John Harris writes about the history of music journalism in today’s Guardian, focusing especially on the work of Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus and Nick Kent (here):
Behind the printed page lay a culture somewhere between Fleet Street and an undergraduate common room, full of people whose energy was heightened by an understanding that the fun couldn’t possibly last. The collected journalistic works of the NME’s Tony Parsons – the grandly titled Dispatches from the Frontline of Popular Culture, published in 1994 – trowels on the mythology, but gets to the heart of the young music writer’s essential condition: “We were callow and cruel and selling 250,000 copies a week. We were so successful that our owners left us alone to merrily run amok. And if you were lucky enough to work there, it commandeered your life . . . [but] it was never meant to last. Not one of my contemporaries ever considered making the music press a lifetime’s work. It was like doing your national service – a couple of years and you were out.”
[Nick] Kent, whose memoir Apathy for the Devil will be published next year, remained at the NME until the early 1980s. “I was never edited,” he marvels today. “There was no interference at all, and I was also getting paid.” Looking back, he takes umbrage at the arrival of Parsons, Burchill and so on, who would serve their time, and then branch out: as he sees it, this signalled a shift “away from people driven by a deep love of music towards more opportunistic agendas”.
“When I joined the NME,” he says, “I didn’t think, ‘If I play my cards right, three years down the line I’m going to become the wine correspondent of the Daily Telegraph‘.”
First posted: Saturday, June 27th, 2009.