Thursday October 26th 1985. That was the date. I’d been in sixth form at my new posh school for just a few weeks, and had ventured into town for the first time. Only 6th formers were allowed in town, and even then we had to wear our blazers and were not permitted to roll up the sleeves under any circumstances. Which is why I had my sleeves rolled up. I did look particularly cool too.
Unfortunately the head teacher, or one of his deputies would patrol town at lunch times. And there he was, walking up Skipton High Street in my direction. I’d not yet been spotted, so I threw myself into the nearest shop. The nearest shop was a newsagent, and so to pass the time while said dementors passed by, I perused the magazine rack.
And there it was.
I already knew about Smash Hits, and Melody Maker, and the NME, but here was the latest issue of one that was barely on my radar. It was the cover, adorned by The Cult’s Ian Astbury, that first attracted my attention. It wasn’t just Astbury’s imposing looks that diverted my eyes though, it was what was written at the foot of the cover: ‘Top of the Pops Chart’. Great a magazine that lists the UK singles chart. Not since the girl who saved me the old singles chart listings in Woolies a year or so earlier had I seen a complete chart rundown.
And then I took a look inside (always better to take a little longer in case the head teacher was lingering). It was love at first sight. Not only was there the complete UK top 75 singles chart, but there was ‘the next 25’ too, the UK albums chart, the American singles and albums charts, a 12” singles chart, reggae and indie singles charts, a disco chart and even a Hi-NRG chart. Utter fabulousness.
No longer did I need to scribble down in basic Grillo short-hand radio 1’s chart rundown. The ‘chart book’ I had used diligently for a good couple of years was now obsolete and consigned to the bottom drawer. In its place was this glossy alternative, a sort of cross between Smash Hits and NME, that contained not only those wonderful charts but James Hamilton’s BPM disco pages, and pages of singles, albums and ‘hot dance vinyl reviews. In that seminal (for me) issue were features on Billy McKenzie and the Adventures, there was an ad for a new remix of Hazell Dean’s ‘They Say It’s Gonna Rain’ as well as Divine’s new single, Simple Minds had album of the week, Jennifer Rush and George Benson topped the UK singles and albums charts, Evelyn Thomas topped the Hi-NRG chart and Wally Badarou the Disco Chart, while Rene & Angela were at number 7 and 17 in the same Disco chart with different mixes of the same song. And Morrissey adorned the back cover….most exciting…
The love affair with Record Mirror lasted a few more years, during which time the Hi-NRG chart got dropped due to attempted rigging of the chart (scandalous) and house music and multiple remixes took over the world. James Hamilton’s column kept me busy for hours, and despite never being able afford more than a couple of 12 inch singles a week I build up and encyclopaedic (and anal) knowledge of every mix released by which house music act.
And then, in April 1991, when, due to falling sales Universal Magazines closed it down, alongside ‘Sounds’, another music magazine of the day. All of a sudden it was. Transvision Vamp adorned the final cover, and RM was consigned to history.
Since then I’ve not really collected, or bought, many music magazines. There were occasional one-off ‘80s’ specials that were worth the money, but then, in 2012 there were two interesting new titles, both focussing on the grand old 80s. They weren’t just filled with pages and pages of nostalgia filled pages either, but were much more forward looking than that, and for the first time since then I’ve started reading the music press regularly. Sadly, and despite giving away a free CD, ‘electronic’ did not survive beyond its launch issue, but does exist in a slightly altered form as an online resources (‘electronic sound’) but the fabulous bi-monthly Classic Pop, edited by Ian Peel had just seen its tenth issue published.
Now the sign of a good magazine is in the fact that it takes bloody ages to read the thing. And that’s exactly what you had with RM, and what you have now with Classic Pop. There may be no current chart run down’s (and sadly, James Hamilton passed away some time ago), but there have been countdowns: the best 12” mixes ever, the top 100 singles form the 1980’s, and even a host of reviews of the finest 80s-influenced releases by today’s bands..Goldfrapp….Marsheaux….the latter among those bands who deserve a far bigger audience for their output.
So long live Classic Pop. Record Mirror may be long gone, but there are still top notch music magazines out there.
***Incidentally, I missed the very first issue of ‘Classic Pop’ (pictured above),so if anyone has a copy they no longer need…