Monday, July 16, 2007

We love the NME!

This young stud was six years old in 1986.

Everyone's got a vice or several, especially when it comes to shopping. My usual vices have always been records and books, and shopping for them occurs – and has long occurred – far more often than is reasonable. However, I've developed a new and slightly less expensive habit: old music magazines. Save for that $27 copy of Rolling Stone that was smothered in John Lennon circa January 1981, it turns out that a number of record shops around Los Angeles carry old issues of Mojo, NME, Spin, Q (and in one lucky case, a single issue of The Face) for anywhere from one to five bucks each.

Saturday I managed to dig up an NME from June 14, 1986, where Paolo Hewitt's cover feature topic was “Why British Black Music Doesn't Stand a Chance,” and the pages were printed on obscenely large sheets of newsprint, refreshingly devoid of Johnny Borrell. A 50p weekly not yet available in the US, there was a hell of a lot more text to be had than what's printed in the tiny spaces between photos in the hyper-glossy rainbow that is the current (and far more expensive) NME. Some memorable bits among the hype, snark, and now-traditional reader hate mail:

On “Square Dance Rap,” the first single of a pre-bum-loving Sir Mix-A-Lot: “Anthony Ray, a 23-year-old from Seattle fast becoming known on the hip-hop circuit as the computerized DJ [...] even Calamity Jane would be hard pressed to resist the gingham-swirling groove of his anything-but-square dance rap.” (It's really fucking hard to write about music without using cliches. I promise this much.)

John McCready, music reviewer...

...on the Pastels' “Truck, Train, Tractor”: “The B-side helps us to understand why The Velvet Underground were invented – so that groups that can't play fast enough, such as The Pastels, can sound like somebody.”

...on Madonna and Otto Von Wernherr's “Cosmic Climb”: “The celebrated Madonna will be most upset to discover that tapes made while she was blow-drying her armpits in the next room are now being packaged as Virgin product and sold on the back of brilliant moments like 'Holiday.'”

...on Wang Chung's “To Love and Die in LA”: “Unlikeable nonsense devoid of even the slightest charm and dedicated to the repulsive capital of glutinous consumerism.” (Nothing about L.A.'s changed, then?)

...on Peter Murphy's “Blue Heart”: “At least there was a laugh or two in the grossness of Bauhaus and their demonic daydream. A 'Blue Heart' is what happens when David Bowie meets Howard DeVoto. Nothing Special.”

...David Bowie, for that matter, is referred to as “the man with the most repulsive set of choppers in history” in a review of his “Underground.” Poor David Bowie.

Nick Coleman, in a review of George Clinton's recently released R&B Skeletons in the Closet, referred back to Some of My Best Jokes are Friends as “an embarrassing excess of nouveau-psychedelic backwards gobbledygook.” (How's that for rich word choice?)

Neil Taylor on “living corpse” Mick Jagger: “born with rock 'n' roll and making damn sure he's going to die with it!” To offer some context, Taylor was introducing energetic and enthusiastic new bands that “piss-poor A&R men” were neglecting to acknowledge, namely Stump, The Noseflutes, and The MacKenzies. It appears nothing happened – or lasted, if anything – in the US with these bands. Any updates on whether any of them got big in England?

Amidst all the angry reader mail published regarding the NME's constant praise for bands with redundant influences (again, history repeats itself), there appeared one letter from a reader suggesting that press be given to acts like Beat Poets, Tuesday Town and The Disco Students. 2007 verdict on these groups?

...but surely, the big news of the issue was the Monkees reunion tour, spanning 120 North American dates with Herman's Hermits, though sans Mike Nesmith, who was likely stuck at home fixing typos with white correction fluid. Er...actually, he was apparently busy with projects for his Pacific Arts Video company. Tomato, tomato.

And because no one goes to a record shop just to buy an NME from 1986, here's the music I feel obligated to share.

Sam Cooke – That's Heaven to Me
Attempt to purchase Gospel in My Soul here, 'cause it ain't on Amazon.

Elvis Perkins – It's Only Me
Purchase Ash Wednesday

The King Khan and BBQ Show – Too Much in Love
Purchase What's For Dinner?

Tyrannosaurus Rex – Woodland Bop
Purchase A Beard of Stars

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