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Join us for a life-changing career. Ant Chapman: "I was about [late 80s] when it was really good even though it wasn't selling many copies. Melody Maker was pretty conservative by comparison, covering prog type stuff well into the 80's. Look back to the late 70s, Joy Division period, there was a lot of intellectual stuff, it was very dense and coming from a much weightier angle.
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Almost Famous is a funny, tender film, but all the fuzzy-thinking, sanitised Hollywood revisionism in the world will not convince me that music was better when rock stars had bumfluff beards, routinely abused women and measured spiritual depth in guitar solos. If you think today's rock writers are ill-informed, self-important jerks, you don't know how lucky you are.
As one of today's rock writers, Dalton's view is not altogether surprising. Reading old NMEs, it's obvious that the style has changed over time. But who would expect it to stay the same? In one respect, Dalton is right. Be thankful that you don't have to read the equivalent of a pre-war BBC radio announcer any more:. In other respects, Dalton is severely wrong. Today's hacks may not be ill-informed, but self-importance is a charge less easily dodged.
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For a long time, music journalists were subordinate to the bands they covered, and that coverage was restricted to the specialist music papers. Colin Newman: "You didn't have, until about , even the starting of the biggest pop stars being in national papers. If you wanted previous to that to read about John Lennon or Rod Stewart or whoever, you had to get a music paper.
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When I think about it now, the notion of the NME being even slightly underground now is completely absurd but it wasn't then. You had to be a really special person [to read it]. The emergence of writers like Lester Bangs in the States and Nick Kent here eroded the dominance relationship between the artist and journalist. Frequently, the journo turned out to be more interesting than his assignment and interviews and record review turned into postcards from the edge.
Punk music necessitated punk writers, and it got them. Colin Newman. First music paper: Melody Maker in with Yardbirds front cover.
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Subscribed to NME aged 7. Serious about music: Always. Bored of them in the 90s. Own thing: Wire band; , Swim label; While Bangs had the capacity to enthral with lengthy bastardised prose describing his ongoing spat with Lou Reed, many other writers then and since simply don't. Filling a page with vapid musings on some banal event vaguely featuring a band, but more often featuring the author, is no substitute. As Pete Bassman says, we've all read those interviews where there's "loads and loads of text by the guy who was writing it and a little bit by the people he's interviewing.
I stopped reading the press because I was sick of trying to read interviews that were just non-interviews. But that's an easy trap to fall into, I mean pop music really was better 30 years ago. We've traded Goffin and King for Daphne and Celeste. Who would you choose: The Supremes or Atomic Kitten? But how would a year-old answer that question? Music today, pop music today especially, is essentially post-modern and trial and error in the past Upside Down, anyone?
Colin Newman: "It's not rocket science; you get someone who looks nice, put the right kind of production on it, market it the right way, you spend a certain amount of money and there'll be a certain number of people to buy it. Journalists are post-modernists, immersed in popular culture- hence sarcastic and jaundiced - and they are aware of the power of pop culture's commentators.
Pop music has existed for long enough now that behavioural trends are obvious. A movement develops in the underground, creates a following, the cannier hacks pick up on it, it slowly grows, it becomes mainstream, every record company on the planet tries to buy bands with the sound, the originators disown it and the cycle starts again think punk, hipppies, beat, acid house, independent record labels, the first wave of heavy metal.
For a long time, this organic process was the accepted natural order. But then, flushed with their own self-importance, or short of ideas, or just plain lazy, the music papers started trying to force the pace. Ant Chapman: " I think that the press trying to invent the next thing has caused so much damage. If you go back even 10 or 15 years scenes would just develop and the papers would go look at this! I think that's really healthy, but now because everyone knows what they're like - the New Wave of New Wave and New Grave and all that crap - people are more cynical.
As Colin Newman says, even indie , now a marketing department in all the major labels, was once taint-free. It meant independent labels with independent distribution.
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The majors started to shit themselves: 'What's happening? We need to get some indie. But indie's a sound isn't it? That's it. If we say it's a sound then we can have our own indie bands. The rich irony is that while the weeklies were straining to think up every more ridiculous scene names Camden Lurch anyone?
Chapman again: "[The NME] stopped covering dance music by the time that rave music was turning into hardcore and drum'n'bass came out of that. By the time that they woke up to it, drum'n'bass had shattered into 20 different sub-genres and they desperately tried to latch onto it. They had the press darlings like Goldie and Alex Reece but they were too late. They had their two pages or whatever of dance music but in '94 or '95 you shouldn't have been able to read about anything other than drum'n'bass because that was what was happening. The whole problem was that they got trapped by indie.
Laurence Dillon. First music paper: NME. Serious about music: Aged 15 Disillusioned with the press: , "because it was part of the current music 'scene' which was wrapped up in fashion, style and image bullshit". Part of the problem is that we, the readers, are just lazy.
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Paul Weller might have said that the public wants what the public gets, but consumerism is a two-way street. Laurence Dillon: "In the past, 'new' music movements were associated with social change and the younger generations of the time where a prime force driving this, most particularly in the 60s. At the moment, things appear to have reached an equilibrium where consumerism is the major factor. The wind of change is a mere whisper of a breeze now and this may be reflected in the mainstream music scene.
Newman: "The underground is perpetually in the state of being watched like a hawk in case something comes up that can be grabbed, manipulated into a package and then be sold. I mean, look at drum'n'bass going in two years from being a vibrant scene that totally defined a city to being 'buy this Goldie record.