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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Author Pat Long has done a great job of annotating the history of the New Musical Express in this highly readable, very entertaining and often very funny book. Of course, for me, being in my early fifties, the paper was in its Golden Era in the mid to late seventies, when great writers such as Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Roy Carr, Mick Farren, Ian MacDonald et al held sway. They were often more rock and roll than the acts they wrote about, and guided me to more great music than I could ever reflect in this review. I've not read the NME in about ten years, and in truth, I felt that it started going down the tubes in the early 80s, when the frankly incomprehensible likes of Ian Penman and Paul Morley were in the ascendant. However, Pat Long actualy enthuses me to perhaps pick up a copy and see how it's going. He doesn't stint in cataloguing the travails of various writers drug use, and the debilitating addictions which derailed the career of Nick Kent, for example, and led to the shock early death of Pete Erskine - a sad waste and loss of talent. There is an underlying melancholia within the story that kind of acknowledges that maybe music has had it's day, that it doesn't carry the same weight or importance as it did thirty-odd years ago, reduced to merely another entertainment option, along with 24-hour TV, computer games and the world wide web. Music was more important when there was only one national radio station, and you had to look hard to find the good stuff, and it simply meant more, a soundtrack to good and bad times, and the NME helped define those times. Long ends on an optimistic note, and confidently predicts that the paper will still be around to celebrate another sixty years. Me, I'm not so sure, but I can wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book to anyone with more than a passing interest in the history of British rock music, and how words can often inform music.
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For those with an interest in the history of music it is no surprise to learn that NME has roots in the accordian and that the Accordian Times merged with Musical Express in 1946 to create a magazine which became a weekly staple for music fans. What is interesting is how many times the magazine has reinvented itself. Nearly bankrupt in 1952 it was saved by manager/promoter Maurice Irving Kinn and, through him, published the first ever UK singles chart. Kinn's emphasis was on the performer and not the writer, just in time for the rise of rock'n'roll, the fact that cheaper 45's replaced the more expensive 78 and the advent of guitar groups over jazz. By 1960 music and sales were flagging and, as Dick Rowe wrongly predicted, "guitar groups are on the way out". Kinn sold NME in 1962, realising his mistake with the coming of the Beatles, whose success led to increased sales and an appetite for new music. Kinn quickly revived his annual NME Poll Winners Party to cash in on the sudden Beat Boom.

This then is the story of NME and the ups and downs of music. From the joyous music of the 1960's to another period of decline by 1971. To the NME creating a gig guide to help point fans towards live music and an era of star writers, such as Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent, who almost seemed more important than the artists. On to the punk scene, rapidly awash with hard drugs, to the post punk era of the 1980's (not a good era for music by any standards) and the advent of MTV, face paint and frivolity. This book looks at the infighting and factions at the paper, how it lost direction and was challenged by other magazines, from Smash Hits to Q, who catered for fans re-buying their record collections on CD, with a more middle aged and affluent readership, who still liked Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney (as did I and I also defected to Q at this point as a reader). Pat Long carries the story on to the music of grunge and Britpop and the still, almost continual, infighting at NME, which seems to be the one constant at the magazine.

This is a very well written account of the history of the paper and the history of the UK music scene. It is a readable and interesting book, which could have had some more illustrations, but which overall is a must for music lovers.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was a little apprehensive before starting this book - I consider myself to be a music fan but certainly not an expert and I thought it might be a bit too earnest and intense for me, but thankfully I was wrong.

Pat Long has produced a very informative and entertaining guide to a British institution, starting with its humble beginnings when Accordian Times joined forces with Musical Express, and later morphed into the New Musical Express in 1952. The sections covering the 1950s and 60s seemed quite brief compared to those which dealt with the late 70s to mid-90s (my era). For me the book really hit its stride when it reached 1970 and the legendary writers Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent are holding sway. This was before my time but Long successfully conveys just how powerful and influential these journalists were, often eclipsing the artists they were writing about in terms of fame and notoriety. After the punk explosion the mantle is handed to Parsons and Burchill, but the in-fighting and drug taking carry on pretty much as before.

