Perusal of old copies of the NME I’ve saved over the years always yields some nuggets of wonder. As opposed to the text-speak glossy PR weekly it is today there were once 3 page articles on Miles Davis by Lester Bangs, useful film reviews, think pieces on books, politics, style and subcultures (in the 80s when that was de rigeur darling); and some of the writers could actually write. Many of my early teenage cultural discoveries were made through articles or interviews in this publication: Ballard and Burroughs to name but two.
Today’s copy taken at random is from 11 June 1983. On the singles page two recent releases are reviewed together: Hand in Glove by The Smiths and More to Lose from Seona Dancing. On The Smiths: ‘With a paucity of effects they seem to pierce the cool of a Julian Cope/Teardrop sensibility with a certain vigour that only we young ones can adopt…truly a new Bunnyman’ [do what?]. ‘More to Lose glints like the last rays of a moonlight sonata, finding its fountainhead in the crystal sparkle of Atmosphere. The fond solace of Ricky Gervais’ vocals are complemented perfectly by the distance of Bill Macrae’s classical keyboard arrangement.’ And to think he gave all this up to become an obscure comedian.
Further on, one of my favourite critics Richard Cook (who I believe lived in Hastings at the end of his life) reviews Kajagoogoo at the Hammersmith Odeon. Cannily intuiting that they would rather be playing technoflash rock than teenypop hits he doesn’t spare the punches: on Nick Beggs ‘a man with the most unappealing stage presence I can remember colliding with’. He continues: ‘In their smelly, plastered show they display the kind of integrity and rapport one normally associates with rutting buffalo. There’s something disgusting about men with palpably no ideas or personality talking down to an audience ready to slaver over their every gesture…[their] supine competence suits their songs admirably because this is the flattest, doziest, most lacklustre monotony to masquerade as a set of pop songs.’ One of these is called The Hand (‘This one’s about how machines are designed to fit the hand’). ‘These are rotten people. They cheat, all the time and with bad grace…[the very young audience] are piratically clicking at every cherished profile in between their screams. They will have their booty. They will pick Kajagoogoo to the bone, and the flesh will be dry and cold.’
An easy target admittedly. I remember another of his damning reviews focussing on Spandau Ballet at Wembley Arena – I actually memorised a lot of it at one point as it made me laugh so much – some still comes to mind: ‘Tony Hadley, bulbous in black and bathed in a fat man's sweat, baits the audience with all the subtlety of a barrow boy; at his side Gary Kemp resembles a particularly surly tennis player, the drummer appears to have suffered a recent accident’ etc. Those were the days.