has played really well over the years with its women-focused You supplement and the Financial Times with its How to Spend It monthly for millionaires. Yet, when Fabulous was launched, former Guardian editor Peter Preston argued in a column that it was too far removed from the paper’s main readership.

Here’s one of the covers – but don’t ask me who it is!

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

>>>Britain’s national newspapers profiled

Madonna’s belly button – the ‘world’s most exploited’

October 19, 2015
Madonna feature in the first issue of Celebrity Magazine in 1986

Madonna feature in the first issue of Celebrity Magazine in 1986

The 1980s marked a decade of change in the way that celebrities were treated. Magazines, particularly the weeklies, became either more fawning – as in Hello! – or adopted the techniques of tabloid journalism, as in this new magazine, Celebrity.

The language of this profile is sensationalist, with words like ‘raunchiest’ and the aggressive, red-boxed quote:

I’ve been called a tramp, a harlot, a slut, and the kind of girl that always ends up in the back of a car

Of course, Madonna played up to this raunchy image as a singer and actress as a way of generating massive publicity. And many magaziness and newspapers were keen to play along. The strapline is a pun on Desperately Seeking Susan, the film with Rosanna Arquette that made her name in 1985.

The death of the Summer of Love – and a Brillo happening

October 1, 2015
Where have all the flowers gone - Look of London, 25 November 1967 Hippies

Where have all the flowers gone – hippies in the Look of London magazine, 25 November 1967

Look of London was a weekly events magazine that would have competed with London Life and Time Out. I’ve only seen copies from 1967 and this November 25 issue mourns the death of the the Hippie movement, just months after the Summer of Love.

The opening spread shows Timothy Leary, described as the ‘hippie priest’ for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs, and the 1967 summer ‘Love-in’ in New York’s Central Park. The theme of the article is that the hippie scene was greatly overblown in America and, in London, just a fad:

In England, the movement was mainly sartorial. A Kings Road-Carnaby Street promotion to brighten up the London streets. And very successful it was too. But only a minute percentage of those who attended the Ally-Pally Love-in ever came within sniffing distance of LSD and would, no doubt, stare blankly if instructed to ‘Turn on, tune in and drop out’ … We never really dropped in.

The article is by Carole Adler, the magazine’s features editor. As well describing ‘plastic hippies’ just in it for a summer of fun, Adler shows a dark side of a ‘mostly middle-class’ movement:

The hippie supporters didn’t like the Nego. They claimed he came into the community to ‘get the white girls’ … They blame the Negroes for the increase in the use of speed (methedrine), an amphetamine drug with terrifying side-effects.

Adler lists a ‘rash of hippie murders’ and what appears to be the revenge killing of a San Francisco drug dealer called Superspade. Time magazine had covered the events in an article, ‘End of the dance’, in its issue of 18 August.

The headline, ‘Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to graveyards, everyone’, refers to the Pete Seegers folk song, which had been a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962. With a very flowery typeface.

The photographs were by Francine Winham, who became famous as a jazz photographer for her ‘fever’ technique, which involved shaking the camera to create a fuzzy look that became her trademark. In the Central Park image, notice what appears to be a Brillo advert held aloft on the end of a fencing sword by a man with a mask. What’s that about? It looks staged for the photograph. Was it an example of guerilla marketing? Or a happening? Could it be anything to do with celebrity artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Box’ from the same year?

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

The final page of the article is below with photographs by Minoru Aoki. The top picture shows a hippies and below is Leary with the 1950s Beat poet Alan Ginsberg (left).

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

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Time turns NME into a freesheet

July 7, 2015

The image used to head the NME freeesheet  announcement The image used to head the NME freeesheet announcement

The message from Time Inc UK, the US-based  owner of what was IPC, came out as gobbledegook:

Iconic brand NME today announces the latest stage in its evolution as an audience-first global media business. As well as a new nme.com and digital products, in September NME will become a free weekly magazine. With music firmly at the heart of the brand, NME’s authority will be the gateway into a wider conversation around film, fashion, television, politics, gaming and technology.

According to Marcus Rich, chief executive:

This famous 63 year-old brand was an early leader in digital and has been growing its global audience successfully for the best part of 20 years. It has been able to do so because music is such an important passion and now is the right time to invest in bringing NME to an even bigger community for our commercial partners

NME was a digital pioneer for IPC, as both a driver of the Unzip CD-Rom and one of the company’s first websites, alongside New Scientist and Uploaded.com (who remembers that?). It is the last survivor of the ‘inkies’ – the tabloid weekly music papers that once numbered Melody Maker (which dated back to the 1920s and put a toilet roll on its last cover), Melody Maker, Disc, Record Mirror and Sounds – and sold in their hundreds of thousands.

Has such a freesheet strategy ever gone well for the magazine that started it all?

 

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