The story stops in 2000 because, as Long explains, the digital revolution had such a profound effect on the way we listen to and read about music that it's really another story in its own right. Those of us of a certain age will always look back nostalgically on the NME and its ilk, whatever form music journalism takes in the future.

As well as following the numerous rises and falls of the paper's fortunes, this book is also a fascinating chronicle of alternative and indie British music from the second half of the 20th century. A must for those who were involved in the scene and those (like me) who looked on admiringly from the sidelines.
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VINE VOICEon 21 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I confess I was never really an NME man. I first got into music in a big way in the 80's, so my staples were Smash Hits (greatest magazine ever...?) and then, when I hit the 6th form, Q. The NME was always a little too "out there" for my musical tastes; although, to be fair, at that time it was also going through one of its "leaner" spells (as outlined in this book). But this was still a fascinating read. It races through the first 10+ years - understandably so, as it's only from the late sixties that the story starts to get interesting. The golden years of the paper (late sixties to early eighties, and then the brief nineties resurgence) are then outlined in depth, with input from all the names you would want to see. And what a list of names - Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent, Mick Farren, Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill, Danny Baker, Danny Kelly, Mark Ellen, Paul DuNoyer, Jon Savage, Steve Sutherland, Andrew Collins, Paolo Hewitt, Stuart Maconie, Steve Lamacq, David Quantick. All brilliant, and responsible for much of the best writing on rock and pop in the last thirty years in the NME, Smash Hits, Q, Select, Mojo, etc. The interviewees are candid about fallouts, drugs, the leftist politics of the paper, industrial action, and the leaner times - and this makes for a thoroughly absorbing read. Ok, it skips briskly through Britpop and the last ten years hardly get mentioned - but then the NME is probably on its last legs as a physical magazine, thanks to the impact of the internet and the paucity of good music at the moment. So this book is as much a memorial to the good old days as a history, which makes me a little sad. I might not have often read the paper - but a world without it would be a much sadder place. If you have any interest in the music of the seventies, eighties and nineties then this is a fantastic and nostalgic read. Now, can we have a similar book written about the mighty Smash Hits please?
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's August 1978. I'm 12. I've just had my latest edition of Shoot (Incorporating Goal!) delivered and I'm once again looking forward to using my League Ladders. Those old enough will remember those; a set of cardboard tabs with names of all the 92 football league clubs. Plus a "ladder" to insert them into for each of the four divisions, you moved the teams up and down after every result. Sounds good, eh?

Anyway, one Thursday in August 1978, TOTP was on in the background while I was doing my homework a band came on that for the first time made me think of something else apart from Coventry City and football. That band was the Buzzcocks and they were singing the two-minute classic "Love You More". I was hooked.

From the following week my weekly subscription to Shoot was cancelled and I began having the NME. From 1978 until around 1988 (when SAW ruined music for me) I avidly read the greatest music publication in the world. There are a few milestones for me, the Buzzcocks on the cover with their animated "smiley" faces and the set of Debbie Harry pull-out posters with whom I had my first crush, thanks to the NME. One of the last issues I bought was in 1999 when they features Michael Head on the front and acclaimed him as our Greatest Living Songwriter. While I couldn't argue with the sentiments, by then the NME was a pale imitation of it's former greatness.

This book is excellent, small but perfectly formed and very wordy, so don't expect lots of pictures and reprints of some of its famous covers over the years, which is a shame as this would have been even better then. Hopefully, one day someone will produce a book of NME front covers.

Back in the day I thought Sounds was for rockers, the Melody Maker for hippies and the NME for those of us who liked their music with a little more "edge". Looking back, that might not be strictly true as although the NME did indeed champion unknown and up-and-coming bands they weren't adverse to shooting them down when they thought they'd gotten to big for their boots. They did cover chart bands too.

