Monday, December 03, 2012

A reader kindly sent me a couple of vintage music magazines. They came via the publisher, so I'm not 100% sure who my benefactor  is (although I have an idea). But I commend his example to you all!

(Seriously, if you've got some music mags you're thinking of chucking out, there's a home waiting for them in South Pasadena. Pretty much anything pre-1990 is of interest).

One of the fascinating things about old music papers is the adverts. Partly because of how naff or clumsy the sales pitch usually was, but also because of all the bands, once hot enough to be signed by major labels and given a big marketing push, that subsequently and often really rapidly got wiped from the collective memory bank.

Like this bunch The Pleasers, from one of the mags that came through the post, a copy of Record Mirror from March 1978, when Power Pop was the megahype of the season.  Figureheads of the ill-fated Thames Beat movement (as Power Pop's UK Division was also known, in a play on Merseybeat) they here proffer a cover of The Who song, produced by Tommy Boyce (as in Boyce & Hart, songwriters for the Monkees).

And the rest isn't history.

Actually I had heard of The Pleasers (indeed they make the briefest of appearances in Retromania).
But I never heard of either of these groups (both from the same issue of Record Mirror).

The same syndrome -- not just ads for, but feature articles, even the occasional cover story -- on bands that have left barely a wrinkle on posterity -- applies with style magazines like iD and The Face. If anything, they seem to have been even more prone than the inky weeklies to falling for hype.  I remember at the time how (to those of us living in non-metropolitan areas and whose sensibility was inkie)  the stylies seemed cool and on top of everything in a way that was both intimidating and off-putting.

But looking at them now (as with the issue of The Face from October 1986 that my benefactor sent with the RM), you can see the stab-in-the-dark randomness of the coverage, the seat of pants dash to fill the space every month.. how much it was all about bluff. 

Take this lead featurette: 


At the time the design and typography and the fashion  spreads seemed like the ultimate in chic and sleek. But now it's easier to see how the style magazines were shoestring operations (I got a little bit of a sense of that first-hand in the late Eighties, when I did a bit of writing for iD and visited the offices).

Looking through this old Face, I was surprised how much the advertising (and the clothes in vogue) were retro-y or couched in an appeal to notions of timeless quality. But then that was the vibe in the UK's post-postpunk music culture of the mid-to-late Eighties (before acid house came long, basically). That time-approved seal-of-quality applied whether you were a soulboy or a Creationist:  you were basically genuflecting to something or other (Marvin Gaye or Velvet Underground, bebop or Sixties psych....)   

Two tiny things that caught my eye: a letter from Steve Walsh of Manicured Noise staking claim to have been the first punks to go funk (and amusingly derisive about A Certain Ratio's claims to same, although to fair to ACR, I think they admit they were into things like Hawkwind at the start, until the Damascene moment of seeing the Pop Group).

 And David Toop talking about how he never ever could have dreamed that his old Camden neighbour Mr Messthetics would eight years on be working with Miles Davis.

The pub referenced is the Engineer, where the London Musicians Collective and the Scritti group-mind drank and, on one semi-legendary occasion, had a fierce ideological squabble.