Alas, Smash Hits, I Knew It Well

February 2, 2006

If you’re looking for reasons why kids these days, at least British ones, seem to be missing out, then look no further than the demise of Smash Hits.

I grew up on that rag, from Letters Editor Black Type‘s irreverent replies to getting the lyrics to the latest tunes this was *the* magazine to read. I even won a signed poster by the Pet Shop Boys when I was 13, which I later sold to some rabid fan.

The quote from Mark Frith, editor of Heat magazine, does go some way to explaining things:

I think these days, a lot of pop music is invented in boardrooms at record companies and it kind of ticks all the boxes and appeals to the right demographic,” he said.

“Where are the characters coming through now and making pop music? It’s just not there.

“I think Smash Hits particularly thrived on those kind of people.”

Characters such as Dame David Bowie, no doubt.

I read Smash Hits in its heyday when Kylie was just starting out, everyone thought Jason Donovan was straight and around 50% of everything in the charts was produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman and thus sounded exactly the same. And then there was S’Express.

Back then, with MTV only just taking off on satellite TV, getting your fix of music and stuff in this country was limited to Top of the Pops on a Thursday and the Top 40 charts on a Sunday, all three hours of which were spent with your fingers poised atop the Record button to grab the latest tunes that interested you.

Smash Hits had it all: the lyrics to all the latest songs down to the last “ooh” and “yeah”, photos, interviews, full-spread posters and competitions to win some very strange stuff. Best of all the writing was sharp, hilarious and never patronised the teenage readership. No star was allowed to take themselves too seriously, something that seems out of place in the self-important world of modern celebrity. In contrast to modern mags (Heat springs to mind), it wasn’t all about gossip and who looks fat or stupid this week. No, it was all about the music and that meant boys could enjoy it as much as girls.

I wish I could remember more, but I’m old now and my subsequent druggie 20s completely screwed my memory.

For me, Smash Hits took everything that could have been boring about 80s pop music and made it come alive. Curiously, I think it also helped develop my musical taste into something altogether more, er, developed so that I stopped taking stuff at face value and actually checked for substance (and later, substances). Obviously I haven’t read it since I was in school, but it’s a shame to see its passing.

See also Goodbye Smash Hits on Radio One’s site.


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