There's a lot to read and I started off by looking at the index and looking up my favourite bands, the aforementioned Buzzcocks, The Jam, Kraftwerk etc. However when I found a lack of entries for Josef K and Paul Haig I realised that, naively, you can't fit the whole history of British rock `n' roll in 240 smallish pages.

It's a fascinating read and there are some great anecdotes from Pat Long. Recommended to those who were there and for those who wished they were!
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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Very, very good - one of the best music books I've read for a long time. A surprising conclusion, because, If like me you've had a love-hate relationship with the NME over the years (let's face it, who hasn't), the last thing you'll probably want to do is read a book about it. However, that's where Pat Long's book bucks expectations.

Far from being some self-congratulatory puff-piece, this history of one of the world's best known music papers is the polar opposite: a meticulously researched and extremely well-written alternative history of British music, as seen through the prism of the NME. Most importantly, and to its credit, Long doesn't pull any punches, and the bedrock of any negative observations is reserved for the failings of the paper or its myriad writers. The peak punk years are especially interesting, and very well observed. The egos and commercial concerns of the NME are shown in context, with the result that Long's book become a valuable reference alongside more obvious, solely music orientated tomes.

If you want a good read, specifically one which presents the history of music in the UK in an interesting and fresh way, then I can heartily recommend The History of the NME. Not least, because in an age where too many music books are either up-the-ego, shiny portraits of huge stars or of little reflective cultural merit, Pat Long's take on pop culture is a refreshing, and insightful success.

Highly recommended.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Pat Long was an assistant editor of The New Musical Express and like many of my friends has had a love hate relationship with the magazine/newspaper for many years. This is timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the paper, but as Long explains, the paper has roots in a much darker place indeed, that being the lamentable scourge of the accordion music mania that gripped Britain in the 1930's. As tastes thankfully developed, the music coverage had to change too and `The Musical Express' took over `The Accordion Times' to cater to more modern tastes like Jazz and the Big Bands- and not before time if you ask me.

We move on to 1952 when the paper was taken over and re launched with the added `New' in the title and when it started covering rock and roll types who used hair product, wore strange clothes and used language that their parents could not quite get - how times have changed!

Long takes us on a spell binding journey through the life of NME and it is told through the people who wrote for it and their influences as much as trying to record what the paper was and is. The constant animosity with `Melody Maker', the drugs excess, that started almost from the start, the devastating effect that the changing fashion in `drug of choice' would have on the writers and pop stars and the love ins and fall outs with some notable names from music. The tit for tat stuff that went on. Nick Cave writing a song full of hate after a lack lustre review, death threats, the politics and the self delusional pretence that they were an underground paper, when they got their pay checks from the `media corporate whore' that is IPC . The extent of IPC's crimes can only fully be realised when you see some of the so called `magazines' they produce; we have `Golf Monthly', `Super Yacht World', `Woman and Home' and wait for it `Amateur Gardening', these are NMEs bed fellows.

The ups and downs are measured by the staff in terms of their `coolness' and being as big as the people they write about, but IPC sort of used sales figures in a pathetic attempt to inject some capitalist fervour into what we all felt was a left wing agitator mag, that also covered stuff by `Flowered Up' and `Dumpy's Rusty Nuts' and `The Slits'.

The fortunes of the paper act almost like a barometer for the state of the country, with the next big thing always being hotly anticipated and or created by the NME. So we go through the sixties hippydom, the nadir of taste that most prog rock brought us, to the exuberant glam of the seventies, that rumbled into disco. Then the break NME needed with punk, but the bubble burst soon after and despite taking on new talent like Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill, the curve died even when the NME was just in front of it.

