Press Play and Record or: How I Learned To Stop Whining and Appreciate the NME’s legacy.

A couple of weeks ago it was NME’s 60th birthday. Cue snarling tweets from the majority of bloggers, musos, music writers saying how fucking terrible and redundant the magazine is. Cue predictable superlatives from Brit-poppers of yore. Cue certain ambition-driven writers who work for the NME but clearly hate it, keeping quiet about the whole thing, pretending they have no affiliation with the magazine because actually being involved with the publication is actually largely fucking disingenuous and hypocritical of everything they seem to stand for and believe in. Cue a lot of people remarking on the halycon days.

It was the last batch of folk who sparked my interest the most. Let’s be honest, as far as I can remember the NME has always been shit. Fickle pedaling of pretty-boys in Topman shirts merged with casual misogyny and laddish cuntishness. Loving The Strokes, hating The Strokes, loving The Strokes again, wishing The Strokes would fuck off, wishing The Strokes would come back, wishing The Strokes would fuck off again. Basically.

However, for the last year or so I’ve been retracing the steps of the magazine through the rather brilliant blog Press Play and Record. The site is home to all of the compilation cassettes the magazine released in the 80s and early 90s, including the famous C86 compilation which kicked-off a whole genre. What strikes me about the compilations is how eclectic and left-field some of them are. ‘The Latin Kick’ is a compilation of samba and latin music, ‘Holiday Romance’ is a Billie Holiday Compilation, one tape is hilariously named ‘Plinky Plonky There’s A Donkey’. The point I am trying to make is that the NME we know today would never do anything like this. The cassettes pushed the boundaries of new music and really challenged their readership, now all they do is try to serve up their readership with stuff they know they will already like (The Vaccines). Which is pretty fucking insulting. Perhaps pushing these boundaries is now the mantle music blogs and sites have taken up, and the NME simply knows it’s place and plods along, which is a shame as it could (and should) really mix things up and help change the face of British music as blogs and sites don’t have the influence over here as they do in the States.

Anyway, delve into some of the cassettes and remember them next time you try to recall if the NME has ever been good. It appears I’ve not learned how to stop whining yet, though.

The Freshies – I’m In Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk (Indie City 1 (NME036). Fall 1988.)

Salif Keita – Sina (The World At One (NME035). Fall 1987)

Orange Juice – Blue Boy (NME/Rough Trade C81 1981)

The Rain – Hi There 1968 (My Favourite Sunday 1989. Boshi Label -roddy 004-)

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