There is some retelling of events that I was at like `Madstock' (Finsbury Park North London)and the Morrissey wears a Union Jack incident. Long doesn't mention that he cancelled the second day, which was a Sunday and the Smiths/Morrissey fan club all turned up on coaches from Manchester and they would not believe us (I was a steward) when we told them that `rock legends' - `The Farm' were playing instead (tragic and funny in equal measures). We also have grunge and the betrayal of Kurt Cobain and then move onto Brit pop. The book ends at the year 2000, with an epilogue bringing us up to date. Pat Long has done a labour of love; this is extremely well written and researched. More than that it is absolutely engrossing and very human. There are stories that will make you laugh (Swells' favourite band) and cry the tale of Nick Kent and stuff you knew nothing about, like Michael Winner once wrote for them.

I utterly loved this book and can only commend it in the highest terms, it helps if you loved the paper and or music or indeed music journalism, but what is great to see is it is grounded, mostly, in the real and ever changing world.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I suspect that the NME is a publication that many people will read but most of them will, at most, have read it for only a few years before moving on either because of change in taste or musical preference. My era for reading the NME was the late seventies when New Wave was at its peak; once the initial New Wave storm had blown itself out and interest started to wane so did my interest in the NME. When I first read the NME articles written by the likes of Charles Shaar Murray, Mick Farren and Nick Kent had seemed not only relevant but also important, but just a few years later much of the stuff churned out in the NME seemed, to my time altered taste, to be practically unreadable.

Because my acquaintance with the NME was so brief I had suspected that the vast majority of this book about its history would hold little interest for me but I was wrong; this proved to be an absorbing book that not only provides a history of the NME but it is also acts as an alternative view of the last sixty years of rock music and youth culture.

The NME has always been a home to some of the most gifted and outspoken names in rock journalism and I found it particularly interesting to read how some of them allowed their egos to outstrip their talent and how others embraced the rock `n' roll lifestyle a little too much, becoming hopelessly addicted to booze and hard drugs.

Whilst I feel that the book could have been improved by a more inventive use of photo's this is still a publication that is well worth seeking out.
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on 8 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I so loved NME when I was a teen into my twenties. It was the only music paper which featured bands I like like Barclay James Harvest, Greenslade, Focus, Todd Rundgren. I was still into Pop but I wanted to learn about new music and New Musical express was the one worth getting. Every week I would read it from page to page from the news to the features and interviews to the adverts. The ads were great. My brother bought Loons, I bough a Budgie jacket and special music writing paper (weird but true). If I needed to find out where my favourite bands were playing, the NME had it first. Want to know what the critics thought of your favourite's bands recent album - NME was the review to read.

This book bought it all back and more. from the early years - Rat Pack stuff to the days I read it. Even refers to Danny Baker's employment there. The newspaper was a delight to get every week and this book really brings that experience back. I gave the NME up when Punk arrived - I hated it and hated its negativity.

Its a good read, though it is light on photographs, but that really doesn't distract from your enjoyment. Bit of a history book not just of NME but also Blues, Rock and Pop. I haven't read it in years, though I see its still being published. May just try to get a copy. This book brings the memories flowing back.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The NME gets a lot of flak from us old codgers about how it's a mere shadow of its 70s self, but really its been a victim of its readership, that cohort of bright, white, provincial boys who for 25 years now have steadfastly rejected hiphop, dance music and R&B, forcing the paper into a ghetto of dreary, underachieving retro guitar music it seems unable to escape.

Once upon a time though, the NME led the way for new music and new ideas about music, and its dense, witty, passionate prose was required reading for any hipster. Wisely, it's this era (the mid 60s to the early 80s) that Mr. Long highlights in this history, with lots of stuff about 1970s debauchery and the rise of punk.

These anecdotes aside, the book is perhaps surprisingly formal and occasionally dry, with coverage of sales figures and management decisions amongst the more picaresque stories about journalists.

I enjoyed the book as essentially a nostalgia trip - I'm one of the people who actually enjoyed Penman and Morleys absurdly pretentious pseudo-structuralist articles that started the papers sales slump, and inadvertently the death of serious rock criticism ("A 9000 word interview with Devo, and 5000 of them are about the taxi journey to the airport")- and I imagine the books main audience will be similiarly aged guys in their 40s and 50s. I'm not quite sure if it will have much appeal outside that, though.
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